Some days, the days at home with the kids grow long. I turn to Facebook for mental stimulation and personal connection. A woman posted a series of photos in support of babywearing: the art of holding a child hands-free by a type of sling or carrier. Around the world women carry their babies, accomplishing tasks most American women would find impossible to do while holding a child. She intended the post as a positive affirmation, a “sí se puede” of motherhood.
This generation of young mothers swings the pendulum away from the previous generations of American parenting which said you spoil the baby by holding it too much.
We did not need to hold our babies. We had bassinets, strollers, rock ’n sleeps, swings, and bumbo seats. We returned to work; our children went to childcare, or we stayed home and let the chores go. We successfully completed a day of laundry and may or may not have dealt with with the laundry mountain built from four loads out of the dryer. The dishwasher got loaded while the kids watched a movie or after they went to bed. The dishes were washed eventually. We can reuse a pot from time to time if we only boiled pasta in it.
To pass the time we listened to podcasts while we folded. Then we went for a walk for local library programming.
Some mothers recommend babywearing, but without a colicky baby, I did not really need to. After all, the Moby wrap was impossible to get on and off easily, the buckles got confusing in that thrift store carrier, the sling hurt my shoulder. If she could lay in the swing, I would let her.
Among the many comments at this amazing set of photos from all around the world, one woman pointed out that for many of the women in the photos, they had to work. Childcare was not an option; a bumbo was not an option. They could work or they could starve.
I do not know that the labor market in the United States supports women working with their infants alongside them. If a woman must work out of financial necessity, she is expected to find childcare. If a woman works because she loves her line of work, she is expected to find childcare. The burden rests on her. If she cannot afford childcare, the government will subsidize it. Once the child is school age they can be dropped off early and picked up late, extending the hours allowing the caregiver to work.
Between the stay-at-home mothers and their gadgets, we do not have to “wear” our babies. The women in the photos do not have the luxury of the choice: to wear or not to wear.
Proponents of baby-wearing wax poetic over the benefits: strengthens the bond, facilitates development, reduces flat-head syndrome, boosts milk production, caregivers can be hands-free to get stuff done, fosters closeness.
There is a hidden cost of luxury.
Whether we speak of baby-wearing, dryer usage, relying on pre-made meals or take-out, or communicating through social media and text messages, modern technologies can facilitate the loss of things that benefit relationships, health and community. We thought it better to do without them in the name of convenience.
Walking flowers to a neighbor unannounced, visiting a grandparent who cannot hear you on the telephone, digging up carrots with children, or line-drying the sheets are all inconvenient.
But the research bears out the benefits of walking, exposure to nature, growing your own vegetables, and saving electricity. In the name of research, we could jog on a treadmill in sweat-wicking exercise gear to get in our steps, fly to a Disney Resort for some nature and buy a rustic chic chicken coop and vertical herb garden pots for homegrown goods, or we could do it the simpler way, the way others around the world (and maybe in our own neighborhoods) still do out of necessity, the way that forces us to turn to and rely on our neighbor.
Further comments on that post revealed there is a lot of help from others to make it possible for these women to wear their babies while they work.
We gain time the other way, but what do we lose?
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Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.