The Mythical Benefits of Babywearing
Did you ever read one of those lists about the ‘Benefits of Babywearing’ which tell you that worn babies rarely cry; are happy to hang out in a sling all day while the parent works; and turn into secure, confident, independent, compassionate toddlers? I have no idea who these children are, but they bear no relation to my kids. Lists like these are great for encouraging people to wear their babies but can be misleading.
Like many people, I tend to emphasise certain things when advocating babywearing. I go on about how convenient it is for the parent and avoid mentioning the benefits for the child’s long-term development. I know that as soon as I say something about the how it’s good for the child’s emotional wellbeing, my own children will start whining or screaming. And with a daughter who only walked at seventeen months, I feel that I’m in no position to talk about the way babywearing helps motor skills development.
I can just imagine people thinking, “If that’s how they turn out I’m definitely not trying this baby carrier thing….” And then there are my own doubts… if it really is such a great practice, then why are my kids so rude/clingy/whiny/selfish/sulky/aggressive/uncoordinated….??
Do you really want a ‘good’ child?
Well…. yes I do! Sometimes I long for a ‘well behaved’ child who does what I say in public and shares her toys… but what kind of children do we really want to raise? Compliant? Independent? Conformist? Assertive? Is an unquestioningly compliant child really such a great thing?
We have definite ideas in our culture about what makes a ‘good’ baby or child and babywearing does not always cultivate these characteristics. Babywearing is not going to give you a baby who sleeps through the night, is happy to be held by anybody and entertains herself for hours on end. It will foster emotional security, but it won’t make your child do what you say; in fact it may have the opposite effect if she is so secure that she doesn’t feel a desperate need to please you. It can calm down an angry child, but will not encourage or teach her to repress her emotions to conform to some abstract ideal of good behaviour.
Are your children as bad as you think they are?
Everyone thinks that their children are the worst they know, if not the worst in the world, barring a few that are featured on Supernanny. Chances are they’re not.
We often tend to notice negative behaviour in our children; while you may be worrying that your toddler seems overly clingy, another parent may be admiring the way your child relaxes into the security of your back. That humiliating public tantrum will probably be dismissed as ‘normal three-year-old behaviour’ by anyone with children of their own.
A Zen approach to behaviour management
One of the mothers I admire most is a practising Buddhist. Her children are as temperamental as any: they can be sullen, rough, clingy, hysterical and rude. But what sets her apart from other parents I know is her calm acceptance of their behaviour. No matter what they do, she never appears worked up, upset or embarrassed; and her relaxed vibe is infectious and inspiring. And yes, she did wear her children!
We often judge ourselves as parents by how our children perform physically, cognitively, verbally, socially or intellectually. Instead of accepting the moment, we imagine the unsociable behaviour to reflect negatively on all the choices we have made, including babywearing. It’s not worth worrying about. Next time your toddler has a public meltdown, just throw her on your back in a strap carry and if that doesn’t impress people…. well, at least you can make a quick getaway.