PAREN(T)HESIS — Defending Dads

November 3, 2018

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Normally I don’t pay much attention to celebrity spats but one last month piqued my interest. TV personality Piers Morgan called out James Bond star Daniel Craig for “baby wearing.” If you haven’t heard of this parenting trend, baby wearing
means carrying a baby strapped into a mini backpack or sling made to carry the youngster. Parenting authorities, including those who write for the Ask Dr. Sears website, endorse the practice and talk about myriad benefits such as less crying and fussing and improved learning.

Craig played the 007 macho man role in four James Bond movies. On October 15, Morgan tweeted a picture of Craig wearing his newborn daughter and wrote “Oh 007…not you as well?!! #papoose #emasculatedBond”. “Papoose” is another term for a baby-carrying backpack and can refer to any baby or specifically to a Native American. An “emasculated” man has lost his masculinity, so “emasculatedBond” was intended to insult.

Many people on Twitter, especially fathers of young children, disagreed with the criticism of baby wearing. They defended their stance by sharing things like pictures of military men in civilian clothes using baby carriers.

To me, the responses defending baby wearing were reassuring, but the original incident itself was telling. Men who are hands-on parents still need to defend themselves. When they go beyond practicing and watching sports with children, they may get some scrutiny from their social circle. (And for famous dads, the social circle can encompass everyone on Twitter.) 

Several years ago, I interviewed local stay-at-home dads for this paper and remember some of them mentioning that they get teased by other men. Perhaps younger people are more open to the concept — Gretchen Livingston wrote for Pew Research in September that the percent of stay-at-home dads is higher among millennials. Across age groups nationwide, more men are staying at home to raise children than in the past. In 2016, Pew found that 17 percent of all stay-at-home parents were fathers. This is a noticeable increase from the 10 percent measured in 1989 (the first year Pew collected reliable data on fathers).

American society is definitely still adjusting to dads being closer to babies. Even the Ask Dr. Sears article extolling the virtues of baby wearing emphasizes the mother-child relationship when it begins, “It is natural for baby to be close to his mother. Babies are happiest when being held by mom. Babywearing is a great practice for keeping baby happy and to help build a stronger bond between mom and her baby. The benefits of babywearing help babies grow up smarter and happier.”

We all want babies to grow up smarter and happier, so we should open our minds to involved dads.

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at jill@bayviewcompass.com.

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