After thinking over her thesis on baby care – that it shouldn’t exist as a separate, time-consuming event, but should be integrated into the life and work of adults – I have to wonder if Jean Liedloff ever had children.
A couple nights ago I returned from grocery shopping and started preparing dinner at 4:15. M helped finish things off when he got home from work in time for us to eat by 7. Yes, it took almost 3 hours to make dinner (make – not sit by and watch it cook). Alya needed attention. Potty, diaper, food, diaper, walking, carrying, playing, and on and on. I tried carrying her for part of the food prep but she wasn’t into that for long. And many of the things she needed from me – potty, diaper change, nursing – were not possible to combine with food preparation. I know some women nurse with their babies in a sling, but I don’t and can’t (and couldn’t chop onions while doing this, anyways).
I’m sure that in some societies or physical environments baby care could be better integrated. For example, if the climate here were warmer and we cooked outdoors, she could be diaperless and I could simply hold her up to pee rather than removing clothes and taking her to a potty in a different room. However: that is not a reality of life here. The reality is that, try though I might, there are barriers to seamless baby care.
And philosophically: why shouldn’t babies take some time? Yes, I believe Alya learns a LOT simply by watching me (particularly or exclusively from a carried position) as I go about my day with chores and social interactions. However, she’s also a growing person, and people interact with other people. I NEED to spend time talking with her, laughing with her, playing games with her. Not all my time, but definitely some time. And sometimes she just enjoys playing by herself, with me in sight as I get other work done.
In conclusion: babies take time. Lots of it. Even if you carry them while doing your work. And that’s okay. And, that’s why mat leave (which could be much longer than it is in my opinion!) is so vital: because BABIES TAKE TIME! And let’s celebrate it.