Monday, May 10, 2010

Babies (the movie) - One Mom's Take

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I won tickets to go see the new movie, Babies. I actually did get to go see it with Billy, thanks to Tanya for offering to babysit!

I wasn't sure what I would take away from this movie before seeing it. Part of me thought I would learn some new ways to do mommy things after seeing how other women in other cultures do it. However, I ended up coming away with something very different, something I almost didn't realize until I read another, completely unrelated blog post, about work-life balance.

I don't talk a lot about work-life balance in the "traditional" sense because I don't have a job outside the home. However, that doesn't mean that I don't understand what it might be like for those parents that do or even have similar struggles myself. Either way, I have come to realize that our lives (here in this corner of the world) do not easily accommodate babies. Think about all of the things we need when we have a baby: crib, bottles, safety gates, diapers, exersaucers, strollers, a gazillion toys. And we think all of this stuff makes our lives easier. And in a sense, it does. But we only need all of these things because our lives pre-baby are so ill-suited to infants and toddlers that we have to acquire all this stuff to make it work.

The example in the movie that most drove this point home for me was the boy in Namibia. His family was, from what I could tell, the least "western" of all the families (US, Japan, Mongolia were the others). He had no "toys" - he played with rocks and sticks and cups and other things that were already around him. He wore no diaper - not even a cloth one. His garment looked the same to me as those of the older boys in his family.

But more importantly, he just hung out with his mom and his aunt and his siblings and cousins while the grown-ups continued to do what the did everyday before he came. They did their work while they loved him and fed him and taught him and cared for him. There was no need for "work-life" balance. Work was life and life was work. The babies seemed to just fit right in. Their lives were not completely uprooted by having a baby. That's something I wish we could experience. Unfortunately, the lifestyle we live here is just not designed with babies in mind. They cost us a fortune in childcare, whether we pay for it or forgo our own paid work to do it ourselves. They ruin our nice furniture. They are constantly breaking our nice things. They nearly kill themselves falling off all our hazards. They isolate us from the world we once knew.

Now, its not like I'm ready to ship up and move to Namibia. I'm too accustomed to all my stuff. And I would fry under that sun all day. But, I do envy how motherhood works over there, at least from what I saw.

Has anyone else seen the movie? What did you think?


  1. It sounds like an interesting movie. Maybe I'll see it if it come out on DVD or on demand. I agree with you that I wish we had more of a balance with taking care of kids and work. Here in the US it seems like it one or the other and each side has it's own views about which one is they way kids should be raised. Working moms think that they have it right and stay at home moms think they have it right. Like you said Balance!

  2. I haven't seen the movie but interesting point you make about integrating children in our lives verses sacraficing for them. There is the SAHM sacrafice of career and the WM sacrafice of time with their kids. However, I think it is more typical in an agricultural based society to integrate kids into the day-to-day -- not sure it makes sense in the industrialized world we live in.

  3. @Amy: The thing about balance is, we need it because the tow parts of our lives are at odds with each other. It seemed like in this family's case, they went together much better and the concept of balance was unnecessary.

    @Mommy Esq.: Definitely does not make sense in our industrialized world. I think we automatically assume that everything is better our way (nice homes, TV, cars, etc.) but maybe this is one area where it might be harder doing it our way, at least when the children are very young.

  4. I saw Babies last night with a friend of mine who has a son that just turned 1 last week. We both loved it and we were both amazed at the differences and similarities between the babies in the documentary and our babies. It makes you really think about how much stuff we think we need, and how much of it really doesn't matter.

  5. I have seen the advertisement for that movie. I'll probably have to wait until it comes out on DVD, but hopefully I will eventually get to watch it! I like your point would be so nice if I could just do all my work at home, where I could have my girls by my side all day (well, MOST days that would be nice!). But we are so focused on productivity and that bottom line here...

  6. I haven't seen the movie, but I did grow up the Third World (Bangladesh).

    I think how much life accommodates babies is based not just on WHERE you live, but also what you have. My parents were upper class. My sister was raised, for the most part, by servants. Those servants' children, therefore, were raised by their own extended families. My cousins were raised slightly more communally and "organically" than us in the sense of life-continuity, but the most "natural" parenting I saw was done by the poor families who did manual labour. With an entire class of people without enough to eat and no choices for childcare, women tied their babies into their saris while they toiled away in the harsh son chipping bricks with hammers. They didn't have the energy to talk to their children or allow them tummy time. They were just trying to get enough to eat to prevent their milk from drying up.

    Yes, we uproot a lot to accommodate children in the West, but a large part of that is because we have the luxury to focus on teaching them, and not just on surviving. Work-life balance is a challenge I gladly take as an alternative to life-death balance.

    My sister's biological mother gave her up because she had no way to feed her. It's easy to idealize poverty as more "natural", but that's not the whole story.

    That being said, I would love it if our Western cultures saw children as part of life instead of as a temporary inconvenience. I would love it if excellent childcare were not limited to those who have financial resources or live near family. I would love it if more activities for toddlers accommodated children who don't have a parent at home during the week. I would love it if employment wasn't a barrier to breastfeeding as it is for so many.

  7. Check out the posting on Kendra's blog about "Babies." I think it is very balanced...


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