Why parenting gets harder as we become more ‘civilized’

By Sowmya Rajendran


The more civilized we become, the harder it is to bring up babies. Imagine a drawing room with a lush carpet, white couch, spotless walls, expensive paintings, and a fish bowl. Plant a baby in this scene. Without diapers. Within minutes, you can be assured that her harried mother will be Googling ‘How to get stains off the carpet’ or ‘How to remove crayon marks from walls’ or ‘How to perform CPR on a dying fish’.

As a new mother, I found it traumatizing to go anywhere with my newborn. If she got hungry, I couldn’t imagine breastfeeding her in public. I’d need a cloak to drape over myself, I’d need to find a quiet, isolated spot, I’d have to wear clothes that could be discreet and yet convenient to feed. The number of things I had to do to simply feed my child was so exhausting that I preferred to either stay indoors or pump milk and carry it with me – even though her fresh food source was travelling with her! Of course, there are new mothers who don’t give a damn about prying eyes and feed their babies in public without that fear of judgment, but I was simply in no state back then to fight any more battles than I already was.


How easy it would have been, I remember thinking, if only I’d been a cavewoman! I could walk freely without carrying a giant diaper bag that contained wipes, hand sanitizer, diapers, trash bags, change of clothes…phew. Poop and pee would just be fertilizer material for the plants and not the catastrophe that they are currently.

There are so many places in our world where babies are not welcome. They are too noisy. They ‘disturb’ everyone else. Nobody keeps a board outside that says this, but you can see it on people’s faces. A shrieking child on the plane, a toddler singing loudly at a restaurant – they are inconvenient. For new parents, it can be embarrassing to see the judgmental looks that everyone throws at you. You feel guilty for spoiling someone else’s experience, forgetting that a few decades ago, all the grown-ups in the room were doing exactly the same thing. And that babies are not a different species altogether but our very own. How nice it would be if we lived in a large community with several annoying babies crawling everywhere freely and nobody would bat an eyelid if yours was wailing its head off just as everyone was sitting down to eat the deer roast!


Of course, I recognize the fact that civilization has its advantages. I’m so glad I gave birth at a time when there is anaesthesia, antibiotics and vaccines. But just once in a while, I can’t help wondering how complex we’ve made this parenting business and how liberating it would be to go back in time a bit. Maybe we’d meet the occasional tiger, but hey, we could get run over by a motorbike just the same right now.