Earlier today, I was on Facebook saw this picture on an Igbo group that I belong to. The picture was posted with this caption “Hello Friends… is it proper for a man to bath a new born baby?” As with everything on social media, a hot debate ensued on the appropriateness of a father bathing his own child.
Some of the reasons several Igbo men gave for not supporting the practice nearly broke my heart. They varied from the reasonable to the absurd and the truly bizarre (I can see Duru shaking his head even with all the cold in Coventry). I spent nearly an hour responding to some of the comments, trying to understand the engage some of this men in conversation to understand where they were coming from.
I continued until I came across this comment; “It is an abomination oooo.” How can it be an abomination for a man to bathe his own child? Where was it written that a man cannot take care of the child that came from his own body? Someone said bathing his child would diminish his position and authority in the house as stated by Nnewi culture and when I aske ud him if Jesus could come to this earth, rub shoulders with the poor and helpless and even go on to wash the disciples’ feet even though he was God then his excuse did not hold water. His reply was that he had better things to do than bath his child when he had a wife already.
Another person said God would judge any woman who allowed her husband bath his child after feeding and clothing her was going to face the judgment of God, when I asked him if the women who were the breadwinners in their homes should stop perform their roles as wives since feeding and clothing were criteria for respect, he did not reply.
A lot of people used culture and tradition to defend their misgivings about the picture, according to them in those days when “men were men” marriages lasted, families were stronger etc. I find it interesting that we think that our grandparents had better marriages. Were their marriages really better? Nope. They stayed married because there was no choice in the matter for the women. Women had no way of supporting themselves and their children in the event of a divorce because they had zero economic power.
A woman would endure anything to give her children a life and future, staying in terrible marriages back then was the only way that they could do that. Unlike today that a working mother can afford to shelter, clothe and even send her children to good schools without the assistance of her husband, women of those days knew they couldn’t attempt it alone. It isn’t because we are in a more permissive and accepting era that more and more marriages are breaking down but because more women have economic power and can afford to say “I will not die in this marriage, let me start my life afresh and take of my children”.
This post really isn’t about terrible marriages but about how men are robbed of precious opportunities to bond with their children. Will heaven fall if a man baths his new baby for some reason? I’m not even talking about in tragic situations like the death of the mother or when the mother is incapacitated. What if the man is willing to learn how to bath his child and wants to do so? Why should he be subjected to ridicule by close minded individuals? Nobody was born with the knowledge of how to bath babies, if a woman can learn then a man can too.
Don’t tell me about how maternal instinct equips a woman with the requirements for taking care of children, we all know certain men who are more caring and gentle with children than most women. Why should we let stupid tradition deprive a father from enjoying the rewards of fatherhood? If he is capable of bathing his child, why shouldn’t he do so whether or not his wife is available? I already have a Why post so I’ll just stop here.
I do not hold traditions and customs as sacred, they are made by men to suit their time and space and if they become redundant and hold us back then the time has come to do away with them. The proponents of the man is the head of the home theory and therefore should be kept as a tin god far from his family should remember that the men and women who history remembers with fondness are not the people who sway the biggest crowds, neither are they who wielded the most power, they are the people who reached the most hearts. People like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Mansa Musa, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler all built empires that literally spanned the earth at various points in time yet where are their legacies today? How are they remembered these despots, tin gods and dictators. Jesus who never wore a crown and had a following of only twelve men who weren’t even loyal is still loved and adored today even by people did not see or touch him.
If we continue to make men into hard and stern automatons, we shouldn’t really wonder why the family unit as we know it is failing. If he wants to bath his child, LET HIM. Teach him to do it properly if he doesn’t know but for the love of God don’t mock him or tell him that his actions are improper. In the same vein too, let us stop stunting the emotional growth of young boys. If he has to cry let him cry, let us stop telling boys to be strong and hide emotions.