"Our capacity to cooperate in groups, to empathize with others and to wonder what others are thinking and feeling — all these traits, Dr. Hrdy argues, probably arose in response to the selective pressures of being in a cooperatively breeding social group, and the need to trust and rely on others and be deemed trustworthy and reliable in turn. Babies became adorable and keen to make connections with every passing adult gaze. Mothers became willing to play pass the baby. Dr. Hrdy points out that mother chimpanzees and gorillas jealously hold on to their infants for the first six months or more of life. By contrast, human mothers in virtually every culture studied allow others to hold their babies from birth onward, to a greater or lesser extent depending on tradition."
Personally, I think this is a fascinating idea and one that also sheds a little light on our modern day culture. In our individualistic society I think it's easy for mothers to think that they have to do everything themselves. Of course, we all know that mothers share a special bond with their children that no one can replace. But, I think this article gives us insight into the idea that raising children really is a social activity. Babies enjoy human interaction above just about anything else and this interaction can be with mom but also with dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, etc. This shared caring for babies really helps us become, well, human. It helps us (and baby) learn to trust, cooperate, and anticipate the feelings of others.
So on Mother's Day I'm going to thank my mom for helping me become who I am. But I may also think about those "other mothers" too--my dad, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
- Listen to a Podcast on this topic