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Baby Wearing in the Balkans

by Laura on April 29th, 2013

I wore both my kids. Of course I believe all of that hoopla about closeness, bonding and safe security, but I did have an ulterior motive: baby wearing was the easiest way to keep my hands free when my then-infants insisted upon being all up in my grill. There were phases in which maneuvering for an inch of personal space on my part would send either of them into a fit of anger.

Hence, the sling, the Bjorn, the wrap, etc.

I wore D for about a year, until she was a stable walker. She was light enough, but my son got very heavy very quickly. So, by the time I moved to Belgrade when Maksim was five months old, the Bjorn just wasn’t cutting it for either M or I. Baby wearing is definitely a thing in the U.S., but I wondered about the Balkans.

It turns out, yes, people wear their babies here in the Balkans … even dads.

Vladimir and baby in Zagreb, Croatia

But Baby Wearing with a pink, hippie-esque wrap? Not so much.

I met Alice and Vladimir about ten years ago through my husband’s rather vast network of born-and-raised-in-the-Balkans-but-live-in-Los-Angeles-now friends. Alice is not from the Balkans, she’s American of Vietnamese ethnicity, so it was rather a funny coincidence that we both became parents and moved to Southern Europe around the same time.

Alice marches to the beat of her own drum, makes her own clothes, and is a very cool girl all around. When I saw this picture of her now husband, Vladimir–baby wearing their daughter, in pink no less–I had to ask about it.

Side notes: Have I mentioned before that Serbia is a very homogeneous culture?

Differences of even the smallest kind are readily noticed (replete with raised eyebrows and head shaking in unabashed surprise).

Differences are nearly always commented upon. I guess I should be happy it’s done to my face. Observations are not necessarily said in a bad way, but it does get annoying when in only one morning, five grandmas ask why my daughter isn’t wearing socks with her shoes. (It’s only okay in summer, apparently. It’s still technically spring, and even though it’s 80+ degrees F outside, it’s not okay.)

[End of side note.] Now, Alice and her family lived in Croatia (a different country than Serbia, but still the Balkans). She said

Croatia’s collective mind simultaneously imploded at the sight of Vladimir walking around like this. He got many concerned warnings that he might be considered a “homo.” *Gasp!*

We were at the mall and I swear, he must have caused some severe whiplash among the shoppers.

Full disclosure: when Vladimir wore the pink wrap with their son inside years before, it made no sense even to Americans. Alice, she had “no ulterior gender motives or political statements–orange was just out of stock.”

Still awesome, nonetheless.

My husband did wear our daughter, for what it’s worth, but that was in “progressive” Southern California, and only to give my back a break … with a decidedly black carrier. If I ever see a dad baby wearing with a pink wrap in Serbia, I’ll be sure to take a picture.

*  *  *  *  *

Blogger Eva P Scott published a great review of Adopted Reality last week, titled fittingly, Disturbing Memoir. Check it out if you’re interested!

Image of Vladimir and baby courtesy of Alice.


From → Expat Mommy

  1. Spot on social commentary and downright delicious irreverence from Serbia. A fabulous way to start the week off!

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks, Corie — that's a great phrase "delicious irreverence" …

  2. I've never heard the phrase to 'wear a baby,' though it's so appropriate. I'm afraid my ignorance probably shows my age. Love the pink wrap!

    • Laura permalink

      Wear a baby — love that phrase :) I also like to say "up" on my American slang, although it is hard to come by living here in Serbia.

  3. Oh yes, I wore all 4 of my babies. I found that the double stroller worked better though. I could keep them within sight and still have my hands free. I did this for my first two and then my second two, five years later.

    It's silly that people would comment that your baby doesn't have socks or that the pink is too …. pink. Silly stuff. People are funny.

    • Laura permalink

      Yes, people are funny. It's just that for the last two generations, the Balkans have been somewhat "closed." During Tito's time, it was all about Yugoslavia. When the country fell apart, the ethnicities kind of folded into themselves, in my opinion — so long held beliefs and social homogeny kind of took over.

  4. I wore my two daughters. My husband might have done it from time to time. That said, I think that I was too exhausted to remember the colour of the wrap. I can't believe that people can be so judgemental. Maybe he should pretend to be colour blind?

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks Muriel … It's just that people have probably never even seen a man. from the Balkans. wearing a child — in a pink wrap. They don't even realize they're being judgmental, it's just something that seems to REQUIRE commentary.

  5. Reading your blog is a great way to get to see the cultural differences between East and West. That said, in London it is not uncommon to see parents wearing their babies, but in the sleepy village I live in it's all about who has the biggest off road stroller! Pah!

    • Laura permalink

      Ahhh! Big strollers are completely unmanageable here–I mean, ramps aren't wide enough, and elevator doors are too narrow. Belgrade is definitely not made for off-road strollers!

  6. My husband is Serb, we live in France and he doesn’t mind baby wearing our daughters in pink; )

  7. Baby wearing is the phrase and thing that i like the most. I am mom of 6 month old baby boy and just love to wear him. I also made by husband to wear my girl as well. At first he hesitated but after trying 2 times he just started liking it and now i do not get chance to wear her.

  8. This is amazing and the baby looks very cute. To take care of baby dressing is really an important task.

  9. It is the perfect position to soothe baby. Baby feels very comfortable and it help to stop a baby from crying.

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