This Babywearing Photo Carries Many Emotions About Life In Laos

As much as I tout Lao culture being the best thing about my identity and how Lao food is an underrated ethnic scene, I actually have never stepped foot into my motherland. My mother hasn’t either since 1979, the year she escaped war-torn Laos with her younger siblings and parents to seek refuge in the United States. My grandfather, my mom’s father, was a farmer in Laos as are most poor families in the land-locked country in Southeast Asia sustaining their own food system to survive. As the oldest female child in each of our families, my mother and I do share one thing: a burden only an older child has.

In honor of International Babywearing Week (yup, totally a thing), I started out looking for images to highlight the ancient and cultural practice of babywearing, the act of wearing a child in a cloth carrier of some sort. I mean, Laos is the home of one of the original “crunchy moms.” Sorry, you’re not that crunchy. Not sorry. I found plenty of beautiful images of fresh-faced moms and sleep-drunk babies on their backs but the photo pool shifted my focus to a more specific theme: children and babywearing. Yes, actually babies wearing babies. Why is a child wearing a baby almost the same size?

As any able-bodied adult may be equipped to pitch in, both parents in Laos tend to the now-yellow fields of rice to prepare for harvesting. *Many farm fields are actually far, far from home in behind mudslides and atop mountains. As a Laotian-American, I cannot recall the age of my earliest babysitting of my three younger siblings because I was that young. Young as in my parents trusted me to have a responsibility to make sure these kids were safe, if that can be appropriate for a child in elementary school. In Laos, this isn’t shocking, it’s necessary for burdens to bear on the entire family, no matter the age, in order to survive. A child wears a burden and keeps a younger sibling safe, warm, secure. All the things every child needs. Ironically the very thing the care-giving child desperately yearns for but suppresses for family duty.

babywearing in Laos

“A young pub thawj girl takes good care of her baby brother while Mum and Dad are out on the farm in the mountains near Luang Prabang, Laos.” – Paul Wager Photography from Facebook

*This scenario is actually very rare as many mountainous peoples’ homes are near the farmlands, even in the mountains. It is unlikely that nursing mothers were that far away from their infants this young. The children were nearby for this reason but out of the actual fields where the others would tend to the fields.

About Paul Wager: “Paul Wager gave up his life of photo journalism in Australia to venture into the ethnic diversity of Laos.” You can see more beautiful and haunting photos from Laos at Paul Wager’s website and Facebook.

How did you celebrate babywearing this week?

You can find me tweeting my hatred for pants on twitter, filtering the shit outta mom lyfe on Instagram, pinning food I’ll never make on Pinterest, and being a SEO creep on Google+

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14 thoughts on “This Babywearing Photo Carries Many Emotions About Life In Laos

  1. That picture is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Reminds me a bit of the Babies documentary, with the children in Mongolia. The little 2 year old in charge of the baby and wheels it out into the pasture with cows. Children sure are resilient in the face of obstacles.

  2. Wow…beautiful and heartbreaking picture. We left Laos when I was 2 and my brother was just a baby…have yet to go back myself. My parents used to go back every other summer. Still have lots of family there. Makes me hug my lil man and thank GOD for my blessings.

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