- May 14, 2024
- 6.13 x 9.25 in.
- 37 b/w illus.
It has long seemed self-evident that women care for babies and men do other things. Hasn’t it always been so? When evolutionary science came along, it rubber-stamped this venerable division of labor: mammalian males evolved to compete for status and mates, while females were purpose-built to gestate, suckle, and otherwise nurture the victors’ offspring. But come the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of men are tending babies, sometimes right from birth. How can this be happening? Puzzled and dazzled by the tender expertise of new fathers around the world—several in her own family—celebrated evolutionary anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy set out to trace the deep history of male nurturing and explain a surprising departure from everything she had assumed to be “normal.”
In Father Time, Hrdy draws on a wealth of research to argue that this ongoing transformation in men is not only cultural, but profoundly biological. Men in prolonged intimate contact with babies exhibit responses nearly identical to those in the bodies and brains of mothers. They develop caring potential few realized men possessed. In her quest to explain how men came to nurture babies, Hrdy travels back through millions of years of human, primate, and mammalian evolution, then back further still to the earliest vertebrates—all while taking into account recent economic and social trends and technological innovations and incorporating new findings from neuroscience, genetics, endocrinology, and more. The result is a masterful synthesis of evolutionary and historical perspectives that expands our understanding of what it means to be a man—and what the implications might be for society and our species.