The soft, fluffy, snow was falling non-stop in Moscow on February 3, quickly covering my courtyard. I couldn’t pass this up, so I grabbed my camera and headed for the exit to take some photos. I wanted to capture people walking through the snowstorm – a typical Russia image. I ended up finding something that was not a ‘typical’ Russia image…though it is becoming one in my view.
My courtyard is large with a children’s playground on the left side and a wide walking path on the right. I wanted to catch a mother with a baby carriage in the snow and I quickly found one. I snapped a few shots as she approached. After she passed me, I took a few shots with her back to me. In the snowy distance was another person with a baby carriage walking toward her…a young father.
Let me pause here for some background.
Sometime in November or December 2011, I went for a jog near my old Moscow flat along the Moscow River at night. As I started my jog, I saw a young man walking along the riverside with a baby carriage ALONE. No wife. Despite all that has happened in Russia over the past three years, I still remember that moment. It stuck out because it was such an unusual scene for me. The image of Russian men is normally as tough guys, rather than as ‘soft’ guys taking care of their children.
If you go to a park in Moscow on the weekend, you will see young fathers alone with their babies. Did I simply not notice this before? Or is it indeed more common? And if it is more common, is it because there is a baby boom in Russia? Or because the city has fixed the parks? Or have attitudes and values changed (for the better)?
I have wanted to ask this question for some time, but feared to walk up to random men. This time I did. I asked that man walking in the snow… but fortunately I used the wrong word. I asked him if it was a ‘trend’ for men to take their children for walks alone.
He said it wasn’t a trend, rather a change in values. The man, a father of two, said there was a belief that men should just focus on work. Now, he said, many of his generation want to help take care of their children. He said his brother also takes out his children. He thought it was for the better. I agreed with him and thanked him for his time. Nearly an hour later, I peaked out my window. There he was, still walking his baby in the snow storm.