A Dad Took a Shower With His Infant Son — and the Internet Promptly Freaked Out About It
Another day, another internet meltdown about the way other people parent their children.
When Heather Whitten posted an image of her husband, Thomas, holding their young son, Fox, while he had salmonella poisoning in November 2014, she wasn't exactly trying to inspire total strangers to have a conniption. The photo, which Whitten has posted more than once on Facebook, showed Thomas and Fox both naked in the shower. So, naturally, people started freaking out and reported the photo to Facebook, where it was eventually taken down.
In another post that was also deleted, Whitten explained that the image is not remotely sexual and was never intended to be exploitative. Rather, it was meant to capture a moving moment between father and child.
"Thomas had spent hours in the shower with [Fox], trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhea rinse off of them both as it came," Whitten wrote. "As I sat in the shower with the two of them I was just overwhelmed with the scene in front of me. This man. This husband and partner and father. He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap."
Despite the story behind the image, many people have focused on whether or not it was acceptable for Thomas to shower nude with his son, or to appear nude in front of him at all. It's a question that has come up time and again, often devolving into an online shouting match about how gross it is for parents to be nude in front of their small children.
However, as several parents have pointed out, family nudity is often just an issue of practicality. For instance, when Danish comedian Torben Chris was criticized last year for posting a photo of himself and his daughter in the tub together, he responded by noting it's a parent's job to ensure that their kids are bathed — and sometimes the most efficient way to go about that is to get in the bath with them.
"There is nothing wrong with a father who washes his daughter's bottom and vagina when she's a child," Chris said. "On the contrary, it is bloody disgusting if nobody does it, and unfair if only the mother does it."
Some parents also believe being naked in front of kids can be a way to help them feel comfortable with their bodies. In a post about why she makes a point of letting her children see her naked, parenting blogger Constance Hall explained that letting kids see what real adult bodies look like can help them develop more positive body image themselves.
"I don't want my boys' expectations of women to resemble those that they see in magazines or TV, nor do I want my girls' expectations of themselves to," Hall wrote in a Facebook post.
Plus, as Chris and Whitten have both pointed out, there's something to be said for disseminating more images of fathers caring for their kids — even if that means showing men like Thomas stripping down to sit with a sick, excrement-covered child in the shower. Maybe if we see more of these types of photos, Whitten's picture and others like it won't seem so controversial. They'll just be nice family photos.