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Elon Musk says his partner ‘has a much bigger role than me’ in parenting newborn—and that’s a problem

Elon Musk says babies are super cool but he doesn't do much with his own.

Elon Musk comments about baby

[Editors note: While this article is about fathers in heterosexual relationships, we extrapolate that the positive impacts described are consistent among same-sex and gender non-conforming relationships. This is based on research that has shown that children have similar outcomes no matter the gender of the parents raising them. Unfortunately, at this time there is a lack of research on non-traditional family structures—but that is changing, and we support the continuation of efforts that support all families.

We also acknowledge that single parents work exceptionally hard to ensure that their children have the best outcomes and that the absence of a father or partner does not automatically preclude children from healthy and happy lives. We stand behind all families.]

We talk a lot at Motherly about how fathers are not helpers or babysitters, but equal partners who increasingly want to be seen as equal parents in the early weeks and mother of their children's lives. That's why dads need and deserve paternity leave, and that's why we need to address the comments Tesla CEO Elon Musk made in an interview published by the New York Times over the weekend.

When asked about how he makes time for his infant son, X AE A-Xii, who he shares with singer Grimes, Musk made a comment that completely erases how important a father's affection and caregiving is to infant development.

"Well, babies are just eating and pooping machines, you know?" Musk told The Times. "Right now there's not much I can do. Grimes has a much bigger role than me right now."

Even if Grimes is breastfeeding, there is still a lot Musk could be doing to bond with little X AE A-Xii right now.

When powerful men suggest that caregiving work can only be done by women, they are denying fathers and children a powerful bond and exacerbating unpaid work and the wage gap. Paternity leave is a powerful tool for families and for equality, and by implying that men can't do the work (in a heterosexual relationship) that gets done in those early weeks and months of a child's life (or by suggesting that it is beneath men) Musk is doing society a disservice.


Studies suggest that skin-to-skin contact with dads has huge benefits for babies and that when dads do things like change diapers, feed or bathe their babies, the babies are more socially responsive than babies who only get that kind of touch from mama.

And to correct Musk, little X AE A-Xii is not just a pooping and eating machine. At his age (about 8 weeks old), babies can tell the difference between mom and dad, so X knows who is giving him attention and who isn't.

Musk, who is also dad to 16-year-old twins, Griffin and Xavier, and 14-year-old triplets, Kai, Saxon and Damian, who he shares with ex-wife Justine Musk, says there will be more of a role for him when his youngest son gets older.

"I think just doing what I've done with my other kids. If I have a trip for Tesla to China, for example, I'll bring the kids with me and we'll go see the Great Wall or we took the bullet train from Beijing to Xian and saw the Terracotta Warriors."

While that sounds cool and fun, when dads delay getting involved with their kids until they can walk and talk and appreciate art, they can perpetuate the model of mom as the default parent and exacerbate inequality in household responsibilities and unpaid care work and chores.

The division of chores and sleepless nights probably aren't a problem in the Musk household as Elon and Grimes have the ability to afford a housekeeping staff and overnight nannies, but Musk's statements need to be challenged because they reinforce ideas that are hurting less privileged families.

And it's not just Musk who has said stuff like this.

In 2019, former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke made a campaign-trail joke about how his wife, Amy Hoover Sanders, is raising his kids "sometimes with [his] help."

In 2005, President Donald Trump was asked if he was going to change diapers (the First Lady was pregnant with Barron at the time). "No, I don't do that," Trump said. "There's a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife, and you know, there's a lot of husbands that listen to that," he added.

But being a strong husband who cares for his family can look like changing diapers. Ask Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who took on that responsibility as his wife, Serena Williams, was recovering from a traumatic birth.

In his interview with the New York Times Musk also said, "I think babies are supercool and really people need to have more babies because, it sounds obvious, but if people don't have enough babies, humanity will disappear."

That's why mothers need support to raise those babies. From society, but also from employers and partners—two roles Musk has willingly taken on.

In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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