We’ve all been there…that moment when we settle in for a flight and then we see them…a parent coming down the aisle…with a baby. We’ve all felt that moment of dread where we close our eyes and say a silent prayer of, “please don’t sit next to me…please don’t sit next to me”. Trust me, I’ve been there plenty of times. However, as I’ve gotten older and more of my friends have started having children, my perspective has changed on the topic.
Here’s the thing…no matter how uncomfortable it is for you to be on a plane next to a baby, I guarantee it’s worse for the parent. I’m not saying you should necessarily be delighted when a baby sits next to you, but I am saying that you should definitely take into consideration the fact that the mom or dad accompanying the baby is likely having a rough day.
I don’t have kids, and frankly, I like it that way. I like my free time, and peace and quiet, and all of that. I’ve never been particularly into the idea of having children for myself. However, I do have compassion for others and recognize that we should all be a little kinder to one another. As more of my friends have started having babies, I’ve been around a lot more babies than ever before. I’ve seen how much work it is for these parents to get through life and take care of all the needs of their child. I’ve seen how tired they are, and how stressed they get when their baby decides to have a meltdown in a public space. I’ve heard them talk about how they wish they could just get a day, even an hour, to themselves where they could just relax. I’ve also heard them talk about the stresses of taking their babies on a plane.
Some people argue that people shouldn’t take babies on planes. However, It’s not my place (or anybody’s place) to say whether somebody should or should not travel with their child. Some parents might want to take their baby on a grand adventure, and that’s ok. Furthermore, there are times when bringing a baby on a plane is something that just can’t be helped. Maybe somebody is moving to another country, or visiting a dying relative who just wants to meet the baby before they pass? You never know what is going on in somebody’s life and what reason they are traveling for, so it’s always best to withhold judgment. And honestly, even if the reason is because the parents thought it might be fun to bring the baby to Hawaii and let him splash around in the pool for a week while they sip cocktails, that’s their choice and their right.
As far as bringing a baby on a plane goes, I can only imagine it must be one of the most stressful things imaginable. As a traveler, I don’t particularly enjoy listening to a baby scream at the top of it’s lungs while I’m stuck in a big metal tube 40,000 feet in the air. On the other hand, as bad as it is for me it’s even worse for the parents. Imagine yourself in their position. You have to get on a plane with your baby for whatever reason. Not only are you facing the possibility of sitting next to a screaming baby on the plane, but you’re also certainly facing the scorn of your fellow travelers.
Imagine you’re traveling solo with a baby and the baby is understandably cranky (since even adults get cranky when faced with airports). You’re most likely sleep deprived and exhausted. You’ve finally managed to juggle your way through airport security while also wrangling a cranky baby and you’ve arrived at your gate where you look forward to sitting down for a while as you wait for your flight. The second you arrive at the gate with a baby in tow, you start getting the evil eye from the others at the gate. They look you up and down and say to each other, “I hope THEY don’t sit next to me” loud enough for you to hear. So now not only are you exhausted and dealing with an upset child, but you also feel very unwelcome in your surroundings.
You get through your time at the gate though, and it’s finally time for you to board your flight. However, as you walk down the aisle of the plane you see the scorn on every face on the plane. How DARE you bring a BABY on the plane. You better NOT sit next to ME, their faces say.
You have to sit somewhere, however, and as soon as you find your seat you hear the person sitting next to you sigh audibly and mutter to them-self about how horrible this flight is going to be. You struggle to get your baby settled and your bags stowed in the overhead compartment, and everybody around you just looks at you scornfully, refusing to help. You silently pray that your child will just sleep through the flight.
Of course…he doesn’t sleep through the flight. He’s fine for a while, but then as soon as you hit some turbulence, he gets scared and starts screaming. You try to calm him but nothing seems to help. More sighs around you, and a few eye rolls. Somebody mutters, “can’t you keep that baby quiet?”. You’re trying to, of course, but your child doesn’t respond to anything. He screams and screams inconsolably as the people around you get angrier and angrier.
Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? This isn’t an exaggeration, but instead is reminiscent of many accounts of bringing a baby on a plane I’ve heard described to me.
Nobody likes the sound of a crying baby. It’s unpleasant. I don’t like it, either. But I do try to put myself in the shoes of the parent when I see a baby on a plane.
Next time you fly, if you see a parent with a baby, make it a point to smile at them and say something kind, even if it’s only hello. If you see them struggling with their bags, offer to help put their bag overhead if that’s something you can help with. If a baby starts crying on a plane, resist the urge to sigh loudly and roll your eyes and instead realize that as bad as it is, it’s even worse for that parent. We need a little more kindness and understanding in this world.