Critics of family travel often get up in arms about having to share airplanes with young children. As if air travel equates to a personal pleasure zone, and not something we all pay for to travel around the globe. Flying is no longer reserved for the elite class. In fact flying with kids is now similar to taking the metro or an Amtrak train to New York.
The truth is, traveling without kids isn’t always an option for parents. It’s a necessity, just like it is for business travelers, couples on vacation and girlfriends looking to get away. You never know WHY a parent is traveling with children. Not everyone is going to Disney with a screaming child on a plane. This unfair stereotype is what those curmudgeons assume when we step foot on a plane with our “snot-nosed kids.” Parents fly with their kids for a number of reasons, and not all of them are fun.
JOBS REQUIRE FAMILIES TO TRAVEL WITH KIDS
In today’s strained economic environment, it isn’t always possible to live near extended family. Jobs bring us across the country and around the globe. My extended family first met my oldest son when he was three-months-old and we flew from Seattle to Philadelphia for the holidays. Was I going to drive across the country to make that happen when I could take a five-and-a-half-hour flight? Umm… no. Could I move closer to my parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins back then? Nope. Our stable jobs were on the West Coast. You know, the ones that contributed to the economy, paid taxes, and supported the infrastructure many in this country know and love.
Throughout the years my husband and I have been fortunate to have each other most of the time when flying with our babies and then toddlers. Military families, for example, don’t often have that option.
MILITARY FAMILIES FLY WITH KIDS
The next time you want to judge a mother traveling alone with a screaming child, think before you react. Has that child met its father yet? Is that child’s father in the military? Has the father been deployed overseas, but is now on leave somewhere his family can visit and meet his child for the first time? Yeah, those situations do exist. Military spouses and children fly all of the time. These special families sacrifice time with loved ones in ways civilians could never understand. And yes, while not every mother traveling solo with a baby is a military spouse, you simply wouldn’t know.
FAMILY REQUIRES PARENTS TO FLY WITH KIDS
As we already mentioned, jobs can require you to fly with kids. Working far from family and friends often requires a plane ride to visit. This happens domestically all of the time. It also happens internationally. I once had a stranger tell me to drive my kids to our destination and not bother getting on a plane. Kids apparently didn’t belong in the air. What would you tell a mother who lives in the U.S. but her family lived in Asia, Europe or Mexico? I can guess what that same insensitive person would tell this mother (he isn’t very kind or accepting of anyone outside of his limited world). You can’t drive across an ocean, or even take a train.
And then there is the unfortunate situation of traveling to visit a sick loved one or attending a funeral. Keep in mind that not all travel is for pleasure and sometimes the journey can be particullarly stressful.
A NEW WAY TO LOOK AT PARENTS FLYING WITH KIDS
We are all squished onto airplanes like sardines. Heck, my last train ride had more legroom. It’s time to stop thinking of flying as an elite, perfect travel experience only designed for single people to enjoy. Traveling with kids isn’t (and can’t be) relegated to road trips. Parents are welcome onboard with their kids as paying customers like everyone else.
And as with many situations in life, there is a small segment of the flying population that make all other parents look bad. I have seen more than one parent go to sleep, leaving their toddler to fend for themselves (or more often than not the other passengers take care of them). Getting on a plane does not excuse you from your responsibilities as a parent, or a human being for that matter.
I think it’s time to be kind and compassionate towards the youngest passengers onboard. We were all children once before. Yes, babies cry, but you know what? You talk loud, fart and fall asleep on my shoulder. Deal with the inconveniences of life. We will all arrive at our destination soon enough and thank goodness for that.
Family reunited, Father and Daughter, and Mother and Toddler (Pinterest images) via ShutterStock.com