Next time you see a mum with a crying toddler on a flight, take this as your cue to be kind
There’s a scene in the TV drama The Cry that will ring painfully true with anyone who’s travelled with a baby on a plane.
Jenna Coleman’s character is trying to soothe her fractious baby on a long-haul flight (her husband is helpfully asleep most of the time), while passengers all around are getting increasingly annoyed.
It’s not her fault that her baby is crying, and yet she - as the mother - is facing the blame and low-level judgement of everyone else on the plane.
While most traumatic plane journeys like this will never end catastrophically (as in The Cry), they are still a real battleground for parents to contend with. And invariably, mums take on the brunt of that struggle.
It’s a horrible situation that one mum captured with raw emotion recently, in the form of a viral letter posted to Facebook.
American Stephanie Hollifield, who runs the parenting blog Momstrosity, addressed her missive to the man who reacted with “dramatic huffs and puffs” as she sat down in the seats behind him with her two-year-old daughter, Haley, on a recent flight.
This was Hollifield’s first flight alone with her child, she explains, so she was already nervous. When the man started muttering annoyances at Hayley crying, “I almost started crying myself,” says Hollifield. “I was feeling shame and guilt for not being able to control my own child.”
A kind flight attendant was eventually able to help Hollifield calm her “exhausted and fussy” toddler down; and with that, she realised, “We were doing our best, and that’s as great as it gets”.
“The problem wasn’t with us, it was with you,” Hollifield tells the passive-aggressive man:
“I get it, kids can be a nuisance, but next time you are forced to be near one, I hope that you will be more like the flight attendant. I hope that instead of frustration and annoyance, you feel hope and goodness.
“This world certainly has enough negativity without us adding to it.”
Hollifield’s heartfelt post struck a nerve in the parenting community and beyond, with over one thousand shares and 6,000 likes at the time of writing.
“I am flying today and I’m going to make a point to find a momma traveling with kids and tell her she’s doing a great job!” commented one person, as another added, “I’m always nervous that my child will start screaming and everyone will be staring. But I’ve also met a lot of really nice, helpful people who put me at ease during flights.”
This viral plea shows that is always worth being in that “nice, helpful” category. Because 90% of the time, the people in these situations are women. And when women face judgement for things they can’t control, it becomes a feminist issue; one we can all have a say in - parents or no.