On Board Parent Shaming


Throughout the 5-hour flight to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, a baby screeched like a banshee in the middle of the plane. It didn’t matter if you were 30 rows ahead or behind, it rattled through your body like an ongoing zap from electronic stimulation.

It was like a flashback of a rough 3 minutes we had with Wes on the return flight from Hawaii, except it lasted 300 minutes. He had a melt down because he couldn’t sleep through the noise of other babies playing a row in front and two rows behind us (what are the odds – and they were all on different sleep schedules).

I was happy that it wasn’t Wes, this time, and empathized not for the people around the screeching baby but for the parents. The bad looks they are either actually getting or imagining they’re getting. The nervous sweat seeping from their pores, cortisol levels raising. The desperate thoughts flashing through their minds.

We’ve all been there – both as parents and as witnesses. Now that I am a parent of a one year old and I don’t sleep through flights anymore anyway, I have nothing but empathy. There’s so much parent-shaming on airplanes, it’s ridiculous. Don’t the people who shake their heads and give dirty looks remember what it was like traveling with little ones? And those without kids were once screeching babies, themselves. They threw fits, tantrums and did things that irritated everyone around them, tested their parent’s patience and made things inconvenient for their caretakers.

Traveling with the public, we need to expect to be inconvenienced. People snore, chew gum loudly, click their pens up and down, burp, pass gas and pretend they didn’t, take their shoes off and spread the aroma of their feet, kick the seat in front of them, use up more than their share of overhead storage, get up to pee every ten minutes… the list goes on and on.

Babies crying is just one of those things. Could the parents have done a George Clooney and gotten a down sized version of noise canceling headphones for the people around them? Sure. But parents can’t predict how a baby will travel. Wes slept through flights great up to five months. Now, he’ll sleep for 40 minutes at a time and wake up cranky.

It’s our individual responsibility to endure the unexpected and prepare ourselves as much as possible for the things we care about. Like it dark in the plane? Bring an eye mask. Want a peaceful and sleep-filled flight? Bring earplugs. Germs and people sneezing bother you? Bring a face mask and antibacterial wipes and spray. I’m not even kidding.

We can’t control other people, so let’s just all be nice, patient and try our best to be empathetic when stuff hits the fan. Let’s do what we can to be responsible for ourselves... and celebrate once we get to our destination!