This was the question that I was asked last week. Travelling with a baby? It was a no-brainer for me – of course it’s selfish.
Travelling with a Baby
I’ve travelled loads with my baby boy, including a long-haul flight to Canada when he was six-months old. I’ll continue travelling with a baby, so I can forgive you if you’re surprised by my answer.
The fact is it is selfish, but aren’t we all selfish? I don’t think of anyone else when I book my tickets. I think of myself. We all have our own reasons for being on a flight. We all make choices and most of us do what we want. We don’t stop to consider the other passengers when we click ‘book’.
Some people snore, some people like too many drinks, some people smell…the list goes on…but those people don’t avoid flying. I was a selfish traveller before I had Nova. I travelled for my own enjoyment. Now I have a baby and guess what? I travel for my own enjoyment.
If anything, I have even more reason to travel. I want to share as much of our world as possible with my mini-explorer, showing him a variety of sights, sounds, tastes and smells. I hope it’ll enrich his life and give him great foundations for his own choices when he’s older.
The question stemmed from this ‘Babies on Planes’ article on the Guardian. It says that ‘no parent should feel like they have to placate judgemental passengers with treats and apologies when their child has an age-appropriate outburst in public spaces’. It’s a response to the sudden popularity of those sweetie bags you may have seen on your FB feed. You know, the ones that people are leaving on their fellow passenger’s seats on planes. They come with a note that offers an apology for any noise from their baby during the flight.
BBC Three Counties Radio got in touch with me and asked if I’d like to talk on The JVS Show, sharing my thoughts and perspective on travelling long-haul with a baby. They told me that I’d be sharing the line with a supposed etiquette consultant who despises children and thinks they shouldn’t be allowed on a flight, let alone out of the house. She was a real charmer.
One of her first comments was something along the lines of children should be locked in a bedroom until they can use a knife and fork. Yep, I’m being serious.
The host painted a common scenario, one where he talked about an annual long-haul flight he takes to Argentina, costing over a £1,000. He asked why his flight should be ruined by screaming babies.
I’m completely understanding when people say they don’t want to hear a baby cry for hours at a time. Even as a mama, I don’t particularly want to listen to that either. However, it is categorically unfair to label all babies as the same. It’s utterly ridiculous. At six-months old Nova had been on five flights and didn’t scream for the entire journey on any of them. Quite the opposite, in fact. We had people congratulating us for having such a good, little traveller. And I don’t know any babies who scream for a whole day, so I don’t know why they kept referring to them as ‘screaming babies’. Why not just babies?
You can listen to exactly how the debate went via this link if you skip to 1hr 53m. It’s only a few minutes long and I like to think that I represented the baby travel side of the camp pretty well, but let me know what you think.
I’m under no illusions that Nova could be the complete opposite on our next flight. As much as you can prepare, there are some things that you can’t predict or control, such as turbulence and illness. So I guess in reference to the article, do I feel the need to make a little apology note and goody bag in advance?
I think the key to a successful flight with a little one is good preparation (as mentioned in this these baby travel tips), luck and a positive outlook. By preparing an apology note I’d feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. I guess like a glass half-empty kinda viewpoint. Personally, I think babies pick up on our emotions and that includes things like nervousness and stress.
That said, part of me gets it. Us Brits are famed for our politeness and apologetic nature. We’re always apologizing for things, even if it’s not our fault or a big deal. If Nova did have an outburst whilst I was sitting next to someone the chances are that I would say sorry. Not necessarily because I feel shamed, but more just out of politeness and for the fact that I know it’s not an enjoyable thing to listen to (for me, let alone them). It also breaks the ice and cuts any tension.
If someone was rude to me about his crying (perhaps like the woman on the radio show alluded) then I probably wouldn’t apologize and would be more defensive. However, I’ve only really encountered kind people, who offer their sympathies before I even have the chance to mutter a sorry.
It was suggested on that same radio show that some people would ask to leave the flight if a baby started screaming before take-off. We all know how precious space is on a plane, especially when you have a zillion baby things, so fellow family travellers, perhaps we should start encouraging our babies to cry at the start if it means more space…?!
What do you think? Is it selfish to take a child on a long-haul flight?