Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Being "That" Mom

Mother's Day 2012

Picture this: I’m en route to the East Coast from Arizona, traveling with my 7-month-old son Henry for the first time, and five minutes before takeoff, my sister looks down at our tickets and realizes that we are in the completely wrong seats on an almost full plane. As we start to look around and try and figure out if we even have to move, a final surge of last minute passengers from the gate begin to hastily move down the walkway towards us.

Now, a mistake like this is no big deal, but for a new-ish Mom, with a new-to-flying baby who has already gotten comfortable, already stowed the over-the-two-bag-limit 4 bags under and above the seats and who has already begun to nurse, this is absolutely a big deal. We quickly try to get up and get our bearings as we hear a man with a Southern accent tell the flight attendant, “Uh ma’am, these two here are in my seat. These girls are in my seat! I’m 14F and she’s 14E, ma’am.” My anxiety level starts to creep up a bit as I stumble out into the aisle, holding tight to Henry, two of my four bags in tow. (Where are the other two?) My face turns a deep shade of red as the flight attendant tells us we need to move (NOW) if we want to make our departure time (NOW ladies, let’s get moving). All eyes on us. Sympathetic glances. Sighs. Henry starts to get a little fidgety and suddenly I’m “that” Mom, the Mom with the baby on the verge of crying, too many bags, too little room, holding up the entire plane.

Flashback to five years ago. I distinctly remember boarding a similar plane headed to JFK, to visit my friend in Brooklyn. I had one carry-on, one checked bag and I spent a large portion of the flight listening to my iPod and probably browsing through a couple magazines. I don’t recall what I ate or drank but I’m sure I was able to use my tray table and enjoyed some ice water and maybe a bag of peanuts. I also vividly remember there being a little boy behind me, probably around a year and a half old, who made that flight a living hell. Incessant seat-kicking, his portable DVD player’s volume somehow even rising above the music in my headphones, occasional whining and the crying… oh, the crying. At one point I remember standing up in my seat, turning around and giving the little angel’s Mom the worst stink-eye I could muster up. I didn’t resort to words but my glare said it all. How dare this woman bring a child on the plane, on my plane? Didn’t she know that my peace and quiet was most important thing here? I recall sitting there, so irritated at this baby – actually hating the baby – and vowing that I would never, ever be that Mom.

Well, guess what, 2006-self? Here you are. You are a Mom and even more so, you will absolutely be that Mom one of these days. And let’s be honest, I was pretty much “that Mom” on that flight to Boston. And it’s so interesting now to be in these shoes after being so annoyed by kids and other Moms in the past. I do feel like I am extra sensitive to how Henry acts in public settings but it’s still difficult when you can’t control or predict your baby's reaction or behavior.

Later on, after we found our correct seats, Henry became fussy an hour or two into the flight. My sister was dead asleep and I didn’t have much room to move and before I could realize what was happening, Henry began kicking the seat in front of us. My iPhone clattered to the floor as I tried to reposition but I couldn’t quite reach it. Yo Gabba Gabba loudly rang out repeatedly, “There’s a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy!” and Henry began to get agitated, his beloved in-flight crutch out of reach. In the midst of this craziness, the woman in front of me stood up, just barely missing getting her hair pulled by my fidgeting son, turned around… and smiled. She handed me my iPhone and said, “This is the first peep I’ve heard out of that boy all flight, you’re doing a great job!” and sat back down.

I smiled to myself as I realized what a role reversal this was, except that woman wasn’t a big, judgmental meanie like I was five years ago. Lesson learned. Henry may only be 19 months old and we may have a whole lot of “that Mom” kind of moments on the horizon, but they aren’t so bad when you have nice, understanding people surrounding you. Now, granted, that isn’t the case 75% of the time, but it inspired me to be a little less irritable, a lot more understanding, and much more compassionate to anyone who may be having a bit of a rough time. ‘Cause really… you never know when that could be you. Hear that, 2006 crabby self?


*This one of the many pieces I'll be re-sharing here over the next year. This originally published on Hello Giggles, but since I am not writing for them anymore, it's important to me to have all of my writing in one place. If this is the second time you've seen this, I hope you didn't mind too much! Thank you for reading!

52 comments:

  1. Being a mom sure has it's way of humbling us, doesn't it? I've never had my 16 month old on a plane, but I've heard tales of friends' toddlers in flight and it sounds like Henry wasn't nearly as bad as many are. You're doing good mama. :)

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  2. Oh yes, I've definitely been that mom. On an all-night flight of misery. If everyone were more compassionate traveling would be far less stressful!

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  3. These are anxieties I have considered as I wonder what I might be like as a mother some day. Thank you for sharing them!

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  4. While I've certainly judged parents internally, I've never given them anything other than smiles and looks of vague sympathy. Even when the kid is being a little shit and the parents *know* he's being a shit and aren't punishing him or are just being plain disrespectful, since it's something that's so far out of my purview (having always flown alone) that I just don't feel right making them feel even shittier. And really I'd rather have a baby kicking my seat and screaming than a creepy man telling me all about his Russian girlfriend and his mother who fell down the stairs and drowned in a pool of her own blood (I sat next to that guy on a flight once, honest).

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  5. Ah, traveling with a little one! Difficult even if other's say otherwise!
    I'm sorry those people were so pushy... you were getting up, you were moving! You did great!

    Its definitely easy to be judgmental about a crying baby until you have one. I'm always afraid of it when we travel!

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  6. I love this as well. I find myself very similar to your "old self". I'm from New Jersey (I've seen some pictures of the Seaside Boardwalk on your blog) and have a half sleeve and 5 other tattoos. I never planned on having kids or anything until I met my boyfriend of about a year. I'm almost 21, and it'll be a loooooonnggg time before I'm a mama, but I was concerned with being the tattooed mom as you were (I read your previous piece about being a tattooed mom) and really feel like you're an inspiration. I really appreciate how you posted about your old self, resenting the child on the plane, but you now realize you've grown up from your '06 self and matured into a well rounded woman and mother.I hope to be a great tattooed mother like yourself one day! I love your blog! Thank you!

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  7. Danielle, kudos for once again being so real. I've fully been "2006 you" and I know that if I ever become a mama, I'm going to have to come to terms with the fact that you can't fully control these situations, and you just might be "that mom". Bravo for being so self-aware and humble. Not many can be that introspective.

    <3

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  8. I'm not a mom yet, but when I see a mom struggling, I try to be sweet and understanding about it, because seriously, it must be so difficult! I'm a grown adult and can barely manage my own bags/iPhone/drinks in a tiny space on a plane :)

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  9. Oh, the "that mom" moments. Gotta love 'em.

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  10. Love this. What a great lesson to learn...and what a sweet lady you had sitting in front of you! I know I've been that annoyed woman on the plane before, and I'm sure I'll get what's coming to me in a few years :)

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  11. Moment of truth.. got a new web browser so maybe I can FINALLY comment on your posts hahaha.

    Anyway, this is such a great piece of writing.
    I'm so glad you're sharing your pieces that you wrote for Hello Giggles. They're so interesting. :)

    -Jessica

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  12. This was one of the best posts I've read in a long time. And I can totally relate. I'm a young mother of two, who used to think that children were "annoying". But now that I'm in the MOM shoes now, I have a totally different perspective. Great post:)

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  13. I have found myself in situations like that time after time during the last four years; and all I can do is laugh! I have become the stereotype, the predictable. I have turned into the Mother I always swore I'd never be; and thank goodness! I can't imagine actually being the "ideal" Mother I had imagined in my head pre-baby!

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  14. I'm getting ready to take my 4 and 6 year old's on their first flight at the end of this month ~ by myself. I'm excited and scared to death! I am crossing my fingers that they will be on their best behavior and that I have sympathetic passengers around me :)

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  15. It's funny how you can look back at things, not even necessarily as a mom -type situation, but think to yourself Wow I was THAT person! It's how I get when I'm around loud obnoxious teenagers. Me and my friends will start griping then remember, oh wait we were that obnoxious and probably worse sometimes!

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  16. there is a difference between moms having a rough day or a fussy baby or kid and doing their best, even if it isn't great and moms who simply are too lazy or incompetent to parent their unruly children and don't care about the effect they have on others. i dealt with that on a plane recently and it was infuriating. not the kicking, screaming, crying or anything the kids (5-8 years old) were doing, but the parent's absolute refusal to tell them to stop or brief them on appropriate plane behavior, or muster up the smallest apology to those of us repeatedly woken up by them. i try to be compassionate, but wonder what is appropriate in those situations. do i have to bite my tongue and if so, why?!

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  17. I am a very understanding person and hardly ever get annoyed when I see moms with their whiny babies. I went out to dinner with my friend and her 2 year old. He wasn't a terror but he wouldn't listen to her when she told him to stay sitting, hardly ate his food and threw a packet of sugar at me when I took the container away from him. She was so embarrassed and said to me that she never wanted to be "that" mom. I told her it was ok because noone should judge her. I also told her I would never judge her because I'm not even a mom and have no idea how difficult it can be at times. She was embarrassed to say she used to judge moms all the time for not keeping their child under control. I think she learned her lesson, and I learned to continue keeping an open mind! Thanks for sharing!!

    http://ralizabeth.blogspot.com

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  18. I love this post! And how timely! I used to be a frequent flyer before Judah was born and also gave a few moms the occasional dirty look when their kid would pull my hair or hit my seat. Now when I fly with Judah (we just flew from DC to San Fran on Saturday) I am overly sensitive on how my son will act while we are on the flight. Last year he had so many diaper blow outs that I was afraid the bathroom trashcan wouldn't hold anymore. This time (to San Fran) we had a wonderful flight attendant (United) who noticed that we had a guy sitting next to us and offered the guy a seat up front so we can have the entire row to ourselves. Thank goodness he did because Judah was able to fall asleep on his own seat. He did great, I am however worried about the flight back to DC this Saturday. One last years flight back one lady actually screamed at us over a few rows and asked me "is their anything else you can do for your kid!" I was horrified. Judahs ears were hurting on the landing (he was an angel the entire flight but those last 30 mins). I sat in my seat holding my sweet son and fighting off tears that were stinging my eyes. Now my heart hurts for all the moms I gave dirty looks to in the past and the hurt I must have caused their hearts. Being a mom changes everything, I think it gives you a softer, more compassionate heart.

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  20. isn't it funny how sometimes your opinion on the same situation just changes completely if you are on the opposite side? and all of a sudden you think to yourself how selfish or wrong you where back than?

    and i don't get it why people always insist on their booked seats. i once had the situation that someone sat in my seat and i just asked him which was his and i took it and ended up having two seats for me instead of just one. jackpot on a 10 hours flight from the us to europe! who needs a window seat on a red eye flight when you can have two seats instead. ha ha.

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  21. So agree. I have flown 4 legs with Gwynnie all on my own and it's hard! I'm nursing her, she's kicking the poor person next to me.. an their tray, spilling their juice everywhere... everyone on those flights saw my breasts, heard her fuss... it's really, really challenging. I've been so lucky with who I've been seated next to and, often they've helped me through and encouraged me despite my beet red face and frazzled mind.

    Kacie

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  22. amazing. I always love your personal pieces sharing a bit of life lessons. Really puts things into perspective. thanks so much for sharing. :)

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  23. we recently flew across the country on a flight with ATLEAST 6 babies and a handful of young children on it, and instead of getting frustrated with their crying and kicking seats, i tried to keep in mind how hard it must be for the parents. this article completely reinstated what i was thinking! i remember reading this on hello giggles- i'm glad you're sharing it here too. you're a talented writer!

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  24. This reminds me of my very first flight. I think I was about 10 at the time, and my mom wasn't able to get seats for her, me and my twin sister together. I was seated between two HUGE men, with a broken air conditioner, who were complaining about getting away from their families who were sick. Right as we took off, one of the guys said "well there goes the bottom of the plane" and I threw up... ALL OVER HIM. I felt so bad for my mom who had to wait until she could undo her seat belt, then walk over to her kid who threw up on someone else. I think if it hadn't been for that experience, I would totally be the childless person giving dirty looks to mothers. I always try to remember how hard it was for me to fly at 10 and how much worse it must be for a baby.
    Abby
    beekneelife.blogspot.com

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  25. Oh I feel you! I recently had a 5 hour flight with my then 9 month old... The flight attendents were so mean! When I asked for water to prepare her formula, they told me it wasn't time for water distribution. Eventually my daughter made a big mess in her diaper (just our luck, she hadn't had that in soo long!) and when I changed her, the flight attendent, discusted, told me this wasn't the place to change a diaper! Where else was I to go?!?! With the pilot?!?! Then to make matters worse, my seat neighbour really seemed to think I was overeacting and shouldn't be stressed. As if composure was a reflexion of the love I have for my daughter or something. I just felt judgement comming from everywhere, the flight attendants and most of the passengers thinking I'm a bad mom for being overwhelmed and my neighbour thinking I'm GUILTY of being overwhelmed, as if I don't love my baby. Anyways, it was really, really the worst flight EVER!

    And now I think about it and I just realize, hey, most people probably weren't judging me at all. If I can look at a struggling parent and think "oh poor parent" instead of "shut that kid up!"... I know others do the same too. I just need some perspective sometimes :)

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  26. This is such a good reminder for those of us without kids - its easy to forget what a big job you moms have wrangling little ones in situations that that are so easy for the rest of us - flights, restaurants. Even the grocery store. Thanks for making sure ill pause and think next time I hear a crying baby in the seat behind me :)

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  27. My sister forwarded this to me after I just told her about my 13 month old whining/crying episode last night during my hubbie and my wedding anniversary at a fine dining restaurant. We had to leave the resto after 30mins and take our food to go! People around us were looking at us funny. Most expensive Take Home meal we've ever had. Total FAIL! thanks for your blog. Makes me feel better about being "that Mom"

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  28. I love your post. I have found myself as "that mom" too. I think every mother at some point finds herself as "that mom".

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  29. I just survived my first flight with my 18 month old. It was a short trip; Boston to Chicago and we did pretty well... but I was so nervous! And yes he did kick the seat in front of us (which I desperately tried to make him stop), and I too dropped my iphone and it slid to the seat behind us. I guess it's a right of passage- but next time I'm hoping he'll have his own seat!

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  30. Oh my goodness. Everything about this post rang so true for me. Especially having just had my first flight experience (ALONE!) with Rylee! It's tough! Thank God for those understanding souls who make you feel just a little more at ease! We are all going to be "that mom" at one time or another.

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  31. I've been the kid-less meanie AND 'that' mom - kind of humbling. ;)

    This was so well put!

    xo
    cortnie

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  32. Such a sweet story, thanks for sharing!

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  33. Wonderful story and great message! I just found you on Bloglovin, can't wait to explore your site!

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  34. I have a 6 month old daughter and I am totally hypersensitive about she will react in public! I applaud anyone with the guts to take their baby on a plane - you are braver than me. I loved this piece - thanks Danielle.

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  35. When my son was an infant, I flew home from Tokyo & when he started to scream, the flight attendant offered to take him and walk him up & down the aisle for me. :D A welcomed treat, no doubt!

    How lovely that the woman in front of you was kind. When times would get rough when my son was small, my Dad would often say, "What are you so concerned about? You're never going to see these people again!" Made me laugh everytime.

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  36. This is a really well-written piece. I know I've been that "meanie" as well, and now that I have a 7 week old... I've already been "that mom" on at least one occasion, like shopping at the store with a baby who decides nothing will make him happy and commences crying. I've received both glares and sympathetic looks while my face burns and I try to figure out some way to pacify him. I'm becoming more and more grateful for the smiles and helpful people and learning to ignore the grumps who have no idea what it's like.

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  37. " I’m “that” Mom, the Mom with the baby on the verge of crying, too many
    bags, too little room, holding up the entire plane." This made me smile! I'll keep in mind how to react to moms in public now that you pointed this out. How sweet of that lady, too!

    Amanda Rose
    http://sewmuchtosay.blogspot.com

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  38. Oh for the love of god - let's not turn this into a bashing of people who don't have children. Why does being childless and being annoyed by a screaming/annoying child make one a "meanie"? Let's not get on the attack against the childless, etc., lest this be another incident like the backlash generated against the anti-tattoo reporter a few months ago.

    There's only so much a parent can do when a child is uncomfortable, tired, etc. I do my best to block out the crying, etc. however, I don't have to be cheery about getting the back of my seat kicked (by a child or an adult), but I do have to be polite when I ask for it to stop.

    Nor do I have to be cheery about parents who refuse to try to soothe and/or quiet a child in a place where such action can be done (movie theatres, restaurants, etc.). Planes? All bets are off. Flights are not fun for adults, and they are generally less so for children. A few months ago, I was on a flight from CA to PA, and one child (out of four or five) on the plane was inconsolable. Yes, I was exhausted by the relentless screaming and crying, but my heart went out to the parents, as they were doing anything and everything possible to quiet the child. Nothing worked. Was I annoyed? Yes, but hey, life is annoying sometimes. And I recognize that this isn’t a controllable situation for anyone, so why get my blood pressure up?

    I don't know that you should scold your former self because that is how you felt at the time. Again why does being annoyed by a noisy child make one a "meanie"?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Gina!

      Thanks for replying. I agree with a lot of this, except I really don't feel like I'm bashing those without children. I'm simply looking back at my own experience and making an observation about how much my perspective has changed since having a child myself. I definitely am not trying to put anyone down, and it's a shame I came across that way to you! Just wanted to clarify. :)

      Again- thanks for reading!

      -Danielle

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  39. So good! I really try and keep perspective. If there's a screaming child out in public I always tell myself to think about how the parents are feeling at that moment, and try not to judge. Because you don't know the full situation! I loved this.

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  40. Fantastic writing and a good lesson to learn! It's tough taking a kid on a flight, but it sounds like you did great.

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  41. Thank you for your comment, Danielle! I've been 'that baby' on flights! Luckily, I was entertained by two really nice kids and their mum, who let my mum have a little break from a very exhaustingly awake baby.

    I'm doing this thing at the moment where I'm trying super hard to not get annoyed by things that can't be changed. Yes, it might be annoying for me to be on the flight with a baby making a ton of noise - but I can picture that baby being completely unsure of what's going on, and you can't tell a baby to be quiet because they're too little to understand. I, however, am old enough to understand that baby's feelings, and empathise with a mother who probably wants some peace and quiet of her own on a flight - no one actively wants their baby to be screaming!

    I think it'd be great if people could just be a little more understanding of situations that are out of everyone's control once in a while!

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  42. I flew from SLC to Reno this morning with my four month old son and he screamed the whole way - nothing I did eased his baby angst (and I tried everything!). And I had that same experience where I remembered the me from just a few years ago, completely lacking empathy - and even being rude - to mothers in the exact same position that I was today. Karma is kind of a bitch, but I suppose we all learn our lessons eventually.

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  43. So wonderful to hear this story, I am flying from new Zealand to USA in a week and having done this flight a dozen times with my girls as newborns and toddlers (often by myself) I can so relate to how hard and stressful it can be - I have had some total nightmares but also some amazing positive responses from fellow passengers. What is exciting for me is for the first time in 8 years I am making this flight by myself (so excited!) and this post has inspired me to keep an eye out for mums (or dads) who may need my help or words or encouragement. Thanks again x

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  44. I remember reading this on Hello Giggles a while ago and thinking "oh god, dreading flying!!"

    Last month we took a 1 hour flight to visit my family, just me and my two and a half year old - the flight up? fine, the flight home? Disaster!! On the descent little one wanted to sit on my knee, he wasn't allowed, we both had caught stinking colds so we feeling pretty sorry for ourselves anyway, he screamed and wouldn't be consoled and I ended up hysterical as well. Still cringe when I think back!! Despite 2 tutting ladies in the seat in front, a couple behind were sweet trying to calm us both (!!) down and the lady beside me was so lovely, and by happy coincidence lived in my town (the airport was another 1 hour journey home) - I was struggling with my bags (too many for me too!) and she took littlie's trunkee for me & promised to drop off later - at that point she could have said "I'm going to steal this now, and you'll never see it again" and I would have willingly handed over all the bags lol.

    The very kind lady did drop it off later that evening :) xx

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  45. What a good story - strange how life comes full circle, huh? I ride planes a lot - so I'll think about this story a little more often.

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