International Travel With A Baby Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

The most relaxing thing I've done as a parent.

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

International Travel With A Baby | APW

Our first night in London, we found ourselves jet lagged at a pub, drinking wine, feeding the baby oxtail on toast, and watching him giggle uncontrollably. “Welcome to the family tradition,” I whispered to him. “We’re so glad you’re here.” But really, I was glad I was there too.

Two weeks before the trip, overtired from relaunching APW, I tried to talk David into canceling the whole thing. “It’s too much,” I told him. “A baby, on an international flight, and jet lagged? That’s not a vacation. It’s a marathon.” The truth was, I’d become increasingly frantic about the logistics. Our experience in the US has been that taking a baby out into public spaces that are not designated as “family friendly” (a code term to disguise the fact that our culture is anything but) can be a nightmare. Forget the basics of a helping hand (say, offering you a seat when you’re carrying a twenty-five pound kid), when out in public with a well behaved baby, I’m regularly treated with overt aggression: rude waitstaff, or loud sighs from the people I sit down next to at the airport, or nasty comments from a shopper after letting the baby crawl around for a few minutes in a secluded corner of the Gap. And if the kid is crying? Well, game over (as in, we normally just go home).

What the hell were we going to do in London? I googled “London with kids,” which didn’t help, because a baby doesn’t care about the zoo. I googled “London with toddlers,” which lead me to lists of parks, not helpful with a temperature hovering around freezing. So when David refused to cancel the trip, I started asking (slightly panicked) advice of my London girlfriends. Their answers were… outside of my frame of reference. “Just let him crawl around in any museum,” they said, “people will be fine with that.” “You can breast feed pretty much anywhere without a cover. No one is going to bother you.” “It’s all pretty family friendly, I wouldn’t even worry.” I didn’t even know where to file their answers in my brain.

As soon as we got on our British Airways flight, I started the preemptive apologizing that has marked my experience of motherhood. Our British seatmates looked at me like I was crazy. “He’s a baby,” they said. “Babies cry. Don’t worry about it.” And from there on out, things were… different. A ninety-five-year-old woman offered me and the baby her seat at the pub. “He was a baby just like that, once,” she said, leaning over to me and pointing at her sixty-year-old son, looking wistful, “Enjoy it.” I sent David in to another pub, to make sure it was fine to bring the baby in, and the bartender looked at him like he’d never heard a stupider question. “Of course?” he said. Oh, England. Waitstaff flirted with him. Museum employees stopped to chat with him as he crawled around. People jumped up to give me their seat on the Tube. The buses had… stroller parking? And while it was far from perfect (the night we accidentally ended up in a trendy area, and couldn’t find a restaurant that would seat us was fun), it was the whole societal tone that threw me. Instead of my kid being my problem, he was generally treated like a very small member of society.

After all my worrying, I can honestly say that the trip with the baby was easier than trips without the baby have been. Forget babies being bad travelers, I’ve never been great at traveling myself. This time around, I didn’t have time to worry about how much I hated flying, because I had a baby to take care of. I’ve never been able to sleep on planes, but parenthood has made me tired enough that I can now sleep anywhere. Instead of having high expectations that needed to be met to make the trip feel worth it, we woke up each day and pondered what we might be able to pull off, because the real trick had been making it there in the first place. And time with family and friends? If they were happy to see us, they were thrilled to see us and the wriggling little bundle. I mean, don’t get me wrong: we had screaming jet lag in both directions. There were restaurants that weren’t willing to fit us in with a stroller. David and I missed having date nights, just the two of us. The baby dealt with his anxiety about the trip by clinging to me fairly nonstop for days. But the three of us had tons of quality time together, an adventure, and we now have one hell of a story.

On our last day, we were eating in a village pub (this one, to be precise) and the baby was doing his joyful scream bit. “AHHHHHH!” he’d say, “AH!” And over my Sunday roast, I heard a tiny voice pipe up, “That baby is being too loud,” she said, “with his WAHWAHWAH.” It was the voice of America, spoken out loud. But then the rational voice of an adult stepped in. “You were just like that, Lulu,” she said, “Not that long ago.” And then Lulu got out of her chair and came over. “Nice baby,” she said, appraising. “Cute. I like him.”

What the UK taught us is that it doesn’t have to be parents vs. non-parents. Families don’t have to lock themselves away, in “kid friendly” zones. Whether or not we have a baby, or want a baby one day, or never want a baby at all: we were all babies once. We all screeched, “AHHHH!” with joy, and “WAAAHHH” in sadness. And one day, if we’re lucky enough, we’ll be older and weaker, and we’ll need more help again. But till then (and even then, if the ninety-five-year-old woman is any example), we can offer our seat to the young mom. Hold open the door for the stroller. Tell the dad on the plane not to worry that the baby is crying.

And really, America? Maybe we should just get pubs, and start allowing kids in them. A beer, dinner, and some joyful baby yells? That’s lots of good things in life, in one small package.

Till then, parents, book that ticket. Next time we’re going to Europe. I hear they really love babies there.

Note: I had intended to talk a little more about the logistics of traveling with a wee one, but I got distracted. But anyone that wants to chat kids and travel, let’s meet in the comments for a gab fest.

Photo: Personal for APW

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit

Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Kendra D

    I sometimes think that what you describe above, about America and kids, is actually symptomatic of a larger problem. It’s not just children being children, but people being people.

    “How dare those teenagers hold hands and exchange kisses in public, that belongs at home.”

    “How dare that person wear those clothes and that jewelry and have that tattoo…they should cover up.”

    “How dare that family come in to this restaurant or church or wedding and have children that make noises, they should have gotten a babysitter.”

    We seem to forget that we’re all people. We’ve all wanted to hold someone’s hand or kiss them at some point. We all want to express our styles and beliefs without worrying about having to justify it to random strangers. And we all were children that made noises at one point.

    Really, maybe it’s less about being okay with being family friendly and being more okay with being people friendly. It’s okay to be messy and make mistakes. It’s okay to love passionately and live life loudly. It’s okay to be true to yourself, whatever that means. It’s okay to be human and let others be human too.

    • Meg Keene

      I think it IS symptomatic of a larger problem. What I think the problem is though, is how insanely individualistic our culture has become. We don’t see kids, or old people, or teenagers, or or or as ALL of ours. We don’t see ourselves as all connected. That kid is yelling but I was a kid once and he’ll grow up to be our future. Instead: that kid has nothing to do with me, and he’s bothering me.

      • Anon

        Refreshingly, I live in a very multiethnic urban area, and it is encouraging to see that in some other cultures, children are accepted as children. No one thinks anything of it if 1 year olds are babbling loudly at a neighboring table, or if the youngest kids at a long, 3 generation dinner need to get up and walk around occasionally.

    • Shiri

      I think you’re so right, and I think it affects even more parts of our life than that.

      “How dare you get sick”,
      “how dare you not have had the same privileges I did and the same capabilities I do now,”
      “how dare something happen to you that I believe I can keep from happening to me.”

      I don’t know when the American ideal of individualism became a cult of blame and control.

      • Meg Keene

        Exactly this. Kids/ old people/ etc are mostly a problem because they’re an inconvenance. Just like, sick people. It’s a very survival of the fittest world. (Babies and new mothers are not the fittest.)

        • malkavian

          Ugh, I could probably write an essay on how quick a lot of people are to throw you to the wayside if you have a chronic illness, and how unaccommodating our society is to people with invisible illness.

          • Shiri

            I’m right there with you, lady. The assumptions, judgement, and my personal favorite, the “you’re too complicated to care about”.

          • malkavian

            I haven’t gotten that yet, but people tend to forget I exist when my illness is flaring and have trouble going out. The vast majority of my problems have been 1) the expenses associated with taking care of myself and 2) accommodations/people not realizing how sick I am at work. There’s also the strangers/acquaintances not believing me, the ‘you’re sick because this reason’, the ‘have you tried this yet, it’ll cure you’, and my personal favorite, ‘you’re too young to be sick!’.

          • Alyssa M

            I feel you malkavian! My personal favorite is the “have you tried this yet, it’ll cure you.” but I’ve gotten every one of those you list… /sigh

          • malkavian

            Ugh, yeah. And usually the ‘cures’ are some sort of ridiculous diet or ‘this natural thing because medications are bad’. Pharma-bashing really frustrates me, because while I realize pharma companies are more interested in profits than my individual well-being, that doesn’t change the fact that the medications they make allow me to function. So does the whole ‘there’s no cure, only treatments, because profit and pharma is holding back all the cures which are in these natural things’ when most people don’t realize the complexity of a lot of illnesses, and how difficult they are to study.

          • Alyssa M

            What, you don’t think gluten is the root of all modern diseases? /sarcasm

          • Meg Keene

            YES. I have a mom that’s chronically ill and a dad that’s legally blind, and yes. We treat people that are ill like: annoyances, freak shows, or charity cases. It’s fun timessssss.

    • Remember when Hillary Clinton released “It Takes a Village” and everyone flipped their collective shit because, like, BABIES SHOULD RAISE THEMSELVES BY PULLING ON THEIR BOOTSTRAPS! Their little baby bootstraps!

      I can’t think of another country besides the US that is so damn wary of helping out their neighbors. (oh, sure, not on an individual basis, but as a culture.)

      • Alicia

        It actually made me cry to think that America is like that as a society. What a tough time it must be to grow babies, or be ill, or need help.
        Our experience in Australia is the same as you’ve described in the UK. Come here sometime!

      • Alyssa M

        I live in an apartment and it’s apparently odd that I should even want to KNOW my neighbors, let alone help them out…:(

      • Shotgun Shirley

        I remember my (homeschooling, anti-social, wannabe pioneer who raised 7 kids multiple states away from any close family) mom’s reaction to that book… it was not good. She did not want any village messing with HER family.
        Yesterday I found out that she broke her ankle jogging. She didn’t have her cell, and instead of stopping at one of the 100 or so houses on the way home to borrow a phone, she walked the 1.5 miles on her own. Total martyrdom, and two sides of the same coin, yes?

        • Laura


  • Laura

    I love everything about this post. We are about to have a baby, and we are already planning on travelling with her. As soon as possible. At 2 months maybe?
    And we intend to do all the things, yes, maybe at a slower pace, and maybe adapting to the new situation, but still.

    I got confused there… the UK IS Europe. Though I do know they call the rest of it “the continent”.

    • One More Sara

      I traveled with my first son when he was 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11 and 12 months (oh hai immigrating/emigrating indecision) (also worth noting, plane tickets were significantly less expensive then than they are now). 2 months is a perfect time to travel, but plan to apply for baby’s passport pretty much the same day you get his/her SSN.

    • BreckW

      I traveled with my parents a lot when I was a baby (I think my first international flight was LA -> Tokyo when I was 9 months old), and they had mostly happy memories of it. My mom does always mention that people would give her super dirty looks when they sat down with a baby, so I guess not a lot has changed. Also, people would commonly mistake her for my nanny, but that’s a WHOLE other issue.

    • guest

      From my experience in the UK they do not consider themselves to be a part of Europe. They are not on the Euro and made sure to correct me if I lumped them into Europe. They consider themselves separate from Europe.

      • Laura

        Well, they are part of the European Union, and geographically, they are also part of what we call Europe (the physical continent). They chose not to be part of the European Economic Community (which is why they do not use the Euro), and yes, they call the rest of Europe “the continent” which signals a separation, but I would say they still are part of Europe (??)

        • BD

          From what I understand, yes it is a fact that the UK is physically a part of the European continent; however for many reasons, not just economical but also cultural, they consider themselves very different from The Continent and don’t think of themselves as “European”. It’s just something that’s hard to understand if you don’t actually live there, I guess.

          • E

            I’m British and the UK is part of Europe. I would call myself British first but I am also European. There are several European countries that are not on the euro – Switzerland, for instance. We do all have strong national identities but I think there’s still a sense of unity. ‘The continent’ is just because we’re an island.

      • Meg Keene

        Actually. That was me being a stupid American. I know full well that all of my English friends and relatives will tell you they are part of Europe (if not European).

    • Meg Keene

      We took him on the plane first time at 7 weeks, and he’s flown every two months since then.

    • Meg Keene

      Oh. Also. It was WAY easier to travel with him when he was a little little baby. He’d nurse during takeoff and then sleep most of the flight.

  • Oh, Meg, that first paragraph was a point for the visitors. <3

    Anyway, this was a great post. Our society has such a weird relationship with children. On the one hand, there is the idea that all babies are gifts, the cult of motherhood, etc. People lament women not having kids or not having more kids. But a lot of those same people say (in discussions about BC, abortion, welfare, etc), "You made the mistake, now you deal with it" or "Why should your kid be my problem?" Our culture can't seem to decide if kids are a gift from God or punishment and it's so weird to me. Anyone have thoughts on these conflicting attitudes? Do we just like babies more in theory than in real life?

    • Oh, man. SO many points for the visitors in this one.

      And yeah, in our country, we are wildly conflicted about babies. I think it falls into the issues we have with “everyone can express themselves” vs. “Get your individualism off my lawn!”

    • One More Sara

      I feel like most everyone likes their OWN babies and their OWN parenting styles, and everyone who doesn’t subscribe to that same set of values is Doing It Wrong (And They Must Be Corrected).

    • BreckW

      I think part of it has to do with the disintegration of communities/support systems that we sometimes talk about here. Previously, you’d get together with your extended family (and extended family friends) all the time, so, in a group that size, there are bound to be a few babies. These gatherings meant that people who wouldn’t typically hang out with wee ones (some kids, teenagers, middle-aged people, the elderly, etc.) got in some quality baby time and learned/were reminded that sometimes babies scream with joy, cry when they’re sad, need to be fed and changed, have personalities, etc. Also, the attitude surrounding these events was one of inclusiveness, i.e. babies are totally invited because they part of the family. Now that community isn’t a significant presence in everyone’s lives, I think a lot of people just don’t spend much time with babies so they never learned or have forgotten what they’re like, AND now it’s more common to believe that events/places need to be explicitly “family-friendly” for a baby to be welcome.

      Re: The “why should your kid by my problem?” attitude amongst the social services discussion: I think that point of view has even more wrapped up in it. There are so many racial and class-related implications with those kinds of reactions to babies that I would be burning with rage before I finished my comment.

      • Meg Keene

        THIS is so very true. A comment that stuck with me from last week is someone saying she was really freaked out about kids. Partially because every time she was around a baby, she knew she wanted a baby. But then she’d leave, and live most of her life without seeing any kids, and then she’d freak out that she hated babies. That really hit a nerve not because it’s true for everyone, but because it was very true for me.

        I think there are SO many problems with not living in a multi-generational society anymore. I guess namely, I think it makes us less human, in a way. Knowing about babies, and old people, and people 10 or 20 years older than us: that gives us access to the range of human experience, in a way that knowing a bunch of other 20 or 30 year olds just never will.

        • Yes! And also, knowing about 20 year olds is probably good for all the 40-60 year olds writing “get off my lawn” pieces about millenials in every single news outlet.

          • Meg Keene

            Indeed. Exactly. Multi-generational FTW.

        • Ella

          Interestingly I feel like Facebook has opened me up to a lot more of this. While it certainly isn’t true of everyone, I have a lot of friends I met in/through college who are about five years older than me. So, I’ve watched them all get married and now have babies through Facebook, in addition to going through other life changes and stages. It’s been really eye-opening to their experiences because in my personal life and the people I see/hang out with on a regular basis I’m not surrounded by babies, but on Facebook I’m given a window into that world and it seems less foreign, more something I can see my life becoming. Maybe social media is a small way back to a multi-gen society as more people across generations use it?

          • js

            I also feel like technology hurts us in a lot of ways. Why call someone or meet them out with their new baby somewhere when you can just email? Sure it’s great for say, people who live far away from their family to be able to keep in touch but it can also be isolating. You’re not our interacting with people. Facebook has become a replacement for gathering with family and friends.

          • Ella

            Very true. In this case, though, I think it allows us to interact with people in ways we might not normally. But maybe we’d already be interacting with them if we didn’t sit behind a computer? I don’t know.

        • TeaforTwo

          Absolutely! I grew up in the church, and although I am not particularly religious any more, I think one of the hugest benefits of having a church is the intergenerational community. I was so, so lucky as a kid to have all kinds of grown-ups who weren’t my parents, but who took an interest in me.

          Almost anything I know about having a successful relationship came from mentoring relationships with people 20 or 30 years my senior when I was in high school and university. (My parents had a great marriage, but I had a few non-parent adults in my life who could be a lot more free and frank sharing their experiences of marriage, and I still hold on to a lot of that wise advice.) Peers are fun, but they are just as confused about life as I am – “trusted adult friends” are where it’s at.

          • Meg Keene

            YES. To church. I think that’s one of the primary benefits of religious communities, to be honest. They’re communities, faith totally aside.

          • malkavian

            Interesting. I grew up Roman Catholic and although I went to church, I didn’t really feel like there was a ‘community’ so much as ‘people standing in the same room at the same time’. The only part that was community-like to me was Sunday school, and even then, Girl Scouts did the whole ‘community’ thing better.

          • Annie

            I could just “exactly” this, but I feel the need to chime in and say that as someone who was also raised Catholic, our church was the exact same way!

          • ellie

            I was raised Catholic and had the absolute OPPOSITE experience. So much wonderful, nurturing community all the time.

          • Alyssa M

            I wish I could still find a church like this. It’s something I went out looking for and it seems like more and more even churches are being segregated by generation. Children are relegated to children’s services, teenagers to the youth group, and my parents church even has a special early morning service for seniors, because they didn’t like the contemporary music.

            I’ve often thought about trying to start a mentoring program for my church… connecting people all ages…

          • whitlizflem

            I think finding this kind of community in small and medium sized congregations is a lot easier than in larger ones. Also, the more conservative congregations I’ve been part of seem to do this a lot better than the progressive ones, which is unfortunate if that’s not where you want to be.

        • malkavian

          I’m the oldest grandkid on both sides, so I’ve had a good amount of access to babies, and it taught me that I’m not a huge fan of babies. I can make sure they don’t die but I feel awkward with them and don’t find them particularly interesting and they spew a lot of biological waste product. But it also taught me kids are fun when they get to an age where they have conversations and help you bake things and go outside and kick a ball around.

          • Alison O

            That’s interesting to think about it going both ways. People not knowing if they want kids because of lack of experience. People thinking they want kids because ‘that’s what grown-ups do’, when maybe if they had more experience they’d realize it wasn’t the right life for them. The multigenerational community experience is enlightening in both cases.

        • Jacki

          A multi-generational community within which to “do life” is the one thing I miss about church. The religion part was – well, another story – but the community part was an incredibly powerful positive force in my upbringing. In a way, everyone’s kids were everyone’s kids, and everyone’s grandparents were everyone’s grandparents. Babies were always invited, and they learned how to be better members of their community as they grew into childhood and beyond by being part of the community all along.

          • Caroline

            Yes, this is one of the things I love about my synagogue. I’ve held babies where I didn’t know who the parents were, but here’s someone holding a cute baby, and of course I’ll help watch. I play with other folks kids, and help older folks when they need physical help. And of course everyone is looking out for all the kids, so if one of them is getting in trouble (say, trying to climb on the balcony railing) the nearest adult will deal with it. I have close friends from my synagogue in a 35 year age range and more distant friends in an even larger one. Before I became religious and involved in my synagogue, I was never a part of a multigenerational community. It’s a shame that there are so few spaces like that for people who are not religious. I think it is very important.

        • ItsyBit

          Right? While I didn’t grow up in a multi-generational home, my dad comes from a huge (see: 11 kids) family and we’re all very close. So I grew up with cousins older & younger, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babies, toddlers… the works. And I really feel like it’s shaped such a huge part of how I am. Maybe without that experience I’d still be good with kids, and I guess I never could articulate it before, but I really think that it has left me with not just knowledge but much more of a family-centric empathy (for lack of better term).

    • Jacki

      “Our society has such a weird relationship with children.” – Doesn’t it though? I wonder how much of the cult of motherhood, particularly the internet fetishization of motherhood, is backlash against the “they’re you’re problem” attitude in society at large.

      • Meg Keene

        I actually was going to say something a little like this. But more: I think the cult of motherhood is nothing but a cover for the fact that we don’t like mothers (or women) much. It’s the classic, “If I hold a door open for you, I don’t have to give you a job. ” (Except in this case no one is holding a door open for me when I really need it. But there are a lot of Hallmark cards about how I’m doing the world’s hardest job. I don’t, for the record, think I’m doing anything like the world’s hardest job, but I do really wish people would give me a seat when I really need one.)

        • EF

          This seems spot on. I’m not a kids person, never have been, don’t want kids of my own — but that doesn’t mean that you there with the children ought to be regulated to second class status simply because there are children. From living in the UK, it seems to be fairly accurate that the society is more okay with little kids just being around, but i also thing they tend to be treated more like mini-humans, rather than a separate species, which I saw a lot more of in the USA. While I wouldn’t be one offering to hold a baby, I’d be the one offering to watch a three-year-old when the mom just has to run to the restroom on an airplane. My sister has four boys, and the way I figure it is, if I can create some good social karma and spread it around, maybe eventually it’ll help my sister, too.We should all try to be just a little more understanding (I’m looking at you, woman who breastfeeds without a coverup in the local coffeeshop and scowled at me for moving away so I wouldn’t have to see) on both sides of the coin.

        • js

          Manners. This is just basic courtesy, to give a Mom/elderly person/person to whom you should show respect a seat or opening a door. This pisses me off more than anything, ever.

          Mothers as an incovience? Like, sure we need you to have the Babies of the Future but cover up that baby bump, your breast-feeding or your crying baby…interesting. I honestly never thought of it from that perspective before.

          • Alison O

            Not only, cover up that stuff, but don’t expect my tax dollars to help you out with child care, good public schools, parental leave, living wage jobs with benefits, food for needy families, etc. That’s on you. But definitely have those babies. The economy needs growth!

            Sarcasm = sadness and frustration about the state of affairs here with regard to community, family, social welfare, etc.

          • js

            I don’t know why, but I’m over here having a moment. It suddenly dawned on me that the white, old men who make the laws don’t like me very much. I mean, I KNEW that but didn’t realize the scope of its trickle-down effect until right now.

          • Meg Keene




          • Meg Keene

            Oh, America.

        • “I think the cult of motherhood is nothing but a cover for the fact that we don’t like mothers (or women) much.” Please write a post on that. Or…a second book. Seriously, that is the most interesting thing I’ve heard in a long time and I want to know more!

        • Alyssa M

          Seconding Rachel’s request for a post on that topic!

      • mackenzie

        Doe the “fetishization of motherhood” phenomena include making gifts for people on the airplane who have to sit next to your (potentially) crying baby? My husband travels often for work, and though we’ve never experienced one of these “gifts,” they strike me as really odd. I’m a teacher, and there is definitely a difference amongst my 11-year-old students between “kids being kids” and “kids making poor choices.” But, I wonder, are we making too many apologies for our babies just acting like normal babies?

        I was 7-months-old on my first flight, sitting in my father’s lap, on my way to my grandfather’s funeral. There were no changing tables in the airplane lavatories. My dad changed my diaper with the help of his seat mate. It’s what people did back then, I guess. But can you imagine the looks if you asked that of someone thee days? Or if you asked your seat-mate of that on your next flight? The judgement. The vitriol. The live tweets. So, what’s next? When do we become London? I want in on the babies being “treated like a very small member of society.” Seriously. This.

        • Jacki

          Wow, I have never heard of such a thing … I guess I can’t get my head around making a gift as an apology to someone who may have to hear my hypothetical baby making normal baby noises for a few hours on a plane … but I’m also the “weirdo” who would offer to hold/watch someone’s kid while they went to the bathroom, or help you change your kid’s diaper on a flight. We need to stop apologizing to other humans for being human. We’re all in this together, kids included, right? And like many others have pointed out much more eloquently in this whole thread, that’s something we (in the USA? is it just us?) seem to have lost.

        • Meg Keene

          YES. Well, that’s over parenting mixed with perpetual apologizing. Someone showed me a picture of that, “Great moments in parenting” gifts for people on the airplane to apologize for having a baby, and my face went sort of white. (This was pre-kids, for the record.)

          Because NO. You don’t have to apologize for babies. (I mean, I do apologize for babies. I want to be a polite person so I apologize for my baby all the time.) But would you do that to apologize for brining a 95 year old with you? I FUCKING HOPE NOT.

          • Laura

            Good point We take grandma on a flight and they offer her a wheelchair for easier transport and first boarding and everyone (except the SUPER assholes) are courteous and respectful to grandma. You take a baby on a plane, and people lose their shit.

          • Bee

            Let’s be honest though- a baby PROBABLY means noise and discomfort, in terms of being in close proximity on a plane. Whether you love babies or not (which I do). It is fair for people to be bummed out about being near a baby on plane, because they are probably hoping to sleep and/or relax until they can get off the plane. I don’t think it is appropriate to comment or make displays of unhappiness about being near said baby, but feeling annoyed is not something people should be judged for. I don’t think that me being irritated with a screaming baby on a plane means I necessarily value fit people over babies, or elderly, etc. It just means I’m tired of hearing the crying. Period.

          • Laura

            Oh yes. Agreed 100%. I have had the annoyed feeling before regarding a child on a plane. I don’t mean to judge those who feel annoyed. As my mother says, “you can’t always control your feelings, but you can decide on your reaction.” So yes, by all means, feel annoyed that there is a loud sound on the plane preventing your serenity. Just don’t be rude to or form a strong opinion about the source of the noise. Compassion for other travlers while flying always feels so much better in the end.

        • Kids Later

          Apologize for having a baby? No. Realize that you just brought a tiny person who doesn’t understand pressure changes or loud noises, and reacts to these things by screaming sometimes for hours into a very, very, very small space with hundreds of other people? Yes, I think that’s reasonable, and apologizing isn’t out of line. The seatmate gifts might be going a bit far, but expecting other people to watch/change your child is also unreasonable, and I can absolutely understand why people might get upset at having a child changed in the main cabin. Don’t forget, the flip side of strangers helpfully “parenting” your kid is that they might believe in corporal punishment, or strongly reinforcing gender stereotypes or racism, or “seen and not heard.”

          In general, I agree with the sentiments on this board, and support the more inclusive community-raised children approach, but don’t forget, not everyone likes kids, wants kids, or thinks that we should be bringing more children into an already crowded world. Just a point to consider.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah, see, I disagree there. The premise of what you’re saying is that public spaces belong to fit and able people in the prime of life. AKA, that the baby is intruding on your space on an airplane. The thing is, that the baby has as much right to be on that plane as you do, as a human/ citizen/ what have you. If you don’t like babies, you in no way need to interact with them. But they have as much right to be in a public space as you do.

            And while you might not agree with the idea of bringing a new person into an overcrowded world, the baby is already in the world, just like you are. IE, you’re just as much part of the problem as that baby. So you don’t get to, say, treat the baby differently because the world is overcrowded. I would argue that you can’t treat other people badly because you disagree with them either. So, you can’t treat a parent badly because you disagree with them, just like you can’t treat someone obviously of a particular religion badly because you disagree with them.

          • Natalie

            First off, I think this topic is fascinating. I’m not a mother myself, but I love kids. I think they’re adorable, and often hilarious tiny human beings.

            But I’d be lying if I said that I always had the warm and fuzzies for babies brought into situations in which I don’t think they belong. Was I annoyed when there was a crying baby at the 10pm showing of an adult rated movie? Well, yes. Not only because it hindered my viewing experience but I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying “take the kid home! He’s probably just tired!”

            I also haven’t enjoyed 14 hr flights with crying children, or the 4 hour redeye flight in which a little boy – I kid you not – never. stopped. kicking. my. seat.

            So there has to be a balance, right? Parents need to be free to bring their kids into more situations and not have to apologize, but what happens when the parents are letting their kids misbehave/bringing them in to legitimately inappropriate situations?
            If some parents are experiencing “don’t bring your kids here” from the public, there are (I can’t say just as many, because I am not a parent and therefore lack the experience) situations in which I have felt from parents “I’ll do whatever the flip I want with my kids.”

          • Meg Keene

            What I think is really interesting about this comment is that I think that you’re totally mixing together inappropriate and appropriate situations. (Lots of things are in the middle ground, but I think it’s interesting that you picked two that I think are pretty black and white).

            Should a baby be in a (not like, for new moms or some weird/ awesome exception/ or a one week old fast asleep or whatever) movie theatre ever? No. Not a 10pm R rated one, not an 11am G rated one. Babies, unequivocally, do not belong in movies and plays. They can’t stay quiet, and quiet is what’s required.

            Does a baby belong on a 14 hour flight? Of course. Transportation is public, and babies have to be transported places same as the rest of us. Might the baby cry the whole 14 hours? Everyone hopes not (most especially the parents), but they might. They’re babies. Just like when we were babies, they’re not really able so self regulate.

            So to me, a whole lot of it comes down to things being so muddled that people just react like you shouldn’t bring a kid anywhere ever NOT WELCOME. Which is of course… not right at all. On a staff thread, someone just rightly pointed out that if you you can’t sub “babies” for “the elderly” in your sentence and feel good about it, it’s probably worth thinking twice about, at least.

            Totally separately: entitled parents is another can of (awful) worms. But just because some parents are socially accepted dicks, doesn’t mean babies don’t belong in public.

          • Natalie

            I didn’t mean to imply that kids shouldn’t be on planes. That’s weird. The alternative is what? Baby boats? Baby buses? That’s not what I meant.

            My point was that most of the times I think babies in places are adorable, and so so so welcome. Sometimes though the high pitched crying will get to me and I will think unkind thoughts. Not “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE BROUGHT THAT BABY”… more of just a tired “make it stop…”.

            And probably everyone has had that experience at least once (the experience of a crying baby in public). The problem is that because we live in this highly individualistic society, people take that one experience and think that parents have no right to inconvenience (or even put them in a place where they might be inconvenienced). So they see a baby and think of the time or times they were in a cramped / fancy / whatever place with an upset child. They think of themselves.

            But in Italy / other places of the world, the emphasis is not on individuals, but community, family. Have people in Italy had screaming babies in tight places? Probably (read, definitely.). But that is okay. Because family is what is prized. Not the individual.

            And very side note – the baby = elderly comparison works… until it doesn’t. Because would I want people to look down on my grandma for being in public? F no. But on the flip side, would I just shrug it off if she started wailing in public and let her sit there? No. I’d try to figure out what was wrong, if that didn’t work, then probably see if she could leave with me and so on.

            Not saying I expect people to leave with their babies when their babies are being fussy, but I would leave with my grandma if she did.

          • Meg Keene

            I agree with the bulk of your comment wholeheartedly.

            But you do realize that’s how parents react, right? Parents (responsable parents of any stripe) do try to figure out what’s wrong with a screaming baby, and leave when they can’t (if, you know, they’re not on an airplane or a bus or one of the places you can’t leave). But if a baby is just being fussy? Like, say, an elderly person with dementia might be fussy in a place they’re valued? That’s another ballgame.

            But the point is not a direct comparison. The point is that we live in a society that has decided that public is for the fit. Babies/ old people/ people with special needs just get in our way. And that… sucks. Any group with special needs has different needs. An elderly person has different needs than an autistic kid than a person in a wheelchair than a baby. But they’re all members of our society, special needs and all.

            And that really goes back to the bulk of your comment. What we value. Supream individualism vs. a sense of collectivism. We’re all going to be old one day and need help (if we’re lucky). We were all babies once and needed help. We might not be a mom ever, but that mom looks like she needs help. Etc.

          • Childless in the UK

            Meg, good for you for choosing to travel with your child. I am an American living in London with a British fiance, and I am actually a bit surprised that you found the city so welcoming (I can think of more than one trendy neighborhood where babies might be frowned upon). But I think one thing that is not really being discussed here is different parenting styles. I’ll make this controversial statement: the UK might be more accepting of children in public places, but that’s because PARENTS in the UK tend to be better (and the same is true again for Europe).

            I am not a particularly child-friendly person and do not plan to have children myself, but I am always delightfully surprised to see European and British families traveling in far-off places (Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam) with their babies and kids. The parents seems to actually treat their kids as “little people” instead of, well, kids. They talk to them like they are adults and give them little adult responsibilities, like carrying their own day packs, and have adult expectations of the their table manners. And the kids act better as a result. And the whole family appears to be enjoying the trip. I see these people and I think, “hooray!” for those parents, they are raising little world travelers who will be knowledgeable about other cultures and able to survive for a few days without Nickelodeon. And I sometimes have meals in relatively nice London restaurants with these families, and their kids sit at the table and color or participate in the conversation or do whatever, but generally, act like little adults. And to be fair, I know a few sets of American parents who do the same thing, take the babes and kids with them on adult trips and to adult places and well, kind of treat them like adults.

            But for the most part, when I am back in the States, I cringe when I see kids at the airport or in restaurants. To make a big sweeping broad statement, I feel like parents in the States are less likely to travel with their kids to non-kid friendly places, or take them out to eat at non-kid friendly places, and as a result, the kids seem like terrors when they show up at those places and the parents often seem oblivious to the fact that their kids might be disturbing others who are trying to work or sleep on a plane or enjoy a quiet meal in a restaurant (disruptive behavior that would not be tolerated from other adults). Maybe this is due to American parents feeling some kind of entitlement — thinking that their kids are welcome anywhere, and allowed to behave in any manner, just because they are kids. And as a result, American society is less welcoming of kids, and then there are “kid only” restaurants and activities, and the problem repeats. I guess what I am trying to say is that this is a bit of a chicken and egg problem, but I think that good parenting is an important part of the conversation that we’re not discussing. And I think that the Brits do parenting better than Americans, and that might be part of what you experienced in London.

            Side note: my fiance and I were once in Turkey, saw a cute family and commented on their well-behaved children, and he said “they must be French, because British children are never that well-behaved.”

            Second side note: I realize that your son is too young for some of these thoughts to apply to him. But it says something about your mothering abilities that you were able to keep him calm and happy through an international trip, and I cannot help him think that those experiences will stay with him somehow and make him a more flexible, resourceful, and open adult.

          • Meg Keene

            Who knows. I’d love to take credit, but it’s hard to tell where nature ends and nurture begins. We do parent exactly this way. I don’t do TONS of things I’m supposed to do/ read things I’m supposed to read, because I generally feel like if I treat him like a person, respect him like a person, and raise him to be an adult one day, I’ll be fine. That’s not, generally, the accepted parenting style in the states right now, as far as I can tell. For one thing, it’s regarded as WAY too lazy. (But if Mama’s not happy, baby’s not happy, and Mama’s not happy when she’s tense about parenting.) But in reality, he’s always been a pretty chill social guy. So I could go on to have a kid who is a tense terror at one, who knows.

          • TNM

            I have to disagree. This sounds like conditioning your acceptance of children (or any “others”) in public spaces on a certain type of parenting, i.e. treating children like “little people/adults.” While I suppose indifference or neglect of one’s children on the part of a parent would be pretty hard to defend, I fail to see that a child’s right to be in common public spaces (or a community’s tolerance for such child) should turn on whether a parent follows a “British” or “American” parenting technique. (I mean, so what if a Dad wants to sing his kid an Elmo song and speak in a sing-song when out and about as instead of the Queen’s English?) Of course there should be some reasonable standard for parental attention to children, but I think our acceptance and interaction with children as a part of our community should not depend on the particular “flavor” of a parent’s relationship with their kids.
            Also as someone who worked part-time in early daycare (age 0-3), I think many imbue parents with a *far* greater control over their child’s temperament and behavior than they actually have. (And then this perceived control can become grounds for judging such parent.) At work, I would treat all the children I cared for similarly, and some would respond like “little ladies and gentlemen,” some would be holy terrors, and some (most) would be a bit of both depending on e.g. their health, events of the day, teething, etc., all of which had little to do with me. At least for the 3 and under set, complimenting a parent as the sole reason for good behavior is akin to complimenting someone for the good weather at their wedding.

          • SideNote

            Totally agree with you that the elderly = baby comparison just doesn’t work.

          • Marisa-Andrea

            I’m a mother too and since becoming one, I am infinitely more understanding of this simple concept: sometimes kids just act up and there’s not very much you can do at the moment. I think very often we assume if we see kids (especially small ones) misbehaving, that it is a symptom of bad parenting and parents who can’t control their kids. Parenting can be fraught with challenges and very frustrating at times and sometimes, your kid is just acting up for whatever reason. I have seen parents do nothing but most of the time, I see parents try to handle their kids and sadly, try to force their kids into behavior that isn’t going to work in a particular age.

            Also, we ALL inconvenience one another from time to time. That is simply part of being a member of society and interacting with other people. We have become so individualist that we think everything is about us and anything that gets in the way of that makes us ragey. We all really need to just chill a bit.

        • Shotgun Shirley

          I actually did bring chocolates for our neighbors for our international flight, and two other flights, where it was just me and H (one LAX to JFK, one LAX to MCI). People were pretty flabbergasted, or just didn’t want the chocolate (even when it was Ghiradeli, what??), but mostly they said, “oh, don’t worry about it, I understand – I have kids/nieces & nephews/friends with little ones” and were totally cool about it.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        I think the cult of motherhood is actually a backlash against feminism and you definitely saw it happen in the early 80s to complete absurdity in the 2000s. I think our society does like women and mothers but we like them in very circumscribed circumstances. What competes against THAT however is our rampant individualism which doesn’t just extend to motherhood and parenting but ALL aspects of life. Lost your job and you’re about to be evicted? That’s your problem.

    • I think it’s a two edged sword. On one side we get BreckW’s point with people not being around children regularly enough to remember what children are all about. So you get a loss of community. On the other hand, you also get society’s weird “YOU MUST DO IT ALL…BY YOURSELF” that tells parents that if they ask for help from their community they (ahem, women) are failing at being a parent. I remember growing up where pretty much every person who was over 18 took the responsibility of playing with and/or disciplining any of the younger kids. It was much more of a “raising children is all of our jobs” type community. Not so much now. I was on a plane a few weeks ago and offered to hold a woman’s baby so she could go to the bathroom. She was travelling alone and babies + airplane bathroom= sucks. She looked at me like I had three heads. No lady, you are not a failure if you can’t pee with a toddler in your arms.

      • Alison O

        This also made me think about how some parents give you the side eye (or much worse) if you so much as wave to their kid. God forbid you correct the child in anyway regarding basic public courtesies. This seems to be the other perverse side of the “not my problem” coin. Some parents act as if they are in fact the only person who should be raising their child. It is only their problem, and you’d better not try to help with it! Not sure if this is the internalization of others’ hostility Meg detailed or more of the “the world is a Dangerous Place” mistrusting narrative…or something else.

        • Kelsey

          Ugh, I hate the “I don’t have to listen to anyone buy my mamma” philosophy, from kids but also from mothers to their children. I work in the children’s department of a public library, and you can tell caretakers that have been ignoring their children for the last half hour are sometimes taken aback or angry if I tell their children they need to stop running or jumping on the tables or punching the computer screen. In adulthood you have to listen to a number of authority figures, and setting kids up to think there are no boundaries to respect is not exactly effective parenting.

          • js

            YES! to this. Yes, all over the place. We have a motto, “Different house, different rules” in our family. Meaning, when your in Aunt Sarah’s house, what she says goes. When I was a working Mother, I relied on lots of family and friends to watch my kiddo. So the rules my girl had to follow varied, just like they will when she’s an adult at work or school, etc. I also think this applies to say, going out to dinner. At the McDonald’s play place, you can whoop it up. But at the trendy steakhouse, we act like little ladies and gentlemen.

          • Meg Keene

            Little ladies and gentlemen <3

            I can't wait for mine to be big enough for that to… mean something. Because I love those rules so much. I was the picture of politeness eating out as a kid.

          • Meg Keene

            God yes. I grew up in a counterculture community (which, tbh, shapes a lot of my culturally-out-of-step parenting) where EVERYONE was my mama. Basically. Or they thought they were. And I had to listen.

          • Caitlyn Hodges-Morrissey

            Ditto, from a children’s bookstore worker who had to tell kids not to climb ladders into the overstock. ( To be fair, I’d want to climb them too.)

        • A. Nonny Moose

          I tend to think that at least sometimes it’s the internalization of hostility and an unconscious feeling of abandonment by society as a whole. Obviously not always, but here is a melodramatic example:

          So I’m extremely understanding of most things when it comes to kids in restaurants, but I still remember the time when this toddler ran through our favorite cozy/quiet pub, screaming at the top of his lungs. Then he ran over to us with a large balloon and started whapping my now-fiance across the face. Fiance has the patience of a saint, so he calmly asked the boy to stop… to which the mother shouted over from the next table, “Don’t tell my kid what to do! He’s a BABY. Babies ACT like this!” We were pretty flabbergasted, but the kid ran away screech laughing and then crawled ONTO another person’s table and put his hands in their mashed potatoes, before throwing handfuls on the ground. It was the only time I’ve ever seen management have to ask a family to leave and the mom was a little less than happy about it.

          But you know what? I still felt for her. She was young; probably 21, since she was drinking a beer. She had a younger child on her lap who started sobbing when the manager made them leave, along with the toddler who was clearly way beyond the scope of normal impulsivity. She was out with equally young friends who — based on what we could hear — were decidedly not parents themselves. And who knows, maybe her sitter fell through or she prioritized socializing over spending the money on childcare or any other not-my-business reason for why she brought the kids with her; it’s not my right to police that sort of thing. What seemed pertinent to me is that she was out with non-parent friends, a situation with her child escalated, and it seemed like she froze, not really knowing how to handle it. So she lashed out.

          Do I think management was wrong in asking them to leave? No, especially once her kid started throwing other patrons’ food on the ground and crawling on tables. That is an out of the ordinary, out of control situation. I also don’t think the (admitted) assumptions I made about her excuses her snapping at my fiance or the management once it was clear they needed to leave. But I still felt for her, because it’s not a huge leap to think that her hostility came from somewhere other than simple rudeness or entitlement, which is the label a lot places put on women (most prominently, a certain snarky, judgmental-to-the-point-of-hostile blog dedicated to mocking parents who dare to post about their children on social media). Maybe I’m wrong, but she just seemed so very alone and overwhelmed.

          (I also think that extreme situations like this are anomalous but that a lot of non-parents assume they are par for the course, which is why they tend to overreact to even mild fussing. I think blogs like the one I mentioned above don’t help with that perception and that perception feeds into further parental defensiveness/hostility. It’s a slow, subtle vicious cycle.)

          • Kelsey

            That’s also true. A lot of their anger is really embarrassment, so when I feel it seems like it will be helpful I try to also emphasize that 1)their kids are just being kids. He’s not the first 4 year old boy to jump on our furniture. I’m not mad or upset about the misbehavior. But 2) it needs to stop, because if he trips and hits his head on the corner of our shelves, I answer for that. The city I work in is the rougher part of my county and a lot of the adults in the children’s department aren’t ignoring their kids just because, but instead they’re working on homework, or applying for jobs, and they don’t have a computer at home. I understand that. Just, like I said, watching their children misbehave in ways that are dangerous or inordinately distracting is a failure to preform my job.

          • Alison O

            Yeah I think there’s a complicated mix of influences going on in all these situations. On the one hand, some behaviors are patently unacceptable, like what you described. And part of me thinks, well, more community parenting is actually probably great for those kids who may not be getting the boundary-setting (or positive reinforcement, or whatever it is) needed to be successful in society from their direct caregivers. At the same time it is important to guard against the judgy, how dare you, my parenting philosophy is more valid than yours, etc. attitudes. And then as you say there’s a whole spectrum of what people consider inappropriate or bothersome behaviors, and how does one navigate that as a parent? I for one cannot recall an instance in which I was really bothered by little kids. I can recall many instances when adults have made me feel uncomfortable, and a time or two when adolescents were inordinately annoying, but small children? They’re small children.

          • Meg Keene

            Truth (and this from my many years not being a parent): I’m regularly made uncomfortable by adults behavior around small children (parents being judgy, bi-standers being judgy). I’m almost never made uncomfortable by small children’s behavior. Ok, she’s having a tantrum. She’s two and I feel for her. Done.

          • Meg Keene

            You know, I’ve been in that situation as a non-parent friend, pretty literally (minus the that out of control behavior). One of my good girlfriends had a baby at 19 (lots of our friends from home had kids around this age), and I remember us being 21 and out at a restaurant and her (usually pretty delightful) kid acting up in a way that made me a little uncomfortable, but they (we all) were young and inexperienced (and forget having money for a babysitter, the kid was sleeping in a playpen in the living room, bless him), and… reacted like 21 year olds. Thankfully, we were in a not-wealthy suburban environment where people cut them slack, and it ended up ok.

            What I don’t see, operating in a pretty wealthy urban environment (which is in many ways totally foreign to me as a parent. I’ve gotten used to it as an adult, but I don’t come from an experience of upper middle class parenting), is anyone cutting parents any slack ever. It’s a complicated thing, and I honestly don’t understand the culture enough to totally know why. But there is an idea that kids are a problem that can always be solved some way. Like, obviously everyone can afford a sitter at all times. Or, whatever, fill in the blank. It’s complicated and mostly subconscious I think, and absorbed as norms. But not a lot of slack.

          • jashshea

            Really good point on limited slack being given. Maybe because people used to have babies at an age when they weren’t expected to know better/how to be a parent, so everyone cut everyone slack. Now, because people are, generally speaking, older when they become first time parents, they’re expected to just know how to handle all the things. Food for thought, certainly.

          • Meg Keene

            Older and RICHER. At least in this part of the country (and I see this on the internet too) kids are treated like some luxury status symbol. You have a kid once you can afford to get the kid all the things. So if you have a kid and can’t afford all the things, you’re disapproved of.

            There are some serious race and class issues with how mothers are treated, lets not kid ourselves.

          • Marisa-Andrea

            I think this is very true. But what I also find interesting about our complicated relationship with children (do we like them or not) is that many times that is determined by race and class. For example, when you listen to the conversation about children and whether women should have them, middle to upper middle class women and beyond are told children is a biological imperative. They will not be fulfilled as women if they are not mothers, motherhood is the most rewarding job etc etc. Sure there’s no social support but a middle to upper middle class white woman having a child is generally viewed as a GOOD thing.

            However, be poor, be a woman of color, be a black woman (class notwithstanding), then children are a liability. When poor mothers need help, they are told they should keep their legs closed, use birth control, don’t have children they can’t afford.
            Be a BLACK woman with a kid and you’re getting all of that shit projected onto you even if you CAN afford to buy your baby milk.

            I have been in many situations where it is assumed that I am a poor, single black mother. I have been in the grocery store sans wedding ring with my baby in the cart and been asked out of the blue by the clerk if I’m using EBT. Yes. This happens to me. I have been asked if my husband is my daughter’s father because apparently black women having children within a marriage is just unheard of. So the reactions I get when I have my child out inn public are a little more nuanced in that way and another layer of fuckery to my life daily.

          • I think affluent successful people tend to be very like…success-oriented, and have little patience for not solving problems immediately? And so your point that they don’t cut a lot of slack makes a ton of sense to me…and kind of gets at my comment above with regard to things like welfare. To me, it feels like people with resources often apply that “just fix your own problems GOSH” mentality to everyone, perhaps because that’s just sort of ingrained in that culture?

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah. I think so. I… don’t understand the culture very well, and am just trying to not sink when in it, so someone else could speak to it better. But that feels right to me.

          • Rachael

            Yes – I think this societal observation goes way beyond intolerance of children in public spaces. After living in a few different parts of Philadelphia proper, my now home of a super wealthy DC suburb seems absolutely rife with the self-involved and the more-important-than-thou. I have never been somewhere so unfriendly and unapologetic. Big east coast cities get a bad rap for being unfriendly, but they seem downright warm and inviting (they often are, once you adjust) compared to this rich suburban hell I’m living in now. But there are so many factors at work that I’m hesitant to say it’s only money and success that causes this (though I believe it’s a large contributor). For example, I think one of the big issues at play in this area is the huge range of ethnic diversity due to the scores of diplomats, researchers, etc., who reside here. People stick with their own, it seems, and it upends that feeling of community.

        • Meg Keene

          I think it’s “the world is a dangerous place” and hyper individualism, of which there is MUCH OF in modern parenting. Modern american parenting is often pretty nuts, that’s the flip side of the coin. That’s the other thing isolating me personally, which at some point I’ll also write about.

      • js

        That lady has probably already faced so much judgement as the Mother of a toddler, she didn’t recognize a genuine offer of help. Also, we teach our kids early on about stranger danger.

        • Sarah E

          “Stranger danger” is another isolating concept to teach to children, too. Instead of teaching children how to tell the difference between safe situations and unsafe situations, we teach them to fear anyone who is “other,” which can cause serious problems when kids are abused at home, but taught not to trust anyone outside the home.

          It’s certainly a more complex, nuanced lesson to learn when it’s safe to chat with a stranger and when it’s not, but ultimately a more important lesson, too.

          • Catherine McK

            I really loved what Rebecca Woolf had to say about strangers:

          • MisterEHolmes

            That was a great link, thanks for sharing!

          • Meg Keene

            I WAS JUST GOING TO LINK TO THAT. Rebecca, man, she’s just as rad a parent in person. I model my in public parenting on hers.

          • MC

            The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker is a GREAT resource about this – it’s more about teaching kids to know when ANYONE is violating their boundaries or making them feel unsafe, whether it’s strangers, relatives, teachers, etc. Because we know that statistically, most people (kids and adults) are hurt more by people they know than by strangers.

            I work for a violence prevention org and we are ALL about teaching kids and adults to trust their intuition instead of trusting what the greater culture tells us to be afraid of.

          • Meg Keene

            One of my rules (which, you know, doesn’t always go over really well) is that if my kid isn’t comfortable with you, that’s his call. You can be his auntie/ grandmother/ caregiver/ my best friend, it doesn’t matter. If he’s feeling really uncomfortable with you, I refuse to force the issue. When he gets older, the rule will be that he HAS to be polite. But I won’t push him farther than that. If he doesn’t want to hug you/ sit in your lap/ go play alone in the other room with you, he can make that choice, and I will back him up.

            As someone with abuse in my extended family, I think a lot of the things we do to “prevent predators” are patently absurd. We don’t let kids walk to the 7-11? Sillyness. But what is really important, given the knowledge I have, is teaching kids to trust their own judgement, and respecting their judgements and boundaries.

          • ItsyBit

            I would like to high-five you for this parenting decision. Kudos.

          • lady brett

            yes! i read something a while ago about teaching kids about “tricky people” rather than “stranger danger,” which we’re trying to implement. it’s silly in the first place to teach your kid to be afraid of *everyone* (how awful!), but as foster parents, we just *can’t* (’cause, hi, you’ve never seen me before, but my whole job is to keep you safe and okay).

      • Meg Keene

        YUPPPPPPPPPPP. People don’t interact with parents because parents get offended if people interact with them. It’s… no way to raise kids, if you ask me. So it’s hard to know which parents (say, me) are going to be fucking THRILLED if you interact with my kid. You have to slow down and start talking to me, and pay enough attention to get a hint, and then take a risk, and that’s just a lot of time and energy.`

        • Sara

          I have a weird relationship with small children because they always want to talk to me. The little boys that live in my building, the small child that is waiting for his mom at the nail salon, the little girl in line at the grocery store. They come up to me or wave and smile with absolutely no motivation on my end. I try to reward their openness with me by talking for a little while or smiling back and making faces if they’re real small. Their parents always apologize for them bothering me, but I love kids so I don’t mind. I feel like the kids sense that I’m ok with them, and that’s why they approach me.

          At my aunt’s condo in Florida, I was swimming by myself in the pool when a little girl came to the edge and yelled “Catch Me” and jumped straight at me. Her grandma (I think) looked tired, so I played with her for like twenty minutes while she read a book and she was so incredibly grateful that I felt bad for her. Like no one had given her a break in a while.

          tl;dr when little kids are willing to be open, I think its important to show them that there are nice strangers, and its ok to talk to people you don’t know.

          • ItsyBit

            Just wanted to internet-fist-bump a fellow “children see me as friend” person! :)

    • I agree with the weird relationship with children. I think there is, in addition to the other great points made here, this expectation that unless it is a child-friendly or child-specific event or area, that a child should be made or expected to act like a very small adult. I think kids should be kids!
      I also really don’t understand the dichotomy placed on children and mothers these days, either. It’s like on the one hand, the expectation is “get married, have a baby.” Then, if you have a baby you have the gift/punishment weirdness. On the other hand, if you DON’T have a baby, you’re seen as selfish, even though greater society seems to be saying “get pregnant! we WANT YOU TO HAVE BABIES!” (though, not all of society, i will admit and it’s why I work so hard to support the politicians who respect personal bodily autonomy WRT choice and all the things) and then turns right around and says it’s your “mistake” or “it was your choice..” (to go back to what Rachel is saying (which I say because I still don’t get the threading within Disqus…)).

      • Meg Keene

        All of this. Yes. After we got married, women EXPLICITLY told me to have kids, and that they would ruin my life. What. The Fuck.

        Having a kid in no way ruined my life. But I think it might, if I played by the rules. Not playing by the rules has it’s own punishments, which I might write about one day. But at least we’re all pretty happy.

        • WTF??! I’ve been asked repeatedly when we’ll be having kids and then in the next breath get told just how much they’ll mess up my life, and I’m like “how do I answer that question??”
          I think having a kid just added to how awesome you are, tbh. I would love to read about not playing by the rules. I don’t intend to with future offspring, and I’ve been curious to hear how that plays out. At this point, The Hubs would be the primary caretaker of future kids (which makes some of my friends bristle.. I don’t get that..).

        • mackenzie

          I know we’re not in the business of being a parenting blog, but I want to hear more about how to NOT play by the rules. I worry, sort of, that parenting, to me, will feel like wedding planning–“you only get one shot!” “you must do ALL the research possible!” “it will take you days to make this simple decision that has no ‘right’ answer.” We played by our own rules when we were planning our wedding, but occasionally those rules ended up being more complicated than then ones that were actually in the rule book. What then?
          I want to be a woman who does her best to do right by her partner and her child, but is over-parenting (or over-spousing–is that a thing?) one of the potential outcomes of trying to do the right (best?) thing for the ones you love?

          • Personally I find parenting a lot more forgiving than wedding planning. There are very, very few instances of One Single Moment That You Have To Get Right. You get a do-over on pretty much everything. My toddler drew on the wall and wouldn’t stay in time out? Guess what, she’ll probably draw on the wall again tomorrow and I can try something different. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of attention she wants today? Hey, she’ll still want my attention tomorrow. More like marriage than a wedding, I suppose… if you screw up one fight about money, you’ll probably have another chance to fight about money next week…

          • Meg Keene

            We’re in the business of writing for the Kids/ No Kids section every few weeks so it’s ok.

            Not playing by the rules feels great internally, and mostly is just personality driven. I haven’t really read any parenting books because… I’m not really interested? It feels shitty externally though. I feel guilty from outside pressures a lot (not personally guilty, I have possibly the worlds happiest baby, which is the point). And I have a really hard time feeling like I fit in.

        • Kim

          Pleas write about it! I know you don’t want too much about your child for many reason. And if I remember correctly, one of your reasons was you didn’t want to give advice or tell anyone how they should do it, but I am very interested in hearing what works for other people. We’re talking about kids and without examples I don’t know how to parent without playing by the rules.

        • Shotgun Shirley

          It’s also impossible to play by the rules, because there are so many different “parenting philosophies” that, no matter what, you’re doing SOMETHING wrong, according to somebody…. so you say eff the philosophies, chart your own course, and keep your own family sane and healthy. As you do!

    • BD

      Absolutely agree! This very hypocrisy in politics (and in everyday life) that surrounds children in our country drives me insane, to the point that when I think about it too much I shut down a little bit. I’ve made many a comment in this blog about my fears of becoming a mother, and this point is yet another fact of life in America that gives me panic attacks.

    • Erin E

      Yes, Rachel… this is SUCH a good point. I have never understood this dichotomy in attitude about children. Heaven forbid a woman *not* have kids… as in choosing to remain childless or choosing to use birth control. But then heaven forbid a woman *have* kids, especially if she needs ANY help at all with health or childcare along the way – then she’s being irresponsible! I think society’s message to women seems to be “Only wealthy women should procreate – and then only if they promise to raise their families quietly, independently and out of my sight… perhaps by magic!” I get stabby just thinking about this.

    • Laura

      I agree with you so much, Rachel! I don’t have kids but I’m a school librarian so I love them and I’m around them all the time. What really gets me is that it seems like every time I go to the Y some poor mom brings her children into the women’s change room and is told by others that “You need to use the family locker room. You shouldn’t have children in here,” in this preachy, disapproving voice. I have seen this happen to several different women! Even if all the kid is doing is just standing there. And every time I think, “Man, it is so nice that we live in a society that has the luxury of being picky about stupid stuff like this!”
      I’ve never spoken up (I live in Quebec and French is not my first language, so I’ve been kind of intimidated by how to do it) but I plan on asking my husband to teach me how to say something in these women’s defence.

  • MTM

    I’m all for the tiny sweater wearers being a part of society, but I think there are inappropriate places for children. Nothing makes me more rage-y than shelling out a bunch of money for a baby sitter, getting all dolled up and going out to a fancy resturant for date night, and being seated next to a screaming child. I think it’s all about time, place, and circumstance. Kid crawling around at the museum? Cool. Kid crawling around at a night time wine tasting event at the same museum? Not so cool.

    • One More Sara

      I agree that not EVERYWHERE has to be child-friendly, but people with children shouldn’t be forced to eat at Friendly’s because they get dirty looks at every other half-decent restaurant in town.

      • MTM

        I totally agree, but I think that’s where time, place and circumstance come into play. If your little one is up past bed time and cranky at the half-decent restaurant, then maybe it’s not the right time, but if it’s around dinner time, and your little one is content, then cool.

        • Alison O

          Should apply to adults, too…

        • Kelsey

          For some people, children at an appropriate time and place isn’t even enough. I work at the children’s department of a public library, and its not uncommon for adults in the department to complain to us because a toddler is crying, excited kids are talking a little loudly about books, or tweens are having too lively of a conversation at the computers. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about yelling across the room, but just age appropriate behavior. Some of this may just come from different definitions of the purpose of a library. But we have a silent floor and study rooms for a reason. If you don’t like that one-year-olds cry, don’t enter the children’s department.

    • Ella

      Agreed. Time and place. And if your kid is so obviously unhappy, maybe you should take him out to get his cool back on? And then come back once he’s calm, because there’s probably a reason he’s screaming his head off.

      • Meg Keene

        I’m trying to figure out how to answer this without sounding like a crazy face mother, which I’m not. My personal answer is: yes and no. Yes, if a kid is screaming, you take them out and try to solve it. No, it’s not always that easy, and there isn’t really always an answer, and in short, small children are rarely the adult definition of “calm.” So this expectation that kids need to be calm and quiet or we need to leave a public space, is, in fact, why we’re basically stuck at home most of the time on weekends at this point.

        • Brittany

          I couldn’t agree more on the “why we’re home every weekend” front. My husband is endlessly nervous that out 4 month old will have a melt down while we are out. She is an exceptionally happy baby, but a baby. So, Yes, she might. But we do everything we can to mitigate the crying. We have only had 2-3 nice meals out with her since she was born- all but one, we have asked for the check practically when our dinner is served- for fear of her annoying those around us. I think it’s been engrained in our culture to apologize for anyone’s possible discomfort, instead of being universally accepting- I mean, how much better does it feel when your baby is crying to get the smile-and-nod-I-know-how-you-feel, than the disapproving glare?

          • Laura

            Which is why we (and when I say we I mean those of us who are not parents or who have older kids) should make every effort to give those “it’s okay” smiles. And to consciously tell the parent who apologizes for their child that they have absolutely nothing to be sorry about.

          • Shotgun Shirley

            Aw, you guys, hugs! My husband was also super stressed about the baby causing inconvenience. We had a turning point at an outdoor summer Shakespeare performance (#ShakespeareSetFree), when she was quietly fussing and he walked off with her (we were already seated at the back edge of the crowd to minimize get away time). An older parent was letting his toddler run around and commented that H really wasn’t that loud – they’re always loudest to you. (She was about 4 months old at the time.)

        • Ella

          I agree with what you’re saying — there is a BIG difference between a child babbling or making noise or fidgeting and red-faced screaming. My comment was more the latter. Noise making is part of being a baby and should not be “left at home” just because he isn’t perfectly silent. People who glare at a baby for being a baby should be stabbed with a fork.

          I feel like I’m not good at Internet writing….I’m trying to agree with you with the caveat of *screaming* child in nice restaurant isn’t necessarily good for everyone involved (including the parents and the child). Which is more what I meant by “time and place”.

          • js

            I agree with Ella. I love kids but I don’t want a screaming baby in my face while I’m eating my $300 dinner. That doesn’t make me an ogre, just someone paying too much for her dinner, probably.

            Something that might be missing from this conversation is also to ask why it’s a bad thing to have certain expectations for behavior in kids. I know babies are babies and you can’t always predict their behavior, but you can come locked and loaded for the occasion with things to keep them engaged while you’re having your grown up time. My baby has been eating out at “fancy” restaurants from day one because she knows we crawl around at the playground and not at the steakhouse. We make sure to spend plenty of time at both, which will serve her well when she’s an adult and there are certain requirements of her at work, school, etc.

          • Meg Keene

            I hope it’s not missing. I hope that we all have reasonable and appropriate expectations for our children’s behavior. That said, the amount of control you have over an under one year old is limited (or hell, a toddler). Some under ones behave wonderfully because that’s their personality, but it’s a mistake to assume that under ones who don’t behave that way are poorly parented, they’re just differently wired. We’re lucky. We have a social charmer, and he’ll delight in a social setting. But not all kids are like that. As he gets older, we work to teach him appropriate behavior. But it’s not a cop out to face the reality that children act like children. Even the best parented children are still little kids.

          • Laura

            Thumbs up for this. Children are children; they are not miniature adults. The child who is sad or angry or hungry is going to express herself thusly, regardless of location or the parenting skill of the adult in charge.

        • Laura C

          I also think because there’s this expectation that babies/kids have to be as quiet or adults or else just not there, meltdowns happen more than they need to. A few years ago I went to dinner with a friend and her toddler, and we were in a booth at a diner kind of place and he was standing on the seat and moving around and stuff, but being cheerful and not too loud. My friend came to the realization that this was the most peaceful dinner out she’d had with him because her husband was really set on their son being totally quiet and behaving like an adult, and trying to keep a two year old behaving like that might work for half an hour, but then he’s going to melt down. Whereas when we let him have a little room to wriggle around, he stayed at a constant rate of wriggling but made it through dinner with time for me and my friend to hang out.

          • One More Sara

            Also, introduce a restaurant setting early! I took my kid out with us for dinner in his first week (in-laws were visiting from OOT, so we wanted food). I would bring him with me to have lunch by myself at Panera routinely before he was a whole year old. For that reason, restaurants weren’t a strange place for him, so he didn’t get nervous or over excited, which led to more normal behavior at restaurants.

          • Meg Keene

            Yup. He did better in England where a little joyful shouting was approved of.

    • I read some tips about this a while back (I think the NYT did a series on it?) and one point I agreed with is that kids aren’t ever going to learn to eat in restaurants if they aren’t ever allowed in restaurants. (And I think they meant restaurants that aren’t EXPLICITLY family friendly…because I think we’ve all been in situations where one wild child means all the kids start acting up.) One tip I heard was that if you want to take your kid to a nice restaurant because 1. you want to eat there and 2. you want to teach him/her how to behave, then take them at like 4:00 in the afternoon. That way you get to eat there, your kid gets practice behaving, and you won’t ruin date night. I think doing grown-up stuff at “off peak” hours is good advice in general for seeing how your kid is going to do.

      • Meg Keene

        We do this, by the way. We take him to our nice local hipsterish restaurant and get there right when it opens at 5:30. Funny story: you’d never guess it, but it’s totally baby hour at 5:30.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        We’ve done this and people are still rude at the sight of a baby and we cannot get a glass of water to save our lives. Despite the fact that hardly anyone is there.

      • MTM

        So much this.

    • Meg Keene

      Yes, no, I agree and disagree, it’s complicated. YES. There are adult only times and places (say, any time a kid is in bed, so proper night time at restaurants, cocktail parties, etc.) NO, in that this is a particularly American idea. When we were in Italy kids and babies were ALWAYS out with their families to eat at 11pm. And it worked because they were culturally accepted, and considered to be a joy, and a blessing for others. We were out for our (expensive) one year anniversary dinner, and there was a baby asleep in the stroller next to us. When the baby woke up (prepare to have your mind blown), the proprietor came out, and chatted with the parents and then took the baby inside to warm up and feed him a bottle. That culture really works for me, because I lovelovelove babies (other peoples, not just my own). In this country, I’m mostly not supposed to love and engage with other people’s kids, which makes me sad.

      Now, since I parent in this country, I keep my kid safely away from anything adult, for sure. Because I don’t want to be “that mom.” (Who people will talk shit about right in front of your face.) I don’t, however, necessarily think that’s the best way of doing things. What I’ve seen in other cultures makes me far happier.

      • Gina

        Haha this is so true! I grew up in a big Italian family and also lived in Italy for a year, and Italians LOVE babies. They will literally mob a stroller and kiss/touch/babytalk a baby to death. There is no concern about germs, no worries about the baby sleeping–if you take a baby in public, that baby is getting loved on by complete strangers. It’s hilarious and amazing. I wonder if part of it is because the Italian cultural in general is more multigenerational, as you mentioned farther up, and also less inhibited by personal space boundaries. I had to seriously adjust my ideas about my personal space bubble while I was there! Of course, if I tried to kiss and tickle a stranger’s baby in America it might not go over so well.

        • SarahG

          Grew up in a large Italian-American family and it was the same — many children of all ages, all the time. They are just around, and it’s not a big deal. My experience, anyway, was very multigenerational, and I don’t recall ever *not* taking care of younger cousins, their friends, etc (of course, I’m a girl, so that was expected… my brothers were off playing soccer or something). Though sexist in many respects, it was in others a great experience having so many people involved in my own growing up, and being involved in the growing up of others (the only time I recall this involvement being not-awesome was when around age 13 my grandma decided to point out to a bunch of relatives that I was “developing”. Gaaaaah why grandma why???).

          I expect to folks not used to this, that it might seem louder/crazier than normal, and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but as I get older I realize how important multigenerational living is to me and I appreciate it a lot more. Plus, I want cute kids around to entertain me when I’m old, so there’s that.

        • Meg Keene

          I loved this about Italy. It’s just… more my speed. If I see your baby, I’m going to try to flirt with your baby. And if your baby flirts back, I obviously want to kiss it. DUH.

          • ItsyBit

            I do this All. The. Time. A baby once grabbed my arm as I walked by on an airplane and his dad exclaimed, “Why Charlie, you’re so forward!” Poor Charlie. I had been making faces at the kid for some time from that, so it wasn’t really his fault.

          • Meg Keene

            Upvote upvote Xazillion

      • Briana

        Mind absolutely blown. As if I didn’t already have Italy at the top of my travel list..

      • Glen

        I traveled with my sister and 1-yr old nephew in Turkey, and Turks are amazing. No sooner would we sit down in a restaurant or enter a store than a wait- or salesperson was asking to hold the baby. We almost had to beg to get my nephew back when we were done! I contrasted that with the British woman at a buffet in a touristy hotel who basically told me that “Brits like their own children but not other people’s” when I was trying to keep my very active nephew getting too underfoot. (So I’m happily surprised at Meg’s experience in London – seems that woman was the exception not the rule.)

        My experiences in the US with my 9-month old have been a mixed bag. Most of the time it’s been positive, but usually we have to ask for things like high chairs. Big thumb’s up to the Gap employee who offered me the handicap dressing room and told me to take as much time as I needed to feed and change my quickly-melting-down little one. Big thumb’s down to all the places without a single changing table — and seriously, how hard is it to have one in both the men’s and women’s bathrooom? I had surgery and couldn’t lift anything over 10 lbs (like my kid at that point), so we ended up changing her in the car a few times because there was no place for my husband to change her. Oh, and please actually clean the changing table periodically because, gross.

        And, Meg, I’ll take all the baby travel gear advice you can dish out. We love our Guava Family Lotus travel crib (bonus – made in San Diego), our Boba carrier (very tempted to get the nylon travel version too), and our Uppababy G-Lite stroller.

        • Meg Keene

          The only real extra travel gear we have is a travel crib, and now a travel high chair that clips on tables (totally a help when traveling, and hell, domestically). Our kid wan’t do carriers (damn him). And our regular stroller is the city mini, which is light and easy to collapse and perfect for traveling. Oh. And now we have a backpack for our car seat. Damn you American rental car companies for not having car seats that were made in the last 20 years, seem like they can reasonably even be secured to anything. (In the UK the rental car seats were awesome. Go fucking figure.)

    • lady brett

      when people talk about events or places being inappropriate for children, i think they usually actually mean children are inappropriate for the event.

      which seems to come from this huge cultural fear we have that *kids ruin things.* but the fact is that *inappropriate behavior ruins things* (kind of.) – and i’ve been to plenty of restaurants and events that were made uncomfortable or even awful by the inappropriate behavior of other adults. yes, kids are more likely to behave in ways not appropriate to the occasion and are less predictable, but i feel like it’s a big leap to go from that to the idea that kids are an inherent problem anywhere nice.

      of course, this is also complicated by the above discussion about lack of community parenting: if the *only* person who can deal with the kid’s inappropriate behavior is the parent, then there is no recourse for all the people who are not his parent if the kid is being rude.

      • MTM

        I NEVER said kids are an inherent problem anywhere nice. I’m a big believer in kids experiencing as many things as possible (because how else are they going to learn), but there are times/days/whatever that are more likely to result in a kid being not happy in the situation (loud, too late, too early, during usual nap time) that I think, we, as parents should try to avoid — I want a good experience for everyone, my kids and strangers included.

        • lady brett

          i completely agree with that – i was less responding to you personally than adding in my thoughts on the subject you started – but i should probably have made that more clear. no offense intended!

          the major problem i have with the idea of places that are inappropriate for children is that i *completely agree* that there are circumstances that make it very likely my kid is going to be an asshole (or just not awesome, depending on the level of behavior needed for the event), but those are so different from kid to kid that i think it is problematic for folks who don’t know that kid to say what is not going to work. and especially in a blanket manner of “xyz is not a place/time/event for kids.”

          so, for example, our toddler basically turns into a pumpkin at 7pm and when he gets tired he is still nice, but he just breaks down and *sobs.* not good social behavior, and totally mean to put him through, so he doesn’t go out in the evenings, not even for special reasons. our baby, on the other hand? if we knew more fancy people, he’d be chill to be at a cocktail party every night – 7-9 is his time to *shine* and he shines super politely, and when he’s done he goes to sleep (frankly, he usually behaves a lot more politely in public, because he *loves* people and finds them utterly engrossing). this is what works for these kids, and it won’t work for others, but as you said, it’s our job as parents to figure out what works for ourselves, our kids, and everyone who’s going to be around them – and that is going to be *really* variable.

      • Violet

        “if the *only* person who can deal with the kid’s inappropriate behavior
        is the parent, then there is no recourse for all the people who are not
        his parent if the kid is being rude.” Yep, I think that sums it up for me, thank you lady brett. As long as I know *someone’s* in charge, I don’t much care about any kid behavior: normal, rude, or otherwise. Babies can babble or scream, toddlers can run around, kids can ask eye-poppingly embarrassing questions out of innate curiosity. I’m fine with all of it. But when I feel like the adult caretaker is not taking care, I get… antsy and uncomfortable. The little lover-of-order that I am wonders, “Who’s in charge?”

    • I… mostly agree? But I do think there is something problematic in our cultural idea that part of what you pay for at a fancy night out is the chance to be away from children.

      • MTM

        I think my most honest response to this is that we all need a break from parenting every once in a while. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to go to a place at what most would consider an adult time in an adult setting and have some adult time.

  • Mallory

    I’ve heard from friends with kids that London is particularly child-friendly. Germany, not so much. I guess you chose the right destination.

    • BJ

      In my travels (pre-kids) I remember Spain and Thailand as seeming particularly welcoming, kids were fully integrated into society.

      We’ve got 16 month twins now and I have a husband who really doesn’t want to fly with them (and doesn’t like flying in general.) This makes me sad as we originally bonded over traveling (pre his reluctance) and I really don’t want to give this aspect up entirely.

      Next year we both turn 40 and we’re considering a celebratory trip– he suggests driving to S. Cali but I’m trying to get us to Mexico at least…

  • Em

    I’m really excited for this thread, not because I have a baby (I don’t yet) but because babies and travel are my two favourite things and figuring out how to put them together amidst society’s cries of “you will never be able to leave your house again except to go to mcdonalds!” is nervewracking. Thanks!

  • Ella

    OMG YES. I don’t understand people who get mad when kids cry. They’re children. How could they possibly control it?

    • Alison O

      Or when people (caregivers mainly) think screaming in response to the baby will improve the situation… Setting an example much?

      • emfish

        I feel like often when you see a parent escalating a tantrum by yelling at their kid, 60% of that is the parent trying to demonstrate to others, “Hey, I’m doing something about it! See?” Because parents in the US are trained to feel shame and guilt whenever their kids act up in public. I’ve been on so many flights with mildly fussy babies who aren’t even bothering anyone (seriously, a fussy baby is not even on the Top 50 list of Worst People to Sit Next to On a Plane), but been driven nuts because the baby’s parents are loudly and incessantly trying to get the baby to be quiet. I don’t have kids, but I do know that sometimes babies fuss because they are just uncomfortable or freaked out (hell, this is the main reason I fuss). I don’t need absolute silence, and I don’t expect a baby to go mute just because he’s in public. But man, it’s hard to listen to someone try, in futility, to get that baby to stop, even though I know they are doing it for my benefit.

        Of course, I think the solution in a situation like that is to say something, to help let that parent know that it’s cool — we know you can’t police every sound your child emits. That’s easier said than done, though, when it’s a parent “handling” a tantrum by throwing his own. I’m happy to reassure a stressed out parent on a plane, but I would never say anything to the screaming parent behind me at the grocery store for fear of getting that tantrum redirected at me. Even though the latter is acting much worse, and in a way that probably isn’t great for the kid, either. This stuff is hard.

        • Alison O

          I agree, there can be different dynamics going on, and fussiness from bystanders themselves definitely generates more anxiety for parents.

          Another thing I’m not sure how many childless/free people know about is on planes a common issue for babies (and everyone, I experience extreme pain on descent) is ear discomfort. Lots of babies have ear issues in general, but even normal ear popping on planes could be uncomfortable and disturbing to a little person who doesn’t know what it is or what to do about it. And of course, parents can’t be like, hey baby, plug your nose and blow a little. Or, chew on this gum to relieve the pressure. Or, try to make yourself yawn. I guess the closest you could do is to try to have them drink during that time. (Also, the announcements prior to landing are sometimes god-awfully loud because they are trying to wake all passengers up so they dutifully put their seat backs and tray tables in the right position, so it’s no wonder if babies have a problem with that, too!)

          • Meg Keene

            Yup. I used to be able to get him to nurse on decent. Now, I can’t get him to buy into that, which means he SCREAMS. I actually now stand up and tell people he’s going to cry and apologize in advance. This time, my amazing seat mate, bless her, said firmly to me, when I was freaking out about unconvincing people after we landed, “He was not awful, he was uncomfortable for five minutes, and he is allowed to be uncomfortable for five minutes.” I nearly cried. I’m almost crying NOW, typing it.

          • a single sarah

            I’m almost crying now reading it. Hugs to that seat mate.

          • Class of 1980

            I once developed ear pain that was like having my ears stabbed by a knife on a flight. I have always wondered if lots of babies feel that level of pain and we just don’t know it.

          • Alison O

            Yeah my first experience with this was last spring. It was not just my ears but my whole head, too. It felt like my brain was swelling and my skull was too small to fit it, and it was going to explode. This is the only time I’ve seriously thought I might die. I don’t know if this is what migraines feel like to some people, but I reallllly feel for them, if so. At least the timing is very predictable for me and limited (once we land it goes away pretty quickly).

            It has happened on about half the flights I’ve taken since then. It seems to be correlated with the onset of allergies and sinus problems last Feb/March. I’ve started chewing gum from about 30 min before landing to try to relieve pressure, but it’s still happened once despite that. I’m on different meds trying to get this all under control and am crossing my fingers that this doesn’t happen on Monday when I fly again!

            But yeah, who knows, poor little babies cannot tell us exactly what they mean. But they sure as hell try!

          • MDBethann

            I had that feeling flying back from Italy at the end of my honeymoon. I was starting with a double ear infection & it hurt so bad I thought I was going to be physically ill. I said then and I’ll say it now: if that is what a baby’s ears feel like when the plane descends, no wonder they cry!!

        • malkavian

          I have to say, one of the best seat-neighbors I’ve ever had was a toddler on a 4-5 hour flight who basically slept the whole time, and his mom was even overly apologetic about him because apparently he was footing me in the butt (couldn’t feel it). As opposed to the other youngish kid on the flight who kept running up and down the aisle elbowing people…

          The worst seatmates are 1) Dudes who won’t stop talking to you even though you are clearly trying to read/play vidya games 2) That person that won’t stop coughing OMG why are you flying sick? and 3) People who keep ending up in your seat space.

          • MC

            Ughhhh I HATE when dudes on planes (or buses, or trains, name your mode of public transport) won’t stop talking to me even though I am reading, headphones in, clearly not interested in interacting with anyone. And it’s always dudes. I feel like I could write a book on this topic.

          • jashshea

            Gotta defend my fellow business travelers here – My company and clients never cared if I was sick, so unfortunately I had to fly and sniffle.

          • malkavian

            I take immunosuppressive medications, so business traveler or no, possible exposure to communicable diseases is really nerve-wracking for me since I’m pretty much a canary in a coal mine on that account.

        • Meg Keene

          You know, I’m starting to realize this is going to be an issue. I think the kind of parent you are is often a little surprising (and depends on your kid). But if my baby throws something at home, I’m probably going to know it’s developmentally appropriate, and tell him no, and then smile and distract him. I’m realizing that there is pressure on me in public (that is going to grow enormously as he gets older) to yell, to prove that I’m not one of those shitty parents. Which is… tough?

    • MisterEHolmes

      I agree BUT … some parents literally do nothing. Your kid is crying on a plane? Sing to him, feed him, change his diaper, offer a toy. Don’t DO NOTHING. I’ve seen this happen several times on planes (and also flown with well-behaved kids, so, both ways), and that — combined with the impression that no one but the parent is allowed to comment on it — is exhausting for everyone.

      • Meg Keene

        I mean, I always try to do something, but in their defense: sometimes nothing works. Sometimes they’re worn out. (Sometimes they’re being shitty. It’s hard to know.) But a smile and a “Can I do anything to help” or “How are you holding up,” or “Seriously he’s fine,” can do wonders. It lowers stress levels enough to start solving it sometimes.

        • MisterEHolmes

          Sure, I’ve shared crayons with bored kids while waiting for planes, so I am certainly not saying ALL parents (and especially not parents like you) are like this… but I have seen it multiple times, when they just aren’t trying at all, and those parents make things hard for everyone… presumably particularly other parents, like you, who are trying to be respectful of everyone.

      • Marisa-Andrea

        Mom who has sat and done nothing before here. Well, I tried some things, they didn’t work and then I did nothing. Why did I just eventually sit there and let her scream it out: I was tired, hungry and frustrated beyond belief. My sitting there was the safest thing for all parties involved.

    • malkavian

      I’ll be honest here. I get migraines, and it’s like small children have built in migraine detectors so if I go to the store and have one, there’s almost certainly a kid screaming in my vicinity. Which, with a migraine, feels like someone stabbing me in the head. I also have very, very sensitive ears, so wailing babies (or even babies screaming in play) are generally not very fun experiences for me.

    • lady brett

      so, i totally agree with you (babies cry, it’s a thing they do, and it is often not something that anyone can control), but i’ll also offer that different people process things differently.

      i am really very sensitive to noises, and babies crying is one of the worst noises there is for my mental health. which is not judgement on the babies or their parents, but it is a fact and a problem (i locked myself in my own bathroom last night because 30 minutes of *our own kid* crying – not even incessantly, and because he has an ear infection, poor dude – had me shaking and in tears, so…)

      • Class of 1980

        I debated writing the same thing. I have overly senstive ears/nerves or something. Loud noise just does something strange to me and makes me feel like my nerves are being torn to shreds. I have actually cried because of noise before.

        It’s not something I experienced until probably my late thirties. But yeah, my reactions to noise have everything to do with my physical reaction. I even wonder if it’s a deficiency in Magnesium, since the Blood Type Diet says that Type Bs are usually deficient. Magnesium helps with calm and I definitely react better when I’m taking it in supplements.

  • Jacki

    This whole post gave me a really sweet warm and fuzzy feeling over the parts where your baby was treated like a tiny member of society, and not a (your!) burden, mixed with a bold splash of “sister life sadness” over your account of traveling with your baby. No matter what my partner and I choose, baby or no baby, we will never have this – just the two of us and our baby having an adventure together.

  • Lindsey d.

    I wonder how much your experience in the US has to do with your particular part of the US. Although I don’t have children yet, I don’t believe that parents and children are met with that same annoyance or aggression in my part of the South. Say what you will about southerners, a definite plus is that we like families and babies.

    • One More Sara

      Disclaimer: I’m not Southern, but my cousin (in TN) has posted on FB about getting dirty looks at church when her two kids aren’t perfectly still/silent throughout the entire mass (they certainly weren’t screaming their heads off in the pew though).

      • Lindsey d.

        Hmm… Interesting. The only problem I have with (non-screaming) babies in church is that I get distracted by cooing and flirting with them. I do feel like there is LESS leeway for kids once they officially become kids, i.e., no longer babies/toddlers, especially in places that call for silence, as church services can so often require.

        • Meg Keene

          Really??? I’ve never been in a church that wasn’t accepting of kids. I will say that synagogues, particularly east coast / more traditional ones, straight up let children run around and play during services. It blew my mind when I first saw it, rattled me, and then I realized it was AWESOME.

          • Lindsey d.

            Down here there are usually cry rooms, places where parents can take crying babies or rowdy toddlers during Mass, complete with soundproof windows and piped in sound from the sanctuary. BUT I always loved coffee and donuts after church — tons of running around and antics from the kids were always welcome. Just try hard not to run into a little old lady, please.

      • That makes me sad. A friend who is a pastor says she welcomes the noise of children in her church, because it means they are there and that the church is thriving. The churches and synagogues (hello, religious indecision) I’ve attended are kid-friendly and I actively work to seek out places of worship that welcome children during worship service (and Tot Shabbat? Can we get any cuter??)

        • Alison O

          At my presumed future wedding I would love to have baby noises. Not like, shrieking during the entire ceremony, but for me baby and kid noises and playfulness and mischief bring into focus the present moment and call forth the miracles and mysteries of life and a sense of possibility looking ahead. Lest we forget we are ALIVE.

          • TeaforTwo

            Oh, what a beautiful way to think about it. We are having…nearly twenty kids under 10 at our wedding. And most of those are actually aged 2-5. It seemed like such a natural thing to include our people’s kids (most of whom are family anyway), until I totalled them up for the caterer and had a moment of panic.

            But that’s what my fiance and I come from: huge, loud families full of babies and kids and kid noises. We have so many kids coming to the wedding because we have so many cousins around our own age, who are starting their own chaotic families. And that’s what we hope to be moving toward, too. So chaos it is!

          • MDBethann

            It’s very doable. We had at least 20 young people between the ages of 1 and 18 at our wedding in 2012. We had a separate table for the elementary age kids, put the teens at another table (then kids could have fun with other kids & not be stuck with adults unless they wanted to be stuck with adults). We had the little kid table covered with blank art paper instead of a table cloth & gave all the kids crayons (the toddlers sitting with their parents got crayons & coloring books). They weren’t super messy eaters, so we got to keep the art the kids made at the wedding, which was cool.

            All the kids were out on the dance floor all night, and since we were married on May 5, we got simple maracas for the kids to shake during songs like “Hot, Hot, Hot.” They had a blast and some of my favorite memories (and photos) from the wedding involve the kids (like my one friend’s 3 year old daughter following me around all day because she thought I was a princess). It was wonderful and anything but chaotic!

          • FC

            Our wedding was full of toddler/baby noises, and I loved it. We had a Quaker style wedding with periods of silence, and I loved the moments where I could hear the kids asking questions or singing to themselves quietly. Two of the 4 year olds were quietly playing house at the edge of the wedding ceremony, and it was fantastic.

          • Stacey Fraser

            By chance, we only ended up with a few kids at our wedding and two of them were our 2 and 4 year old nephews/ring bearers. One of my favorite memories from the ceremony was when the pastor asked everyone if they would help us maintain and grow our marriage and amidst the chorus of adult yes’s, there were two bright little nephew yes’s that we could hear from the altar. The best.

        • Jacki

          That’s a lovely way to think of it. I attend services very rarely, but what distracts and bothers me more than fussing babies or the noise of children being children at, say, a Christmas service, is the way my grandmother carries on about how offensive those babies and children are, simply for being non-mute babies and children. She makes the most dramatic, exaggerated faces and disgusted snorts and tries to engage everyone around her in the public shaming, which is just so gross to me, and WAY more distracting and disrespectful to the religious service than children making normal human child noises!

        • Caroline

          It’s one of the things I love about my synagogue. Our table up front ( Bima) where the service leader stands is lower able so people on wheelchairs or kids can see. When we lower the table so toddlers can watch as their parents lead services, or when they stand there holding their hand while their parents lead services… And kids generally just run in and out between adult services, kids services and childcare. But it is one of the few places I know where families are integrated like that. Most places seem not very families-with-kids friendly.

        • Alyssa

          I don’t have kids, but I hope to someday. In the mean time, church is the main place I interact with other people’s kids.

          Our priest paused his sermon once — not because a baby was crying, but because people were shooting dirty looks at the parents whose baby was crying. The priest (who has several children) said, “I write my sermons to the sound of babies crying. I can give a sermon with a baby crying. And you, brothers and sisters, can listen to a sermon with a baby crying.”

          • Alyssa M

            I once had a pastor give a lecture in the middle of his sermon about being happy to have babies in the service. I can’t even remember what exactly he said… but man it changed my outlook, and for the years I attended that church afterwards there was a much better cultural acceptance of children.

            Pastors and Priests have great power to influence in situations like this.

      • BD

        I live in the South (Texas, specifically), and in many ways people are more tolerant than they seem to be where you live, i.e. opening doors for you and interacting positively with the child; that said, in many ways people are just as quick to scoff and give you the stink eye, especially if the child is not in a “kid friendly” area. That idea of kids having particular places where they should or shouldn’t be seems common to the entire country.

        • BD

          Oops, I meant this to be in reply to Meg’s comment…

        • malkavian

          I’m also currently living in Texas and I’ve noticed that Texans are more concerned about ‘manners’ (ie holding doors in a manner that to me seems extravagent) and are very talkative to strangers in general, but a lot of Texans are also really gossipy and don’t really tell you what they actually think of you to your face. Where I’m from in the Northeast, people have more utilitarian manners and don’t really interact with strange people as much, and I also feel like you know where you stand more often. I don’t have kids, though.

          • BD

            I think the gossipy nature, at least as far as children and parenting are concerned, plays into the Motherhood Cult, which is definitely very strong here in TX. Texans in general are not very accepting of people who don’t fit into the norm (though that’s not true of all of Texas – places like Austin and the Dallas/Ft. Worth area are used to and even embrace variety), though we still hold on to this idea that, to your face at least, we have to be “nice”. I realize I’m probably gonna make some Texan angry by saying that, but I’m a life long Texan and this has been my experience!

          • Violet

            Not pertaining to kids, but I once read an anthropologist describe this distinction as negative politeness (trying to stay out of people’s way) and positive politeness (trying to form a relationship). Especially in more crowded urban areas (hello, Northeast US!), negative politeness is seen far more frequently. Everyone is just trying to squeeze by everyone else with minimal disruption. Positive politeness is seen in less-populated areas (eg, the South) where there is a higher chance of seeing the same person over and over, etc. Both forms of politeness have their places. Now, gossip? Eh, not so much. ; )

          • malkavian

            I have never heard it framed that way, but that absolutely makes sense and is a great way to describe it. Thanks!

          • Class of 1980

            Violet, that makes so much sense to me. A lot of northerners have moved to the south, and so many of them seem to have a hard time understanding the “positive politeness” that they encounter.

            That they think it’s insincere proves that they don’t understand the whole premise of politeness in the South. It’s not about being sincere; it’s about making everybody’s day a lot more pleasant.

            I have mixed feelings about the South, but the general politeness is NOT on my list of negatives.

          • malkavian

            I’ll be honest: no, I don’t understand it. To me, forced friendliness/cheer/etc is a lot like ‘your call is very important to us’ being played when you’re on hold or overly polite scripts call centers and online help centers used. When there’s no sincerity behind it and it’s being done because it’s expected, it loses meaning and feels hollow. I also don’t find areas outside the South to be rude or impolite, it’s just a different kind of polite.

            Also, I have to say, as someone who is slightly introvert of center and dislikes small talk, a stranger carrying on a conversation with me is not generally going to make my day more pleasant, it’s going to make it more stressful. Same for people telling me to smile when I’m lost in my own thoughts in public and have my neutral face (which is not smiley) on.

            Note: I find it interesting when I read Yelp reviews for restaurants here as to how much the service is emphasized. There are a lot of people who, when writing reviews, severely cut the rating if they think the server or staff aren’t being uber-friendly and accommodating to a degree that would be considered ludicrous back home.

          • Class of 1980

            You are trying to interpret southern manners from a non-southern perspective, but it can’t be done accurately. Southerners are coming from a difference place.

            The roots of southern politeness are DEEP and go back generations. Southerners don’t think of it as “forced friendliness” or “meaningless” in the least. It has a great deal of meaning for them to treat someone politely, no matter how they feel about the person or what kind of bad mood they might be in. It’s a form of personal discipline that they value very highly.

            I agree with you that no one should tell you to smile, but other than that, I’d hate to see southern manners disappear.

            It goes both ways. Although you don’t think people outside the south are rude, they can appear extremely rude to a person from the south. I could tell you stories about southerners I know who were horrified by manners in the northeast. You don’t hear much about how they experience the northeast because there are fewer southerners moving north, but tons of northerners moving south.

            Perspectives on good manners have everything to do with where we are from and what we are used to. What you find comfortable might be someone else’s nightmare..

    • Meg Keene

      A LOT. I actually really want to hear other people’s experiences. I live in particularly child unfriendly corner of the country.

      • Caroline

        And our corner of the US had a particularly low birthrate, and a lot less people have kids. I think that contributes too.

        • Meg Keene

          YES. Also, I sometimes think low birthrate causes low birthrate. (Which makes it sound like I think not having kids is a problem, which it’s not. Not UNDERSTANDING that kids are humans sucks, but not having kids is awesome.) What I mean is,you don’t see kids, you don’t get kids, you hear about how hard/ horrible kids are, you don’t see how fun/ awesome they are first hand, you opt out.

          People not having kids = rad. A childless culture, where kids are not welcome = not rad.

          • Eleanor

            I believe you’re living in the East Bay these days. Last September when we spent 5 weeks in NorCal I was listening to ‘Forum’ with Michael Krasny. The issue at hand was dogs on leashes/no leashes in the Presidio park area. In the course of the broadcast it came out that in SF there are more families with dogs than children! At one point an irate dog owner called in furious about leash laws and unloaded about all of ‘these people’ letting their kids run around, and why aren’t there any laws about that? (!?!?!?) I almost had to pull over to avoid getting in car crash! We don’t have kids, but most of our friends do and kids are kids and you just roll with it.

            I was especially shocked because I hear a lot of grumpy expats talk how about how ‘family friendly’ America is compared to Germany, though my German friends with kids tell me attitudes have radically changed over the last 20 years and it really isn’t a problem. But I suppose it’s regional.

            Here there is much logistical support (I thought all public transport the world over had stroller parking!) but I do think you would get grimaces and rude looks in a very ‘adult’ hoity toity restaurant. I generally don’t get the feeling that kids are sequestered away and are well integrated into everyday life.

            Germans are of course very interested in ‘the rules’ so I think the attitude is that parents should discern which situations are appropriate or not. The difference here is that there isn’t a kid/no kid apartheid. There are many public places like Wirtshäuser (similar to pubs) that are for everyone (adults, kids, families, etc.) and Biergartens – the best thing ever for parents – there are huge playgrounds in the middle and on site child care, so your kids run around and play while you drink liter after liter of beer with your friends.

            And of course, there is all the awesome social policy: 14 months of partially paid maternity and paternity leave, companies being required to hold your job for 3 years, state funded day care, etc. This is what confuses me about America. All of the loud ‘family values’ rhetoric, but woefully little support (or even discussion) about national policy and infrastructure that actually supports having a family!

            I think a lot of it also comes down to individualism run amok. America just doesn’t do group public space well. There isn’t a lot of land per capita in Europe like in the US, so people HAVE to share public space and don’t have the expectation that they can personalize and customize everything to their personal preference.

            Maybe I’m all wrong about this and would change my tune if I had kids, but from what I can tell, there seem to be a lot of advantages to the Euro approach. France and Italy are supposed to be even more awesome.

            So please do spend more time on this side of the pond! I’m now good friends with a fellow expat and APW reader/wedding graduate (we met through the site!) who now has a toddler. Perhaps a beer garden APW meet-up is in the future!

    • MisterEHolmes

      On the one hand, people in Texas are generally nice to babies and small children in public. On the other hand, you’ll get a few “Bless your hearts” to your face (condescension masked as concern) and maybe chatter behind your back.

    • Amy

      People in my corner of CT are ridiculously lovely to babies/children but I think its mostly our town is one that you basically move out of NYC to once you have kids. Everyone is here because they chose to move to suburbia to have families so they’re pretty lovely to other families.
      My favorite moment was buckling my son into his carseat and seeing him looking out the window and giggling. There was a dad in the SUV next to us making funny faces at him through the window, adorable!

    • Frenchie

      I think being just “unfriendly” towards children is pretty geo-specific in the US (In the Midwest, if you have a baby, cooing will happen). For me personally, it’s not (all) about the lack of friendliness but the lack of value on a well rounded life full of learning, sleeping, and loving. I find the US (in all parts) makes it darn near impossible to work for anyone but yourself and have anything resembling a balance life. Also, the lack of a good train system makes me crabby.

  • emilyg25

    Logistics, please! We’re traveling to Rome in May as a last hurrah before children (hopefully) come, but we’d also love to keep traveling when we have a baby. Did you feel like you missed out on some of the sights of London because you had to watch for nap time, etc.?

    • Catherine McK

      Yes please to logistics! I’m 5.5 months pregnant and we’ll be flying domestically when the baby is 5 weeks old (family wedding) and again at 5 months and 7 months to other weddings. This thread is making me both happy, yay international travel! and petrified.

      • Meg Keene

        Traveling with a 7 week old was a dream. Mostly. He slept and coo-ed and love the airplane, particularly turbulence (we called it “the industrial bouncing machine.”) There was that time he had a horrible liquid baby poop all over him and me right as we pushed back, and I couldn’t change him for 30 plus minutes. But he was very cheery about it.

    • swarmofbees

      I have flown with a baby at 4 months, 7 months, 15 months and 18 months, by myself and with the other half. Everything from a 4 hour domestic flight to the New York City to Sydney plus 4 hour train ride marathon(that one just the two of us!). It changed how I traveled, where I traveled and what we did. You learn to think through every step of the process to make sure you have EVERYTHING you could need. I spent so much time just thinking of the logistics of getting stroller, car seat, suitcase and baby from home to the seat on the airplane. But, after the first flight it gets much easier. We wouldn’t fly away for a long weekend, but we do drive away for a long weekend now. Like Meg said, you learn to think about what you can get away with, not what you really want to do. You may end up doing the same things, but you go about it differently. We visit family more than before the kiddo. Our sightseeing is dictated by nap time and how well she sleeps in the stroller. We spend a bit more money to make sure we have direct flights and convenient hotels that don’t require cab rides (I do not relish installing a car seat while the cab driver hovers). Everyone is different, and I think your budget affects what you can do, and how you can do it, quite a bit.

    • Meg Keene

      Phew. Logistics. That’s a whole POST of thoughts. We’ve done it a lot (this was something like his 6th trip and his 11th and 12th flights.) In short: you just roll with it, with everything. In this case, jet lag is jet lag, he sleeps when he sleeps, etc. At various stages he’s slept in bed with us for security (his), but he’s old enough and used to his travel crib enough now that we can often get him to sleep in it. (First nights in London not so much. He wanted to sleep next to me, but so it goes).

      Travel isn’t the SAME persay. You’re taking your work on the road and you don’t have childcare. But it’s good, because expectations are lower. We figured that if we got there and enjoyed it at all, we were coming out on top, so there was less pressure to SEE EVERYTHING TO MAKE IT WORTH IT.

      The stuff we missed this time was mostly the stuff we would have needed childcare for: like seeing a play, which we normally always do. And things got broken up a lot. We couldn’t spend a whole day exploring Oxford, so we’d do some, and then break, and do more later.

      Naps, in general, are not the problem. He napped in his stroller like a champ, so we just walked everywhere to give him lots of nap time (or walked till he was asleep, and then put him in buggy parking on the bus). What we had to learn to do was break it up with CRAWLING time. You can’t leave him in the stroller all day, or he’ll (understandably) flip. So, walk somewhere so he naps, then get him out to crawl, eat, etc. Then walk somewhere else so he naps.

      We also travel really light, for having a kid. Less stuff means less stress. His clothes, diapers and food for the first 24 hours, travel crib if you need it (call ahead, most nice-ish hotels have them), and sadly a car seat. We used to travel without one, but the rental car company car seats were just disaster after disaster. So we got a backpack for the car seat, and we bring it when traveling domestically now. Not to blow your mind again, but when we ordered a car service in London, we’d tell them we had a kid, and they’d send a car WITH A CAR SEAT, no problem. WTF MAGIC LAND WTF.

      Also, credit where credit is due. Speaking of family friendly, traveling to Salt Lake City with a baby was a joy. We’ll do it again in January, and gladly. The hotel gave us a *rocker* and a *diaper genie.* Holy hell. We were rookie rookie rookie parents with a seven week old, and we were so grateful.

      • Alyssa M

        Yay Salt Lake City… I’m not one to ever compliment the LDS church’s influence politically, but they certainly respect a young family.

        • MEI

          Yea, I’m from Utah and this post didn’t really resonate with me at all. I hold people’s babies while they check out at the grocery on the regular, there are babies at brewpubs and parties, and I can’t think of a place I’d feel uncomfortable bringing my kid. They’re just an accepted part of society. I guess that makes us progressive like Europe? Haha. :). I’m not LDS, and I have very (sometimes not so nice) feelings about the church’s stance on Motherhood/role of women, but it is certainly true that the culture in general is down with babies/kids, which is nice.

    • Morgan

      I’ve traveled a lot with my kid. Road trip at 3 months, Mexico all-inclusive at 8 months, 10 days in Dallas at 11 months, 6 days in Toronto at 15 months, and THREE WEEKS in northern Europe at 18 months. And you know what? It was basically the same way we always travel, but with a few exceptions. Especially the Europe trip, I locked down every single bit of logistics before we left, including printing off google maps about every bit of walking and transit we’d have to do. I had no desire to be wandering around a new city trying to find a hotel, you know? But we made no decisions about what to do on a given day, or ever what to do outside of a couple of city highlights – it allowed us to let the day evolve organically, which was nice. (And meant that we went back to the same cafe in Helsinki for mid-afternoon pastries every day, because awesome.) We still went to all the museums and ate fun food and hit every must see (Blue Lagoon in Iceland – amazing, and the kid loved it too). We now travel way lighter – you have to. Jess still naps in her stroller, which was convenient, so we never had to go back to the hotel to kill time. We made sure to rent apartment hotels where possible, so that the baby could go to bed in one room and we could sit in the living room and chat and drink and play crib. (Also, laundry facilities!)

      Honestly, I really don’t feel I’ve missed anything important* while traveling with the kidlet. And gained SO MUCH. Her first steps were in Dallas. Her first multiple word sentence was in Denmark (“more more ice please”). I love spending that much uninterrupted time with my favourite people on earth.

      And hey, the baby dealt with the jet lag WAY better than my husband and I did. Stroller naps solve all.

      *(except that without the baby, we’d have taken another ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersberg for a couple of days, because if you boat in, you don’t need a hard-to-get visa. But it was 18 hours each way, and we just couldn’t justify. Alas! So we went to Estonia for 36 hours instead – only 2 hours each way. First world problems, I know.)

  • I’m glad you had a great holiday. I’m also flabbergasted that there are buses in the world that *don’t* have special buggy parking spaces. They reeeeally make it hard for you guys not to drive, don’t they?

    • Jessica

      Cars rule the world here, and it’s more than a bit of a tragedy.

    • Meg Keene

      OMG buggy parking spaces. He would just nap on the bus like, “nbd. This is my other bed.” Kirsty you live in a magical land. I hope you know that.

  • Jennifer

    I think a lot does depend on the destination. Although we did get a few evil looks at the National Gallery this weekend with a not-quite patient 3 year old, (how can a giant pile of stone not be there to be touched, thinks the three-year-old, and I wonder what Andy Goldsworthy thinks about it too) DC has generally been pretty child-friendly. Although one of the most otherwise child friendly restaurants we go to (staff, atmosphere) has no changing table or high chairs, we’ve taken our daughter there for years without an issue. I wonder if DC is more toddler friendly because of all the tourists we get? Maybe just my thicker skin?

    Travel-wise, Singapore and Hong Kong were great with an infant…but HK is definitely NOT stroller friendly, we were very happy we brought the baby carrier/sling-like option. From past family trips I know Italy and Spain can also be quite baby-friendly, although again, we found the stroller sometimes more of an imposition. At one point in Barcelona the woman in the subway suggested we’d be better off walking to our destination than trying to change lines with a stroller.

    From longest first comment ever, my best baby travel story is this. On the way to Hong Kong, we were seated in two middle seats of the plane. The stewardess came by and said they had an empty seat and were asking if people could move to accomodate us, but it wasn’t working. The guy next to us on the aisle heard this, and immediately gave up his aisle seat to move up a few rows into a middle seat so he could escape sitting next to the baby. We were happy with three seats, he was happy(-ish?) in his middle seat away from the baby. And then in Hong Kong when we went out to eat at a restaurant, all the waitresses took turns holding our daughter so we could eat, luckily our jetlagged selves were at the restaurant the minute it opened it’s doors, there was no one else in the restaurant. Yes, travelling with babies is awesome.

  • emfish

    I wonder WHY the U.K. is so much more family friendly. Why do Americans view children as an inconvenience or an intrusion? I have to admit that I went through a phase in my mid-20s where I found other people’s children really annoying. For me, a lot of it had to do with becoming an adult woman, and resenting that for many people that meant I would naturally become more maternal. People seemed to assume that since I was a woman of child-bearing age, I was obviously really interested in babies and eager to take on childcare responsibilities at events. I didn’t like being put to work as a stand-in mom just because I’m female, and I guess I took my resentment out on the kids.

    As I’ve gotten older, I have a more nuanced, and tolerant, view. I still hate it when women are presumed to be the ones who want kids (and the ones who will look after them). I refuse to automatically become the nanny when I’m at a party with kids — my boyfriend, or any guy, is just as capable of cutting up a banana or making sure the baby doesn’t knock himself out on the coffee table. But I no longer hold any of this against the kids. They’re just people, and life is always about accommodating other people to some extent.

    And yet, I still find myself getting irritated quickly around crying babies or kids throwing tantrums. Or even just the noise level that comes with kids of a certain age. Sometimes I’m at a coffee shop trying to have a conversation with a friend, and the din of (happy, playing, perfectly sweet) children makes it hard to hear and I get the grumps. Part of me still wants child-free places, and that’s a sentiment that is not uncommon in the U.S., especially in urban areas. Why is that? Are we just being entitled jerks? Have we become too accustomed to being able to control our environment, and kids are a factor beyond that control? I’m trying to figure it out.

    • LM

      I find myself in the same situation. I don’t dislike kids but I do sometimes get grumpy in public places. Maybe it is just part of navigating public spaces — I also get grumpy if it seems like an adult is taking up more than their fair share of space on the subway, or expects me to be accommodating when they are not willing to do it themselves. Something I find helpful when I’m feeling extra rage-y is to ask myself, “is there room enough for both of us?” whether “us” be me and the person who is not moving over on the sidewalk, or me and the person with their energetic kid who doesn’t talk quietly, and the answer is basically always ‘yes’. For whatever reason, I usually find myself able to deal with things more rationally and communally after that.

      • emfish

        This probably does account for a good amount of my grumpiness. There are certain social events I’ve never been able to really enjoy, including concerts and massive house parties, because it makes me very anxious to be in loud, crowded places. I like your trick of thinking rationally about whether a space can accommodate us all, as that’s the kind of thing that helps to ease my anxiety in an uncomfortable situation. My current method is generally just to leave — if I’m somewhere where the kids (or the adults for that matter) are becoming too much, I just remove myself.

        I am getting better though. I spent most of my summer working in close proximity to a circus summer camp (I was working adult classes nearby), and loved being around those kids. Granted, I was also relieved everyday at 4pm when the kids left and I experienced quiet as though for the first time. But it was also really fun to watch and listen to these kids becoming friends while learning circus arts. It was sort of the definition of coming to see them as people (albeit inexperienced people) as opposed to just nuisances. I actually might volunteer to work the camp some next summer, which is not something I ever thought I’d say.

    • Meg Keene

      I’ve realized through traveling (not just with a kid, but before having a kid) that it’s very, very, cultural. This is how we’re taught to think and feel in the states (and I think particularly in affluent urban areas of the states?). It’s not even an accepted mode of being in some other places. Like, Italy? Yeah. That’s not really how they roll. That’s actually the reason I love travel so much. I came to it late, so it meant that my mind was blown over and over again by the realization that even the most basic assumptions I have about how to do things are cultural. Some of them are good, but I’ve noticed a lot of bullshit about myself when traveling abroad. Those moments where I do something and then stop and think, “That was the worlds most American reaction, and it was not good,” are the real teaching moments.

      • emfish

        So much of what we assume to be “right” is contextual, clearly. I hope I get to a point where I can travel more because I’d love to experience more of what you’re talking about firsthand. It’s been years since I spent time in another country.

        I’d love to think more on what we might learn from the cultural difference you’ve found in countries like the UK or Italy, and how I can incorporate those lessons into my own life to actually contribute to a better cultural attitude here in the U.S. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the way in which we (as Americans) tend to frame everything in adversarial terms. It’s an extension of our focus on the individual instead of the community — we seem to be always at war with one another. I notice it frequently in my personal interactions. One friend will complain about a problem she’s having at work, and then another friend will top it, and still another will top it again. Instead of defaulting to a place of support and empathy, it’s too easy for us to think, “You think you have it bad, I have it worse!” And you see this in the “debate” over family life, over what it means to be a mother or how families structure their lives — it is too often a competition instead of an opportunity to learn from and support one another. It’s as though our American individualism has created a Darwinian social competition in which only the most perfect person, who has made the most perfect choices, will “win”.

        One hypothesis as to why this might differ in the UK, for instance: the UK has fully accepted that there are certain things (like healthcare) that can only be done collectively. There is a broad tolerance for a certain level of socialism, especially when it comes to fundamental, universal needs like caring for kids or going to the doctor. But here in the US, a debate rages over whether we should even have a universal, society-level solution to these problems. Our healthcare system, our education system — they are combative, as though the richest country in the world simply doesn’t have enough to serve everyone. That might explain why we have become such a factioned society (parents v. child-free, working moms v. SAHMs, urbanites v. suburbanites, etc.) and why we pit those factions against one another. We are operating under the illusion that there isn’t enough for everyone — enough space or money, for instance — so we fight instead. We snark at the flex time mom in our office because we’ve been taught to believe that her flexible hours will mean more work for us. We get annoyed by a crying baby in a restaurant because we spent the day in heartless corporate boxes and this dinner is going on the credit card and it feels like this is our last chance to be happy until who knows when.

        But there is enough. We just do a piss-poor job of allocating it among ourselves sometimes.

        Sorry for the ramble. You’ve obviously struck a chord here. :)

        • Meg Keene

          Yes. Particularly spending time with family in the UK, and being subsumed in the culture in a way I wouldn’t be otherwise, I’m always overwhelmed by HOW differently they look at social good, and responsibilities to others in their society.

          Once a cousin asked me with some horror, “But what’s the debate like in the US about not providing the care needed for all disabled children?” And I had to tell her there was no debate. Like, I’d never heard it discussed on the news ever. That… was a bit of a slap in the face.

          So yes, there is a culture of collectivism that we don’t have.

      • Sarabeth_n

        I think this is definitely a feature of affluent urban areas in particular. We moved from the Bay Area to western New York a few years ago, and had a baby a few months ago. My experience of parenting here is very different from that of my friends who are still in San Francisco. There are relatively few places I feel uncomfortable taking my baby (who is not particularly quiet or calm). We went to the DMV yesterday, and the other people waiting all cooed over her and then let me skip in line because she was being fussy. We see kids in restaurants–not $100/plate restaurants, but definitely the local pizzeria–all the time. I think San Francisco is just so damn expensive that space is at a weird premium, and therefore there’s less room to accommodate kids. Also, while plenty of people just don’t want kids, the reality of life in an expensive city means that lots of folks have fewer children than they would otherwise like (this is definitely true of several of my friends), which can breed a more general tendency to view children as a luxury item instead of humans in their own right.

        On Italy, the flipside is that the country has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates because there is so little cultural or structural support for working mothers. So people love to see babies in part because there aren’t that many of them.

        • Meg Keene

          Re: the last point. Very, very true about Italy, and the lack of babies. The logic doesn’t translate though. They’re are very few kids in San Francisco, and because of that they’re treated as totally unwelcome. Weird, no? Same issue, opposite cultural outcomes?

          • Sarabeth_n

            Yes, and I can’t quite put my finger on where the difference comes from. Maybe the fact that so many people move to the Bay Area in their twenties, which creates a public culture that’s dissociated from intergenerational family life in general? Maybe the wealth, which really does tend to commodify much of our experiences of the city?

          • inksplotch

            I’d say both of those things apply. San Francisco has changed a lot compared to what it was before the tech boom. There used to be more families. Now it’s far more heavily dominated by people who came for the kind of urban life that revolves around adult-only activities… and can afford the skyrocketing rent prices.

  • Tania

    I’m glad my town made you and your family feel welcome. For many people, the pub feels like an extension of our home environment (for many years in London my local pub was effectively my living room!) so its not unusual for kids (and animals) to be allowed in.

    • Meg Keene

      Awww. That actually explains a lot about pubs, and why they are awesome.

  • Kelsey

    This is somewhat unrelated, but this applies extra for parents of children with disabilities, particularly with less visible ones, such as Autism. Instead of not being “allowed” to eat at restaurants for the first five or so years, they’re not “allowed” to indefinitely. Not to mention, there is some slack given to parents of a small child, particularly if it is a family friendly place or not a peak date night time. Spectators might think a two year old screaming is annoying, but understandable. An eight year old yelling and they’re probably making assumptions about the quality of the parenting, not considering that poor sensory integration is at fault.

    • js

      This is SUCH a good, interesting, smart point to be made and I, for one, am going to spend a little bit more time having compassion for the parent instead of judging next time.

    • Em


    • Meg Keene

      Oof. So true. We have an autistic kid in our synagogue, and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the few places the parents feel like they can bring him.

      • Kelsey

        That makes me so happy. I volunteer in a ministry with high schoolers with disabilities, and so many of our parents have, at some time or another, felt expressly unwelcome at churches, especially as their kids got older. All of this is extra unfortunate, considering that, even if their child would have eventually been capable of appropriate behavior in public, after they figured out how it all works, they’re never given the opportunity to develop those social skills. There is definitely a cross-application to typical kids there; if they grow up being excluded from fancy restaurants, theatres, what have you, how do they learn what the expectations are?

  • Briana

    Avid traveler here with a 10 day old babe sleeping in my arms as I read. Thank you for a real (but positive) look into international baby travel. We haven’t left the house much yet, but I have already experienced 10 days into this parenting journey so many warnings of all the things you cannot possibly do with a baby so better schedule your life again for when the kid goes off to college, thankyouverymuch. I understand some places/situations are just not baby-appropriate, but how does it make sense that babies are meant to be a separate sliver of life isolated from all other activities and environments outside of the home or Gymboree?

    So heartening to hear of child-friendly places in the world! Child friendliness of my own area (Los Angeles) TBD.

    • granola

      Agreed to this! The idea that my whole life will end and everything fun will die when I have a kid is really not encouraging and just can’t be true.

  • mimi

    Pubs in the UK are great and so welcoming. We were in London in October and had dinner at a pub and a lovely conversation with a couple at the next table. They were in their 60’s and lived in the neighborhood and had their dog in the pub with them. The whole place was a lively mix of conversation and cultures and it seemed like anyone of any age would be welcome (and dogs, of course). It would be so great to have pubs here, in the cultural sense.

  • lady brett

    i just wanted to stop in to say that i love this.

    it reminds me of my folks’ stories about their honeymoon in europe (which my bro, as a baby, went on with them – and was their ticket to lots of help out of bad travel situations).

    and about how much i hate the idea of segregating families out of “real life” (which has always seemed terribly problematic to me, even when i was really uncomfortable around kids and disliked babies).

    • Shiri

      Yes, yes yes! This is exactly it, Lady Brett. Babies and families (and other “inconvenient” people) are a part of *real life*. Yes, exactly.

  • Alison O

    Anyone else out there in the minority with me that feels a pang of disappointment when the baby coming down the plane aisle passes your row?

    • Meg Keene

      You mean, doesn’t sit with you? That was ALWAYS me. Pleasepleaseplease let the cute baby sit by me please. Maybe he’ll get sad and his mom will go to the bathroom and he’ll need and extra cuddle.

      Also, huge fist bump to the (american) woman about my age who sat next to us on the plane home. She played games with the kid, gave him her ipad at one point to play with (me: are you… sure… about that?) And when a woman got nasty with me because he was (perfectly quietly) playing with something and occasionally dropping it on the floor, she quietly told me that she was being awful, and I shouldn’t, you know, want to cry.

      Those people are the effing best.

      • MDBethann

        One of my best flights for work in recent years was on a trip to Denver & I was seated next to a military wife who was traveling with her infant to introduce the adorable little girl to some of their extended family. Unfortunately the poor little thing had an accident right before we took off, so I quite happily helped the mom get the little girl cleaned up & then played with the baby while mom went to clean herself up (baby accident = mommy mess). Best.time.on.plane.

        Do I like the behavior of the kid who kicks the back of my airplane seat? Not really, but then I don’t like the adult who rams the back of my seat either without apologizing.

  • KEA1

    I don’t know if it’s correlation, causation, problem, symptom, or whatever combination of the above, BUT: certainly in the US, a LOT of “entertainment” relies heavily on making fun of other people. I think that’s done a lot to make it more “acceptable” to be judgmental of others, and to be vocal about those judgments. Add in the bazillion issues about how women are treated, especially around their ability/presumed (by some at least) “responsibility” to produce children, and things get ugly.

  • Abby J.

    Meg, you are a LIFESAVER with this post and this comment thread. We leave for Dubai (with 13 hour flight involved!) in 2 weeks with our not-quite-four-month-old and I am trying desperately not to freak out.

  • Berkshire

    I have to say, what you describe in England has been my experience in the US (Maryland and Massachusetts, for the most part). We always take our boy (just turned 1) to restaurants and bars. We’ve flown with him. I never use a cover to breastfeed, and not once have I gotten a hairy eyeball, let alone a comment about it. The library staff smile when they see him. The ladies at the bagel shop adore him. Grandpa takes him to the supermarket and comes home bragging about all the ladies who stopped to chat with him (with the baby that is – not with grandpa). Sure, there are a few people who say “that baby is being loud” –everyone else rolls their eyes and goes on their merry way!

    • Stacey Fraser

      I’m 20 weeks pregnant and live in Massachusetts, so this is lovely to hear!

  • B (the other one)

    Im an american living in England now and I will definitely agree that children are more welcome and integrated in society here. My family is Belgian and between the m and the parents Ive observed here, the biggest difference is that parents are more laid back. They aren’t hovering over them in case they fall. Or running around child proofing public spaces. Kids are taught manners and to respect the world for what is, they are treated as capable of understanding. Kids have more freedom and they have time to just be kids too which makes a big difference. Tv time is limited and outside play encouraged. There is still Recess in school,as well as cooking and gardening and other life skills.

  • This reminds me a somewhat recent trip I took and the ADORABLE little kids I met a the airport.

    While waiting for my slightly delayed flight, a very nice-looking woman and her two children sat next to me at the airport. The precocious little girl was probably about 5 and the boy maybe 2. Both children had their own little backpacks full of toys and books to entertain them and the woman had a sizable carry-on. Their conversations were hilarious! I about died listening to the little girl ask her mother for “harder chores,” like washing the dishes all by herself.

    Anyways, when the woman arose to use the restroom, moving to take all of their things with them and lose their prime plane watching seat, I told her to leave it and that I would watch her things. She was rather surprised and definitely pleased and away they went.

    When they returned the little boy stopped and hugged my legs and said hi, very excitedly.

    The surprise this woman, who had very well-behaved and adorable children, expressed at my offer to watch her things was kind of crazy too me. Even this well-manicured and definitely upper-middle-class woman was shocked at a strangers kindness towards her kids. I mean, they were talkative little tikes, but who cares? They were a hoot.

  • Oyf! I hear from a lot of people traveling internationally that one of the things that shocks them the most is mothers feeding their babies. What the crap is wrong with America that breast feeding is so shocking?!? So I breast feed in public as a way to bring some “culture” to this country.

    There really is a problem in this country in regards to babies. They are to be seen, not heard. Heaven forbid they act like babies. It’s depressing.

  • Shotgun Shirley

    Oh man, I am so late to this comment party! I just have to say, traveling in Japan with an almost two year old was amazing and lovely, and beat domestic travel by far!!

    • Em

      When my brother and I were quite young, my family moved to Japan for a year. My mum flew over first to get settled into her job, so my dad made the trip solo with us kids. He had an extremely positive experience during the Korean and Japanese parts of our trip,(and even, to some extent, the US leg as well!), but the Canadian portion was just awful. Definitely seems like North America has an issue with children actually being children.

  • Laura

    I had a thoughtful and articulate contribution to make to this conversation until my head exploded from the other many thoughtful and articulate comments that have been added thus far. So now all I have to say is, more posts about culture and parenting, please. And thank you.

  • Beth R

    Yes, I clearly remember being pleasantly surprised when I lived in England with the way society treated mothers. Pretty much every single day I saw a mother with her kid in a stroller being helped up the steps of the tube stations by complete strangers. It was inevitable that if a mother got the the bottom of the stairs, a random person would help her up the steps. I feel like you would never see that in the bay area.

  • JenClaireM

    I thought this whole post was wonderful – but I feel compelled to focus in on a tiny detail of it, which is this: “This time around, I didn’t have time to worry about how much I hated flying, because I had a baby to take care of.”

    This is something I’ve wondered about a lot: Did having a child in general make flying easier? Or does having a child WITH you make it easier? Your posts on flying anxiety really spoke to me because they came at a time when my own flying anxiety was getting so bad that it was affecting my ability to actually go places – and the situation has not improved, despite a lot of work and therapy to help it. I feel like something will cause the anxiety pendulum to swing the other direction, back towards finding air travel manageable, and I often wonder if it will be having a child. I’m curious if that was your experience. Or if it was something else. Basically, I just want to know how you got back on a plane again. Because reading your post really makes me want to go back to London! And expose my hypothetical, future children to other cultures – especially how they do things differently and well – like having babies in pubs. (I feel like taking a baby to a pub would be the best.)

  • Heather

    Canada feels very similar to America. In a larger way, individuals are very nice for the most part. Mexicans love babies. Go there.

  • Caitlyn Hodges-Morrissey

    There’s an excellent book called “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind” that talks about how even in activist circles, we need to work on making room for families. Because when you exclude the kids, often it means excluding the parents too.

    One of my favorite essays was from a punk household that made a point of inviting the kids from the neighborhood onto their porch to write, color, etc. I think that, as quite a few posts have mentioned recently, it’s so important for kids to have connections with adults who are not parents or authority figures. My small neighbor in my apartment building is infatuated with our cats, but I think she also likes coming in to practice English with me, tell me about school, show off her artwork, etc. I am grateful that I’ve had a chance to form this bond.

  • Sarah

    So wait – the United States has (from the word I hear on the street and Wikipedia — not the best research, I know, but the only research I’m willing to do as my Christmas party hangover nears its 13th hour) the worst parental leave in the developped world AND people don’t like when you try and take care of your kid? Unbelievable!

  • Frenchie

    A lot of people give me the side when I say I have less then no desire to raise my children in the States, I guess because i was raised here. But this is one of the many reasons why I am not thrilled with the thought of raising a baby state side.
    While it is totally possible to find a community that supports and cares for you and your family, and places where babies are welcomed, the very fact that you have to seek them out is upsetting.
    They have stroller parking in tons of European countries. In Norway (I believe, but I could be wrong) Moms park their strollers outside the cafe and the babies sleep. Outside, well bundled with no thoughts of kidnapping or fear of being a “bad parent”. In most European countries maternity leave AND paternity leave is a given, and you can often structure to suit your needs (all up front, spread out etc). School is about learning, not test taking (France is a notable exception) and learning trumps athletics.
    I could go on, but the short version is that I want to raise my kids in a place where their well being, their mind, and their quality of life is valued…and trying to do that in the States is just too damn hard.

    • Frenchie

      side eye. I meant side eye.

  • TravelEachDay

    I’m glad you found the UK so baby friendly! We run a pub, and we love having babies, children, dogs, cats, everything in through our doors. It can get tricky though – screaming children, running around playing with tiny bits of Lego that pose trip hazards can be part of the routine. Luckily, even if the other customers get annoyed, they would never dare to pipe up – stiff upper lip and all that ;-)

  • MDBethann