Travel...and the new discrimination

I travel. A lot. Mainly for work, but with family on both coasts and in the Caribbean I'm often on-the-go with kids-in-tow.

I started my career as a management consultant - on the road 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. I lived out of my suitcase and learned to pack for any trip of any length in less than 20 minutes. This is a skill that's come in handy as a mom (not to mention during high stakes Tetris tournaments). When traveling with kids, I have packing down to a science and never leave home without snacks, 1 toy each, books and lovies for bedtime and the old-faithful-iPad (mommy's NEW little helper...).

Being somewhat of a travel whiz, I was excited when my friends over at Working Mother Magazine invited me to represent their WorkMom Blog at the Residence Inn Mom's Night Out event in Times Square. I met a GREAT group of other moms (shout out to @Glamamom, @Strollerballet, @mommasgonecity) and got to spend a glorious night of uninterrupted sleep ALONE in a king-sized hotel bed.

Oh, the hotel was awesome too. Full-sized refrigerator, all suites (small for the rest of the country, but HUGE for NYC), hot breakfast every morning included in the price, HUGE laundry room, good gym. The have a free iPad/iPhone app for hotel guests offering walking tours of Manhattan and a truly child-friendly staff. Prices vary, but for off-peak/non-holiday travel it seems to be a very reasonable option for the otherwise wildly expensive New York hotel scene. Check them out if you ever come to my neck of the woods.

As part of the festivities, we had a Family Travel roundtable discussion. As we dug deeper into our travel routines, likes and dislikes, the conversation gravitated toward the challenges of traveling with kids. One-by-one, we began to recount tales of dirty looks from fellow travelers, immediate requests to be re-seated once our seatmates noticed our kids (whether they were screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs or not), dismissive flight attendants or hotel staff.

Suddenly, it hit me. I'd experienced more direct discrimination as a mother traveling with small children than I have ever felt as a black woman. Ushers requesting that my kids leave an event billed as a "family jazz matinee" because they were disrupting other patronss when they were simply asking questions (   Perfect strangers feel completely comfortable loudly complaining about a crying baby on the plane, letting out loud sighs and protests when kids are seated in business class or milling about hotel lobbies. Mid-scale restaurants banning children after 6pm and airlines restricting kids from business class.

If someone loudly protested that there were black people on an airplane, no one would hesitate to label it racism. If a person is told they are too old buy a ticket in business class, it's ageism. Women restricted from dining in a restaurant? Sexism. But replace any of these groups with the word "baby" or "child", and people feel no shame making blanket statements out loud.

I say ENOUGH. Families with small children have every right to ride on an airplane, eat in a restaurant or stay in a hotel. Our money is green and our freedom should be just as free. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not giving parents a free pass to let their kids act like fools in public. The BadAssMama believes in discipline and self-control as much as the next guy. But I also know that kids are KIDS. They cannot be expected to sit quietly in the corner for hours on end - especially during the preschool years. With families spread out across the country and around the world, families with young children should have the right to leave their homes without facing the blatant, often nasty judgement of perfect strangers.

So the next time you make a comment about why the hell a mother would travel alone with 2 small kids on a plane, put yourself in her shoes. How would YOU feel if you were being judged? And offer a helping hand...not judgement.
Anonymous said...

I dunno. It does suck to sit near kids on airplanes and during shows (unless they are that rare breed of children able to be silent and still for long periods of time). Maybe people should just suck it up, but I'm not sure it's fair to say people have no right to complain about it by labeling it discrimination. One time I sat in front of an old woman on a plane, and I was so completely exhausted from 48 hours of solid work and having been travelling for work for over a month. All damn day I had been looking forward to getting on that plane, reclining my seat, and passing out until I landed at home. When they made the announcement, I reclined my seat and the old woman began screaming at me and told me to put my seat up. I sighed loudly and complained loudly to whoever was sitting next to me and maybe it was petty and rude of me, but it certainly had nothing to do with her being old or a woman - just with her being obnoxious. Like kids when they scream and kick your seat for 6 hours.

Jill said...

I love this post Sherice. You know I'm totally with you. The idea that people think public places like airplanes are their own private utopia to relax in is just preposterous. Of course I understand that children and babies can be loud and annoying but that's just the wait it is. As evidenced by the comment above, it's all kinds of people that can be annoying. The problem is the expectation of sleep and relaxation in a PUBLIC PLACE. xo

Alicia said...

Hmm. I would actually argue that it's a valuable learning experience for kids to have people respond badly to behaviors that people generally find annoying. How else are they going to learn what's acceptable in society if they want to be liked and respected? It is one thing for parents to explain it to them, but for many (certainly for me as a child) it's much more powerful to see how strangers react.

Jill said...

Alicia, respectfully my 2-year old is not going to learn from dirty looks. It's generally the parents that suffer for their children's perfectly natural behavior when it's completely out of their control.

Courtney G. said...

Great post! I'm in agreement with the discrimination, but I've also learned to not care about what others may be thinking.

Give my kid a dirty look, guess what you're getting one right on back. Move your seat...see ya later. My mama taught me "Don't ever let anyone else dictate your feelings and don't sit back and accept bad behavior."

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