The world can seem a little dark if you think about it too much. Mom wars are real, and people in general just seem a little less enthusiastic about helping each other out these days. These were all things that crossed my mind before I had to travel alone with my 9-month-old baby. I was afraid of judgmental stares if he started crying, whispers about me looking like a mess if I didn't have everything together, and the inevitable lack of help from people around me. But now? I can honestly say that after taking that stress-inducing trip, my faith in humanity has been restored. There are so many good people in this world, and what happened to me is proof.
So, what exactly happened? A few weeks ago, I had to book a last minute trip due to a family emergency, which meant flying round trip alone with my baby (if you've ever flown with a baby, you know how daunting this can be). I'm a meticulous planner who usually spends weeks (sometimes months) organizing every detail of a trip, but this one was different. I booked the flights on Monday, and we flew out Tuesday morning. This meant there would be no airplane goody bags, new toys and snacks to distract him, or scouring the internet for tips on how to successfully travel alone with a baby. I packed our things in one carry-on bag, stuffed the diaper bag with anything I could find to keep him comfortable, and strapped him to my chest. I looked ridiculous.
I truly saw a side of humankind that I have unfortunately not come to expect. But we should be able to expect these things from one another; it's not hard to be nice.
All of these things got me some looks, but not the kind I was worried about. I initially expected to feel eyes on me with whispers of, "Ugh, I hope she's not on our flight" or "What is she thinking traveling on her own with that baby?" But instead, the looks were of support and awe. And you know what else? They weren't just looks. So many people stopped me and asked what they could do to help. The first was when I was going through security. The woman in front of me was exchanging peekaboos and giggles with my son before she grabbed two plastic bins, one for her things and one for ours. She helped put his diaper bag and my shoes on the security belt and asked if I needed help with anything else before walking through herself. Next, a different woman on the other side of the security line helped me put the car seat back in the car seat bag and helped me put the huge backpack over my shoulders.
I was overwhelmed with the kindness these few people offered. Along with those who actually took action and carried my things or physically helped me, there were others with kind and encouraging words. An older man traveling alone commented on how put-together I seemed, another woman around my age smiled at me and said she had an 11-month-old at home and knew how difficult it was to travel with a baby. I wasn't doing anything spectacular or anything that warranted praise, but people at every turn were being extremely helpful and compassionate.
Once we got on the plane, the flight attendant was superaccommodating when I was installing the car seat and seemed very genuine when telling me to let her know if I needed any assistance. It wasn't a very full flight, but I didn't get any eye-rolls or annoyed sighs when my son made noise before takeoff. Our flight back was booked solid, but after having a pleasantly similar experience to our first flight, I was less anxious about it. Once we landed, I walked into the bathroom with my son on my front, the car seat bag on my back, and the diaper bag and rolling suitcase in my hand and found I couldn't fit in the stall. A woman noticed my struggle and asked if I wanted her to watch our things while I used the bathroom. I thanked her profusely as I unloaded the luggage and slipped into the stall still wearing my son. When I came out, she explained she was a mom too and was happy to help. Mom wars? What mom wars?
There were so many amazing people I met during that trip that it was hard to keep count. Other interactions included an older lady who stopped me to ask how old my son was and told me how happy it made her to see babies. A couple in their mid 50s offered to carry our bags from the gate to the shuttle bus, and a younger woman insisted on carrying my diaper bag as we boarded and followed me to my seat on the plane. While deplaning back at home, an older woman in the seat next to us asked what she could do to help and said, "Do you think he'd let me hold him? I'd love to if you think he'd be OK!" Sure enough, he was just fine while she held him so I could get his carrier strapped back onto myself without having to wrangle him around. People let me in front of them in line for the gate checked bags, smiled warmly, and told me what a good job I was doing. There was help at every turn.
It's not lost on me how lucky I was to have such a great experience, and I truly saw a side of humankind that I have unfortunately not come to expect. But we should be able to expect these things from one another; it's not hard to be nice. It's common decency to offer someone help who may need it. I've always tried to live by the motto "treat others the way you want to be treated," but I haven't always seen everyone else live that way. This trip changed my view. People showed up for me in a big way, and I plan on remembering exactly how amazing it felt so I can show up for you, too.