Going away on a holiday is stressful enough, what with the planning, packing and making sure that you get to the airport in time for your flight.
However, as a lone parent travelling with a young child, the stress probably trebles, and increases even after most passengers are relaxed and comfortably settled in their seats on the plane.
It is no wonder one woman was left in tears after her 19-month-old toddler bawled in her lap for a full 20 minutes as their plane prepared to land.
Facebook user Jolene Shen was part of the cabin crew on a flight when she witnessed the incident, according to her post last Tuesday (Sept 26).
Shen wrote: “Yesterday, upon landing, there was a toddler of 19 months squirming in her mother’s lap and as she was buckled up for landing , she began to cry and scream in earnest
“She screamed and buckled (sic) and fidgeted throughout the 20 minutes of landing time, big fat tears rolling down her face. Pushing and trying to slip the infant seat belt down her legs, looking for freedom.
“The mother, a petite lady who looked like she’s in her 30s, tried her best to hold on to the little squirming, screaming bundle, consoling her child and managed to time and again put the seatbelt back on her child’s waist.
“She held her child gently, had her head to her child’s and whispered softly the whole time. But the child was beyond consoling. She wanted to be freed.”
Shen noted that other passengers around the pair took “deep breaths of air for patience”, while some “gave the mother empathetic glances”.
However, Shen’s objective was not to shame the woman with her story, but to highlight the difficulty parents face when travelling alone with young children.
As a mum herself, Shen said she could empathise with the woman, whom she had thought was being stoically patient, but only later realised that she was actually shedding “silent tears of helplessness” as her child continued crying.
After the seatbelt sign went off, Shen said she went up to the mother and rubbed her arms as she reassured her by saying: “You did a great job”.
Hearing that line, the mum broke down in tears, either “because of my words and/or from the relief that the flight was over”, and began sobbing into the child’s shoulder.
“I felt tears rushing to my eyes cos as a mother myself, I knew exactly how she felt. I hid behind the curtain, composed myself and went back to the mother to tell her what a good job she had done,” Shen wrote.
Shen was thankful that everyone on the flight had been extremely understanding: “No one berated her for not being able to control her child. No one gave her dirty looks.”
And she feels more empathy and support should be given to those travelling alone with young children.
“Please give them more support the next time you see a mother struggling with a child. Be it a kind word of encouragement, or offering to hold the child for a few moments while the mother have her meal, would be a great help to the mother.”
Her post has resonated with many, garnering over 700 reactions and 160 shares on Facebook.
The stress is real for mothers travelling alone with their kids on flights. So real that some even take pre-emptive measures to appease their fellow passengers, just in case their little ones create a ruckus inflight.
One mother in China flying on a domestic flight with her child was compelled to dish out ‘goodie bags’ to those in their first class flight from Ningbo to Xi’an.
Each bag contained a pair of earplugs, a few pieces of candy, and a handwritten note, written from the toddler’s point of view.
The note read: “Hello! I’m Wendy from Ningbo. I’m one and a half years old. This is not my first trip, but my mother takes care of me alone and is worried that I might cry and disturb you. After all, changes in air pressure can make my very grouchy. Good kids don’t disturb people in public places and I will try my best to keep quiet.
“Here are some earplugs and some candy, I hope that they will ease your troubles. Wendy wishes you a pleasant journey.”
The story went viral across China social media after it was shared by a flight attendant who was touched by the mother’s gesture.
While exemplary, we think such actions may end up putting unwanted pressure on parents.
Who knows, packing ‘goodie bags’ may just end up being another item on the mile-long checklist parents have to do before a flight. We wouldn’t want that, would we?
A version of this article first appeared in Asiaone.