The Day I was “THAT MOM” on a Plane, and What I Learned

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The second we got onto the plane, I could feel my blood pressure climb.  The baby who had been fussy when we got on board the aircraft, was now in an all-out scream by the time that we found our seats at the back.  The flight that had advertised in-flight entertainment had about 3 visible screens on the whole plane (and I had brought the bare-minimum thinking the kids could just watch movies most of the flight).  Everyone was looking at us.  Not only did we have FOUR kids with us, but we were Americans in a Middle Eastern country, AND we had a screaming baby.  All the horror stories that I’d heard about babies who cry for an entire 12-hour plane ride, all started racing through my brain.

Via Flicker, Creative Commons

Via Flicker, Creative Commons

I tried to smile and shake it off as I simultaneously rocked the baby, but it wasn’t working.  I was a wreck.  This was the first time that we were leaving the country since moving to Saudi Arabia, a vacation that I desperately needed.  This was our first trip with all four kids, and even though we’d done a ton of things with the other three, this four-month-old was kicking my butt in pretty much every way.  I was tired and exhausted and all the work that I’d put into meticulously planning and packing for our month in Europe had left me completely worn out.

“I can do this” I told myself – half in encouragement, half in panic.  The baby just kept screaming.  Tears started to well up in my eyes.  I felt like I was at my breaking point.  Exhausted.  Spent.  Frustrated.  Finally the baby calmed down enough for me to feed him and as I did, I prayed that we could make it through that flight.  After what seemed like an eternity, the baby fell asleep.  We had barely just taken off and had a 6 ½ hour flight ahead of us.

I was starting to pull it back together when 10 minutes later the crying started all over again.  Tension was starting to build all over my body.  I was convinced that I was going to be THAT MOM on this flight.  You know, the one with the terrible children that everyone HATES?  The older three were getting restless.  Thankfully, it looked like a movie was going to come on.

A 30-minute movie all about the Prophet Mohammed…in Arabic.  It’s like I was being teased.  As you can imagine, having that as our in-flight entertainment was worse than nothing at all in the eyes of the kids.

I passed out coloring books and pretzels while my husband played cars with our toddler.  Oh, and the baby kept screaming.

“Seriously, this can’t be happening,” I thought.  “My kids are good travelers – what’s going ON?”

It was at that moment that I completely understood why parents don’t travel with their kids.  And I was angry at myself for relating to them.  No, I’m adventurous.  I’m brave.  I can do hard things.  But right in that moment with a crying baby, staring eyes, and whiny children, I just wanted to run away from it all.

Thankfully, my husband sensed this.  He busted out a game on his phone and quickly taught the older kids how to play it.  He took the baby and somehow held him while playing with stickers with our 2-year-old (actually, he was smart enough to put in ear-plugs…that baby can SCREAM).  I stood up and walked to the back of the plane do get some fresh recirculated air.

I’m sure that the flight attendants had seen it all before, but they gave me an “it’s going to be okay” smile and some chocolate.  Because let’s be honest – parenthood is always easier with chocolate.  (They must have sensed that the whole family needed some because one of them also took candy bars up to the kids.)

I went back to my seat and closed my eyes.  I waited to hear the screams of baby Skyler…and they didn’t come.  Breathe in…out…in…out.  I thought of the trip ahead of us, and got lost in thought.  I started to get excited.  We only had 5 hours to go.  I can do anything for 5 hours.  I started to relax.  The baby had finally fallen asleep again and I was relaxed.

I knew that I was at a crossroads.  We were embarking on our first major international trip with our whole family.  I knew that we wanted travel to be a major part of our lives.  Shoot, one of the major reasons we’d moved was so that we could travel more easily.  Was I going to let a baby ruin that?  Better yet, was I going to let 6 hours ruin that?

Certainly not.

Our plans were bigger than that.

So I decided to let it go.  When the baby woke up again, he started screaming yet again, but this time it didn’t hurt.  I wasn’t cringing, panicking, or crying.  I realized that this was a moment, a very small one in fact.  Soon it would be over, and we would be off this plane.  Everything was going to be fine, and in fact, it was.  As soon as we disembarked the baby was happy and we were off adventuring and seeing the world.  Yes, it was one terrible flight, but I’d rather have a dozen terrible flights to take me to amazing places, than sit home and watch as life passes us by.

 Because the world is too big a place to give up on just because a baby started crying.


  • Maria says:

    I have a three hour flight this summer with my baby and I am already worrying about it! Haha your post reminded me of myself! I’m thinking I will bring some ear plugs for those closest to us just in case….

  • E B says:

    Chocolate! So true.

  • Nikki says:

    I love your positive outlook. It is a short while, and think of the amazing travel adventures you will have as memories for yourself and your children for years to come! I’m glad you made it through a flight with a baby. I idid it recently flying from California to Utah and I know exactly how you feel. Only my flight was so short I kept telling myself to suck it up, there are moms like you out there who travel real distances!

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