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Is It Selfish To Fly With Kids?

By September 6, 2015February 12th, 20228 Comments

Baby looking out plane windowI love flying; I love the whole experience. From the moment I step into that security line (I never check bags so I don’t start at the customer service desk) to the moment I feel the landing gear meet the ground once again, air travel has always been a wonderful experience for me—even when there are screaming nuggets on board. Someone has always got something to say about children on planes, which makes sense as children have to go places too, but recent comments from journalist and parent Kelly Rose Bradford makes the whole debate much more interesting.

During an interview on the U.K. talk show, The Morning, Bradford said, “I think there’s an element of selfishness from parents who insist on not changing their lifestyle once they have their children because there are some things that just aren’t practical.”

This is certainly an interesting take coming from a parent, and I get it. I’m really fond of my kids, but not so fond of everyone else’s—but that doesn’t mean I believe that everyone else should be keeping their children indoors until they hit some milestone that makes them worthy to venture out into society.

Kids are people too, and should be treated as such. I can’t imagine why you’d ban them from planes because they can be annoying sometimes. My husband can be annoying sometimes too, but he’s allowed in most public places. Furthermore, why should I have to change my lifestyle now that I’m a parent? Granted, there are some days when I’d prefer to stay indoors, in my PJs, with a glass (or bottle) of wine firmly in hand without ever having to witness the light of day—but that’s really more about who I am as a person and less about who I am as a parent.

Because travel is so important to me, I can’t fathom missing out on seeing the world because I chose to have children. If anything, having kids is an excuse to see more of the world, not less of it. What makes even less sense to me, however, is my kiddos missing out on seeing the world because someone can’t be patient for a few minutes while I make a bottle or retrieve another snack from the bottom of the travel bag.

kids on an airplaneI understand that it’s not always just a few minutes. Sometimes younger kiddos struggle with their ears popping and it can be painful and hard for them to cope. Other times, kids have just had enough of sitting in a seat with nowhere to go and nothing interesting to do. (After a few hours, you want to scream too, be honest.) Maybe we should send some good vibes in the direction of the parents, throw on our headphones, and attempt to zen out instead of calling parents selfish for wanting to get out in the world with their kids.

Really, how am I supposed to get a toddler to Italy if I can’t fly? Or in an even more likely scenario, how can I take my kids to visit family across the good ol’ U.S. of A? As fun and financially intelligent it sounds to take a 6-year-old, a one-year-old, and a newborn on a 30+ hour road trip across the country, I’m all set. Like Bradford says, some things just aren’t practical.

So while I fully understand that a misbehaving or simply overtired and over-stressed child on a flight isn’t pleasant for anyone, I don’t think it’s selfish for parents to take their traveling families to the skies. In fact, I think it’s selfish for anyone to think they deserve a special place anywhere simply because they are old enough to vote. (Unless it’s a voting booth; in that case, you’ve earned it. Go nuts.) While it’s every parent’s responsibility to manage their children on flights—and absolutely everywhere else—it’s not selfish to bring your kids out in public, including when you travel.

We all know that calling traveling with kids “a challenge” is an incredible understatement, so kudos to you parents going that extra mile to enrich the lives of their children through travel. You keep doing you and tell the haters to remember their noise cancelling headphones next time.

Shauna Armitage

Author Shauna Armitage

Shauna Armitage is a military spouse, mother of four, lover of Coca-Cola, and host of the Startup Renegades podcast, a raw conversation with powerhouse founders building amazing businesses. While Shauna is a marketer by trade, she is a traveler by choice and loves to explore the world with her family in tow. Connect with her on Instagram @shaunajarmitage

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • In my opinion, it’s the people who DON’T travel with their kids that are the selfish ones. Travel is such a gift for children in terms of learning, development, having fun and spending quality time with family. Flying with kids can be a little slice of hell but it’s such a small part of travel and lasts such a short time. People, like us, who fly with their kids are putting a heck of a lot of effort in to keep our kids cool, calm and comfortable onboard planes. We are brave, not selfish.

    • Shauna Armitage says:

      We couldn’t agree more! The people feeling sorry for themselves in the back row can simply put on headphones and zone out. Mom and dad need to spend the whole flight stressing over hurt ears, loud cries, and kicked seats…. all for the sake of giving their kiddos a chance to see the world. Thanks for stopping by Bethaney!

  • Flying with kids is selfish? That had to be written by someone without kids – what a crazy thing to say. The job of a parent is to raise kind, intelligent, global citizens who can make the most out of their own journey and make the world a better place. Travel is a BIG part of learning about the world and making great memories with family. Leaving them at home with a nanny (or a family member if you have one that you are close enough to) so the journey is easier for you or so strangers on a plane are not annoyed by them IS SELFISH. Once you become a parent you do what is best for the kids and if they are lucky, you show them the world.

    • Shauna Armitage says:

      The crazy part is that the person who started this whole controversy is a mom! I think traveling with kids is so very important, and while traveling on planes with kids is tough, it’s so worth it! And giving them the chance to learn about it is the only way they will learn how to behave properly.

  • Charlene says:

    I do love her assumption that every person who has to take a child on flight is on a jolly, but I digress… My two year old son has flown quite a bit, the longest ten hours. I do my utmost to make sure he is not a nuisance to others. I take snacks and toys and try and fly at a time he will sleep readily. I also give some ‘apology in advance’ chocolate to anyone near me and assure them that should they wish to complain/ask to be moved I will take no offence. So far (touch wood) I have had no trouble and even had offers of help when I’ve been travelling by myself with him. Still, I would welcome adult only flights because the biggest stress (as my intense flight preparation suggests) is the trouble we might cause others. And it is not uncommon to have passengers rolling their eyes and grumbling as soon as we walk on the plane. If you need to rest or work on a flight, children may not help that and it would be good to have the option to avoid them.

  • eileen g says:

    I think keeping kids home until they are a certain age (and who is to say what that age is) is the worst thing you can do. The more time kids spend out in public from a young age — at museums, restaurants, stores, on planes, etc. the more they understand the proper way to behave in those situations and the better they handle them. Among parents I know, it’s the families who rarely go anywhere whose kids can’t deal with car seats, long drives, airplanes, etc. It’s the kids who never leave their backyard who can’t share and take turns at the playground; kids who never get to eat out who don’t know how to sit quietly in restaurants. Other cultures understand this. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us grasp it here in the US.

    • Shauna Armitage says:

      I couldn’t agree more! I’ve had lots of friends who say they can’t go do things because their kids don’t behave well, but unfortunately, they’ll never learn how to behave if you don’t get out there and teach them. There seems to be a very anti-kids sentiment going around in the travel industry lately. I don’t get it!!

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