This weekend, I was just ten minutes into a two-hour train journey when a little boy started crying. People began to grumble and, shaking their heads, one couple moved to a different carriage. It was annoying, but no more than the man eating a particularly pungent tuna sandwich across the aisle or the teenager intent on damaging his eardrums with leaky headphones.
Eventually the kid, bored of his mum’s lap, moved over to sit next to me. As he beamed up at me, his mum looked over at me apologetically. I smiled back, and that’s all it took for her to relax and get back to her magazine.
Unfortunately it seems help (or even reassurance) is a rare occurrence for overwhelmed mothers on public transport, as one viral Facebook post is pointing out. Kesha Bernard was on a flight at the beginning of her holiday, when she heard two toddlers begin to cry. As a mother to young children herself, Bernard was able to tune out the wailing but other passengers were not as forgiving. One complained to the mother to stop her three-year-old kicking her seat, before reaching out to grab the toddler’s legs.
Eye rolls and complaints only serve to shame mothers, who are expected to control their children as if they were an extension of their own volitions
Sensing the woman was overwhelmed – and being attacked for it – Bernard got out of her seat to ask if she needed help. She was immediately handed one of the babies, who fell asleep in her lap before takeoff.
Bernard posted about her experience on Facebook, in an attempt to highlight how little complaining does, and how much a small gesture could improve things for everyone:
Children don’t want to be on public transport any more than we do. They’re often tired, hungry, and fed up – just like us. If it was publicly acceptable for adults to scream on the train, we probably would. Eye rolls and complaints only serve to shame mothers, who are expected to control their children as if they were an extension of their own volitions. More often than not, all they need is a helping hand.
It could be as simple as a smile.