On a recent flight between Melbourne and Sydney I was seated between two young mothers and their babies. They immediately apologised profusely for my predicament.
I remember that feeling. We travelled quite a bit when our sons were babies and the look of terror on the faces of passengers with empty seats beside them as I walked down the aisle carrying my baby, will stick with me forever. So I went out of my way to assure these women that I had no problem sitting next to babies as I have two children of my own and can remember what it was like. They immediately looked more relaxed.
Both women looked shattered from the organizational stress of being a mum mixed with the sleepless nights. The little boy to my right had just celebrated his first birthday but was yet to sleep through the night. He and his mum were taking a connecting flight to Sydney to meet their flight to Vanuatu. The young, single mother was off to the island for work. She told me she had arranged childcare for her son and would be straight into the job the next day. I looked down at her feet. Jammed in below the seat in front was the obligatory baby bag that every mum lugs around with her until her child is of primary school age. How I don't miss that. She said she was up early that morning making sure she'd remembered to pack everything that her son will need in Vanuatu. She even brought her own pillow onto the plane so she could breast feed her baby in relative comfort. How on earth she was going to carry all four bags and her child to the international terminal unaided was beyond me.
The mother to my left was equally weighed down with baggage. But at least she was on her way home to visit family in Sydney, following a recent move to Melbourne for reasons of "opportunity". During the flight her little son, who was nine months old, required a nappy change. Without missing a beat the young mum was out of her seat and pulling a smaller bag containing the required elements out of the side pocket of a larger bag. I asked if she needed help with it. But, no, she was clearly so used to doing that alone, that she was able to get it done with one hand, holding her baby on her hip with the other.
I was impressed with these self-sufficient young women and their babies. They were completely contained and focused, and their smiling babies didn't cry once during the flight.
I was nowhere near as sorted when transporting my babies from one city to another. I will never forget the time we flew to Bali when my youngest was less than a year old. As we landed he vomited all over himself. I hadn't brought a change of clothes so he departed the plane wearing a Qantas blanket fashioned as a toga. There is no way that the young mums on the plane beside me would have forgotten spare clothing. Their emergency bags looked like they would contain a choice of outfits if required. These women seemed prepared for anything. Their risk management skills would have been extremely high.
The low-hanging fruit with any challenge is to take the path of least resistance. It's easier to be dependent on others than it is to choose independence. But in the work place, as in life, progress can only be made when individuals decide to move out of their comfort zone and climb mountains.
As I departed the plane I felt confident that both of these first-time mothers were suitably equipped to leap obstacles. In fact it made me feel confident that the current generation of young mothers was onto something. Although visibly tired, both women resisted offers of assistance and walked off the plane to the next stage of their lives literally juggling baby and baggage.
Have you had to do the baby juggle in transit? How did you manage it?