I found this article through STFU, Parents that tells about a mother of five who is pursuing a master’s degree and brought her infant with her the first day of class, only to be told that bringing infants to class was against college policy. “I just didn’t even think it would be a problem,” she said–so imagine her shock when it was.
The STFU, Parents lady (whose name I forget) pointed out that the mom in question was a BYU graduate, “so that explains a lot.” Ha ha, yes. Yes, it does. Even so, this mom said that back at the BYU, there were “occasionally” children in class. She didn’t say children were a regular feature of BYU classrooms, and yet she showed up her first day of class with an infant and all her baby gear in tow, not because of any childcare emergency, but because she just “didn’t even think it would be a problem,” implying that she was just intending to bring her infant to class every time–presumably because she’s breastfeeding, and that would be more convenient (for her). (And the baby, of course.)
I have mixed feelings about this because on the one hand, it’s nice when people accommodate mothers, particularly breastfeeding mothers. It’s nice when women are able to get some work done along with caring for their infants, who don’t always need intense, one-on-one attention. I learned how to do a lot of things one-handed (including diaper changes) when Mister Bubby was an infant because the little dude always had to be held. I had to hold him always. I call him the “little dude” because “little bastard” seems a little harsh, at least in retrospect. At the time he was pretty much ruining my life. Well, anyway–point being, he was happy (i.e., quiet) as long as he was being held, so in theory I could have gone to a college class and taken notes (I only write with one hand anyway) while holding him. I can see why maybe a mom would think it would work to take a baby to class, especially if the baby in question were one of those “easy” babies I’ve heard so much about. It’s nice when people see babies and children as just part of normal life–rather than the part of life that has to be walled off from all the other parts of life. Say what you will about Sarah Palin (for example), but I loved seeing pictures of her carrying her baby in a sling whilst carrying on the business of being governor. (I often wonder what might have happened in an alternate universe where Sarah Palin remained governor of Alaska and John McCain just picked some random white dude to be his running mate. But that’s getting off the subject.)
So there’s that, on the one hand. On the other hand, I’m hip to the fact that there are some places babies just don’t belong. I’ve never been one of those people who gets upset when folks have adults-only events, for example. (I don’t mean “adults-only” like an orgy or something, but every time I write or say “adults-only,” I feel like I have to clarify that I only mean that just adults are welcome.) Frankly, I have always been the type to prefer adults-only events to bring-the-whole-family events because so often bring-the-whole-family events turn into manage-your-kids-in-a-novel-environment-until-finally-it’s-time-to-go-home-THANK-GOD events. When I couldn’t get a babysitter (which was often), my attitude was “doesn’t it suck that I can’t get a babysitter,” not “doesn’t it suck that people won’t let me bring my kids.” When given the choice, I always opt not to bring my kids. We’re all happier that way.
In general, I think people could stand to be more patient with kids, and also with parents of kids, because kids happen and that’s life. I don’t think people are entitled to a child-free environment at all times. If you want to live in society, you should be willing to put up with some babies and kids, even the ill-behaved ones, because we all start out as kids, some of us were ill-behaved, and most of us grow out of it but not until we learn to behave better (or just get older). Parents shouldn’t be expected to keep their kids at home until they are perfect. Not only is it unrealistic, it wouldn’t result in raising good, productive citizens. Kids need to be out in the world and exposed to different situations, and the rest of us just need to suck it up and deal with some occasional crying, whining, or other disruption.
HOWEVER, parents do need to be considerate of other people’s needs. There are situations where bringing your child(ren)–who are apt to cause some disruption–is just plain rude. Sometimes people bring their babies to movie theaters, which I guess I don’t have a problem with provided the baby sleeps the whole time. (I do wonder about the effects of the Dolby Surroundsound on their little ears–movie theaters can be loud.) I myself would never have dared to bring an infant to a movie theater because a) there was no freaking way a baby of mine would sleep the whole time and b) assuming I did have a baby who slept all the time, it would be just my luck that the one day I choose take them to the movie theater would be the one day they decided they had colic or something. That is how my minds works. In general, I don’t think babies belong at movie theaters or concerts or plays or other entertainment events that are intended for adult, i.e. able to sit still and not make noise, audiences. If they just sleep the whole time, awesome. Congratulations, your baby is awesome! I am retroactively jealous of you. But if they start crying and you don’t leave, you’re being rude.
(None of this applies to a family-friendly movie, concert, or play or whatever. Unless your baby is really really super loud and you don’t leave. Then you’re being rude to all the other babies and kids who are trying to disrupt the show in their own ways.)
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid disrupting other people’s lives. Sometimes you just have to take a baby or young child on an airplane. I know, I’ve done it. Lots and lots of times. And believe me, karma has paid me back SIXTEEN-FOLD for all the times I, as a young childless adult trying to sleep on red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Greensboro, NC, resented all the babies who were flying (and not sleeping) with me. Sometimes babies cry. Sometimes children throw fits in stores. Sometimes they make messes when they ought not to. Blah blah, I’m cool with the fact that sometimes babies and children just suck. Let me tell you: now that I no longer have young children of my own, there is no greater feeling than to witness a child misbehaving in public and being able to say, “Ahh, not my problem.” IT’S AWESOME. But back to the point–I get that disruption-by-child is a part of life. No one is entitled to escape, even if they never had or don’t plan on ever having children. If you were once a child, you owe some kids and their parents a little slack. BUT if you don’t anticipate the possibility that your baby or child might be disruptive or otherwise somehow inconvenience others, and your attitude is always “they should just suck it up,” you’re being inconsiderate and narcissistic. The world doesn’t revolve around you or your special snowflake.
I don’t doubt that the mother in this article had planned and prepared to make class time with her baby go as smoothly as possible. Maybe it would have gone smoothly. And the more women are allowed to keep their babies with them (and not have to hire a sitter), the more opportunities women will have. So my inner feminist is very sympathetic to letting moms bring their babies to class. But I’m also sympathetic to people who argue that they paid to be in this class too and they don’t appreciate someone just assuming they can bring a baby–an obvious and predictable distraction–to class. (Everyone who commented on this article was sympathetic to people who have childcare emergencies and maybe have to bring their kid to class once, but no one liked the idea of just routinely bringing kids to class, which is the issue the above article and this blog post are addressing.) So I’m conflicted.
Would a baby distract me? Eh, maybe not. I’m used to that sort of thing. Would it have distracted me back in the day when I was not yet used to these things? Not sure, but possibly. I honestly don’t know. I went to a Baptist college and no one brought their babies to class. On the other hand, I go to church with Mormons every Sunday, and say what you will about Mormons, but we’re very accepting of babies and young children. As a result, our services all have a generous amount of background noise. (Unless you’re in one of those rare congregations that is short on young children, in which case it’s like being at a funeral, only less interesting.) I’m not usually distracted by anyone’s children not my own. They have to be really, really loud. But I know other people are more sensitive. (My childless teenage daughter, for example–not that she has any room to complain, as she has historically been the most disruptive individual in the chapel, long after the time when such behavior could be excused as youthful exuberance. But that’s another story.)
So I’m ambivalent. What do you gentle readers think? Is it cool for someone to bring their baby to class, as a matter of course (ha ha, get it, COURSE)? Or should they suck it up and get a sitter, just as common courtesy? I can’t quite decide.