As a parent, I find it funny that I was less aware of screaming babies and loud obnoxious children BEFORE I had kids. They just kind of blended into the background noises of life. Now, as a parent of two small kids, I notice those sounds a lot more. And they bother me. Okay, let me preface that. They bother me if I’m not with my own children.
For example, if we have a “date night” and the kids aren’t with us, I’m super aware of my proximity to small children. If we’re at a nice restaurant and they seat us near kids, we ask to be moved. We usually get mean glances from somebody, either the waitress or the hostess, because they think we hate kids. That’s not true at all! We LOVE kids, just not on our nights off.
If we happen to travel without the kiddos, we never want to sit near a baby on a plane. Again, not being heartless here, I’ve been in those shoes many times. But again, if we’re “off duty” so to speak, we’d like to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Now don’t get me wrong, I can never completely turn off the mom mode. In fact, I’ve helped out frazzled moms traveling with babies on a few occasions. They’re usually shocked when I offer to hold a fussy baby or lend a hand calming a screaming toddler. What kind of stranger would step into a world of potential spit-up accidents and stinky diapers? Well, probably any mother, whether she’s on or off duty. And plenty of dads too.
Maybe we need a universal sign for “parent off duty.” Like a handshake or a complicated wink and nod combination. Something to make sure people know we’re not kid haters, without having to launch into a long-winded explanation. Maybe a necklace charm with “Mom Off Duty” etched on one side and “Mom On Duty” etched on the other. Personally, I think that would clear up a lot of misunderstandings.