Sunday, October 3, 2010

It takes a village

Most of my young mother friends would dread flying alone with a toddler and an infant. If they absolutely had to do it, they would pray for a sympathetic stewardess and seat neighbours who were patient enough to deal with a little bit of crying.

If one of my young mother friends were so fortunate as to have a seat neighbour offer to hold the infant while she tended to the toddler, or play with the toddler while she fed the infant, she would be extremely grateful. If another seat neighbour carried the infant for her, she'd either feel eternally indebted, or she'd be scared of malicious intentions. Such an act of kindness would probably warrant, at the very least, a tweet or facebook update.

I'm not a young mother, but I'd imagine that this is how most young mothers of my Western cultural background would react.

Yesterday I flew on a plane with a Sue Dan Ese young mother from Elg. She was traveling back to rejoin her husband in the capital, after giving birth and spending her son's first 40 days with her family. After a moment of tearful farewell with her mother, grandmother to a big-eyed toddling girl and a cuddly infant boy, she was left alone with a purse, a shopping bag, and two children.

The young mother joined me in the women's waiting room and we chatted a bit. The daughter played the staring game with me for a few minutes. The baby slept and ate. Then other women joined us. One of those women took the infant in her arms while the young mother went to check on something at the check-in desk, and the girl went to play with another family in the waiting room.

When it came time to board, the young woman tended to her purse and shopping bag and held her daughter's hand. Another passenger carried the infant onto the plane, several hundred metres ahead of the young mother. When we sat down, the mother got her daughter in place, then received the baby back in her hands. After takeoff, the woman next to her took the sleepign baby in her arms. Since I was sitting near the mother, I got to hold the infant for an hour, as mother and other neighbour ate their lunches and napped a bit.

The mother seemed grateful, but not surprised, that all the other women on the plane took turns helping her with her children. If anything, she was surprised that I, a foreign woman, wasn't scared of holding her baby. But the other women from her village... well, they may be strangers, but somehow, they were family.

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