Thanks a Buttload, Internet

…for making my sarcastic gratitude toward You (the Internet, I mean) about how my bad parenting choices might go viral…go viral. (Is there an Alanis song about this?). My latest on Slate, which was actually posted on Saturday (during a slow news weekend, praise You, Internet), is about how people arguing online about whether or not children should be allowed in public have made me fucking terrified to take my child in public.

It’s not just that I’m afraid I’ll end up on some rando’s Facebook thread, my (definitely bad) parenting the subject of argument and rancor the world over. It’s that now — 1200 comments and counting later — I know just how many people out there reeeeally hate me and my (awesome) baby, just because we exist. Will I take said baby to a movie? Not with a gun to my head, unless it’s a specific “Mommy Matinee” (and then I still might not, because I can’t be seen at a Mommy Matinee, are you kidding?). Will I take said baby to a bar? Even if I still drank, I would not do that unless I were in a country (such as Germany) in which babies are generally welcome in café/bar situations.

But will I take this baby on an airplane? Yes, yes I will. Am I straight-up terrified that she will decide she doesn’t want to nurse during takeoff or landing, and her ear pressure will precipitate the ear-splitting wails into which she rarely devolves if she’s in pain? Yes, yes I am.

I understand that there is ire due for parents who take their kids places kids aren’t welcome, and who don’t at least make an effort to corral those kids while out. But what about the rest of us, who meekly tiptoe into coffee shops and family diners, trembling with anticipatory shame? What about us, I say?

This article also marks my first #1 on Slate that is about neither German grocery stores nor higher education. It’s been #1 off and on for three days. So, looks like that “boycott Schuman campaign” among five assholes in the Chronicle of Higher Education forums is going great LOL hahahaha.

Speaking of which — I don’t like to admit that I periodically dip into those forums just to see what my whatever-an-opposite-of-a-fanclub is up to. But I do. (Admit it: You would too, if you were me.) The baby insists on me being with her when she naps, and she has a sixth fucking sense for when I decide to do any actual work, so I have, paradoxically, either no time whatsoever to fuck around on You (this post is still directed at the Internet) or, for bursts of 30 minutes to (sometimes) three hours, nothing but time to fuck around on You.

Anyway. While I was away from Slate on maternity hiatus, I thought long and hard about what my assiest detractors say — which is that my work is poorly substantiated (it isn’t, fuck you), my tone is The Worst (I’ll cop to that), and higher education isn’t really the way I say it is (jury still out). When I returned, I made a concerted effort — one that has required untold hours of toil, hours I do not have to spare, with a baby — to be more thoughtful in my column. So I have to say that it brought a smile to my face to see even a few CHE forum a-holes admit that I have been more thoughtful lately. My last four higher-ed pieces in a row have also gotten feedback from strangers thanking me for my thoughtfulness. THIS MATTERS TO ME A LOT. And it — thoughtfulness — is all too rare these days on You (the Internet, keep up).

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the baby’s six-month update! Time, where are you going? WHERE WHERE WHERE?

#ThatsEntertainment ***

(inside joke with my friend Justin about how we hate writing kickers)

15 thoughts on “Thanks a Buttload, Internet

  1. I can’t imagine blaming parents for an infant screaming on the plane. I’d be screaming too, if I could get away with it. Seriously, nothing must suck as much as being trapped in a tube trying to comfort someone who’s screaming while knowing 100 plus other people are wondering if / when you’ll make them stop.

    My only Kids on Planes gripe is parents who ignore their toddler who is kicking my seat, even after I politely ask them to ask their child to stop. I get it, parents can’t always make them stop, but at least try. And take off the tiny tyrant’s shoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I learned that if you immediately take your child out, s/he rapidly learns that if he fussed, the party’s over. Just takes two or three times before he learns. All parents should be told that. I learned that in England where they don’t tolerate child screams at all.


  3. Take that baby on a plane. Every plane. All the time.

    I am a frequent flyer, with the fancy cards & shorter lines & glassy stare to go with it … and a membership on those insane flyer message boards to boot (filled with jerks complaining how their kids were different or how they were perfect angels when they were that age). I sure as hell wasn’t a perfect angel – at four, I puked all over a lovely stranger on a transatlantic flight, where the only thing the flight attendants could do to save him from my effluvia was to cover him in coffee grounds to suck up the smell. Oops. He never complained & my mother is still mortified. Partially because my sibling did the same thing to the poor man ten minutes later.

    I’m so completely over all the assholes who makes parents feel terrible just for being in the same tin can of death as the rest of us. The number of times a simple smile at a parent / child has engendered a look of utter relief is freaking criminal. Own the air! We were all little once & we’ll all be old once (and in between, plenty of us will be parents) … and most of us need to fly sometimes.


  4. I found your Slate column to be a reasonable middle ground between the position that children should always be banned from public places and the position that one’s own precious bundle of joy is never, ever, the problem. Airplanes present a different issue, I think. The remarkable drop in the cost of air travel has meant that families can afford to travel by plane where they would have made long car trips in the past — I’ve been flying since the early 1960s and the sudden appearance of families on flights once deregulation allowed competition and lower prices was striking. My feeling is that we all have benefited from the low cost of plane travel, and if that means that there are families on flights now with the occasional fussy kid, well, that’s the trade-off, and I wouldn’t want to go back to the days when the only people who could fly were those whose business paid for it or who could personally pay the high price. I remember a couple of years ago flying from Madrid to New York sitting directly behind a child who vomited loudly and frequently for the entire trip — every passenger around tried to help, all were sympathetic to the poor mother who clearly was mortified, not to mention the kid. That transatlantic flight cost me less than I paid to fly from Washington to Boston in 1968, so I was philosophical…. Good luck with your own trip — in my experience a baby under one year is a lot easier than an older child, so I am optimistic on your behalf!


  5. Just flew from a german speaking country to the US with my 3 month old, who refused to nurse during take off or landing, making me a neurotic mess. But no problems (and she is just starting to get over thunderdome days), seems planes are giant white noise machines. She slept 6.5 out of 9 hours in the air and when she wasn’t sleeping or blowing out her diaper, she was smiling and charming everybody on the plane (I just stared with a mix of pride and resentment, since where is this baby when we are at home?). Actually my biggest problem was tracking down the flight attendant who had my baby, seriously they offered to hold her so I could go to the bathroom, eat, stretch, etc…. I stressed about this trip since her birth and turns out it was the best day we’ve had so far. Good luck! I’ve been enjoying all your writing as I am a former academic who is doing the mom thing right now while I try to decide if staying with academia is really worth it (no). Nice to know there are other options out there.


  6. For crying babies and toddlers on planes, I just try to remember that the reason the poor baby is crying is that she’s MISERABLE. When I was a kid I had pretty rough ear pressure problems on planes. They’re confused and uncomfortable and in pain, and that’s what they do…cry. I also remember that 9 times out of 10, the adult who is most bothered/mortified by the baby’s crying is her parent! There’s not much you can do to stop a baby from crying if she won’t be soothed. Bring good headphones.

    As for the CHE forums…well. All I can say is I’m a member, and I am *quite* amuse by all the hate that you engender there. When I get really philosophical about it, I think that the academics of the forums simply don’t like their chosen career field (one in which they, usually, have had some success) reflected back to them clearly and negatively. I’ve noticed that the Old Heads of the forums – who are usually tenure-track or tenured professors somewhere – are the loudest and most vitriolic, but the grad students, adjuncts, and other contingent labor either have no feelings whatsoever or have defended you. Funny that. (I myself am a former academic who left after a postdoc, so…)

    I also have yet to run across an article of yours that’s been incorrect in the sense of the direction of the market and higher ed. And the tone is hilarious. And appropriate for a field that’s sucking the life out of young aspirants.


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