If you’re a mother, you’ll understand how challenging it can be to travel with a young child on your own. Daunting if it’s one child, terrifying if there are two. The unexpected tantrums and tears, the who’s-going-to-help-me-if-I-need-to-pee (or worse, poo) and vicious, judgemental stares from other passengers were among the reasons why I stayed away from this zone. What if both of them need my attention at the same time? What if they cry throughout the flight?
That was why I had never considered flying with E and Xan without Hubby. No way I was going to do it solo, not in my sanest mind!
But desperate times calls for desperate measures. Hubby left for Dubai a week after we came back to Malaysia together. The plan was for the kids and I to stay at my parents’ for a month before flying back to Dubai with my father-in-law but I was feeling restless by the second week we were there. I wasn’t myself and felt like we were a burden to everyone there. The kids began to miss their daddy too.
Hence I decided to take the plunge, rebook our flight and gave my family a week’s notice that we are leaving. My kids needed their father and I needed things to be restored to normal again. Home is where the mommy, daddy and kids are – together.
I figured, “What’s the worse that can happen?” Two kids crying at the top of their lungs with a stressed out mom yelling at them and passengers complaining to the cabin crew. Not that bad, isn’t it? Plus, we will be a complete history to those people once the plane touches down; they won’t know who’s that crazy woman and her uncontrollable brood. I can live with that.
So here’s how I survived the flight with a 3-year old and a 8-month old on my own:
1. Days before the flight, I prepped E by painting the scenario of the journey in his mind. I role-played with him and kept telling him that during the flight, he will help me with his baby sister, eat when the food is served, play iPad or watch a movie, and do some colouring to pass time. No whining, no asking me to carry. I made a deal with him that if he behaves throughout the flight, he will be rewarded with a toy of his choice. I reminded him of the entire scenario and deal – every single day.
Knowing the hassle that would take place if I were alone and E needed to poo while we were in the airport, or worse – airplane, I made sure that he settled his toilet business no.2 the day before by giving him some probiotics and prune juice.
2. To prevent an adult meltdown and prepare myself mentally, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I’m a calm and loving mom” repeatedly. I had to chuckle at one point because that is so NOT true but well, if you say it everyday, your mind will begin to believe it’s true. And I reminded myself that if I could take care of them 24/7, what’s a 7-hour flight, right? Kacang putih la!
3. I pre-booked our seats and a bassinet for Xan days before departure. Our seats were just a few steps away from the toilets. I also chose a daytime flight simply because I would have more energy to entertain every whims and fancies, E could play and Xan could nap. I avoided the evening flight as the kids would be too tired, would need me to comfort them to sleep but I only had a pair of hands.
4. I made sure that the cabin luggage was light and easy for me to carry up and down through customs check while babywearing Xan. I only had a handbag and small cabin luggage with me when we went onboard. Inside the luggage, I have pre-packed another bag comprising all the essentials we would need during the flight: lots of kids’ snacks, toys, water, iPad, diapers, wet wipes, change of clothes, E’s milk powder and bottle as well as some biscuits for myself in case I didn’t get a chance to eat. As soon as we boarded the plane, I took out the bag and put it by my side.
My mom also bought E a new set of toys which I only gave to him on that day itself:
5. While waiting to board at the departure gate, I purposely walked to the front and sat at the “Special Needs” area so that the airport staff would see us and allow us to board first. That way, we didn’t have to queue with the rest and were assured of luggage space in the overhead compartment.
6. Thank goodness for the friendly and helpful Emirates Airlines cabin crew who seemed to pay extra attention to passengers with children, I was helped as soon as we reached our seats – without being asked to. Shortly after that, they came with toys and snacks to keep the kids occupied.
Ready to fly:
6. I was lucky to meet a very kind stewardess who was so smitten with E that she kept coming around to check on us. She is also a Malaysian from Melaka. She watched E when I needed to change Xan’s diaper.
7. We were also very fortunate that the flight was quite empty and we were seated at the bassinet area with another mom who was travelling alone (for the first time too!) with a 3-month old baby. Mothers don’t usually judge mothers, especially when you have kids around the same age.
8. When I needed the toilet, I would assure E that I would be back shortly. I babywore Xan and made sure that I wore a bottom that was easy to take off and put on.
9. Luckily, my meal was served when Xan was napping. I babywore her and ate with one hand. I chose a meal that was quick and easy to eat. As for E’s, I gave Xan something to munch while I helped E with his food.
While I have prepared E for the trip, I forgot that Xan was no longer the sleepy, all-time cooperative newborn anymore. She was a little hyper at some point during the flight that she wanted to climb up and down, and screamed just to test her vocal prowess. I received nasty stares from some passengers but kept calm and reminded myself that I’ll be a complete history to them soon.
Hyper baby alert:
On the other hand, E was on his 100% best behaviour. Needless to say, he got his well-earned toy the following day.
10. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Marhaba service which Hubby has engaged to help us with the luggages as well as speed up the clearance process. That helped me greatly!
All in all, it was a good flight. Better than expected. We did it!
So yes, it was the first time the three of us travelled together and we survived! Will there be more such trips in the future? Preferably not but desperate times may call for desperate measures…again! 😉
TIP: Since young, we never encouraged E to play or walk along the aisle during a flight. He now understands the importance of remaining seated throughout a flight, especially when the seat belt light is on, and unless he needed the loo. We also allowed him to stretch his legs every now and then but only within the vicinity. That way, we are assured that he will not go missing in action or be a disturbance to other passengers.