It’s that latter dynamic that some Americans seem to have forgotten: in the midst of our annoyance over the bouts of crying, the short attention spans, and the extra baggage that comes with having babies, we’ve also forgotten the joy, sweetness, enthusiasm, and curiosity that they bring to life. We’ve forgotten that, as June puts it, “we were all babies once. I didn’t spring into life, fully grown, an Athena in our midst. I once was an awful member of society.”Share
Some places are worse/better than others in their baby tolerance levels: as a mother of four noted to me on Facebook, suburbs and cities are much more likely to abound in dirty looks than rural areas and small towns, while she’s found adults in the South to be much nicer than those in the mid- or north-Atlantic region. This all makes sense, when you consider the increasing lack of children in urban areas: Governing notes in an article on gentrification that, due to the change in apartment costs and urban amenities, “Americans, already used to segregation by income and race, are seeing another type of geographic separation, with people living apart according to their stages of life.”
However, many moms I talked to on Facebook—moms from various regions of the country, with babies of different ages—said they’ve also been surprised at how much nicer adults have been than they expected them to be. “I was afraid to go out too much when my kiddo was born because I was afraid I’d get those annoyed looks, and I didn’t want to be a public nuisance,” one mother told me. “I was surprised to find that people still smiled at me and treated me well. Old ladies hold doors for me when I’m carrying the car seat, men stocking groceries comment on how sweet the baby is, and in general everyone loves to peek in the car seat or stroller to talk to the baby.” Other moms noted that they take their babies to grocery stores, post offices, coffee shops, bookstores, airports, and restaurants without much difficulty. Indeed, people are much more likely to say hello, to share stories or advice.
Perhaps these anecdotes will encourage parents to take their young children out in public more. There’s a need for this sort of integration—and it may even afford young parents the exact sort of community rapport they may be lacking. (Read more.)