Jen Fulwiler, a stand-up comedian, is a mom of six who says she has faced her share of stares, glares, eye rolls, heavy sighs and complaints from other passengers when she has flown with her children.
“I will never forget I was on a flight from Austin to Atlanta and I was doing everything I could to get them to behave but the baby was crying and the 2-year-old didn’t want to sit still,” Fulwiler, who lives in Austin with her husband and children, ages 8 to 16, told “Good Morning America.” “Many of the passengers on the flight were very gracious and sweet but there was one woman who just glared at me like I never should have left the house.
“I remember I started crying on that flight,” she said. “[Her glare] just added to the stress and I just felt like I should have stayed home. I shouldn’t have done this … even though [being on the flight] was the right thing to do.”
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More recently, Fulwiler said she was on a flight to Charleston, South Carolina, without her kids, but was seated near a crying infant.
“My first reaction was to be annoyed but I caught myself and thought of the expression, be the change you want to see in the world,” she said. “I thought this is what it looks like to build up women, me just giving that mom a smile and accepting this inconvenience of the baby crying with grace and with love towards that mom, who is doing nothing wrong.”‘
That flight inspired Fulwiler to share a video with the reply she hopes all moms give to people who may complain about their kids behavior.
“If you are flying with young children this summer and they become noisy, please take a minute to say to the other passengers around you, ‘I am so sorry that this is not something that you are used to. You know, in a lot of cultures, the sound of fussing babies is seen as a sign of abundance and God’s blessing. Instead, our dumb, postmodern culture sees babies as a burden,'” Fulwiler says in the video. “‘We expect women not to bring their babies into public spaces like restaurants, churches or planes or to get them to behave perfectly when they do.'”
“‘This philosophy is not only sad and the sign of a dying culture, but it places insanely unreasonable expectations on moms. A truly thriving culture would welcome these babies, and all the inconveniences that come with them, and see their upbringing as something the entire community should joyfully support. So if my babies start melting down on this flight, please know that I am way more stressed than you are, and maybe just give me a kind smile that says, ‘Hey girl, you’re doing a great job. Your babies are welcome on this flight and we are all in this together.'”
Fulwiler shared the video on Instagram this week, as back out on tour families are beginning their summer travel.
She said she received an overwhelming response to the video, with moms telling her they were in tears as they watched it.
“I think a lot of women feel like nobody has their back on this, that even other parents or whoever would expect them to have their kids behave absolutely perfectly if they take them on a plane but they probably shouldn’t take them on a plane at all,” said Fulwiler. “I think they see all the comments [on the post] and they’re like, ‘I’m not alone.'”
One commenter wrote on Fulwiler’s post, “I have so been there with the screaming toddler in the car seat as the plane is landing. Hang in there mom’s. They’re only little for such a brief time. Those of us who have been there know what you’re going through.”
“I get tired of the stink eye people give me when I have to take a fussy baby out of mass,” wrote a second commenter. “Do they expect families to just stay away from the public until their kids are 18?”
Fulwiler said she believes that changing the norm on something like welcoming kids on a plane and supporting moms will change the trajectories of women’s lives.
“In order for women who have kids to have real empowerment and to have real choices in their careers and their lives, we need a society that is more accepting of having kids in public,” she said. “You can have a really fun career that you’re passionate about, and you can also have a lot of kids if that’s the right thing for you, but it really does take us having a society that welcomes things like bringing a toddler to a business meeting if your child care falls through, and bringing babies on planes.”
As a touring comic, Fulwiler has incorporated her children into her stand-up career, bringing them on tour dates with her and teaching them industry skills, like doing sound checks before shows.
“People ask all the time, ‘How on Earth can you do a career as a stand-up comedian if you’re a mom,’ and one of the ways I’ve made it work is I’ve said I refuse to accept this limit and I just bring my kids with me,” she said. “The theaters I went to at my last comedy tour, they did not expect the headliner to have kids there, but I just basically said, ‘I’d have to drop out of comedy if I didn’t bring my kids with me, so I just need this to be welcoming environment for children.'”
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