Across the aisle from me is a mom with her 4-year-old twins. One is sleeping on her. The other is kicking the seatback in front of him, irritating the passenger in 10F. Meanwhile, the dad sits calmly in the next row, working on his laptop.
Periodically, the mom asks for something from the overhead bin. She can't get up because of the sleeping child. Still, Dad's face shows his irritation as he maneuvers the laptop aside and gets up to dig around for the bag she needs.
I can't help wondering why we, as women, so often put up with this imbalance of travel responsibilities.
It is a question that began forming as I walked through the airport terminal.
Dozens of families trudge along the corridors of O'Hare International Airport. Invariably, the moms push strollers laden with kid paraphernalia or carry all the bags as well as the child. The dads stroll alongside, seemingly oblivious to their wives' burdens.
It takes all of my self-restraint not to stop those families and yell. But I've never known who to yell at--the dads who seem to think that the child rearing and, in this case, child bearing, are all a woman's responsibility, or the moms who let them get away with thinking those thoughts?
But then, I think, perhaps the change needs to start with me.
I remember many a road trip between Chicago and Grandma's house in Dayton, Ohio, when I was kid. My dad drove, periodically announcing that if we kids didn't knock it off, he would stop the car and we would all be sorry. Meanwhile, Mom spent the better part of the drive kneeling on the front seat so she could reach into the back and tend to the needs of my brother and me.
Likewise, when I take road trips with my family, hubby drives. He likes long highway driving more than I do. Besides, when I drive, I find it far too frustrating to see him sit in the passenger seat while the kids need things he says he can't provide because it hurts his back to turn around.
Instead, when we drive somewhere, I spent much of the road trip turned around tending to my kids' needs, just as my mom did before me. When we fly, the seating arrangement generally finds me in one row with both kids while hubby is across the aisle, blissfully reading his book.
So, like my mom before me and like the woman sitting next to me on this flight, I take on the burdens of traveling with kids while hubby is responsible only for getting himself to our destination.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised if one day my son strolls the corridors of O'Hare blissfully unaware of his wife's burdens or my daughter spends her time on road trips tending to the kids in the back seat.
It is their legacy.