petite anglaise

March 11, 2006

mile high mums’ club

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:55 pm

Tadpole trotted ahead of me down the aisle, as I scanned the seat numbers for row number 20. We passed a motley assortment of pensioners, children in full Disney regalia, couples returning from a romantic weekend in Paris – although some looked as though they had fallen out, possibly over the amount of time Madame wanted to spend shopping – and a couple of pin-striped suits with laptops.

After much stopping and starting, whilst fellow passengers grappled clumsily with hand luggage and coats, seemingly in slow motion, we finally reached our destination. Tadpole clambered across to the window seat and started fiddling with her “strap-on”, while I removed my coat.

I turned and saw an attractive man standing behind me, patiently waiting. He must have been allocated the aisle seat, beside mine. Smiling good naturedly, he offered to stow our coats in the overhead locker, before taking his seat. I contemplated him surreptitiously through my eyelashes. He was roughly my age, at a guess, and dressed in well-cut jeans and casual clothes. Hair a little too carefully gelled for my taste. Carrying a laptop, but also a notepad and pencil.

I rarely strike up a conversation with fellow travellers, but today, maybe I would. At any rate, I was thankful to be seated with the only vaguely civilised person I had spied on the flight.

But as I located the Tadpole entertainment kit, consisting of crayons, drawing book, Dora sticker book and story books, I became aware of a certain restlessness in my travel companion. I sensed him casting around as the plane filled up, gauging whether there were likely to be any free seats left, poised to seize his chance as soon as the doors closed.

And sure enough, he suddenly stood, muttering “I’m just going to move and give you some space. No offence intended.”

“None taken,” I replied, head still bowed, rummaging through my rucksack for a wet wipe.

But I did feel a vague pang of disappointment. Try as I might to shrug it off, I couldn’t help seeing this inconsequential little exchange as portentious; the shape of things to come.

Not simply a woman in my own right, but a mother. Part of a package. This little person – the sum total of what is most precious, most valuable in my life – grounds for rejection.


  1. A man who isn’t willing to accept that you come as ‘part of a package’ isn’t worth considering.

    Comment by stressqueen — March 11, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Ouch! Not an experience you need anytime and especially not right now, when you’re so fragile. But it won’t always be that way. You met one man who loved you not only for yourself but also for Tadpole. Alas, that didn’t work out, but it does prove that there ARE men who will see your enchanting little girl as a bonus. And the ones who don’t? Their loss.

    Comment by Passante — March 11, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  3. Wait for the man who finds Tadpole to be an enchanting addition to his life……..not someone who runs at the first sign of a wet wipe.

    Lets not beat around the bush – there will be men who might not want to go out with you because you are a Mum. But all I can say is – it’s their loss.

    I don’t have children of my own, but I am a teacher. I work with kids on a daily basis – and what I do know is this: Kids are a precious gift.

    You need a man who feels this way too.

    Did you enjoy your time away Petite?

    Comment by Kasey — March 11, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  4. The time will come that someone will recognise that Tadpole is what makes the package so much more fun.

    I met my future husband when I had one year old twins; hardly a recipe for success in the dating game. We are now married and he loves them unconditionally. In fact when we have a shitty time -as will happen, even in second marriages- I know that I carry two trump cards with me.

    It will happen to you as well.

    Comment by Laura — March 11, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

  5. Just perhaps he’d gone through the same thing and the pain of being close to a child made him move. It’s hard sometimes to gauge someone’s motivation.

    Comment by Mark — March 11, 2006 @ 11:18 pm

  6. I have so been there. x Jake, being a boy, made much more of a point of it. He would ‘start up’ big time. Get extremely jealous, kick up, and even the most persistent would clear off! My, the opportunities that passed me by. But in the long term, actually, I think it saved me from involvements that would have ended up being a waste of time. Remember, someone who sees you as special, who has that certain awe for you a man has to have, who draws inspiration from you, will overlook a kid. I know, you don’t get time to work your magic on a guy who suddenly appears. But it’s still true. ‘Me and my single parent mates’ used to say that having a kid meant that the bad ones got filtered out, and it’s probably true.

    Comment by fjl — March 11, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  7. I can well remember men who would look at me (many, many years ago) with something approaching interest in their eyes…their glance would then go to my left or right or wherever the kids happened to be and then the eyes would flicker, lose interest and then glance to my hand. Aha, no ring (husband and I have never worn wedding rings…for 38 years). Maybe the kids belonged to someone else. I would usually say when they looked at me with raised eyebrows, “They’re mine, all mine.” But in my head I’d say, “Fuck off, you’re not in my league.”

    Your tadpole is an asset; not a liability.

    Comment by Lin — March 12, 2006 @ 12:51 am

  8. The ones who spend hours gelling the hair are always trouble.
    Im only 18, but ive learnt! Inconsiderate git, id never have done that to someone, unless there was a genuine problem (i once moved plane seats because the guy next to me smelt like a thousand dead pheasants, but somehow im sure this wasnt the case with you and Tadpole)

    Anyway, good riddance

    Comment by Maxi — March 12, 2006 @ 12:55 am

  9. egads! what a sad state of men today. the ones that appear respectable and possibly good at conversation bolt at the first sign of a woman that can hold her own in the world. obviously he was just intimidated by your striking beauty and your ability to function as both a woman and a mother. i say good riddance, you would have had to compete with his hair for attention anyhow. (*giggles)

    Comment by Lynn — March 12, 2006 @ 1:09 am

  10. Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. Perhaps the nice man has a wife and many children at home and was looking for a moment to relax while away. I always look for a vacant seat away from a mother and child to, like he said, give them more room. How nice of him!!

    Comment by Marguerite — March 12, 2006 @ 1:16 am

  11. Any man who spends the time necessary to carefully gel his hair is probably an arrogant ass looking for a trophy wife/girfriend to build his fragile ego. Who needs it! There are sooooooo many fish in the sea.

    Comment by Lee Vanderwalker — March 12, 2006 @ 3:43 am

  12. huh, count yourself lucky. I never get seated to anyone remotely attractive, let alone have the chance to have them judge me and then run a mile screaming at the sight of my offspring. The last 3 were in no particular order (1) a beardy weirdy, (2) massively fat, (3) smelly.

    Comment by phiz — March 12, 2006 @ 4:21 am

  13. Oh the heck w. someone like that – don’t give it a second thought! You’re in charge don’t forget!

    Comment by Terry — March 12, 2006 @ 4:54 am

  14. I wouldn’t read all that much into his apparent “rejection”, Petite. It’s precisely at a time like this, while you’re feeling vulnerable and in need of acceptance, that the most casual and inconsequential remark made to you can be blown out of all proportion and taken as a deep personal rejection. The chap was probably quite happily attached, busy in his own little world with his own anxious thoughts. It wasn’t that he ever even gave a thought to the possibility of conversation or sitting with you in the first place and then your child “put him off” – He probably just thought “I don’t care who I sit with but I’d rather not sit near a child, any child, fussing and flapping about, I just want a bit of peace during the flight”. So it wasn’t YOU he was rejecting in any real sense.
    Even if it was the case that he DID eyeball you and think “hmmm, nice, if only….” then the fact that Tadpole was with you very probably marked you down in his mind as “too bad, she’s obviously married, probably travelling to meet her husband/partner”. Even in this day and age, that will still be the first conclusion that randomly encountered blokes will jump to concerning the “possibility of your availability”, when they see you with your child.
    Forget men for the moment. We’re all t***s. It’ll happen for you again, when you least expect it.

    Comment by Tom Tyler — March 12, 2006 @ 7:47 am

  15. Confession time – whenever possible I sit far away from small children on planes and trains. I like children; I have worked with children; I am generally regarded as “good with children”; I’m happy to travel with children I know – but there’s something about the confined space, and the stress of travelling, that makes me want to avoid any children I don’t know. Mr Gel Hair may have felt something similar that was nothing to do with you at all.

    Comment by Zinnia Cyclamen — March 12, 2006 @ 8:31 am

  16. I seem to recall that disguising Tadpole as a leopard once did the trick…

    Comment by Claire — March 12, 2006 @ 8:46 am

  17. When the right man comes along he’ll not give two hoots about you being a mum. Rather the right man will fall for both of you.

    Who is to say that this man also felt the same way, but had to prepare for an important meeting that was two hours away?

    Stop being paranoid and be positive. You are already considering moving on. This is a positive thing.

    Comment by Germain — March 12, 2006 @ 8:56 am

  18. This note made me think of a Sally Mann’s quote :
    “I struggle with enormous discrepancies: between the reality of motherhood and the image of it, between my love for my home and the need to travel, between the varied and seductive paths of the heart. The lessons of impermanence, the occasional despair and the muse, so tenuously moored, all visit their needs upon me and I dig deeply for the spiritual utilities that restore me: my love for the place, for the one man left, for my children and friends and the great green pulse of spring.”
    Sally Mann in “Still Time”, Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center, 1988

    Comment by Papotine — March 12, 2006 @ 10:26 am

  19. I am so glad that you decided to get away for a few days. Good on you!

    As far as Mr. Gel goes…try not to read into it too much. He could have needed to do some important work that he had procrastinated doing before the trip, might have been trying to be kind…wanting to give you more space…or he could have been a jerk. You want people in your life who find Tadpole a joy.

    Hope you are having fun!

    Comment by Elle — March 12, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

  20. I’m with my folks, which was already planned and has turned out to be a very happy coincidence. Baked beans have untold healing qualities…

    Comment by petite — March 12, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

  21. Gelled hair. yuck. You’d have to break his hair to get to his head.

    Comment by nardac — March 12, 2006 @ 1:34 pm

  22. damn you! stop copying me! I’ve been beaning all weekend! Harrumph…

    Comment by nardac — March 12, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

  23. Don’t worry, Petite, I’m sure he didn’t mean it personally. Tom Tyler seems to have it summed up about right.

    Anyway, re-reading Petite’s post, she doesn’t say explicitly that she saw the man on the plane as a potential “date” – just that he might have been a nice person to chat to during the flight. I think the post was more an opportunity to reflect on a bigger issue that she fears may affect her in the future. (Although I’m sure, as everyone else has said, that the right person will love Tadpole as much as he’ll love Petite.)

    I think there’s a slightly disturbing subtext to some of the doubtless well-meaning comments on recent posts, suggesting that Petite should be “moving on” (in the sense of finding someone new) or even suggesting online dating agencies, after only A WEEK. Of course Petite can do whatever she likes, and she may well find someone else quickly, but there’s a broader question here: isn’t it okay for someone just to be single for a while? It doesn’t have to be a pennance – it can be a time to take up new interests, spend quality time with family and friends (and make new ones), and generally build up a sense of renewed self-confidence without worrying about the approval of others. Petite’s going through a horrible time at the moment, but in time even this period of singledom could turn into something positive.

    Comment by old school friend — March 12, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  24. Let’s not beat the guy up here—no one knows what he was thinking. And what’s wrong with a person choosing not to date someone with kids? I would much rather know that stuff up front than for someone to try to compromise on such a basic belief and wind up unhappy–and making me unhappy in the process.

    The fact is that some men will find Tadpole a bonus, other’s won’t. Stay away from the ones that don’t accept her as a beautiful part of you. It doesn’t make them “wrong” just “wrong for you.”

    Comment by Small Town Diva — March 12, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

  25. Of course, this brought to my mind the reverse. You don’t want a man who is put off by your child. But you don’t want one who seems overly interested in you *because* of your child, either. Rocks and shoals, and you navigating between them.

    Comment by sara — March 12, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  26. Yes, being single with a child is very different from being single without a child but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t for a minute want to swop. Maybe in moments of weakness you’d like to be single and 20 again, with all your options still open – wouldn’t we all? And, at the moment,you are allowed your moments of weakness. Did you really want to spend the flight being charming and hopeful? With Tadpole as an audience? You are much too sensible to go through the “Here’s Mummy’s new friend” routine. Clearly, you enjoyed being “in love”, but as an old cynic, I have always thought that the intoxication of being “in love” is a lousy basis for a long term relationship. I sincerely hope you find a good man and live happily ever after. But I am less convinced than some of your correspondents that a man is an absolute essential for happiness. I think that people who manage to be happily married are the people who would be equally capable of being happily single. Friends, work, children – these are the bedrock to build on. But I’m old and boring, so what do I know!

    Comment by Claira — March 12, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

  27. The last thing on my mind right now is a new relationship. God forbid. I don’t know when I’ll be ready to trust again.

    But I do want to imagine that there will come a time when I won’t be just a mother. I want to be a lover, a companion, maybe even a wife.

    One day.

    Comment by petite — March 12, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

  28. Coucou, Petite !

    I’ve been laughing and crying for months now reading your blog, always “lurking”, never commenting, cause even (or especially )the last developments would not prompt me to leave my “comfortable” reading-only role.

    Today is different : my daughter was 3 when I decided to leave her father and get a divorce. At 26, I found myself single, struggling through the Parisian life of a working mom. Thinking I would never find someone to love AND someone who would accept the most important person in my life. Today my “tadpole” is 15 years old. I am happily married with the love of my life. It has been almost 10 years now that we are a typical French “famille recomposée”, chéri having a daughter as well ….

    So please, do not loose hope. Do not feel you’ve lost value “on the market”. Love is much more generous that you might think. Just wait and see.

    Plein de bisous et ondes positives. Et sorry pour mon anglais approximatif.

    Comment by Anne — March 12, 2006 @ 6:16 pm

  29. ……………and you will be. There is no doubt of that……………

    Comment by Germain — March 12, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

  30. I am sure at the end of your flight, the man thought to himself, “I blew it I blew I blew it!!”

    Comment by Tongue in Cheek — March 12, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

  31. Motherhood is complex at the best of times.
    We can yearn to feel “like a woman” even when we live with “the man”.
    There will be men who flee at the sight of children – let them.
    There will be men who flee at the sight of a strong woman – let them.
    There will be men who flee at the sight of a week woman – let them.
    There are so many of us living our different lives… reacting to our different chapters.
    I take great comfort in the not knowing what may – or may not – happen next.
    I know you don’t need proof of what can happen, but I’m going to tell you anyway – my beautiful sister just gave birth to her 4th son.
    The other three were born to a different man.
    I’m so proud of her following her heart.
    And so proud of the man who has proved now that he deserves her.

    Goodness…. sorry to preach on this Sunday evening – am sleep-deprived due to poorley 3 year old. I would run a mile if I saw me coming right now!

    Love to you Petite from snowy England

    Comment by Nessa — March 12, 2006 @ 9:32 pm

  32. Maybe, he has already a completer assortment of tadpoles home and the other part of the bunch : a woman and intended to work while he still could without being disturbed by charming but noisy and distracting kids.


    Comment by Marie-Hélène — March 12, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  33. Does anyone have any comforting advice for when people move and there’s no baby to explain it? :-)

    Comment by Louise — March 12, 2006 @ 11:07 pm

  34. Well, he was carrying a laptop, so maybe he saw the journey as a way to get on with some computer stuff, shame but his choice and loss. GEL! yuck!

    Comment by Theblonde — March 12, 2006 @ 11:37 pm

  35. I waited 8 years after my daughter was born to meet “mr.right”. He’s wonderful, and we are getting married in May. He loves her as much as he loves me… patience darling, patience. You only just got your heart broken, give it time!

    Comment by azure_erin — March 12, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

  36. I just sat down after coming home from the in-law’s…and poured myself a little ballon rouge while my hubby busied himself setting up the new 10 Gallon fish tank for our Nemo & Dory….and decided to visit you. Gosh! What an incredible change in you…or is it just me who’d be loathe even to consider anyone else attractive so close to a painful relationship ending??? I know what you mean though. I do. It’s validating to one’s self-esteem to be perceived as attractive when one is crushed & hurting inside…

    He was probably gay….Pfft!

    But, yes, the child in tow does have a certain effect on those who’s intentions would be less than genuine interest…

    You are incredibly sensitive right now so bear that in mind too and don’t take things to heart.

    Take care.

    Comment by Kiora — March 13, 2006 @ 12:45 am

  37. *whose…Jeeez the wine is taking effect already!

    Comment by Kiora — March 13, 2006 @ 12:56 am

  38. Tadpole is a fact about you like the fact that you are English and a woman. My mother used to say that my jelaousy prevented her from entering any relationship and I suspect that her outbursts of anger when she threatened to sent me to foster home had something to do with this transmission of responsibility. I know this is sick and caricatural(my damn ESLness)but the fact is,there are certain dangers in being a dating mother and one of them is that you may be prone to think of Tadpole as a burden of some kind. The fact that you are a mother will attract some man to you and scary others like all other facts about you. You are a great, responsible mother who would never let her child feel quilty and please, do not let bitterness slip there.

    Comment by mag — March 13, 2006 @ 1:05 am

  39. Ahh, one of the beauties of the budget airlines… they let all the people with babies head out first for the aircraft – thereby enabling those of us who want some peace and quiet to see where they are sitting and go elsewhere!

    Of course, earplugs are a real boon too (a clothes peg, or gentle swipe of Vicks under the nostrils work quite well too!).

    He he…

    Comment by Martin — March 13, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  40. Just to say as a Mum I felt that Mag was being intense and dramatic. Of course every Mum feels her children are a burden and a weight sometimes, we get exhasperated, and it’s nothing to do with how much we value our kids. There is simply no inspiration in a screaming snotty nose when we’d rather be making love with someone interesting. Please don’t be a greenhouse flower pruning your emotional feathers, Mag. It’s phoney. Your life is precious, but no more so than your mothers life. Any other attitude sounds like a brat talking.

    Comment by fjl — March 13, 2006 @ 10:11 am

  41. I would just like to say good point by Zinnia! It’s not an omen, just a busy Yuppie. And hell, I always look for the empty adjoining seats; if they are available you’d be a mug not to. Surely you were more comfortable with more space.

    Comment by dan — March 13, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  42. Your post reminded me of how (in a different mood) you can also use your children to get rid of people. I remember the trick of changing diapers or provoking a quarrel just as the train pulled into large cities, repelling anyone who might think of sharing our compartment….

    Comment by Sedulia — March 13, 2006 @ 11:20 am

  43. You’re sensitive right now and taking this kind of personally…considering MOST people don’t want to sit next to a toddler or baby on a flight. And…well, Tadpole is an “exuberant toddler”…so let’s give the guy a break!

    Comment by Mica — March 13, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  44. It was next to ME, Tadpole was by the window, and as calm as calm can be. But yes, I know I was being sensitive. I’m allowed.

    Comment by petite — March 13, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

  45. The guy just sounds as if he needed to do some work on the flight, and sitting next to a child can be distracting if that is the case.

    Or maybe he guessed from the twinkle in your eye that you were going to chat him up, and because he is already taken, took himself out of the way of temptation ;)

    I agree you have every right to be sensitive, but for commenters to rush and paint a picture of him being a ‘git’ because of it seems a bit unfair to me.

    Comment by sam — March 13, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

  46. Sadly, I cannot control my commenters!

    Comment by petite — March 13, 2006 @ 9:54 pm

  47. Sorry Petite..we know you are sad that Random didn’t realize how wonderful you are, as we all do! But I’m never going to fault someone for not sitting next to a child on an airplane…I’ve had too many bad flights where I’ve had to change seats!

    Comment by Mica — March 14, 2006 @ 9:46 pm

  48. Enjoyed your blog. Its a great read. The business traveller may not want to sit next to you, but plenty of men will be looking for that seat at the Parisian sidewalk cafe.

    Hope to see you in St. Germain.

    Comment by stretch — March 15, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

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