nope. mcdonalds does not count.
i have this somewhat controversial idea about childrearing. in short: i believe that when you have small children, you often have to make some small sacrifices, albeit temporary, in order to put others’ needs ahead of your own. one of those ideas involves taking babies or young children out to non-family-oriented restaurants after the hour of 8pm. (i’m talking about restaurants you might consider for a date — if it doesn’t offer kiddy menus, it’s fair game.)
my thinking about this is not terribly complex. for starters, this is a baby or young child, a little person who craves a regular schedule. that regular schedule includes a fairly regular bedtime. (yes, i am aware that some children wake all night long; i have two of them. but starting them out with a consistent bedtime starts you down the path toward nighttime sanity.) i know some parents work late hours, and the evening may be one of the few times they get to see their child all day. but for whose benefit is that — yours or the child’s? in my guilt-ridden, hormonal days as a young working mother, i needed reminding by my own mother that it was the quality, not the quantity of time that i spent with my child that mattered. maybe this means, for you later-to-return-home people, waking up a little earlier in the morning when the child wakes and reading to them or snuggling with them. maybe it means carving out sacred time in the week or weekend upon which no one else may intrude. or maybe, if it is really a problem, it’s time to rethink how you earn your money.
but i get really annoyed by the people who tell me that this is their only time to eat as a family — and so they go out to eat with a baby at 9pm at some adult-friendly restaurant. hello? should the baby really be out that late? if you don’t want to cook, perhaps you ought to pick up takeout earlier and enjoy it at home and let baby get well-deserved rest.
the other parties i am thinking of here are the diners without children (or who did not bring their children with them) at said aforementioned nice restaurant. guess what: if i am out on a date with my husband, the last thing i want to hear is your child shrieking while i am attempting to have a much-needed chat with my Beloved Spouse. nor, would i add, do i want to smell your progeny’s diaper contents or feel your toddler smacking me as he runs uncontrollably around the place. i have come here specifically for time alone with my husband; if i am here, then i have spent actual money on a babysitter — and the days of sitters charging $1/hour were gone 30 years ago. i have specifically come here because there is no child menu. so the last thing i want to experience is your overtired and stressed child, who probably would be much happier drooling her way through soft foods on her own turf.
when my kids were very small, we tried very hard to enforce an 8pm bedtime. when we went out to dinner, we went to places where children were welcomed and accommodated. it’s not hard to do. yes, we had to endure some meals that were not fabulous; but overall, it worked well for our little family. the kids were happy; we were happy; and somewhere, at various local watering holes, we’d like to think that others dining out were happy, too. it was a small sacrifice for only a few years.
of course, there are those who think their babies can travel anywhere at any time. their world won’t change just because they became parents. the baby just comes along, like a little accessory.
i feel so sorry for their kids.