Is It Rude To Bring A Baby To A Restaurant?

Is it rude to bring a baby to a restaurant? Should parents get a babysitter or stay home so other patrons can have an adult conversation without the threat of crying in the background? Should mothers breastfeed their infants in the restroom because boobies don’t belong in a dining room? To all of the above: Hell, no!

Let’s be clear about something. The most disruptive behavior I have witnessed in public restaurants, coffee shops, and bars has always been drunk and/or horny adults, not babies. Sure, I’ve been in restaurants where babies cried, but I never remembered those crying babies years later, the way I do the drunk guys who puked on the floor of the restaurant, the frat boys who shouted and shoved each other into the snowbanks on the sidewalk outside the door, the middle-age couple with mismatched ring fingers more or less sliding into second base at Starbucks (it was so clear you were cheating, OMG!).

And yet no one is saying the drunk and/or horny shouldn’t be allowed to go into restaurants.

Being a new parent of an infant in our culture can be incredibly isolating. One of the things you hear new parents say over and over again is that first going into public can be scary for fear of the baby needing to cry, nurse, or both. This fear is culturally supported by the idea that infants in restaurants and other public spaces are disruptive. Further, this fear is supported by deeply ingrained ideas about gender: That women and children should “stay home,” that public spaces are primarily for “adults” (read: men, or women without children), that breastfeeding infants is  somehow “sexual” or “dirty.” Gender matters because while this affects parents of both genders, women are disproportionately and uniquely impacted.

It’s something we should overcome because infants are part of our human family as much as everyone else, and deserve to live in public, declare their basic needs, and have them met. It’s something we should overcome because mothers (and fathers!) are adults who deserve to take up space in public restaurants at least as much as, if not more than, rude adults who can be much more disruptive than a crying baby a parent is working to soothe. 

No one makes blanket statements that drinkers and people who are going to have sex should not be allowed in restaurants.

Comments

  1. Yes. A million times yes; thanks for this post! The crying-babies-in-restaurants (see also: airplanes) thing makes me go all sputtery.

  2. A++++++++, love this. My general experience has been that it’s certainly possible to be rude in bringing a baby to a restaurant, but no more so than any one of about 2094820498230984 other possibly rude public behaviors, and less obnoxious than almost all of them. There are also lots of situations in which I have no desire to bring my (now not a baby) child to a particular restaurant, but that’s for me and not others, and also I have an incredible support system of family babysitters that is a privilege many people don’t.

  3. There is nothing wrong about taking your baby to a restaurant, breastfeeding, etc. You have a right to eat wherever you want and how do we expect to raise reasonably well behaved children if we don’t start taking them out when they are young. These days, since my children are grown and have children, if we want a quiet night out having dinner, we will go to a quieter restaurant or when we get there ask to be seated away from families with young children. BTW, what bothers me is not the babies, but the parents of older children who let their children (6-7 years old) run around restaurants. Erin, enjoy your daughter while you can. They grow up entirely too fast!

  4. To be honest, I don’t like listening to crying babies in restaurants, and I’d prefer not to see a mother breastfeeding in public. However, I agree with you that babies are part of humanity and deserve to have their basic needs met. New parents are already stressed to the maximum without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed in public. Sure, I’d prefer no screaming infants or milk-suckling babies, but that’s what my own home is for. When I go out into the world, I choose to be a part of society, which includes both things I do and do not like. If I can’t handle the negatives, then I’m the one that needs to stay home that day, not the mom and her baby.

  5. Indeed! I think one place parents should reconsider is a movie theater. And only because no child should suffer through the loud surround sound! Parents and babies need outings too.

  6. Actually, I think it is salutary for humanity if they are, on occasion, forced to endure a crying baby. We have a tendency to take our levels of tolerance from what is socially acceptable and I believe it is good for us to broaden that a little. I have no children and, more often than not, the crying baby annoys me. But that is good. It kicks me in the head and tells me to get over myself – a rare occasion for most adults.

    As a society we are not only the well-behaved between 23 and 63. The old, the young, the loud, the smelly — they are all part of it. I might not always like it but I prefer being reminded of the fact that humanity does not do well with self regulation when it comes to discrimination and narrow-mindedness.

    Now, when that kid starts to throw food at passer-bys the parents will need to do something — but the restaurant is the least of their problem then.

  7. Drunk people in restaurants? Sure, sometimes and they are generally asked to leave. Horny? I don’t know what kind of restaurants you go to, but unless it’s Hooters I have yet to see or hear of any such thing. But babies disrupting meals on the other hand? LOTS of times. Parents who sit and eat as if their precious little offspring wasn’t screaming at the top of their lungs making it impossible for any other patron to have a conversation. Toddlers running wild, knocking into staff, patrons and tables.

    It’s people like you, living in blissful denial, that give entitled parents the bad name they deserve. There are plenty people in the world who can’t afford to go to a sit down restaurant, can’t afford to fly on a plane – these things are not god-given rights. You don’t NEED to go to these places with your child, you selfishly CHOOSE to. Have some respect for the people around you and stay home until your little one is old enough and mature enough to handle being in public. Although if your tone is any indication of your parenting ethos, that may be a very long time.

  8. I don’t suppose you will approve this, given all the congratulatory backslapping in your columns with nary a whisper of opposition. Ironic, considering someone gave you the job title of Editor. But I’ll give you a chance.

    Drunk people in restaurants? Sure, sometimes and they are generally asked to leave. Horny? I don’t know what kind of restaurants you go to, but unless it’s Hooters I have yet to see or hear of any such thing. But babies disrupting meals on the other hand? LOTS of times. Parents who sit and eat as if their precious little offspring wasn’t screaming at the top of their lungs making it impossible for any other patron to have a conversation. Toddlers running wild, knocking into staff, patrons and tables.

    It’s people like you, living in blissful denial, that give entitled parents the bad name they deserve. There are plenty people in the world who can’t afford to go to a sit down restaurant, can’t afford to fly on a plane – these things are not god-given rights. You don’t NEED to go to these places with your child, you selfishly CHOOSE to. Have some respect for the people around you and stay home until your little one is old enough and mature enough to handle being in public. Although if your tone is any indication of your parenting ethos, that may be a very long time.

    • I did not read the original post as an endorsement of either parental negligence towards basic manners in their child nor did I think it showed an unwillingness to endorse the debate about this.

      I am just picturing a restaurant. Do I actually want it to be merely a collection of quiet diners too well-behaved to show humanity? I love the laughter and the music, the comments exchanged over a table – and yes the crying baby. I live the life. If I need silence and contemplation I chose to stay home. Where there are humans there is noise.

      No one denies that a badly behaved child is as annoying as a badly behaved adult and that parents have the obligation to ensure the behaviour of their child remains within acceptable levels. Especially as the child would otherwise turn into a badly behaved adult to be a nuisance and unable to respect others in later life. But how is a child to learn how to behave in public, how to engage with others, physically and verbally, in a polite way without the exposure?

      • A child can learn how to behave in public at a family restaurant. If your child can’t sit through meals there, then the parents should be responsible enough to know that their child can’t handle going to an adult-centric sit down restaurant. The same for a plane ride – start with a long car trip. If your child can’t do a 4 hour car ride without having a fit, then they are not ready to fly.That is common decency.

        I have no problem with someone breastfeeding where ever they need to – that is a completely different topic, and people who have issues with that are just being immature. What is offensive is people bringing children to places where is reasonable to expect a low level of noise – a nice restaurant, a plane ride, a wedding. I had the unfortunate experience of attending a wedding where a baby started screaming. Instead of being thoughtful and walking out, the parent stood there as if nothing was wrong. The baby’s screams drowned out the personal vows that the couple had lovingly wrote for each other. Almost nobody could hear them. It was incredibly sad that their family and friends couldn’t bear witness to that moment.

        Things like this happen all the time, and it is not OK. It’s rude and selfish. Yet people make excuses for it.

  9. I think it depends on the type of restaurant. There are family-friendly restaurants and then there are super-quiet piano music playing in the background kind of restaurants that are obviously meant only for people who can stay within a certain decibel range the entire time. And bouncing off what an above commenter said, I think that anyone who can’t stay quiet in a movie theater should leave or be asked to leave. However, if I’m someplace like an airplane or a restaurant and there’s a crying child, I normally just feel bad for the parents.

    The worst plane flight I had was one where I was completely exhausted and very obviously trying to sleep in an aisle seat and this mother across the aisle let her 6-year old boy march up and down the aisle singing and talking very loudly for almost the entire ride. She hadn’t brought anything for him to do. I finally picked my head up and glared at him and the mom popped him back in his seat. But the seat directly in front of him had a girl about the same age where the parents and brought books and toys for her to play with and I complimented them after the flight on how well-behaved she had been. *That’s* the type of disruption that bothers me, not the crying baby that the mother or father desperately wants to stop crying also.

    But breastfeeding anywhere shouldn’t even be a discussion. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be considered disruptive at all.

  10. I’m child free by choice, and I don’t mind babies and kids at restaurants. What I do mind (in fact loathe) are parents that ignore other people’s comfort and let their kids run around or make lots of noise, or don’t tend to their crying baby. But I can’t stand *anyone* who ignores other people’s comfort in restaurants – drunkenness, loud conversations on mobile phones, rudeness, leaving their bags and coats all over the place, not letting people through passageways and between tables when they have room to move to allow it… all of that kind of thing.

  11. Georgetta says:

    I have no problem with children in a restaurant as long as once they start to misbehave their parent(s) immediately address the problem. That is how a child will learn to behave when out in public I see all to often it is the Adults who are misbehaving, basically showing a lack of respect for others. I have encountered Women breast feeding in public on occasion and find it a very beautiful. People who find it offensive need to grow up and stop thinking like an immature child. There is nothing sexual about breast feeding it is a very natual way to feed a child.

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