parent opinion

The one thing we're missing in the Melbourne mum and Arj Barker conversation.

Jump onto any publication's homepage right now (including ours), and you'll see commentary about Arj Barker asking a breastfeeding mother to leave his comedy show over the weekend. 

The comedian is currently performing at Melbourne's Comedy Festival, and the incident - which involved Barker publically asking her to leave in front of a live audience - is being dissected by commentators up and down the country. 

Trish Faranda was sitting at the end of the fourth row during the performance, with baby Clara. According to Trish, Clara wasn't crying, just fussing and cooing and talking — as seven-month-olds do. 

Watch: Trish on The Project. Post continues after video. 

Video via The Project

There's two distinctive camps pulling apart this story. The 'stop shaming mums' camp which insists 'babes in arms' should be allowed wherever women are, and the 'a comedy show is no place for a baby' camp.

I was a breastfeeding mum whose baby refused to be at home with his dad and a bottle just a few months ago. Anywhere I went, my son had to come too. But what is frustrating me about this coverage is the lack of nuance that happens when a story like this makes national headlines. The experience is flattened into statements like 'Mum speaks out after being thrown out of Arj Barker's comedy show' and 'Comedian Arj Barker responds to 'humiliated' mother.'


What that does is put the entire premise of taking babies into public spaces on notice. Suddenly, every armchair expert in Australia has an opinion and every mother of a tiny baby is feeling uncomfortable about her interactions with society. 

Here's where the nuance comes in. There should be no question about babies being 'allowed' in public spaces — particularly places like public transport and pubs/cafes and restaurants. But I do think 'live performances' are a bit different. 

Firstly, there's a difference between a football match, a music concert or even a theatre production where noise is a welcome and important part of the show, and a one-man comedy performance where the performer is relying on pauses and silence to make his jokes hit. 

Arj Barker is currently performing a one-man show at Melbourne's Comedy Festival. Image: Getty.


There's also a difference between sitting in the fourth row, and sitting up the back away from the main action of the performance. 

Should Trish have gone to the show? I don't think I would've, but I stand by her right to do so. Should she have sat in the fourth row? Honestly, I don't think she should have. There were 700 people at Barker's show, she could have sat further back and the baby babbles might've been missed altogether. 

At a few months old, I took my baby to a wedding. I was so on edge about him making noise and ruining the couple's vows, so I stood right at the back so that I could make a quick exit should he start fussing. You can take your baby to 'quiet' events and still be mindful of everyone's experience of said event. 

Trish admits herself she was feeling a little anxious about her decision on the night anyway, but she booked the tickets without thinking. I can relate to that, decision making is hard when you're in the trenches of motherhood. 'What is the worst that could happen?' I can imagine her rationalising when her sister insisted they go anyway.

....cue international headlines. Honestly, I feel like this is every new mum's worst nightmare. It's making me queasy just witnessing them.

The nuance continues. Should Arj have kicked Trish and Clara out? Not in the way he did. He was rude, and he humiliated an already sleep-deprived and vulnerable mum. We know he had no tact, because a dozen or so people filed out in disgust after they left the room. He could have asked her off mic, he could have had an usher move her to the back - there were so many alternatives at his fingertips.


Speaking to Mamamia, Tiffany Lloyd writes that after having her first child she, "didn’t leave the house unless I was going to a medical appointment. I was terrified that my baby would start crying and I wouldn’t be able to get them to stop, the thought of bothering other people so consuming that it was just easier to stay home." 


That's what I hate about this story making news in the way it has. Parents should feel absolutely no qualms about jumping on a bus or sitting down at a cafe with their babies. But I can promise you we've all fretted about it, worried our babies will start crying or annoying people. 

Tiffany ended up gaining the confidence to take her daughter to an AFL match, and when she did start fussing those around her offered up some sympathetic nods and offers of help. 

Because most of the time people are good. They understand that babies are members of society too, and of course they're welcome just like the rest of us. 

But what this Arj Barker news does it enable the 'naysayers.' Particularly the ones who like to go the extra mile and shame mothers for breastfeeding said babies in said public spaces (which shouldn't even be a question. Babies can be fed wherever and whenever.)

But just last week on Instagram, new mum Victoria Devine shared that she was tutted at by another cafe goer for breastfeeding her son in a cafe in Melbourne. Totally uncool. 

We've all seen the back-and-forth opinions about babies on planes and how 'annoying' it is.

I hate that this is being put in the same ballpark. It's being tossed up for discussion in the same kind of manner, but it's simply not the same. There's so much more nuance to this story. 

Feature image: The Project. 

Powered by Froala Editor

Calling all TV and streaming enthusiasts! Complete this survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.