parent opinion

'I need to talk about the supposed "new rules" for bringing kids to restaurants.'

Before COVID-19 struck, every Sunday my husband would take our toddler out for breakfast to our local café where she loved ordering Shakshuka and orange juice, accompanied by a complimentary marshmallow or two.

They would chat to the patrons nearby, pat the doggies and spend time together. 

Where was I? Well, having a much needed sleep-in.


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During maternity leave with my first, I spent a lot of time in cafés  - meeting up with other mums for coffee or lunch whilst our babies slept in the pram, or on my own with the baby when I felt I just needed to get out of the house. 

I was always welcomed and enjoyed the adult conversation, civility and change of scene in the endless Groundhog Day that is looking after a new baby. 

I missed that dearly this year given my second baby was born in March just before the first lockdown.

Then, as Melbournians, we went into a second lockdown. So as soon as the restrictions were relaxed, we were out and about with the kids, enjoying eating meals at restaurants and meeting up with friends. 

Image: Supplied.

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In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that our newest addition actually had her first early dinner out - and she absolutely loved it.

So, when I came across a recent article that outlined ‘the new restaurant etiquette’, stating that "Children take up valuable seats with no real spend" and to "book a babysitter instead", I was pretty upset. 

How presumptuous to think that children don’t eat and say that they should be left at home. 

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My toddler orders more than I do! She is an adventurous eater, no doubt in part due to eating out and experiencing food from different cultures and cuisines. She loves sushi, Yum Cha, a nice pesto penne with rocket salad, and is partial to a medium-rare scotch fillet steak with green beans. Did I mention she’s three years old? 

And even if some kids don’t order as much, aren’t they entitled to enjoy the experience of eating out and socialising with their family? 

Isn’t sitting down at a table and eating together one of the main ways we teach our kids table manners, how to use multicourse cutlery, how to learn to wait patiently for food and how to engage in conversation?

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Going out for a meal with both the kids now is also a way for us as parents to have a break from cooking and cleaning.

Do we book a babysitter and have a nice dinner out as a couple? Yes of course, if we're going to some fancy place late at night. 

But is it fair to say that we should ALWAYS book a babysitter and never involve our children? My kids love going out for meals. We love having them with us. And as an added bonus, it also means we get to eat out more often (even if that does mean eating dinner at 5.30pm!) than we would if we always had to book a babysitter. 

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The article I read wasn’t published by a restaurant owner, but I’m now left wondering how restaurants really feel about kids? For all these years have you just been polite to our faces but secretly cheering when we leave? Do kids "take up valuable seats with no real spend" and would you prefer not to see them in your establishment?

We understand that restaurants, cafes and the entire hospitality industry are trying desperately to recover, so would a minimum spend per person (or some other option) allow parents to dine out with their children without feeling guilty about it? 

Surely that would be a better outcome for everyone – the restaurants wouldn’t lose the business of families who feel like they should stay away, and families could continue the rich experience of eating out together.

Do you agree with Samari, or do you think it's best to leave dining out to the adults? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Samari is a doctor, mum to two little ones and step-mum to two teenagers.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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