Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Mommy vs. Non-Mommy Divide (Part 4: Parenting in Public)

Struggling with own my feelings over the Mommy and Non-Mommy Divide, I asked over a dozen of my girlfriends to weigh in...  with some interesting revelations!  Here's Part 4 in this blog mini-series.

Part 4: Parenting in Public

With news stories about the "no-kids-allowed" movement spreading across the country as restaurants and even airlines discuss banning children from their services, I'm personally torn over how I should feel about it.

Not too long ago, I was verbally attacked on Facebook for complaining that a parent allowed their child to babble loudly for an hour during a (non-age-appropriate) movie before removing them from the theater, and that it was poor parenting not to remove the child earlier.  While some of my Mommy friends came to my rescue and supported me, I realized that I do judge parents by how they handle their children in public.  I appreciate the lack of kids in places like bars and certain all-inclusive resorts.  But do I support banning children from restaurants or first-class cabins?  NO.  Kids have to eat, kids have to travel.  There's a time and place for everything... I'm not going to get mad if I go to a G-rated movie or fast food restaurant and have to deal with unruly kids.

The ladies, for the most part, were in agreement with me.

Amanda (working mom): I have to admit that I have been the lady across the restaurant or airplane wanting to yell at the parents of a screaming child, but now that I have my own I understand that sometimes children just act up... but I will say that as parents we should KNOW how to control our children. I try not to take my son to sit down restaurants until I feel okay with his behavior out of respect to others. But fast food places like McDonalds and such are fair game.

Kris (married, no kids): I think it’s silly for restaurants & airlines to disallow children.  How are families suppose to teach their children good manners if they are not allowed at restaurants? Everyone was a child once, everyone deserves a childhood. It is almost like society is saying that we shouldn’t have children.

Kim (engaged, no kids):  I honestly think that it's a good thing that there are some things reserved for adults. I see both sides, and the compromise being that in some institutions they can have nights/days for adults and then times for kids/families. It doesn't need to be black and white, adults don't enjoy being around screaming children all the time but kids don't need to be completely excluded either. I will say that one of my biggest pet peeves is screaming kids in the movies. If they can't behave, leave them with a babysitter. Bottom line. You have to think about everyone around you because they are spending their hard-earned money as well. 

Ellie (stay-at-home mom): I think the free market will work here.  If there is a demand for "baby-free" airlines and "baby-free" restaurants, go for it.  However, I sort of feel like this could be age discrimination.  No?  The point is, we'll have options.  I'm not afraid of not having a place to eat with my baby or a plane to ride on in the near future.

Melanie (working, single mom): This is discrimination.  Children are people and from an underclass that has no power.  

Emma (married, no kids): I think it's ridiculous. But sadly, there are so many parents out there that don't have control of their children and let them run amok or be disruptive. I think that restaurants should have the right to ask patrons who cause problems to leave but not on a plane (obviously). Kids should be allowed in first class too.

Vickie (working mom): So that means they’re not letting a**holes on flights and in restaurants too?  Isn’t that age discrimination?  In a way it I think it’s a little too much.  If you chose to eat at a family style restaurant, guess what, there are going to be families there.  Just like families need to travel too.  I am going to boycott companies that do this.  I don’t always bring my kids with me when I eat and travel. Just because I don’t always have my children with me doesn’t mean that I won’t keep a policy like that in mind when I do go out. I think that it’s rather rude that some parents are not courteous enough to think of others while they are out.

One of the ladies was more outspoken, and expressed an opinion that is one that many in support of the no-kids-allowed rules share.

Maura (married, no kids): "I certainly agree with restrictions for children in public settings. If I choose to pay more to sit in a certain section of a plane, or choose a night out at a restaurant, I should not have to be bombarded by unruly children. I do not choose to scream or throw food, and do not care to be subjected to poopy diapers and the rest of it.  I applaud those who stand up for the rights of others not to be subjected to other people’s children. It’s about being considerate to those around you, and remembering just because you produced a tiny human – the world doesn’t revolve around you. Children are born every day, it’s not a superhuman feat."

So what's the best way to deal with a child who throws a tantrum in public (like a movie or restaurant) and is disrupting other paying patrons?  The ladies were in agreement here as well.

Mommies said:
-"Remove the child from the situation, if at all possible.  Take them home.  If that is simply not possible, in the interim, apologies to the patrons nearby and offering to buy us all a glass of wine is appreciated."
-"Definitely remove the child from the situation.  They can try a few times to discipline them, but if that doesn't work, leave."
-"The best thing is to immediately take the child outside to the car (or toward home) and forget about running your errands that day--usually this enough for the child to know the parent is serious and that such behavior is not acceptable.  As for movie theaters, kids should not be in the theater unless they are old enough to watch the more mature films (there is a rating system for a reason--a 3-year-old should not be viewing a PG movie)."
-"They shouldn’t bring a child into an inappropriate environment in the first place. If they do, then they should be considerate of the other people who also paid for their meal/tickets, and remove themselves from the situation.  If I’m obnoxiously talking on a conference call at a restaurant or movie, I too would owe an apology to those around me, and should remove myself from the situation."
-"Remove child from environment. Period."
-"At the movie theater the parent should take the child out. I'm not sure if it's the right thing but when my child starts to be like that I quietly take him out of the theater out of respect and wait until he calms down."

Non-Mommies said:
-"If a child is loud or throwing a tantrum in a movie, they need to leave or at least get up. It is not fair to the other paying customers. They should have gotten a babysitter.  [For restaurants] I totally feel that it depends on the location and the age of the child."
-"Babies don't belong in loud movie theatres, it's hard on their developing ear drums and if they cry, it's rude to the people who are trying to enjoy the film... if you're going to see something rated G/PG you should expect it and deal with it. Same goes for restaurants. If it's a nice place, maybe you shouldn't bring your kids if you know they're going to act up. If it's at McDonalds, then get a life people, McDonald's is for everyone! But seriously, it's the parent's responsibility to control the situation and know when to leave."
-"I think they should go outside and calm the child down and then return."
-"Honestly there are just some times and places that you do not bring your child out.  They need to leave if the child is out of control.  I know that I have left a movie early with a yelling toddler.  It’s the polite thing to do."
-"Depends to the extent. If a baby is crying - the parent isn't going to enjoy anything they are doing anyway. It sounds harsh - but maybe they should try again another time. If children is being slightly rambunctious and not really bothering everything - then the general population should probably get over it because everyone was a child at some point. Same with a whiney baby - if it's just a little fussy - people should get over it."

Jo and Hannah made good points about children with special needs.

Jo (working mom): "I think the parent should either discipline or control their child, or step outside until things calm down. However, I think the general public should have a little patience. You never know what a child is going through. Perhaps they have some sort of mental or emotional condition and cannot control their outbursts."

Hannah (stay-at-home mom): "I am more understanding of this having a child with special issues... however, I still remove him from the area if it is an area meant to be quiet in (if I was attending a hockey game I'd probably stay there with him!)"

In summary, the general consensus was that banning children altogether from establishments and airplane cabins is discriminatory, but it all comes back to proper parenting in public.  Most agree that parents need to take control of situations where their child is disruptive to others in public, and that sometimes the parents need to take the child out of the situation and sacrifice their night out to be fair to others.  In addition, we need to have more patience with children in public, because they are human beings ad we don't know what they are going through... but it is STILL the parent's responsibility to PARENT!

Stay tuned for Part 5: Healing the Divide

P.S.  Have you entered my free jewelry giveaway???


  1. Childless male chiming in here...

    This topic is really the biggest problem I have with parents sometimes. I understand you need to take your children with you to run errands, or go out to eat, I have no issue with that. I also have zero expectations of the behavior of kids in places like department stores and chain restaurants. I understand that kids can sometimes get into trouble, and no amount of discipline can stop some kinds of randomly acting out.

    But when it comes to places that demand quiet, like a movie theater, if your pack of spawn can't keep quiet they don't belong in the theater. Most major movie theater chains won't do anything to quiet a disruptive family and that makes us other movie goers feel trapped. We could turn around and say something but that can sometimes make the situation worse with entitled parents with children that can do no wrong. We could leave, but then we've lost out on the movie we paid for, and there is no guarantee we could get a refund. Usually we just sit there and get our movie ruined, and you'll never know because we won't say anything. If you know your children are talking throughout the movie and nobody says anything, you can just assume everyone around you hates you. But you probably don't care.

    Planes I don't care so much about, there are always screaming babies and unless we're stuck on the tarmac you can usually tune them out while the plane is in motion. I once sat next to a 3-4 year old and his mom and the kid was climbing all over me the entire flight, but it wasn't really the mom's fault and I didn't care that much as he was just trying to see out the window. Now if that happened while I were in first class, or on a 13 hour flight, I would probably be pissed. I do not thing anyone under 12 should be allowed in first class where the tickets can be many thousands of dollars.

    If you want to go to a restaurant without pictures of the food on the menu, get a babysitter. If I'm in the middle of a 7 course tasting menu and some breeders show up with an escalade full of children, the meal is already ruined. Children cannot appreciate Michelin star rated food, leave them at home.

  2. "If you know your children are talking throughout the movie and nobody says anything, you can just assume everyone around you hates you. But you probably don't care."

    Haha, this is how everyone felt in the movie I was in!

    I do think Avian is patient in that he allowed a child to climb all over him on a flight (I actually held an infant on a plane once so the mother could go to the bathroom)... but he makes a valid point as the women did that noisy kids should be removed from a theater. There is bad parenting happening out there that gives other parents a bad rap!!!

  3. I actually love what Ellie said, that if there is a market for children-free services they will become a part of society. If not, then they'll fail and people will have to think of something else to complain about.

    As long as public goods, services and places are not affected, and as long as there is a child-friendly alternative, I'm all for it. That being said, I can't actually remember the last time I was perturbed by a noisy child in a nice restaurant or at the movies. You just have to assume your plane will be full of unhappy babies, but good God if I could avoid them I would.

    Not to compare dogs to children again...but my precious darling son Charlie the Maltese is a right jerk around new people. If there were a restaurant in town that allowed dogs, I'd love to bring him along, but I know he would create a scene and no one would have a good time. And obviously the prospect of leaving my dog at home is just as heart-wrenching and logistically challenging as a new parent's...but hey, it's the only metaphor I can relate to.

    If I do have children, I imagine I'll resign myself to the fact that I'll have to give up on certain activities until my kid is old enough to reason with.

  4. Sometimes you just don't want to deal with it. That goes for parents and non-parents alike. My friend Maggie needs a break from it all some times too even though she loves her little boy to pieces.

    I have a group of friends from college that has discussed several times opening a restaurant in the future. We have openly and seriously discussed the idea of having a "With" and With Out" section. There would just be two sides to our restaurant, one would be more casual and very family friendly and the other would be a little more upscale and romantic. That way if Mom and Dad get a babysitter for a romantic night out, they can have dinner without worrying about someone having a loud child nearby. It would be a place for business meetings or any time when you would rather have a quiet night. The other side would just be brighter and louder. That way everyone could still come and enjoy themselves and decide what kind of atmosphere they would like.

    I think it's a good idea anyway. I think banning children altogether can be a little much but understanding that sometimes people want a different environment is perfectly reasonable.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...