Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not bothered by the presence of children in bars. Even before I had a child of my own, the occasional baby yelp or sudden shriek of “Cameron! Put that DOWN!” never disturbed me more than, say, a group of bros loudly play-by-playing their latest sexploits. A baby has never elbowed in front of me as I was about to order, and the only drinks I’ve had spilled on me have come courtesy of someone with an ostensibly valid state ID.
I don’t use the term “bar” loosely. I am not talking about a family-friendly restaurant that happens to also serve alcohol. I am not talking about a boozy brunch spot with comfortable, airy seating. I am talking about a room dominated by a counter that is backed by an array of bottles and fronted by at least two rows of thirsty punters, where all the tables are raised about four feet off the floor, and where no one wears anything that could be described as “sensible.” That’s what a bar is. And children do not belong in bars.
This is not for the sake of your fellow patrons, or even for the sake of the children. (Although, if Little Precious is old enough to talk, they may well come home and ask, “Mommy, what’s a shitface?” Best have an answer prepared.) This is for the sake of you. The parent. The guardian. The Cool Mom/Dad.
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I know that, after having a child, the temptation is to pretend that nothing has changed. You’re still you! You still go out! It’s no different than adopting a chihuahua! It even comes with cute accessories!
Let me do you a kindness and disabuse you of that notion. Eventually, life will swing back to something that almost kind of resembles your pre-progeny existence. But if you have a small child, get used to the idea that you can’t do all the adult things you used to do before. At least, not all the time.
Resist the urge to to listen to your friends who tell you: “We’re all going to Doc Holliday’s! You should totally come! Bring the baby! You’ll be, like, one of those COOL MOMS!” This is like inviting a diabetic to a chocolate factory and offering to pack a Ziploc of sugar-free candies so they can TOTALLY still have fun. This is NOT inclusive. This is delusional, and I promise you, you will have a shitty time, because you won’t be able to do the very thing that the place was designed for doing.
Because, get real. You can’t really relax when you are in charge of keeping a tiny creature alive. Yes, you can sort of talk to your friends (in between chasing Adrian across the room), and you can drink one or two glasses of something (but not so many that your diaper-changing skills get impaired). But a distracted conversation and a tiny half-buzz are not why people go to bars.
And at the end of the night, as you step out of the Uber Family car, having left your friends WAY too early in the evening, feeling completely sober and more tired than you were when you left your house, you will try to tell yourself that you had fun. That you have performed an act of self-indulgence, and that you should stop feeling so overwhelmed because, hey, you had a night out!
I have news for you: You did NOT have a night out. You did the same thing you do every night. You just did it in a different location, and while wearing non-elasticated pants, which, let’s be honest, is not winning.
Trust me, it is better to have a night without your child once a month than to spend every weekend schlepping a baby carrier out to your local. And if childcare is simply not accessible? Go to one of those boozy brunch places instead, where there is ample space for a stroller, and peak drinking time just happens to coincide with peak nap time for the little one. Go to one of those family-friendly restaurants with a creative cocktail list and readily available high chairs. But as for the hot spots and the dives? Give those up for a while. That or get a babysitter.
If you are someone who is sitting at the bar, pretending to drink a glass of white wine in a sea of tequila shots, dangling a foot off the stool to rock a baby carrier on the beer-sticky floor, and you see me looking at you, know this: Your baby doesn’t bother me. You don’t bother me. I am not judging you. I am not giving you a dirty look. The look I am giving you is one of pity. Because you could be having a much better time than you are.
So stop trying to make babies in bars happen. It’s not going to happen.