Lea Zeltserman, mother of one
Here’s a short list of the bars at which my child, now a toddler, has slept or quietly coloured: The bar across the street from our apartment, the local dive bar, a sports bar, too many patios to recall, and an upscale wine bar on New Year’s Eve. You, outraged reader, probably didn’t notice the sling attached to either her father or me, or the car seat tucked under the table. I didn’t know that I was stepping into Yet Another Parenting Controversy the first time we popped our month-old baby into the sling and toddled on across the street to live our normal lives. Our waitress didn’t get the memo either, because when she noticed our new addition, all she did was peek in and coo. So what’s so controversial if no one around us has ever seemed to mind?
But Google “babies in bars” and watch your screen fill up with finger-wagging moralists (“parenting means making sacrifices”) or irate singletons (“breeders are everywhere these days”) who would prefer to keep their Friday night drama at the bar unencumbered by anyone else’s life choices. Sorry, but I just don’t see the big deal. This issue isn’t about taking a stand for parents, being too entitled to adjust my lifestyle or showing off what an edgy mother I am. There’s just a certain level of practicality that takes over when you have kids. This means sometimes toting them along for a burger and pint during the dinner hour because we’re saving the babysitting for more special occasions. It’s also about using some common sense: If you can’t stand to be around your child, assume no one else needs to be exposed to your bundle of scream either.
For those who think I’m teaching my daughter bad habits or exposing her to the wrong influences, I can assure you that most of the “colourful” bar personalities don’t crawl out until well past our witching hour. Nor am I stumbling home drunkenly, baby swinging precariously off my hip. I’m just doing what most busy parents are doing — trying to get through the week, occasionally with a drink in hand and with supportive friends around the table.
Dave McGinn, father of two
Listen, I’ve been there. Your friends are going to the bar tonight, but you can’t get a babysitter. Then it hits you — a brilliant light bulb in your sleep-deprived, desperate-for-adult-interaction brain: Why not just bring the baby to the bar? Fireworks, genius, everybody wins! Except they don’t.
Yes, you probably would appreciate a drink more than anyone, and yes, just because you had kids doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a social life. I’ve taken both my children to a bar. But as soon as I brought a finger to my lips and gestured sheepishly toward my sleeping infant when someone started talking too loudly, I knew I’d crossed a line. Plenty of people will praise you for being the kind of cool parent who hasn’t let children stop you from hitting the local watering hole. (These compliments will come only from people who don’t have kids, trust me. Parents lucky enough to be at the bar sans children want their night to stay that way — kid-free.)
Bars are no place for babies. Not because your children might learn a few too many valuable lessons about shooting pool, filthy toilets or swearing. No, taking babies to the bar is wrong because it’s selfish. You’re imposing baby-friendly behaviour on people who have come to one of the last refuges for grown-ups tired of having to watch their language and keep the volume low. People want to work up a buzz, complain about the boss and tell lewd jokes if they darn well feel like it. Now, thanks to you and your snoozing baby, or your chatty toddler, they have to make goo-goo gaga talk? Not cool. No one at the bar will come right out and tell you to take your bundle of joy home, but after one round of cheek-tickling and oohing and aahing over how cute your little darling is, that’s exactly what they’ll be thinking.
You wouldn’t like it if someone brought bar behaviour to your next playdate, would you? Of course not, because there’s a time and place for everything (except for sleeping, which never happens enough, but that’s a whole other matter). So, parents, please do us all the courtesy of bypassing the bar. Do what responsible parents do and drink away your problems at home.
A version of this article appeared in our June 2012 issue, with the headline “Is it ok to bring your baby to a bar?” (p. 138). Illustration by Miki Sato.