Earlier this week I read an article on CNN.com called Babies in Bars, about a growing confrontation between bar goers in Brooklyn. (http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/03/02/brooklyn.babies.in.bars/index.html)
Apparently, the local watering holes are being overrun by parents who no longer want to be sequestered at home just because they now have offspring and have decided that it is okay to bring their infants and toddlers with them when they go out to drink. Aside from always being a fan of clever alliteration - Babies in Bars – clearly I am easily amused – I loved this article! I picture Hell’s Angel’s bikers trying to park their hogs out front of a bar only find all the spaces filled by baby strollers. That’s the world we parent in today and I find it fascinating and frustrating.
The main thrust of the debate on the side of the non-toddler carrying bar goers is that they go to a bar to have an adult experience. They say that they feel funny drinking and socializing (okay, we know they really mean flirting) in front of children and don’t like being told to watch their language if they let off a stream of obscenities while kicking back shots. The non-toddler side wants the drinking parents with kids to stay home or get a sitter.
The drinking parents assert that they have a right to go out and take their children anywhere...(really, are X rated movie houses next?) They complain of the isolation of being “trapped” at home with a baby and of the need to get out, socialize and “let off steam” by meeting friends at a bar and sipping some chardonnay. They argue that the cost of baby-sitters these days (which in some cities is a mega painful $18 to $20 an hour) makes hiring a sitter every time you want to go bar hopping cost prohibitive and that taking baby along to the local pub is the only alternative if the drinking parents are going to continue to have any kind of post-baby social life.
The bar owners worry that the drinking parents who come in with their kids strapped to their chests in Baby Bjorns, or pushing large, bulky Peg Perego strollers, take up too much room in their establishments with their baby gear, or worse yet, they let their mobile toddlers roam the bar like free range chickens looking for grain. The bar owners are faced with trying to satisfy two distinctly different types of clientele in an economic downturn where business is tight and you can’t afford to lose customers.
Here’s what the drinking parents are missing – your post-baby life isn’t supposed to be like your pre-baby life. You don’t get to just wedge a baby into the life you already had. Things will change and part of that might mean that if you can’t get a sitter for some adult time in adult places, then you will have to find new places to go to socialize which fit in more with your post-baby life. A woman’s body isn’t the same after having a baby, why should your social life be? Don’t get me wrong, I love my wine and when my gals were babies, I even considered forming a club called Mothers Who Drink – but someone more clever than I am wrote a book by the same title and beat me to it! I enjoy my evenings out with my hubby, and even though I have kids and even like other peoples’ kids (most of the time), I really don’t want your toddler up in my face at a bar while I’m sipping my martini. No babies in bars.
Post-baby life is just that - post-baby, meaning it will and should be inherently different in many ways. I got terribly lonely and isolated after the birth of my second kid. I was forced to go back to work six days after my baby was born, treated horribly and then fired a week later. After that I did battle with a bout of postpartum from which I never thought I’d recover. I desperately needed to get out and see other people just to feel alive, but I didn’t go bars with my baby in a stroller. Coffee shops, book stores, the park are all places that new parents can go to socialize and beat the baby isolation blues without having to drag their offspring into places that are clearly designed for adults. There are no high chairs in bars…that should be the first clue that your kid probably shouldn’t be there. And if you insist that drinking has to be a part of the experience, go to a family friendly restaurant with drinks on the menu. If it means that maybe, for a little while you have to restrain from bar hopping until your kids are older, you can afford a sitter or trade off with a neighbor, altering your lifestyle is one of the things you signed up for when you decided to change your life by bringing another life into the world.
Some would say it’s not fair and that they can and will live their lives in the same manner that they did before kids. Good luck with that. Your kids won’t let you, and eventually, you won’t want to. Forget about the desire to go bar hopping – for the first four years of being a parent, I didn’t have the energy to go to work, go to the market for groceries or pick up my kids from daycare let alone hang out at some bar. By 8 o’clock, I was lusting after sleep, not Stoli. But my generation of parents and those after us were raised to believe that we could have anything we want, it was our right. We are the entitled ones and part of that as parents meant “parenting our way.” We feel that our children should be smarter, cleaner, better behaved because we read all the right parenting books, took pre-natal yoga and subjected our kids to more hours of Baby Einstein than even Einstein could have watched. We do all that, and then we’re frustrated when our babies can’t and don’t oblige us and the rest of the world doesn’t always agree that our little mini-me’s are as adorable as we do or that they belong everywhere we want to go. We want to take our babies to bars, five star restaurants, luxury resorts and movies late at night showing films not intended for someone sucking a binkie. But unfortunately, these parents in Brooklyn and elsewhere who are flooding bars with babies need to realize that your life will have to change with kids and part of that means not taking them into bars to have beers spilled on their heads or having them subjected to foul language or bar brawls just because you want a night out on the town. Your post-baby life will be different. And it should be…that’s part of the fun of watching yourself go through the various stages of your life. Imagine your life like a good novel. You sure wouldn’t be happy with the book if chapter one was the same as chapter five, would you?