It used to be your favourite thing to do (well, one of your favourites at least) but now the mere mention of it sends shivers down your spine.
No, I’m not talking about going to see the latest Batman movie (who says I’m not topical?) – this is the OODD Guide to Eating Out with a Baby.
Trust me, this will change your life *.
*It probably won’t.
There comes a time in every parent’s life when sitting in your nappy-scented home, for hour after hour, cleaning up sick, sterilizing bottles and watching Judge Rinder, is no longer is the fun it once was. It’s at this point that the idea of taking your child to eat in a restaurant first crosses your mind.
Yet you’re reticent, with good reason.
What will the baby do?
Will it scream?
Will it do an explosive poo?
Will it do both?
Will it stare (like a miniature psychopath) at a frail old lady – putting her off her soup?
And then there’s the other diners to think of…
Will they be friendly?
Will they glare?
Will they complain to the management because of the noise?
Will they form a mob to have you ejected?
All of this potential stress is often enough to stop parents from leaving the confines of their homes. Don’t let this happen to you!
Here’s my advice on how to Eat Out with a Baby.
1: Don’t be an arsehole
The arrival of a baby in a restaurant is never EVER EVER going to make its parents popular. We’ve all been there. You go out for a quiet meal, perhaps in the hope of it going so well that you skip dessert, and next thing you know a family who look like they’d struggle to fill out a Jeremy Kyle Show application form arrives at the next table with their screaming feral offspring. Your meal is ruined – you eat quickly and call for the bill. The family on the next table, however, are having a great time.
Don’t be that family.
A little consideration for your fellow diners goes a long way. It’ll make your meal a lot more pleasant to know everyone else in the room isn’t hating your guts.
2: Don’t be too nice
Trying to be considerate to other diners is all very well – but don’t be crippled by it. Children make noise, it’s as simple as that. As long as you appear to be making attempts to minimize the chaos you’re doing your job. You’re not going to have a silent meal, it’s impossible. Don’t let your baby making normal baby sounds ruin your meal. You need a break too.
3: Be prepared
If you’re properly prepared then the whole ‘eating out’ experience will be infinitely easier. That said, for many new parents, leaving the house wearing two matching shoes can be a struggle, so let’s not set our sights too high here!
It’s totally possible to get through a meal with ease, by timing it to coincide with your baby’s naptime. Bring essentials like milk and their favourite toys to ease any transition periods. That said, even the most prepared person in the world might find themselves in a restaurant with a baby who suddenly refuses to play ball.
4: Lower your standards
Do you like eating out at nice restaurants? Sorry, but those days are over. From now on you’ll be dining in places that have ‘Happy’, ‘Big’ & ‘Wacky’ in their titles. The food is undeniably crap, the tables are sticky and there’s a constant whiff of vomit, but you’ll feel so much more relaxed in these places. Why? Well, for one thing, there’ll always be another kid doing exactly what you were dreading. So, if your child does melt down, it’s unlikely anyone will notice.
NB: A bit of advice, never eat from a buffet bar in one of these establishments. They are are at the perfect height for little (snotty) hands to reach and play with the food – before putting in back.
5: Go Early
Visiting a restaurant during peak times will put you in line for a whole heap of pain. Late food, loud customers, stroppy staff and over-crowded eating areas are no fun with a baby.
Perhaps consider going for your meal early or late? Dinner at 2 am is sure to leave you with the place to yourself. If this is too extreme find out when an establishment starts serving food and be there on the dot. A Sunday Roast at 1030 am may seem weird, but it’s far a more relaxed than eating it at 1 pm like everyone else.
6: Be ready with comebacks
Having a few witty retorts to use with the inevitable malcontents you’ll experience will make your trip much easier. When you find Clive and Norma moaning about the noise you’re making, glaring from behind their copies of The Mail On Sunday, be sure to respond appropriately. Loudly shouting phrases such as: “He may be still infectious, I’m not sure!” and “I’ll take him outside to change his nappy on the bonnet of that Lexus” will leave you feeling far more relaxed.
7: Other options
Perhaps, if you feel going out to eat with your baby is just too much stress, you could make a meal at home feel like you’re in a restaurant. Consider inviting some strangers into your home to glare in your direction, as you eat cold, substandard food. In many ways, with a bit of effort, eating in can be just as much ‘fun’ as eating out.
If you have any advice on Eating Out With a Baby, keep it to yourself. Nobody likes a know-it-all!
The Out Of Depth Dad