Tuesday, March 2, 2010

pub crawler controversy

CNN.com ran an article today, entitled "Brooklyn brewhaha: Babies in bars," about the controversy raging in my lovely city around parents bringing their little bundles of joy into their favorite watering holes. I find this topic fascinating and I can totally commiserate with the people on both sides of the issue. We ourselves have never had Ruby in a bar (unless you count a restaurant that happens to have a bar), but I can totally understand how it would be practical to meet a friend out for a drink with the munchkin tagging along.

Here's the thing: when you have a baby in this city, you are, essentially, giving up your right to leave your home alone. The first time I walked out of my apartment without Ruby attached to me or in a stroller was when I went a few blocks away to get a haircut at about six weeks postpartum (and I wept as I walked and talked incessantly about Ruby to the hairdresser and skipped out early on the hairdryer). I went back to work when she was three months old, but, besides the office three days a week, I have been out in NYC without the baby a total of five times (a haircut, three dinners with Jude, and one dinner with girlfriends) in her nearly eight months!

It's hard to find dependable childcare if you are city implants like us and don't have family around. We have been incredibly lucky to have an awesome situation with a close friend for the weekdays when I'm working, but our amazing caregiver is not really available on nights or weekends. Plus, it's hard to fathom: a) wanting to spend any more time away from Ruby than we have to, or b) spending more money on childcare when we're not getting paid for our absence. So, if we want any adult social interactions, our options are limited to either inviting our friends over to our place or dragging Ruby out with us. We do both. But if we take her out, it's to restaurants, museums, coffee shops, etc. Something feels strange about bringing Ruby out to a bar. Part of it is probably because I went to college in Madison, Wisconsin when it was still legal to smoke in public indoors and, even though it's not true at all in Brooklyn, I still picture the stinky dives full of cancer air that I used to hang out in when I think of a bar. Another part of it is that I don't drink while I'm nursing (which means that, with a few recent minor exceptions, I haven't drank alcohol since finding out I was pregnant about 16 months ago!), so a bar is not particularly enticing to me at this point anyway. For Daddy, on the other hand, I could see where this could present itself as a viable option.

The parents who are pro-baby barflies in this debate are not talking about getting trashed and stumbling home pushing a stroller. Nor are they talking about bringing them to loud, wild scenes at night. The issue is, for example, whether or not it's acceptable to bring your sweet kid to a calm bar while you have a drink and chat with a pal in the middle of the afternoon. If there's zero smoke indoors and you're not getting tipsy, what is the problem?

Well, for non-child-toting adults, there are a few potentials problems in this scenario. In the CNN article, I think Juieanne Smolinski says it best: "I will get up on the subway for kids. I will be tolerant of them kicking the back of my seat while seeing a G-rated movie. But let me have my bars." A pub is where you go to kick back and relax--not to worry about a little one overhearing your sailor mouth. And certain not a place where you want to trip over a stroller and be glared at for it. And not the place to feel pressured into having to make goo-goo faces with a jolly little micro-person who keeps looking at you.

As I am writing this, I just learned that Jude did, in fact, sort of take Ruby to a bar in Brooklyn. Apparently, he was waiting for his food order at a restaurant in the neighborhood and it was going to take a while, so he went to the outdoor part of the bar and sat at a table with Ruby in the Bjorn. He ordered one drink from a waitress while he waited for his food next door, but he says that he felt strange about it and didn't consider going inside to the bar-bar.

I usually know my hard stance on an issue right away and am stubborn enough to generally hold steady with that opinion. However, I feel like I could be swayed here one way or the other with some more compelling arguments. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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  2. You know, Annie, this reminds me of an explosive discussion I saw on a wedding etiquette website about how to tactfully let guests who are parents know that the wedding is adults-only. People hit the roof on both sides. Some people couldn't imagine how anyone would bring a child to a wedding unless the little one was explicitly invited. Others couldn't fathom how anyone would have the nerve to invite the adults without their child and said they wouldn't even GO to a wedding if their child was unwelcome.

    After reading all the posts, I came to feel that the parents who simply insisted on forcibly bringing their children to a place where they were not welcome seemed a little bit selfish. Because the couples had tons of good reasons to not invite kids--weddings are expensive and sometimes in kid un-friendly places. And they'd have to invite children they'd never met in place of adults they've known for years. Or the bride and groom are uncomfortable around kids. And the bottom line is, who is comfortable if Jane brings her uninvited child? The host? The other guests? The child? Probably just Jane feels some satisfaction at defending her child's "right" to be allowed wherever she goes.

    Now bars are totally different because they're public. But I think you have to weigh the same considerations. What is most courteous to your host (the bar/its employees), the bar's other guests, your child's and yourself. And I'm 100% sure the answer varies based on the bar, the night, the crowd, the kid, and the parents.

    If it's not a Wet-T-shirt-Contest-Jello-Shot Night; if you're not the kind of parent who lets your kid climbing barstools to reach the darts; if your little one is cute like Ruby and not extra-screamy; if the bar doesn't have a lot of exposed wires and drunks wandering about, I'd say go for it. But the chances of all of these things aligning (including warning away potential customers who are freaked out about kids in any setting) would probably best be served by the bar designating a Family Night. And from the time I've spent in Brooklyn, there's gotta be some hipster watering holes with stroller parking out front.