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Should There be More Child Free Dining Options in Australia?

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by Vanessa de Largie (subscribe)
Published February 19th 2012
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Mentioning the term 'child free' in this day and age, one fears being labelled a child hater or discriminative.

It seems society is broken into two, those who have children and those who don't.

After my gym workout this morning, I decided to venture to a new café, with the intention of getting some work done on my laptop.

I found a table next to the window and ordered my usual 'flat white' before getting cosy for some quiet time.

The universe decided to humour me, as moments later a group of mothers and their children walked in, perching themselves at the table next to mine.

The waiter came by and they all ordered their usual - 'a skinny-soy-decaf-no-life-latte' (why bother drinking coffee at all?)

Besides our differing coffee tastes, a bigger issue was emerging.

Their combined group of children were running a riot in the café. I was practising tolerance, reminding myself, that I once was a child too!

But then their mothers began to run riot.

One of the mothers had pulled an ultrasound photo from her handbag, with the news that she is in fact 'expecting.'

'Oh my god!' One of the mothers repeatedly shrieked.

'This must be like the 'pregnancy cafe''. Another chimed in, waving her friends ultrasound snapshot at the waiter with excitement.

Within 15 seconds flat, I had paid for my coffee, packed up my laptop and was on the other side of the street.

As the cold breeze kissed my cheek, I began to think about the recent media I had read and seen about child free zones.

Do you think there should be more child free cafes and restaurants in Australia?

I do. We all deserve options.

How do I like my coffee?

With a bit of peace and quiet, thanks.
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It's great to see such robust conversation but let's try to keep it civil. If you find yourself infuriated before you start typing, it might be a good idea to get up, have a coffee or a glass of water, and try to calm down before you craft your response. Accusations of 'child hating' or 'brat rearing' aren't nice, nor is name calling. Most of you are doing the right thing, but it only takes a few to ruin it for everyone else.
by Carly Ogborne (score: 3|4626) 3872 days ago
Yes, yes and yes !! There should also be child free restaurants, holiday resorts, apartments, cinema sessions and I would go as far as to suggest a day a week at shopping centres. I've lost count of the times I've asked not to be seated at a table near children or been woken while on holiday by kids running noisily in the hall ways. Ever been on holidays and wanted to have a swim/lay by the pool and it's been full of squealing kids ?? I take my annual leave outside of school holidays just to reduce the risk !! I'm not saying parents don't have the right to take their children out, but respect the right of those who don't want to be annoyed by them. And yes, I am a parent !!
by sharo (score: 1|22) 3869 days ago
You have got to be kidding. The problem is that there are very few places that make an effort for people with kids. The obligatory 'chicken nuggets' just doesn't cut it. Not only do children seem to annoy customers but generally the cafes and restaurants have no time for them either.
If more places became child friendly rather than trying to be trendy then a) they would become very popular and b) other places would by attrition become child free, keeping all happy.
by ozweb (score: 1|14) 3872 days ago
It sounds like you're not so much against kids as you are against badly behaved brats who run around shrieking and disrupting people's peace and quiet. Understandable. But not all kids are like this - an all-out baby ban would mean that even good parents who have made the effort to raise quiet, well-disciplined children would be excluded. So it would be discriminatory because it involves a gross generalisation. The best way to deal with this is the same way one would deal with any other annoying patron displaying inappropriate behaviour - ask the person to quiet down or leave. Learn some assertiveness skills before you ask society to make laws banning everything you think is annoying. Good parents shouldn't suffer for the mistakes of bad ones.
by somec (score: 0|9) 3872 days ago
Go get yourself your own coffee machine and drink within the 'quiet' confines of your home! If you are out on a 'public' place - prepare yourself to be surrounded by others-duh!!!
by ateri (score: 1|14) 3872 days ago
I applaud you for this article. Parents and their kids are free to attend and dine out in any restaurant they wish, and im not saying they shouldn't. Im saying why can't there be a couple of restaurants where couples or singles can sit in peace without having to listen to parents use passive aggressive techniqu es ti get their kids to behave.
by bobbi (score: 0|9) 3872 days ago
I'm sorry but this is a ridiculous conversation - it's a big world out there, there are lots of different things that are not perfect, but the whole "child free" lobby group just sound like they don't like kids to me. I have children, I take them out, they know how to behave when at a cafe. It's not about the children, it's about how they've been parented - take your annoyance out on the right group - not the kids. Perhaps we should have some some basic standards for cafes. No mobile phones, no laptops/ipads, no loud noises, no rustling newspapers/magazines, no talking, no laughing, no smiling and definitely no kids. Maybe we could segrate all the groups we don't like - kind of like apartheid for people who have children. You can only go into places that you're allowed to go to. Nice.
by josug (score: 0|7) 3871 days ago
I'd like to see womensgroup-free dining. Your article reminded me of the many times a nice quiet meal with my wife and son has been ruined by a group of screeching ladies-who-lunch who sit there with six bottles of chardonnay and one entree to be shared amongst them. They seem to believe their recent news about their blokes, jobs and babies is to be shared at a zillion decibels. I know guys do the same but we tend to do it in the pub or club, plus we yell about far more sensible topics like cars, politics and the footy.

Turning to your original topic, as your article intimates, its more the parents than the kids. My son is 14 now but has been dining out with us once or twice a week since he was tiny. He loves restaurants and is more adventurous with new dishes than me, but he knows the etiquette. When little he happily read a book when not eating or used the crayons and paper often provided. Now he joins in with our quietly spoken discussions. You can't blame the kids for ignorant parents who think its fine to allow Molly and Tarquin to disturb everyone else so long as it permits the parents an undisturbed meal. Near us, we have two restaurnats side by side and I've seen parents encourage their kids to run around in the other establishment in order to keep the noise down in theirs!

I also blame the restaurants who are too timid to ask parents to control their kids. The staff see whats going on but do nothing, and therei are a number of places we won't return to because we know they sit back and do nothing. If the parents won't do something it is the restaurants duty to their other customers to ask the parents to speak to their kids, and if that costs them a tip then so be it. And why do so many places insist, on a quiet night, in sitting the only two tables of diners right next to each other?

But to finish, I have no problems with the concept of adult only dining hours. We are usually in and out by 7.30pm so something like no families after 8pm would not bother me in the least. Most cruise ships encourage families to dine in the first dinner sitting so the later sitting can be mostly adults. Other than that, a notice on the door and on the menu saying "Well behaved children are most welcome. Unruly customers of any age are not".
by john5 (score: 2|164) 3872 days ago
My partner and I are childless by choice, however we have many friends with children. When we're out with our friends and their kids we choose a great restaurant in Perth which has an enclosed childrens play area in which the children are in a glass fronted room. Parents can keep an eye on their kids, the children are entertained and other patrons can enjoy their meal without the noise.
by m_woo (score: 0|7) 3872 days ago
There is a current problem with adults with their children in public places .
The adults do not take responsibility for their children in these places and the rest of the public are expected to tolerate bad behaviour by the children and the adults.
The modern parent has turned off their receptors that hear screaming sounds and tantrums . The public are supposed to put up with it. Adults need their own space and have a right to a peaceful environment..
by maril30 (score: 0|7) 3872 days ago
Yes. I think there should be 'child friendly' and 'child free' cafes. I think cafe patrons should be given a choice as to the kind of environment they want to be in to enjoy their coffee.

I see this as a win for all parties - the cafes have a further point of difference enabling them to attract more customers within their particular market, the customers know they they will be among like-minded people and be able to do the activities they enjoy.

Given that many businesses now conduct meetings at cafes due to the increase in the work-from-home and small office trends, I think it's reasonable for someone to expect that they could find a suitable cafe to work in or conduct a casual business meeting in without kids running around. Likewise, I think it's reasonable for parents to expect that there are suitable venues available that cater for their children.

It doesn't have to be an 'us and them' kind of scenario, both parents and the childless can get what they want.
by Elizabeth (score: 1|11) 3872 days ago
Great article, Vanessa. I completely agree with you. Sometimes I feel so sorry for the kids of these parents, given the disservice they are doing to their own children that I wish I could discipline them myself.
by Maz Serena Rockers (score: 2|617) 3871 days ago
Yes. Some parents excercise no control at all and the kids run rampant, causing all sorts of noise and disturbance. Worth avoiding some places for that reason alone.
by LyndalS (score: 1|12) 3871 days ago
Definately with all of life, it's about options...and in an era when parents don't discipline their children, or teach them appropriate manners & respectful public behaviour, I want the option to eat, drink, read or work on my laptop in peace...Take your boisterous, uncontrollable kids out for a picnic. Cafes are not playgrounds...they're potentially dangerous work places...So please, leave the spoilt brats (and their rowdy kids) to run amok in the food courts of our cities, or play and yell in our many, many parks. And leave our cafes & restaurants as places everyone can enjoy. And yes, I do have kids, ones who ate in eateries around the world, and never spoilt another customers dining experience. Lindy.
by allin (score: 0|7) 3577 days ago
I think it was mainly the mothers that were in this instance the disturbers of the peace and quiet!! Once women become mums I think many of them loose some of their discretion and talk about things very loudly and openly in public with other mothers that they once would never have mentioned! It leaves those who are childless cringing and wishing they would keep some of the 'details' to themselves. In fact, it leaves me cringing and I have children!!

I love to go out without my kids and have a quiet coffee. I also wish sometimes I could take them with me and think more cafes should have designated areas/play corners for the children so they are occupied quietly while mum can at least have a 15 minute morning tea break in peace. The only places for us mums seem to be Macdonalds/Hungry Jacks or Pubs - GOOD cafes (by that I mean, the coffee is worth drinking), with playgrounds or toys are pretty rare in brisbane!

There are places around that do not allow children for those who just can't bear it - e.g tea & niceties at mt tambourine and the Balfour hotel at Newfarm. And I think that's fine too.
by prisc (score: 0|6) 3869 days ago
Why can't the kids just behave? Start them young learning how to respect other people.
by sam (score: 0|5) 3873 days ago
You said "Do you think there should be more child free cafes and restaurants in Australia? I do. We all deserve options."
Do parents and children not deserve options too?
Your just being selfish, if you want peace and quiet then why bother leaving your house?
by ellab (score: 0|5) 3870 days ago
Yes - happy to have the choice of child free zones. We've gone all out for the smoke free zones (health reason) well kids being around to run riot in inappropriate places is also a health risk. Tolerance levels soar (or don't soar) and stress goes up. Parents need to learn that all kids need limits!
by charl (score: 0|4) 3869 days ago
I have one child who behaves & one that doesnt talk as well & gets more frustrated & makes more noise, they have the same parents just like some adults laugh loud & some people drink to much & get louder, most parents stick to RSL,or clubs with are more child friendly,mothers in cafes would spend more than a single coffee drinker & I remember the days where if a person took up a seat in a popular cafe & sat for ages on 1coffee, owners used to to clean up around then & ask if they were finished so they could generaly imply they leave so they had room for more customers, I think using a table in a cafe to sit with a laptop is insulting the owner & selfish, go & find a park if you want peace & quiet & type there, ...oh dear, I forgot they might have to mow the lawns or a bird could come along!! Get an office & learn to drink the powered stuff.Try the yoga classes at your gym no kids there.
by tas65 (score: 0|3) 3869 days ago
I think should be child free..more of the kids are just being dragged around by family when they should be staying home. It encourages them to stay up late when they shouldn't be as well!
by Bronwyn Tillman (score: 1|16) 3870 days ago
Let the market decide. If there is a demand for child free cafes they will emerge. The fact that there are no, or few, such cafes suggests that there are more bucks in the mum market than the sanctimonious singles market.
by iansa (score: 0|4) 3872 days ago
Go to a different cafe then
by nixth (score: 0|7) 3872 days ago
It is actually the parents that are at fault here. This is what we have created stay home mothers who are paid a very healthy maternity leave, to have coffee and let the kids run riot.

Come on mums and dads take some responsibility when you are in public and dont let the kids run riot. take them to a park to do that.
by debra (score: 0|3) 3872 days ago
Not really. A lot of parents should have better control of their children's behaviour though. Parents think they're adorable running around, being loud and bumping into other diners (as we experienced at the Lower Plenty Hotel recently) or are just too into themselves and drinking beer/wine to do anything about it. We were glad when they left. Yes I have children. When they got boisterous I told them to behave. They did.
by caz13 (score: 2|159) 3744 days ago
Yes, I think child free restaurants might be a good idea for more formal dining. I'm a parent myself and I know I signed up for the extra noise and mess that goes with children but not everybody has and the rest of you deserve to dine in peace sometimes when you're having a night out. Frankly, if I'm out for dinner without my children I would probably prefer not to have to put up with somebody else's kids screaming instead. On the other hand, for less formal dining spaces like cafes I think you might just have to suck it up, especially during the daytime. Being a stay at home mum can be pretty isolating and mums do need somewhere to meet and just have a cuppa and relax sometimes (yes, we could do it in our own homes, but when you're at home all the time you just need to get out once in a while). I agree that parents should try and keep their kids under control in public spaces, but I know how difficult that can be to actually do, even with the best intentions. If you really want to go somewhere there won't be kids you could always have lunch in a pub.

I really can't see anything wrong with a woman showing her ultrasound photo to a friend in the cafe. It may not be for you, but it is a life changing experience so of course she was excited about it and her friends were excited for her.
by Jennifer Muirhead (score: 3|1383) 3715 days ago
I have 2 children (aged 4 and 3) and I had them late (I am 45) so I think I can safely say I have been on both sides of the fence.
I feel for the cafe dwellers during the day, but there are plenty of cafe's out there so I think child free cafes are good for those who would like to have a quiet cup of coffee.
There are not enough places for dinner though. Most parents would be happy to feed their children between 5-7pm. I enjoy good food so I am not a fan of most child friendly places; usually those that include a play area!
I think I have found the perfect place to eat with children. I'm not sure whether I can type the restaurant's name but it is a Greek restaurant in Brunswick. It opens at 5:30pm and they are keen to feed you and your family quickly so that by the time 'adult only' diners come in families are usually ready to go home.
There is also a Japanese place in Brunswick that provides the same service.
We need more of these places!
by adele (score: 0|3) 3873 days ago

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