Remember how the first thing you’d do when you got on an airplane to head to your kid-free, all-inclusive couples resort was look around to make sure there were no screaming babies sitting in your vicinity? Now the joke’s on you, because you’re the parent of a screaming kid—congratulations!
While there isn’t, unfortunately, too much you can do when your bundle of joy decides to let it go on a plane (it’s not like you can take them outside…sorry, world), those of the child-free persuasion do sometimes have a point in expressing their annoyance at your gremlins. It’s not always clear who’s in the right—after all, kids exist, and other people are going to have to deal with them. But there are some basic rules of etiquette you can follow to help a non-parent out. Because your kid is cute, but the world doesn’t revolve around her, K?
1. Don’t bring babies to public places with no-kid rules.
There have to be some kid-free havens in the world, right? Even parents need a little escape, and often head to places where kids aren’t allowed for that express purpose. It’s a fine line of how fancy the restaurant can be before you should reasonably be expected to leave your toddler at home (my suggestion? The cloth napkin test). And while most bars probably don’t actually have a sign that reads “no babies allowed,” it’s pretty obvious that kids don’t belong there.
But sometimes, even if the place looks OK for kids—like, say, a movie theater—you shouldn’t bring them along if there’s an expressly written “no kids” rule. Recently, a couple of moms with babies were kicked out of a showing of—ironically—Bad Moms. Why? The theater’s policy is no kids after 6 p.m. I know it’s tough to be a breastfeeding mother. But that doesn’t mean other moms want to have their night out ruined by your fussing child. Even if you took him out as soon as he started to cry, that’s still probably at least 30 seconds others are going to have to listen to him. Sound harsh? Well, this could be their one night away from their own screaming brats in months. So follow the rules. You can go see a matinee.
2. Don’t expect others to watch your kids unless you’re paying them.
It’s so tempting: You finally arrive at a get-together with your little guy after he’s been driving you insane all day long, and now there are miraculously other adults who can handle him for a freaking second. We know you need a break. Really. But that’s what babysitters are for. Don’t ask Aunt Mary to watch your kid for just a minute and then disappear for half an hour. It’s rude. There’s a reason you pay nannies. No one wants to watch your kid for free, unless they offer to do so.
3. Don’t change your baby on a table where people eat.
This one should go without saying, because it is disgusting—and you would realize that if you thought for one second about what you are about to do as you pull out little Suzy’s changing pad. Sure, it’s convenient, and you might not be grossed out by your tiny baby’s poop—but we are. Plus, it could potentially make someone sick. Yes, it’s a pain to gather up all your shit and head to the bathroom. And what if the bathroom lacks an (admittedly also disgusting) baby changing station? Then you’re fucked. Go to the car or another place of business with a bathroom nearby. If you’re at a park (because you also shouldn’t use picnic tables) you could change your kid on the ground. But please, oh please, don’t open up your baby’s diaper where people eat.
4. Respect child-free events.
But weddings are family occasions! you say. Maybe yours was. Maybe you had a cute-as-fuck ring bearer and flower girl and they were just the most adorable things twirling on the dance floor and then they fell asleep in their cake and wasn’t it just so precious? That was your day. Maybe this bride envisions something different—an elegant, adult soirée with nary a kid in sight. Maybe she’s worried that your crying child will drown out her wedding vows in the church before you manage to get him outside. Don’t even bother asking if little Charlie can come—if he’s not on the invite, he’s not invited. Hire a babysitter (or bring Grandma) to keep the little guy occupied in the hotel room. Or use the wedding as an excuse for a date night. Worse comes to worse, you might have to skip it. Even if you don’t agree with the bride’s decision, you must respect it.
Another surprisingly child-free event? Baby showers. You’d think if there’s a baby on the way, how can the mom-to-be be, like, anti-baby? Because she wants all the attention focused on her. She doesn’t want people cooing over your little thunder-stealer. It’s her day, plus she’s hormonal, so cut her some slack if she doesn’t invite your child.
5. Clean up after your kid.
I know, I know, you’re in a rush to leave that playdate or restaurant before your little one melts down. And many times a generous host or waiter will tell you just to leave the mess that your kid has inevitably made. But at least make a show of trying to clean up, especially if it’s food or bodily fluids. Plus, it teaches your child that you need to take responsibility for your own messes.
6. Use screen time if it keeps the peace in public.
With screens, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. No one wants to hear your toddler throw a tantrum, but they’ll tsk tsk if you hand your kid the iPhone. Fuck those people. Keeping the peace is key to a successful restaurant meal or shopping trip. You can try other things (crayons? good luck) but you’re not a “bad mom” if you resort to the screen. It’s better than the alternative.
7. Don’t spread your kid’s germs around (a.k.a. wipe up his freaking boogers).
Sick kids. They are responsible for the vast majority of plague in the world. OK, I made that up. But it sure AF seems like it when cold and flu season rolls around. I know you can’t keep your kid inside for every little sniffle, but you can take pains to be aware when your might-be-getting-sick germ factory is slobbering all over the place or wiping his snot on someone else’s furniture. Just pay a little more attention, and wipe his nose. Make sense?
8. FFS, take your crying kid out of the room.
This is the cardinal rule of parent etiquette. Try a distraction or two, wait a couple of minutes, and then get.the fuck.out.
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