I usually don’t voice my opinion about every little thing happening around the world, but there’s this one issue that’s hit close to home and I can’t help but say something about it.
First: the issue. A woman went to an Earl’s restaurant and they didn’t have a high chair for her 9 month old, nor did they have change tables in the washroom. She left a complaint on their Facebook page which got lots of attention. Earl’s response is that they don’t see themselves as a family restaurant so they’re not sorry about not having high chairs.
What’s interesting to me is how upset people are on both sides of the debate. Parents are saying that they’re now going to boycott Earl’s restaurants since they clearly don’t want their business, while people oblivious to the parental situation are saying that they don’t want to eat their meals with kids around!
Since I have a 2.5 month old now, going out with the little one is obviously something that concerns me. I haven’t gone out with baby much, but I plan to in the coming future. I’m definitely one of those parents who would rather my child go with me than find a babysitter. That said… the furthest I’ve gone recently is to get a coffee…
I’ll start by saying that I’m not really a huge fan of Earl’s restaurants anyway, so I’m not inclined to stick up for them. Nor am I inclined to be upset that they’re not family-friendly because it’s probably not a restaurant I’d have eaten at anyway.
That said, I can understand where the mom who complained is coming from. She felt alienated by a place where she had spent money in the past. Perhaps this was a place where she came to feel safe and welcome, and all of a sudden that isn’t the case… as long as she’s with her little one. She wants Earl’s restaurants to be consistent – why do some locations have high chairs and others do not? And are they really ready to give up her business? … it seems they are. They released a statement saying that they do not view themselves as a family restaurant, although they welcome families (and they don’t have to provide high chairs and change tables to be family-friendly).
I’ll share what happened to me recently: a friend (a good one, I might add) is having a house party and when she invited me, she specifically said “no kids”. Obviously this wasn’t just directed at me, but all her friends with kids. Maybe it’s me being a sensitive new mom, but I couldn’t help but be a little hurt by her request. If I was bringing my child, I’d obviously have to leave early for the baby’s bed-time, which probably wouldn’t interfere with a rowdy party. Who’s to say that I’d really want to spent that much time at a house party with an infant? Why not invite your friends with kids early and say “no kids after 10pm”? I can respect my friend’s wishes to throw a crazy party… but I also feel that I need to look for some new friends, those who would appreciate my child as a member of my family and would welcome baby into their home. See, a kid isn’t like a pet that you can just leave at home.
And that’s when I come to my response to all those who say that kids don’t belong at Earl’s or any other restaurants other than Chuck-E-Cheese. I don’t think that this should be the case. Kids need to learn to interact and live with adults. They need to learn to eat food other than chicken McNuggets, and they need to learn to use their inside voices, eat with a knife and fork, and have proper table manners. When I was young, my parents took my sister and I out to eat with them all the time. The understanding was that going out was a treat and a privilege, and we were expected to treat it as such and be on our best behaviour – and believe me, we were for there were consequences if we weren’t.
At the end of the day, I don’t think that Earl’s is wrong to not stock high chairs and have change tables. If that’s how they want to market themselves, that fine. They don’t owe old or new customers anything. And most parents understand that a lot changes when you have kids. You gravitate towards the people and establishments that welcome them. Today a friend told me that she went to her local pub for dinner and took her newborn along. The pub manager served her and her husband their meal and then held on to the newborn and walked around the pub with him so that the two parents could eat in peace. Did she expect that of a pub? Definitely not. Will she go back there, over going to her local chain restaurant? Of course, she will!
The lesson is that I need to find new friends, and the woman who was disappointed at Earl’s will find another good (and hopefully better) restaurant to eat at. Earl’s will continue being Earl’s.