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The Case for Taking Babies to Bars

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A friend of mine recently had a pressing parenting question. So, like many modern moms and dads do, she turned to Facebook for advice. As anyone who has crowdsourced parenting advice knows (ahem, raises hand), the responses were a veritable cornucopia of help, insight and judgment. There were adamant declarations of “NO.” There was pearl-clutching. Nuanced perspectives. Ethical treatises. Implied judgment. Irrelevant statements that were only partially decipherable.

You know, the typical “Facebook replies to a parenting question” responses.

What exactly was my friend’s question?

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“What are your thoughts on taking babies to bars?”

Obviously, this topic is polarizing even without turning to Facebook for answers. Babies and booze don’t really go together, as opposed to diapers and wipes, or chocolate and yoga pants.

Despite the many reasons one could think of to denounce or outright ban babies in bars, there might be some situations in which taking a baby to a bar isn’t that big of a deal. As I see it, it all depends on the circumstances.

Just hear me out.

If you are going to get drunk at a bar, which is significantly different from having a drink at a bar, then that bar is no place for your baby.

Seriously, why would anyone want to take a baby to a bar in the first place?

I don’t know if it’s a matter of our puritanical roots or our particular cultural brand of binge-drinking, but people in the U.S. often think of bars as places where people go to get totally wasted. Truth be told, there are many bars and bar patrons that exemplify the “totally wasted” vibe with great enthusiasm.

These bars aren’t great places for babies, and these bar patrons aren’t great baby companions. Nonetheless, not all bars are like that. Not all alcohol consumers drink like that at all times.

For instance, my friend in question, the one who turned to Facebook for babies-in-bars answers, simply wanted to meet an out-of-town friend at a quiet pub early in the afternoon. She couldn’t easily arrange for a sitter for her infant. She also didn’t want to ask her friend (and all the other people he’d invited out) to change the meeting location. In these circumstances, bringing her baby to a bar ended up not being that big of a deal. It wasn’t loud, patrons weren’t rip-roaring drunk and her friends happily welcomed her baby.

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See? With the right bar, the right timing and the right situation, taking a baby to a bar might not be as offensive at it initially seems. That said, there are circumstances for which you shouldn’t take a baby to a bar :

  • If taking your baby to a bar will interrupt their sleep or eating routines so much that they (and thus you) will be miserable the entire time, that bar is probably no place for a baby.
  • If the bar’s sound intensity exceeds levels that are safe for babies’ hearing, then it’s no place for a baby.
  • If your baby will be exposed to second-hand smoke, the bar is no place for a baby.
  • If the bar is so crowded that someone might easily trip over your baby or spill a drink on your baby or slam into your baby with drunken abandon, then it’s no place for a baby.
  • If the bar is the sort of establishment that would have been a prime location for the Girls Gone Wild tour bus, it’s no place for a baby. I’d actually prefer that my babies never attend these sorts of bars, whether they’re 2 months old or 22 years old.
  • If you are going to get drunk at a bar, which is significantly different from having a drink at a bar, then that bar is no place for your baby.
  • If you are planning to go to a bar so that you and your friends can enjoy each other’s company and have meaningful conversation and stay up until the wee hours of the morning laughing and drinking and catching glimpses of the bygone freedoms of your youth, then I honestly don’t know what you’re thinking if you’re taking a baby to that bar. Also, good luck with those meaningful adult conversations for the next 5 to 50 years.
If the bar is the sort of establishment that would have been a prime location for the Girls Gone Wild tour bus, it’s no place for a baby.

But the most important rule? If going to a bar will impede your ability to carry out your parental responsibilities in any way, then do not take your baby to a bar.

Truth time: Have I ever taken my babies to a bar?

I have.

In our town, we have a bar — a real bar, not a restaurant-slash-bar — that offers a kids-are-welcome afternoon once a month. The bar is filled with free vintage arcade games, so it’s a huge draw for parents and kids alike. The parents drink beer (responsibly, as far as I can tell) and the kids drink soda or juice (with wild abandon, as far as I can tell). Everyone’s happy. No one’s out of control.

And the parents all get a chance to hang out at a real live bar without worrying about paying babysitters or dealing with annoying drunk people or feeling utterly exhausted after staying up past 10 p.m. or feeling utterly embarrassed over the fact that 10 p.m. is now the new super-late night.

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In these circumstances, taking a baby to a bar isn’t that big of a deal. It’s even a lot of fun—in a responsible, grown-up sort of way, of course.

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