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Eating Out With Kids Is a Sh*tshow But I Can't Help Myself

Photograph by Twenty20

I love eating out. It soothes my soul and is one less job I have to do for the day. You can only love preparing meals for your family and cleaning up after it's all over so many times in a week. Plus, we all know when someone else is cooking, the food just tastes better.

I've tried to make french fries taste the same way they do at my favorite burger joint. What I end up with is a grease-splattered kitchen, a few burns and my kids always learn a few new swear words. There were a few times I tried to make eggplant parmigiana, only to be so tired and wasted afterwards, I couldn't even enjoy my own cooking. And I don't care what anyone says, ice cream tastes better when you aren't scooping it.

Ever since I was a little girl, eating out was a special treat, and as an adult I've spend way too much money on dining at restaurants—it's basically my favorite hobby—and something I was not willing to give up when I had a child.

Before I knew it, I had three kids under 3 years old, and I needed that one meal out a week more than ever. There was a time when getting them in their car seats, into a restaurant and strapped back into a high chair was my cardio. I would try to sit back and enjoy my meal but we all know how that goes when you have kids in a public place. But I still did it because having someone else cook and clean for my makes me deliciously happy.

There were times I'd buckle them in the car, hit the drive-thru and park while eating and watching cars go by, and I'd feel a little more hopeful I could make it through the day just by getting out for a bit.

It was rare that all three would be well-behaved at a restaurant all at once, yet all the draining energy it took to entertain them while waiting to order would quickly be forgotten.

When the following weekend rolled around, all I would choose to remember was the three seconds they were all coloring or quietly snacking on the crackers I had packed. I would daydream about how fun and easy it would be to carry on a conversation with my husband as our three little cherubs sat and waited patiently for their food.

I needed this time to unwind and take a break from serving, cooking and cleaning.

They wouldn't grab for the sugar packets or dismantle their kiddie cup, no way, they would be good. We would all enjoy it. It would be a glorious time had by all if it killed me—which, it almost did.

It just never got bad enough that I wanted to stop. I decided it was a good opportunity to show my kids how you act in public. And the manners you have at a restaurant are a bit more advanced than what you practice at home: You must wear pants, for instance, and you can't feed your food to the dog if you don't like it.

Having my kids look at the waiter or waitress in the eye and ask them questions about what's on the menu, instead of having me do it for them, was a huge confidence booster. It took them a little bit of time to get the courage, but once they did, I could see they were proud of themselves.

I needed this time to unwind and take a break from serving, cooking and cleaning. Plus, sometimes a mom just needs someone to do her right by deep frying shit for her. We all need our fix and mine happens to be a meal out on the weekends—sometimes two.

Now that my kiddos are older, it's still a circus sometimes. They argue about where we're going to go, fight in the car on the way and complain about who they "have" to sit next to.

But I'll keep on doing this. I refuse to give up something I love to do just because my kids don't like the way a certain restaurant makes their grilled cheese or because they have to sit next to their sister and their legs are touching. (Seriously.)

They can pull it together for their mother and they usually do, because if they can't, they all know what will happen next: No dessert.

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