I Take My Toddler to Bars -- What's the Big Deal?

Yes, I'm one of those horrible moms who takes her kid to bars. I can't say I'm proud of this, but I'm not exactly ashamed of myself either.

Let me explain: It all started one evening when a friend called to see if I'd like to meet up for a drink. Only my husband was already out that evening, and I couldn't find a babysitter for my 2-year-old daughter on such short notice. And sitting in my apartment didn't appeal to my pal, who was single and childless.

Given these limitations, if this drink were to happen -- and after a long day of entertaining my daughter, lord knows I was chomping at the bit for it -- my choice seemed clear: I'd meet my friend at a bar and take my toddler with me.


It was 5 p.m. -- plenty of time before my daughter would be need to go to bed. So I packed her up and headed out. To lower the odds of receiving dirty looks, I picked a watering hole that my husband and I used to frequent during my pre-baby years, where the bartender knew us by name. To my relief, he smiled at the sight of my toddler in tow.

"Is it okay that she's in here?" I asked. He said absolutely. I relaxed. "Great. Shirley Temple for her, cabernet for me."

So the bartender was cool with it ... only were the patrons? To my surprise and delight, my toddler wasn't just tolerated, she was treated like a celebrity. Guests gushed how great it was to meet her, how cute/pretty/smart she was, held up their hands for her to high-five. A few even took her photo. Alcohol, it turns out, wasn't just a social lubricant for adults; I dare say it made these bar-goers bond with my toddler far more than they would have done sober.

Once my friend arrived, my daughter entertained herself with the pool table, batting the cue ball back and forth, while my pal and I caught up. Two hours later, I took my daughter home in time for bed, pleased that our first social outing in an adult setting went so well. Legally, toddlers aren't allowed in bars, but clearly no one was going to call the cops. So I kept going, drunk, literally, with my newfound freedom.

Not that there weren't some awkward moments. My daughter spilled beers, clambered precariously on bar stools. She no doubt heard some colorful language, since I wouldn't dare ask anyone to watch their language in front of my kid -- after all, if you take your child to a bar, you can't expect a day camp-style atmosphere.

Yet there was one regular at this bar who was clearly annoyed by my daughter's presence: Her dad.

"Being in a bar isn't good for her," my husband argued. "And it's not good for the bar, either. It ruins the ambience."

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I argued that he headed out to Happy Hour regularly, leaving me at home with our daughter. If he didn't want her in bars, he'd have to start staying at home with her more often or figure out a way we could afford a babysitter. After two years at home and the nine months of pregnancy on top of it, I'd been barred from the bar scene long enough. I just wanted the occasional glass of wine with friends -- was that such a big deal?

Kids in bars may not be ideal, but on behalf of parents everywhere, I beseech bar-goers to think how they'd feel after spending a day hanging out at playgrounds and sing-alongs: Wouldn't you want a drink, too? As long as my daughter isn't downing margaritas, I see little harm -- and a world of good for cooped-up, stressed-out parents.

Do you take your baby to bars?


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