Cost/Benefit Analysis of Eating Out With Kids
There is something every parent must do before committing to take their offspring out into a public place where other people are trying to eat: A thorough cost/benefit analysis must be done, carefully weighing the risks of public embarrassment, stress and judgement with the need to get out of your house.
Parents must consider:
- What time of day is it? Parents must compare the amount of energy likely bottled up in their children with the potential for a crowded restaurant. Would the children physically explode if it takes longer than 15 minutes to bring out the main dish? Would an excess crowd creative wonderful distraction, or overstimulate your young pup and send him running in circles around your table like a dog chasing his own tail?
- What type of restaurant is it? Obviously kid friendly places are the ideal and should be chosen 98% of the time, but we have all been in those situations when on vacation or when guests visit, that you are forced to consider taking your barbaric children to a fine dining establishment. This is a big big gamble. If planned right and the stars align, your experience could leave you beaming with pride for months as you retell your heroic triumph to everyone you meet, “My toddler just LOVES The Chart House.” Or, if the experience plays out with utensils clanging and food flying, you just might end up blowing the bank on overtipping and buying the table next to you a glass (or two) of wine to compensate.
- What type of food will be served, and will my kids see what other people are eating? My kids have always been good eaters, so I don’t have the worry too much about finding something on any menu that they would eat. That is a huge problem for many parents and I feel for you. Personally, I love taking the kids out to breakfast places for two reasons: 1) Breakfast food is easy to please any kiddo. Pancakes, eggs, biscuits, fruit, and all-you-can-drink milk supply will make even the pickiest eater happy. 2) They will never see someone at the next table scarfing down ice cream while I try to convince them to eat their meal. Once a kid’s mind is set on ice cream, all bets are off. The older, more experienced child may be on their best behavior to earn the ice cream. However, the more likely response, especially for toddlers or those younger second children who learned the joys of ice cream long before they have any concept of delayed gratification, they will demand it immediately and fail to understand why they must wait and cannot just march over and eat poor Jane’s ice cream right now.
- What is the status of my home life? Has it been a rough day? So bad that you are beyond caring what sort of judgmental looks may be thrown your way? Did you clean while they were asleep and need it to stay clean for some reason? Removing your children from the house is the only way to guarantee your family or friends’ shoes will not stick to your floor. Have the wee-ones been on their best behavior all day and you are feeling lucky? Did you fail to make it to the grocery store today, or even in the last week?
I am sure there are many more considerations thoughtful parents weigh before embarking on a meal out. After a serious cost-benefit analysis, we decided to take our associates out to dinner last night… at 430pm on a sunday to a kid friendly restaurant where no ice cream is served. We were in and out in 45 minutes and a good time was had by all.
Embracing the risk and adventure of eating out with kids helps me appreciate a date night even more. There is something truly magical about spending 2+ hours at a white table cloth establishment, eating amazing food, drinking fantastic wine and enjoying the company of my husband, uninterrupted.