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Are Child-Free Spaces OK?

Stephanie Rausser

Raise your hand if you've ever been annoyed by misbehaving child in a public place (yes, I am guilty). When you're enjoying the paper at a coffee shop or trying to have a quiet dinner at a restaurant, an unruly child can definitely put a damper on the mood. Why can't they just sit quietly? It's easy to forget that they're kids...and even the ones who’ve been diligently taught to “use their inside voice” might not always remember to do so. (Full disclosure: I don’t have kids yet.)

But should adults have the right to child-free places? (Babies in bars always stirs up a fierce debate). Maia, a blogger for Feministe, said in a recent post, quite plainly: "You do not have a right to child-free spaces."

Her rationale: children are "shorter, cuter, more honest people,” and that her job is to love rather than control her daughter. She also states that by creating "kiddie areas" or banning children from places, you're also alienating the parent or caretaker from participating in an adult environment. "I simply don’t believe that my mamahood means that I must be shunted away from the rest of society," writes Maia. And she also writes that if you see a kid having a meltdown, curb the dirty looks and offer to help the harried mother or kid instead.

All good points, and even though kids definitely need to be around grown-ups (and vice versa!), I think we need to remember that children, even though they are people, have different needs than adults. If you’ve got an active kid, it may not be fair to make him sit through a two-hour meal at a fancy restaurant. And what does the restaurant manager say, then, when he gets complaints from other customers?

Parents, are child-free spaces OK? Did your opinion change when you had kids? Have you ever had someone shoot you dirty looks or given you a hard time about having your kid with you?