Are Beer Gardens No Place For Families?

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Simon Parker, travel writer for the Telegraph, made a bold statement that parents and their toddlers should be banned from pubs in this brilliantly written article.

As a parent who enjoys a pint in the pub with my children in tow, here is my reply…

Dear Simon Parker,

Hello from the other side, as another of our national treasures would say. I am a mum of two signed up members of the Paw Patrol fan club and was born in the early 80s so I fall into the category of millennial, although very cuspily and only when it suits, parents you wish to ban from good old fashioned British pubs.

If it was culturally (and legally) acceptable to sit and drink a few beers on a park bench as three year olds play on the playground, you and your friends would struggle to find a spot on the bench between the parents and their kegs but sadly it isn’t and we have to stand awkwardly around the communal sand pit and smile innanely at our toddlers telling them for the umpteenth time not to eat the covered sand which incidentally doesn’t smell unlike the scent of Scampi Fries and urinals you so affectionately describe.

“Pubs aren’t for the childless anymore”, this is an interesting turn of phrase and the nearest you get to making my blood boil. Like my tea these days and your beer it remains fairly tepid for the most part. Why should there be a distinction between what parents with children like to do and the childless? When my husband and I decided to have children, we didn’t opt out of fun or give up our own need for personal enjoyment, although you might not get that impression from the Volkswagen Tiguan parked outside our house in the burbs. We like going to the pub for a pint on a sunny day and would prefer not to have our kids in tow but unfortunately we can’t, if the price of beer south of Birmingham concerns you, add on the cost of a babysitter and then we will talk about being significantly short changed.

Why is it acceptable to point the finger one way but not the other? As a parent I would be hung up for generalising about the childless, I would be considered patronising and insensitive, yet it is perfectly acceptable for you to make sweeping generalisations the other way and the phrase. I harbour a secret suspicion that “parents these days” is a thinly veiled replacement for “tut Women.”

The demise of the old man pub can be blamed on many things but I think you have overlooked a major cultural shift in co-parenting. Where dads no longer enjoy a pint in a pub after work every night but opt for a bottle of pale ale in front of the last episode of Paw patrol before bath time. They live in hope that at the weekend they will be able to order a Sierra Nevada on tap and catch the second half of the United game thankful that their wife remembered to download the latest episode of Paw Patrol before she kicked them out of the house. I appreciate I am also guilty of making huge role generalisations here.

As pubs are increasingly reliant on income from food sales, families are actually supporting these establishments, which is why they tend to have high chairs, crayons and play areas, and it is the “not in my pub” mentality of the struggling landlords which is causing their own demise. Our local pub recently became a more family friendly pub, it still has it’s traditional child free boozer at the front, think Queen Vic in the Mitchell days, but at the back, and in the beer garden, it is family friendly. I go there 3 times a week, 3 times more than I would if it wasn’t family friendly. For breakfast and a coffee with my mum friends and their pre schoolers. It has a huge back area which is empty at 9.30am and much better equipped to park buggies and entertain energetic kids than the pokey cafes that we are supposed to frequent, unless of course there is someone trying to “work from home” on one of the tables, and you think you are being squeezed out. On a Saturday on the way back from the park, we pop in for a fruit shoot, a pint of beer, a glass of Prosecco and to change the baby. I’m not doing very well at dispelling the stereotypes here am I? Finally on a Sunday we come in for our Sunday lunch with either family or friends. We are a profitable customer for our local pub and part of the community that it serves.

You don’t see children in pubs overseas, mainly because they don’t have a similar pub culture to the UK. However, in mainland Europe, or whatever we are calling it in a post Brexit world (has it even been agreed yet?) families are welcomed into bars and restaurants with their parents but there is a very clear difference, and this is where I think we will start to agree, it is they are welcomed but they are expected to behave respectfully in Britain we tolerate too much. I do agree with you that there is a time and a place for children and I think we are in danger of losing sight of this.

Some pubs or areas of pubs are not appropriate for children and as a mindful parent, I would not take my children in there, neither would I take them to a night club, there is a time and a place for children and a time and a place for adults I get it but please don’t ban parents from pubs or segregate us from everyone else in all pubs. I like sitting next to your table, it is a nostalgic window into my pre kid days.

Parents can be precious and hyper sensitive to having their children’s behaviour criticised as it is a direct reflection on them, I am definitely guilty of this. There is a huge movement against parent shaming and rightly so but in the interests of balance, parents should also take responsibility for their children’s behaviour and not let them run riot and if a landlord or patron points something out take it as good intentioned and accept that perhaps it is time to head home and put in the night garden on. When I take my girls to the pub at the weekend, for a drink or two, I am not advocating getting leathered with the kids in tow, I am teaching them two things. One, I expect them to behave themselves and not encroach on the space of others. I don’t want to sit next to a table full of children on loud iPads either or running around high on fruit shoots. If our children do get rowdy, I put their iPads on with the volume low or use their headphones. Two, it is ok to go somewhere where they are not the focus.

So much of our life is dominated by taking the children to activities, swimming, soft play, the park and that is exactly as it should be. I chose to become a parent and their needs are paramount, however there is also a time where we as a family do something that is for mum and dad and they should be able to cope with that. If you ban children from these adult centric environments you are depriving parents or the ability to teach their children these valuable life lessons and I dread to think what this next generation of adults will be like if we don’t. Just because I am a parent, it doesn’t mean I have lost all my sense of civility and I do not want to disturb other people. That said, I have the same level of expectations on all the other patrons.

But a ban? Do we need another extreme measure in a world of trade wars and division? Is it going to illicit the right response?

If you can overlook the occasional outburst or unruly behaviour from our table, I will return the favour to you when you and your friends are 5 pints in. Ok, rant over, now pass those peanuts.

All the best

Pub Loving Millennial Mum

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