One article in particular found on The Age's website really got me thinking about Melbourne's ubiquitous cafe culture....
When Miss E was a baby, and our mothers' group was first starting we regularly met at local cafes. I was never quite comfortable with this arrangement. I could never really relax, as I was never sure if my bubba - who refused to sleep anywhere but her cot - would lose the plot when she got tired and scream at the top of her lungs. Or if she became hungry. Really, there are a myriad of reasons why a young baby might start wailing! And as a regular cafe goer, I don't enjoy hearing a baby screaming, so I wanted to be considerate of others, and not have my baby create a disturbance. This of course was confounded by the fact that, unlike all the other babies in our group, mine was never happy to just sit in the pram, or even on my lap. She got bored. In about 5 minutes. So being trapped in a cafe was not ideal for us.
Also, I felt that a mothers' group was not a particularly attractive or sought after customer base for a cafe. We mostly just ordered coffees, and then stayed for up to two hours taking up literally half the cafe with our prams, and other baby paraphernalia that seemed so essential at the time. Those tables could have been being used for customers who actually wanted to order meals. And who didn't take over the whole cafe. I guess I was more aware of these issues than others may be, as I had owned a business myself and had heard horror stories from other traders in the cafe industry. So I mentioned my concerns to one of the other mums, who was also the person who had been arranging the get togethers, and from then on, we met elsewhere. At each others' homes in the cooler months, and at various local parks in warmer months. Our new arrangement was wonderful! Especially as the babies got older. They had room to explore, and make noise, and when at another person's place, new toys to investigate.
Miss E is no longer a baby, and I still feel the same way about cafes as I did when she was a baby. A pre-schooler can't be expected to sit still or quietly for any length of time. When I do visit a cafe, we have a window of about 30 minutes before she begins to get restless. I am ok with this. She's a kid and kids need to be active. So my options are a) allow her to run around and generally make a nuisance of herself while diminishing others' enjoyment, or b) leave after 30 minutes. Option B is my preferred choice. I think it serves the needs of my child - who needs to be active, and the needs of the other patrons. I guess the only person whose needs are not met, are mine. I don't get to sit and enjoy a long, uninterrupted conversation with a friend/s. But I signed up for this motherhood gig, and that goes with the territory.
It seems that Melbourne's cafe culture has evolved to the point where people think of their local like a home away from home. For many mums, a trip to a cafe is a little outing that gets her out of the house and makes her feel like she's part of what's happening in the world. I get that. Motherhood can be very isolating. And I think in general, most mothers balance their own needs and the needs of other patrons well. But there are the occasional few who seem unaware of the need to be considerate of others.
When frequenting a cafe with Miss E, I stick to the following rules:
* Try to pick a family friendly cafe - with either a kids room or a play area outside
* In a cafe where there is no kids area - Miss E is expected to sit at the table. Running around said cafe is not acceptable. I provide pencils and paper, games on my phone or buy her a baby cino as a novelty.
* If Miss E throws a tantrum, or cries for any reason, I take her outside, and don't return until she has calmed down.
* As mentioned above, if there is no kids area, I don't stay longer than 30 minutes.
What are your cafe etiquette rules?