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Is it OK to have no-children zones?

Catherine Harper wonders whether child-free zones might be a good idea...

By Catherine Harper
10 Nov 2014 | 10:27 am
  • Brunch without kids?

    Source:Shutterstock

I went to brunch with some girlfriends last month. It’s rare for me to do brunch, and it’s a big deal. We got dressed up to the nines, left the children at home with the husbands, and went to a posh restaurant. By ourselves. We were so excited, we were practically hyperventilating. The lift door opened, we stepped eagerly into the restaurant... And we were met by three giggling children. Someone else’s children. Using the restaurant lobby as a playground. Were we wrong to be completely and utterly hacked off?

Now, call me a miserable old cow if you will, but listen a while. I can appreciate our resentment might have been a little misplaced if we’d opted to spend our once-in-a-blue-moon child-free afternoon next to the climbing frame at our local golf club. Or if we’d chosen ‘Best Brunch For Families’ from the latest reviews. But no, we’d deliberately picked a suave, sophisticated, elegant, upmarket (and rather expensive) venue in which to enjoy our precious time and dirhams, thinking it’d be full of like-minded – adult – individuals.

Our visions of brunch did not include children; not our own, and most definitely not anyone else’s. Especially those who thought it was socially acceptable to run around a restaurant like it was a play centre while their parents were oblivious to their behaviour and enjoyed their brunch. I could pretend my concerns centred on the risks they might be encountering – hot plates and food or smashed glass if there was a collision – but I won’t. I simply didn’t want to be bothered by other people’s children when I was out to enjoy some catch-up time with my girlfriends.

So, is it OK to have no-children zones? Is there a market for adult-only venues, or adult-only times? Surely my friends and I can’t be alone in thinking there’s a time and a place for children, and an upmarket brunch isn’t it. A quick google reveals any number of places the general public thinks should be child free, from museums and art galleries, to weddings and premium cabins on aircraft. While I find some of the suggestions a bit harsh – banning children from all public spaces might be a teeny step too far – I think there’s a definite trend towards promoting the sanctity of adult-only spaces. Sandals has been doing it for years in its resorts, plenty of exclusive eateries in the world happily refuse to admit diners under 12, and some airlines do indeed bar smaller travellers from turning left when they board.

I mentioned my anti-child stance to a friend who didn’t join us for that particular brunch, though, and she was flabbergasted. Why on earth would anyone not want her angelic little darling hanging around? What was the problem with children being part of the company, especially since I’m a parent myself?

I guess my answer is that if parents actually parented properly and remembered there is such a thing as discipline, there wouldn’t be any need for child-free zones. Had those parents at brunch kept their offspring under control, the chances of my even noticing them would have been slim to none.

So, unpopular as my view may be, I think – at least until we rediscover authoritative parenting – child-free zones might be a good idea. I love my two little horrors dearly and I love spending time with them; on the rare occasion I get out without them, I miss them terribly. But I also value my me-time, my adult time. I value the limited time I have free from the stresses and strains of being a parent. Thanks all the same, but I don’t want your children under my feet while I get it.

By Catherine Harper

By Catherine Harper