Is it really worth eating out with a toddler? This is the exact question that Paul and I tried to answer this evening on our way home from having an early dinner in a Thai restaurant in Zürich. Yes, it felt like a nice treat. And yes, the food was great. But it did feel like quite a lot of effort. And a vast amount of our time was spent entertaining CK and mopping up spilt water (fizzy water … see, we really have been abroad too long).
So we’re torn.
On the one hand, I don’t think children should stop you doing the things that you enjoy. And we love eating out. Continuing to head to our favourite restaurants, albeit a little earlier that we would have done in the past, has introduced CK to a whole host of different cuisines. At just turned two, he’s happy eating Thai, Mexican, Chinese, French, Lebanese … basically, anything you put in front of him. There’s very rarely a children’s menu or ‘safe’ option at the places we go to so I tend to ask for an extra plate and he has a little bit of whatever Paul and I are having. Luckily, we’ve yet to go through a fussy stage with him and he loves flavours and spices.
Yes, a lot of effort goes in to keeping him occupied and sitting down while waiting for our meal (crayons, stickers, books, cartoons on my iPhone), but I’ve noticed that as he’s becoming a little older and more comfortable with his surroundings, he’s developing lovely table manners and is more inclined to sit at the table and simply chatter and giggle with us.
Can I claim that this is due to the experiences we are giving him? I don’t know. He might just be growing up.
On the other hand, I find that I’m slightly on edge throughout the meal ready to leap in to action as the fastest mopper-upper in the west. I tend to eat slightly quicker than is healthy and almost feel like I’m getting through the meal rather than savouring and enjoying it. It can feel like hard work rather than a nice evening out. Hard work that you obviously have to pay for as well.
I suppose the other option would be to opt for more child-friendly places with an accompanying play area but quite frankly, I’d rather eat at home and take him to a park afterwards. For me, eating out is about the food and the ambience and not about convenience and a few swings and a slide.
With Big Bump due in just over a week, eating out is going to become even more of a logistical nightmare. Will we still carry on? I simply don’t know. I’d like to but I have visions of trying to eat while colouring with CK with my left hand and rocking the baby with my right. It doesn’t sound particularly relaxing or sociable.
How did you continue with your social life once babies arrived on the scene? Did everything completely change or did you try to hang on to some of the things that you loved doing?