Take My Kids Out to Eat? I’ll Take The Check Please!

Going out to eat was once simple, an almost absent-minded choice to just head on out to a restaurant. That was before binkies needed to be found and diaper bags needed to be packed. It was before you needed to decide if it was “family-friendly” enough for your children who woke up at the crack of dawn and managed to win the two-hour naptime battle without even closing their eyes.

Take My Kids Out to Eat? I'll Take The Check Please

This was all before you were a mother, with a baby on your hip and a toddler’s hand in yours, on a mission to make it through a dinner out.

Pre-motherhood, you may have witnessed a few children’s meltdowns in public and naively thought to yourself “my children will never act like that!”

Pause for effect, and let’s laugh together at just how wrong you turned out to be. Our children are CHILDREN and indeed act out at times that are not always convenient for us. So even while my child cries over being told he can’t dump the salt shaker in his apple juice, and many other patrons’ eyes fall on my table, I assure you (and them) I am not the monster-mother I appear to be!

So, I have compiled some must-have survival tips for taking your children out to eat.

Tip number one: DON’T.

You’ll thank me later. Joking! Or am I? If for some crazy reason you choose to ignore my cleverly-crafted first step, let’s move right along to…

Tip number two: Choose family-friendly places!

AKA “bring the crying babies and tantrum-ing toddlers, it’s normal and accepted here.” Odds are, at least in a family-friendly restaurant, you’re less likely to get the judgy looks, and your children are more than likely not the only ones making a scene.

Let’s forget the tips here because let’s be honest–

Let’s just forgo expectations of our dining experiences going smooth sailing until our kids are adults themselves. Or, until they are at least sulky teenagers; for better or for worse right? 

My personal go-to survival goal is just to make it out of my dining experience without losing my mind, or my appetite! So maybe I can’t buy all the appetizers anymore, now that I’m paying for a family meal. So I usually gravitate towards a restaurant that gives out free bread of some sort or chips and salsa. By the way, does anyone know a restaurant that serves moms free margaritas? Asking for a friend….

Even with these run of the mill tips, usually by the time the kids start crying, I take my glass of wine to the bathroom and cry too. 

“Mom he’s looking at me!” Yes, child, your brother can indeed look at you across this booth. “I don’t want to share a meal, I’ll eat my own all-gone this time!”  Of course, then the meal comes and your children announce “I’m not hungry”. May the holy grail of mom heroes upon their thrones be with you once your kids start refusing to eat the very overpriced, mediocre, mom’s-going-to-finish-once-you-go-to-bed-tonight-anyways kids meal. Because chances are, if your kids aren’t eating, then neither are you.

Que the to-go containers. CHECK PLEASE!

You’re grumpy. The kids are grumpy. Your spouse is grumpy, but yet somehow managed to eat some of his meal in the midst of the chaos! Your $74 dinner is now getting colder every minute you wait for your check. You are once again reminded of how much better a cold meal is at home.  At home, no one had to witness your child blow milk bubbles out his nose or your daughter bounce across the booth ignoring your whisper-yells to sit down!

So while you drag one kicking and one screaming child out the restaurant who miraculously decided they suddenly like chicken nuggets, just breathe. Somewhere in that very restaurant, another mom is thankful that tonight it’s not her kids. It’s not her family making the scene. She relates, she understands. And she is sending you all the love.

 So turn up the radio on your drive home. Eat the kids cold chicken nuggets and french fries. Because you’re the mom, and you can!

And the next time you get the crazy notion to take the whole family out to eat; you better just order pizza. 


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Carly is a true Iowan, born and raised. She’s a Pinterest fail type of single mom to six year old Stella, who enthusiastically dances to the beat of her own drum. For her day job you’ll find her with a cup of coffee in hand as a secretary at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. After hours, she’s bingeing her true crime podcasts, reading all the books, and having mini JoJo Siwa dance parties with her daughter Stella.