When I first came home from the hospital with our little squish, the idea that I would ever leave the house again seemed ridiculous. Then I blinked and six weeks had passed. I suddenly really needed Eggs Benedict and a Mimosa but I didn’t want to leave my baby for a second.
My husband and I had the fear. The what if they can’t fit the buggy in the restaurant fear. The what if he does that scream that shatters glass fear. The what if he shits right down into the leg of his sleepsuit and onto our clothes fear. The what if people look annoyed fear. And that brings us to the first step.
1. No one ever died of embarrassment
Even if the absolute worst thing you can imagine happens (a combination of pooing and screaming is my own personal nightmare but my kid can’t run yet so I’m sure this fear will evolve) and people have started to stare, just make one of those sort of ‘oh well’ smiles at onlookers and fix whatever the problem is. You will never see these people again. Embarrassment cannot kill you, I promise.
2. Forewarned is forearmed
Let the restaurant know you’re coming and what you need; if it’s space for a buggy or a highchair. They want your business and their lunch sitting to run smoothly. Also, if you’re not a phone person because honestly, who is nowadays? We’re millenials for gods sake, phones aren’t for calling people. Both Bookatable and OpenTable have areas where you can state any special requirements you have when booking. Hot tip: If you’re feeling really brave you could say that it’s your birthday too because that almost always guarantees free dessert.
3. Prepare for a poohnami
It’s better just to assume that your kid will poop and that the poop will escape. Bring 2 additional outfits for the kid. Plus about 5 muslin squares. And if your restaurant doesn’t have baby change go here and find your closest one.
4. Take reinforcements
I’m talking toys and teethers. Bring several and keep the most exciting one in reserve for meltdowns. We have a little plastic car that lights up and sings songs, Max never gets to play with it unless something has gone wrong in a restaurant. The element of surprise is key here and can occupy him for a good half hour.
5. Plan around naps
If you can, do. If your kid doesn’t sleep well in the day then this isn’t going to work for you but if you know they’re going down for 40 minutes at noon then book then. They’ll still wake up during your meal but shortening the length of your baby’s conscious time in a restaurant is no bad thing. This is especially useful in higher end quieter restaurants.
6. Involve your kid
Once you’ve started weaning, let your babe taste a little of what’s on your plate where appropriate. It’s good for preventing food aversions and making sure your kid has an adventurous appetite. We take Max’s baby spoon with us when we go out now so that he can hold it during meals which he is pretty jazzed about.
7. Remember you’re the customer
The restaurant want your business and they don’t want a bad review on TripAdvisor later. If there’s something you need, say, a cup of hot water to heat some milk or help with your buggy, ask for it. They want you to have a good time.
8. Know your kids (and your) limits
There have been two occasions in the last four months that made me seriously question if we needed to immediately pay the bill and leave the restaurant mid meal. The first involved my mum giving Max some lemon to try that made him react as if he’d just had his four month jabs. I left the restaurant three (3) times to go outside to calm him down. We still had a whole meal and nobody died. The second unfortunate situation involved a very quiet restaurant when Max wanted to go to sleep. It was 8 floors up and I couldn’t leave with him. Eventually he settled and again nobody died. I learned from these situations though. No crazy flavours, nowhere too quiet. Those are our limits.
9. Don’t go it alone (at least to start with)
I love eating out on my own and now that Max and I have been frequent diners for months I will occasionally brave a solo yolo with him but it depends hugely on the restaurant. I tend to pick more casual places, during less busy hours when it’s just us two but when just you’re starting out take a pal or your mum or your significant other so you can pass the baby back and forth and go to the loo without the buggy.
10. Always check www.mamaneedsamimosa.com for recommendations obvs! I got you.