Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home


Totally, Jan

So I read this article this morning, and took the bait. Probably because I was annoyed the handypeople didn’t show, and my coffee this morning was really bad.


Why I’d BAN Children from Cafes and Restaurants

Janet Street-Porter

There’s nothing more enjoyable in life than going out to eat — breakfast, lunch or dinner, it doesn’t matter which. Sitting with friends and having a good natter, preferably over drinks or a really good cup of coffee, is one of life’s pleasures. Totally agree.

But how many dining experiences are ruined because you are forced to conduct your conversation over a cacophony generated by something small, cross and wearing a nappy?

Badly behaved children in restaurants and cafes are in my top five hates, along with men in shiny white shoes, women who lie about their cosmetic surgery, people who like drinks with cherries in them and rude van drivers. My top five hates include really badly written pieces of click bait published in Daily Mail. And slow walkers.

Have you noticed that in the modern world all the emphasis is on child-friendly establishments? It’s as if children dominate our society and no one has the guts to question this ludicrous assumption. I know, right? How dare they even exist? I am so glad I was never one, and instead sprung fully formed from my father’s forehead (or thigh, my parents’ memory is hazy).

What a role reversal has taken place over the past few decades. Go on TripAdvisor or Facebook in child-friendly Britain and it’s easy to find hundreds of places that proudly announce they welcome mums and their offspring, along with their aisle-clogging double buggies, high chairs and nappy-changing requirements. What are they even thinking? That mothers want to leave the house too? LOL! At least if they are going to leave the house, can’t they carry the damn kid on their back, or teach it to walk at 6 months? It would remove the need for those completely unnecessary prams!

What about the rest of us — the people who might want to enjoy a meal without a toddler (not even one we’re related to) for company? I don’t know. You poor things. There is literally nowhere in the world safe from awful small humans.

I haven’t produced any offspring (you don’t say) but it doesn’t make me a child-hater (of course not! This article totally says otherwise, don’t worry!), just someone who thinks there’s a time and place for adventurous play and it’s not when I’m trying to eat lunch. Point taken. Good thing I have you to keep me on the straight and narrow, otherwise we’d be adventurous playing all over the damn establishment.

I’ve got a theory that mums have different hearing to the rest of us. They seem to be highly selective, impervious to the ghastly racket little Johnnie or Klay is making as he screams for attention. Mums just smile beatifically and hope he will stop soon, while the rest of us grit our teeth and seethe. Children scream?

Most mums are impervious to smells, too — maybe pregnancy does something to a woman’s senses. You found us out. Sit near a child whose nappy needs changing and the stench is disgusting — a big argument for baby-free zones on planes and anywhere food is being served, surely. Absolutely. I think anyone or anything that can produce any sort of excrement should just be banned from public spaces. I’m with you on this one, Jan.

Why should baby poo be sacrosanct, something you can’t describe as revolting? No idea. I know I struggle with all the mums constantly talking about their kids’ sacrosanct shit. ‘Get a life!’, I want to scream. Baby shit is gross too! But they won’t listen. Probably that pregnancy hearing thing you mentioned. Luckily, a small fightback seems to be beginning in favour of child-free zones, though anyone brave enough to state this is their policy is bound to be attacked by the politically correct pushchair army of Mumsnetters and bloggers. Bloody PC brigade. They ruin everything.

Make it clear that you don’t welcome small children and you’ll be trolled on Twitter and excoriated on Facebook as if you were the devil incarnate. Yeah. (Really?)

Take Eileen Potter, the owner of Treacles tearoom in posh Winchmore Hill, North London. After a few breakages, she dared to announce to a customer who had complained how unwelcome she and her baby were made to feel: ‘We cannot continually afford to replace crockery. We are not a family establishment.’

What she meant was that her tearoom was aimed more at ‘ladies who lunch’ rather than mums and toddlers. I thought ladies stopped lunching fifty years ago. Then again, I don’t leave the house (toddler) so I am a bit out of the loop.

Treacles has been attacked on Facebook and TripAdvisor because it doesn’t welcome small children. What’s wrong with that? At least the owner is being honest. Honesty is the best policy.

I want to congratulate Eileen for having the guts to say what she thinks, a rare occurrence in these days of extreme political correctness. No one ever says what they think on the internet anymore.

Legally, as Eileen is the owner of the teashop, she can admit whoever she likes.

And there are others exercising this right. The Seven Arts Centre, in Leeds, has a no-pram policy and doesn’t allow groups of mothers and babies to meet there because they want a quiet area for anyone who doesn’t have children.

Full marks to Seven Arts. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tried to sit in a museum cafe and read a guidebook over a cup of tea as gangs of marauding children rush around screaming their heads off. Why aren’t they in a playgroup or creche? Wait, you’re tell me children go to museums? What are their parents thinking? I mean, for one thing, childcare is a completely affordable, accessible option both for working parents and for those who would rather go to Treacles than change sacrosanct shit, and for another, why are these parents staying at home with their kids and taking them on outings to educational facilities? The world has gone mad, Jan.

Many mums seem to think they have a divine right to monopolise any cafe they can jam their buggies inside. My bad. When I birthed my kid, I also birthed this completely unexpected sense of entitlement. Good to know I can’t monopolise cafes just because I can jam my buggy inside. Up until you told me that, I had been trying to barge into every shoebox in town, yanking my ten kilogram daughter and her 20 kilogram pram, singlehandedly, up steps and through heavy doors, just so I could jam the thing between two tables and then monopolise the shit out of a totally roomy, comfortable space. Because that is a super fun pastime. And along with my hearing and sense of smell loss, I also lost any semblance of social etiquette I once had, so good thing you’re here, Jan.

Why should toddlers be allowed to roam at will, careering into waiters and coming to shout hello when you’re eating your scrambled egg? I don’t know. Why are toddlers even allowed to exist?

Harden’s Restaurant Guide has a few basic rules for parents: choose somewhere the family will feel welcome; go when the children are not too hungry; take small, quiet toys or books; and sit away from romantic couples.

I’d add another condition: do not take your children anywhere near me first thing in the morning. I wasn’t … going to? Ever. Morning, noon, or night. (My child shits – and it isn’t sacrosanct – and is learning to talk, and I am nothing if not super absorbent of your personal likes and dislikes.)

Up until 11am I want to get over the night before. I want to read. Why should a non-eating child, who is not even paying for the pleasure of being there, dominate an entire room?

And why should toddlers be allowed to roam at will, careering into waiters and coming to shout hello when you’re eating your scrambled egg? I don’t know. And while we’re at it, why can’t these little shits get jobs and at least pay for the pleasure of being somewhere? I mean, what, are we expected to be okay with just their parents paying? Honestly.

We don’t allow dogs in most restaurants and cafes, and generally they are better behaved than the average British toddler. They probably shit less too.

As a compromise, why can’t large restaurants and all-day diners have child-free zones as well as specially designated children’s seating areas — as far away as possible from other diners? No better way to teach children how to behave in social settings, than to permanently corral them off and have them only ever exist in creche-esque environments. So true. 

Once you move into the early evening, why not impose a cut-off time for children’s access to restaurants? Yes! Lock-ins! Curfews! Brilliant, rational thinking!

If diners are paying for a special evening out, a small, noisy child can be as infuriating as a large group of slightly inebriated men or women. Oh give me a table full of obnoxious drunk, pawing lecherous suits with machine gun laughs and the belief the whole restaurant wants to hear their voices, over a small child having a meal with its idiotic, parenting-skills-less parents, anyday. Ugh.

Some parents just do not accept that their children are out of control. When I was young, children were seen and not heard in public when you were out for a meal with mum and dad. Not anymore. Ah the good old days. No ankles, no pesky female voters, children who knew what a cane was and became really well-adjusted, happy adults keen to cane their own kids because their experiences were so positive.

An increasing number of parents think that their kids can express themselves however they like. They imagine that their children are ‘fun’ and ‘creative’ when, in fact, they’re being loathsome. Oh stop it – are you for real? Parents are teaching kids to express themselves however they like? What is the world even coming to? What’s next? More PC rubbish like ‘no means no’? ROFL.

A few months ago, my partner and I were celebrating a friend’s birthday at the Ivy Chelsea Garden, a fashionable (and expensive) London restaurant. Ooh, lovely.

It was a fine evening and there were tables of families around us in the garden. One nine-year-old girl was screaming and running from table to table, waving an umbrella over her head, trying to get attention. Were her clothes on fire? Her posh parents were ignoring her and the nanny was too scared to exert any authority in these trendy surroundings.

My irate partner snapped. He got up, went over to the parents’ table and demanded they control their brat, telling them: ‘If I’d wanted a floor-show, I’d have gone to a theatre or a nightclub.’ Zing. (And I hope that 9 year old had a bloody job.)

Begrudgingly, they behaved like proper parents, disciplining their little monster. Good thing you guys were there to provide a teachable moment.

The reaction from my friends was interesting: they were astonished and slightly anxious that we might suffer some reprimand from other diners. You have to be really brave to take on a child these days! Yeah, and it is definitely the kids you should be taking on, never their parents. The adults.

A few years ago, a survey found that 43 per cent of us wanted children banned in some restaurants. Now, I’d be surprised if even 25 per cent of us were brave enough to state the obvious: children should not be allowed to dominate adult environments. There are children farms for that very reason.

I’d go further — why can’t planes have baby zones? Amazing, tenable idea! And they should cost, like, double. That’ll show them.

Have you ever tried to sleep on a long-haul flight when a mother and child are bonding in your row or when junior can’t settle down? Right? I mean, I know that I can think of no better place to bond with my child (even ‘bonding’ is such a modern term for all of these yummy mummys and their buggies. No one used to bond with their kids in the olden days, and they’re fine! Look at the Queen!) than in the economy section of a plane on a long haul flight. To let you in on a little secret, most of the time I am sitting in my matchbox seat, eating my sodium casserole one-handed, and holding my kid in the other, I am not desperately praying she’ll remain quiet and content, but instead just sitting there bonding. It would be fairer on parents if all the little people under ten were seated together, preferably right at the back of the plane. Or, like, on the wings. They aren’t even paying for their seats.

Many hotels state children under the age of 12 are not permitted, so why do we find it offensive if restaurants and cafes do the same? I don’t know! Weird, generally sociable logic, I guess.

Sometimes, a few minutes for a quiet coffee and a sandwich are the only time we have to ourselves all day. Totally agree.

Please, can parents realise that children don’t rule the world. Exactly. Children shouldn’t dictate what we can and can’t do, and where and when we can do it! We must remove their power! All we have to do is implement curfews, make clear rules on which ages people are allowed to start eating in public, ban a portion of the population (those who excrete, those who have loud voices, those who struggle with impulse control, those who smell, those idiots who produce them and in doing so lose their hearing and smell) from being seen and/or heard, and we can have our sandwiches in museum cafes in peace.


Image credit


  1. MegsFitness

    24 November, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Oh, Liv, your sarcasm hits the mark!! If every child she’s experienced behaves like the girl with the umbrella, I might understand this author’s view. In my experience, though, parents are so concerned over their child’s behavior that they can’t really relax and enjoy meal when the kid is behaving for fear that might change. Still, though, it’s these experiences that teach a child how to behave in socially acceptable ways.

    Stupid click bait, getting us all riled up…

    I hope you and the little one are doing well. I’ll update tomorrow about my trip to a coffee shop where I found “my village.”

    1. Liv

      24 November, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      Totally! For every umbrella child and disinterested parent, there are twenty other parents trying to down a coffee and enjoy being in public and not have their child receive death stares from the Jan Porters of the world!

      Looking forward to hearing about the coffee shop and village!

  2. Stefan

    24 November, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Let’s just be glad, Jan did not procreate and leave it at that.

    1. Liv

      24 November, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Fear not, procreation or no procreation, Jan knows exactly what it is like to be in possession of a stinky little child, and would NEVER have DARED leave the house with it!

  3. Bernd Klieber

    24 November, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Was bedeutet “bonding” in diesem Zusammenhang ?

    1. Stefan

      24 November, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Ich glaube, in diesem Zusammenhang gibt es keine direkte Übersetzung. Am ehesten “eine innige Verbindung eingehen”

      1. Liv

        24 November, 2015 at 2:03 pm

        Ich glaube auch. Aber offentsichlich bondet niemand auf einem Flug. Die meisten Leute mit Kinder unterwegs denken nur ‘bitte weinen nicht, bitte etwas essen, bitte leise spielen!’

        1. Bernd Klieber

          24 November, 2015 at 2:30 pm

          Thank you for your answer ! I´m looking forward to every new article an hope to improve my English skills.

  4. morri

    24 November, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    W=Jan is such a grump lol. I had a conco on another topic the other time where another disgruntled member of society didnt want babies to have breastmilk in a restaurant, you know she doesnt want to see any huma liquids ..not even in a bottle lol.


    24 November, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    ” I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tried to sit in a museum cafe and read a guidebook over a cup of tea.”

    That statement has all the earmarks of a non-tipping space-taking time-waster.

    Ha! Ol’ Grumpy-Balls Jan sounds like she’s heard many of the same things she said about kids directed at her in more than a few cafes and restaurants.

  6. thekatpad

    24 November, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    I make it a rule never to read the Daily Mail (even worse on a bad day!) – it plays havoc with my blood pressure. Mind you, from the vitriolic style of the original piece I could have sworn it was Katy Hopkins writing. (Dear God no, don’t go looking her up!)

  7. Judith

    25 November, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Sorry, but I stopped taking her seriously at “There’s nothing more enjoyable in life than going out to eat”, shortly after topped with “my top five hates, along with men in shiny white shoes, women who lie about their cosmetic surgery, people who like drinks with cherries in them and rude van drivers.”
    Those are the right values in life! 😀

    “I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tried to sit in a museum cafe and read a guidebook over a cup of tea”
    OMG! That sounds so sophisticated! Perfectly in line with her previously mentioned values in life. ;P

    “sit away from romantic couples”
    Yup, don’t even dare to remember them that kids might be the result of those romantic dates!

    “do not take your children anywhere near me first thing in the morning. Up until 11am I want to get over the night before. I want to read.”
    Maybe she should wear a bright red warning sign! “No children near me until 11am!” Or just don’t leave the house until she got over the night before, that might be better for everyone.

    Congrats to the parents who raised this socially incompatible spoiled brat! o_O

  8. Isa

    30 November, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Why do you even read The Daily Mail? You must have been well and truly bored waiting for the Handwerker. No one with any ounce of brain takes JSP seriously She is just so ridiculous.

  9. nikki

    1 December, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Children are not people. Duh. That’s why we hit them and don’t give them rights and stuff.


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