Anti-Kid Biz Culture Puts Freeze on Stay-Home Moms

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WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)–This column might come off sounding like an ad for IKEA. It might even raise suspicion that I have shares in the Swedish furniture and home design giant company.

No such thing. I have no ties to IKEA, except for the sentimental gratitude of an often-at-home mom who’s wound up feeling like a recluse this winter due to the rejection of so many other types of businesses.

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Business Travel and Meeting Show touched my social-reject-feeling-nerve by calling for a ban on children on certain airline flights after the trade group conducted a survey finding that 74 percent of business travelers rank children as their top in-flight annoyance.

"It’s understandably frustrating for business travelers who have paid a premium in expectation that they can work and sleep in comfort, to have that peace disturbed by fidgeting, noisy children," said Dave Chapple, event director of the group, in a statement.

I wish I knew what some of those companies were so I could immediately stop buying their products.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that children can be supremely annoying on airlines and everywhere else, for that matter. They’re loud, wriggly, messy and unpredictable.

A few years ago, my family walked through the door of a nearby Indian restaurant. "Carry out?" the host pleaded. "No," I said flatly, but I confess I regretted the choice later. Jack, then just over 1 year old, practically started a food fight that night.

But instead of talking about banning families on certain flights, how about going the other direction and making them more friendly to parents so the flight goes more smoothly for everyone?

Why should business travelers have the say-so when young families account for a huge portion of airline ticket sales and consumer purchases?

A Good Start

A good place to start would be equipping airplane bathrooms with changing tables. I’d also appreciate snack options that appeal to kids. More assistance for parents–especially single ones traveling with young kids–would also be great.

And how about support for breastfeeding moms, rather than scorn? (In 2006, a woman was kicked off a plane for nursing her infant; she later sued.)

This country could stand to be a lot more family-friendly on the ground, too, whether with more family care restrooms at public malls, more restaurants with play areas for kids or even cafes with playgrounds (check out Family Grounds Café or Little Beans in Chicago).

As a mom of two young boys, I find it next to impossible to do the things I took for granted just a few short years ago, whether it’s eating out in a restaurant, going shopping, sipping a latte in a local café or, yes, taking a long-distance vacation.

Renting a house or booking a hotel room can also be a big dose of discrimination as many proprietors exclude young children from the acceptable guest list.

And it’s especially entrenched in cities like mine, where few businesses cater to families, especially those with young children; established businesses, meanwhile, practically have "Adults Only" signs on their doors.

Suburbs Better Than Cities

Suburbs seem to do a much better job of this than cities.

I haven’t found more than two indoor play areas within a 45-minute drive of our house on Capitol Hill, and I know of only two restaurants in our neighborhood that open their doors to kids with a "family" night.

The lack of options hasn’t encouraged the best eating habits. Since my kids were born, I’ve found myself driving under those infamous Golden Arches more often than I’d like to admit. I’d opt for healthier restaurants if they were out there, though.

Asking for a more family-friendly business culture may sound at best naïve in a recession and at worst like another mandate from our so-called nanny state. But this isn’t some kind of utopia I’m imagining. I visit this place every time I go to IKEA.

This magical world near our home has family care restrooms decorated to appeal to young children. There’s a supervised play area that allows parents to shop while IKEA employees mind the little ones.

This feature is such a bonus–and so rare–that some friends of mine schedule play dates at the nearest IKEA even though it is miles away.

Our nearest IKEA also has family-friendly parking, where parents of young children can park near the door; a kid-friendly policy that encourages children to play in certain areas of the store; and an in-store restaurant that has affordable and–here’s the shocker–healthy options. There’s even a play area in the restaurant where kids can burn off energy while adults enjoy a (somewhat) leisurely lunch.

IKEA is a huge success, with locations all over the world. Other businesses should learn from their example.

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Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C. She covers women’s issues for a variety of groups and publications.

8 thoughts on “Anti-Kid Biz Culture Puts Freeze on Stay-Home Moms

  1. First, understand that I am nearly 70 years old. Now…I wonder if any of these moms ever considered disciplining their children, so that they are not something people have to endure, but are actually a pleasure to have around? I never was allowed to act up, at home or in public. I could expect a well-deserved swat on the behind if I did, (NOT a BEATING! You “modern” women need to get it straight that a swat on the behind is NOT CHILD ABUSE!) But the humiliation of being disciplined in public was worse than than the swat anyway, and I learned early on to speak quietly, and keep my hands in pockets or clasped behind my back (the latter especially in the glassware departments!) and I have no regrets. Adults welcomed me. Children like to be welcomed. Also, Mother made sure I had a nap before going out. I practiced all this with my children, and I had little or no problem with them. One well-timed swat, or 2 at the most, was enough to turn their attention to the “matter at hand”.

    Today’s enemy, I think, is the group of people who forward the thought that any corporal punishment is automatically child abuse. That just isn’t so. But LAZY THINKERS would rather lump all corporal punishment together, so they don’t have to think about it anymore. If today’s women, and further, tomorrow’s women, don’t start thinking for themselves, this country, all of us and our offspring, are in for really tough times, many of which could have been avoided if somebody would just THINK!

    • Yes exactly! There would be no “no children” policies if parents either raised well behaved children or used discretion and good judgement when bringing them somewhere.

  2. This entire story is completely untrue. If anything society caters too much to children and things are just starting to turn in the right direction by banning kids in places they simply should not be, or holding parents accountable for their parenting, or what is usually lack thereof. Everywhere I go I see children whose parents are entitled as the author of this story and think that their children can do no wrong, or that everyone finds them cute. I am welcoming the trend of banning kids in restaurants on weekends. I am not paying to listen to your child cry I am paying to enjoy dinner as an adult. I am sick of getting rammed in the shins by mothers with strollers who think that common laws of decency don’t apply to them bc they procreated. Having a child is not an accomplishment or something that affords you rights and priviledges that no one else has. Raising a well behaved child IS an accomplishment, and if you can’t do that then everyone else should not be subject to your kids inability to behave, or your poor judgement in taking them to places they shouldnt be.

    • I agree. If children were better behaved in public, I wouldn’t mind them as much. Someone posted a comment, “most parents and children are lovely people and most children are well behaved most of the time,” and I find this completely untrue. I find that it’s a RARE occurrence when children are well-behaved in public. When they get on my train I cringe, because 90% are obnoxious little brats whose parents either ignore them while they talk on their cell phones or encourage the loud, rude behavior of their children by acting the same way.

      I don’t have any sympathy for the author not being able to do the things she used to because she has children. That is why some of us choose NOT to have them – so we can keep the lifestyle that we love. If you wanted to continue all of your personal social activities and shopping dates with your friends without all of the drama, you shouldn’t have had kids, or you should get a babysitter. Stores should not have to babysit your kids. Or have special parking areas. Are you handicapped? Are your kids handicapped? They don’t have ‘old people’ parking, who need it way more. I hate going to Ikea for the very same reason this author likes to go there. They do have a separate family section in the restaurant, and another section for people without kids, but guess what? Even though their family area is empty, parents still sit in our non-kid section with their kids anyway. Parents today are selfish – they think the rest of us should put up with their brats and are offended if they are asked to leave or discipline their child. If they can’t accommodate their kids, they blame it on society or the store, instead of realizing that kids shouldn’t go everywhere, nor should they be allowed to run around like maniacs in stores and restaurants. Nobody enjoys being bombarded with children kicking seats, throwing food, and/or screaming at the top of their lungs. When parents are asked to make their children stop screaming or misbehaving, I have heard really rude responses, or things like, ‘but they’re just a kid.’ Well, so was I once, but my parents would NEVER have let us act that way in public! And there were TEN of us! I realize that there are some good parents out there with very well-behaved children, but unfortunately, 95% of parents are NOT. They are the ones letting their children be out of control in public, and THEY are the ones ruining it for the rest of the good parents, NOT childless people like me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of parents, either. Whatever happened to common courtesy anyway?

      • It is so easy to blame parents and children when you are the bystander, and not in the situation.

  3. I’m so glad I don’t have to experience this. Living in Texas, near Austin, most businesses including stores and upscale restaurants are very kid friendly. I work in Austin and have never noticed signs saying no children-and if I did i would refuse to go and mention to management how unfair this is.

    As a matter of fact, it seems more businesses lately have made sure to enact more kid-friendly policies. Many many music venues around here have family nights and some even have playgrounds where young kids can play while parents enjoy dinner and music.

    The only place I know of that doesn’t generally allow children is the Alamo Drafthouse-movie and dinner. Even it has family night movies.

    Sad if this is becoming a trend in the north east.

  4. There are a lot of people (and things) I would prefer not to deal with in public–smoking, drunk people, gossipy women, ugly men and cranky kids–but when I venture out in public I expect that I won’t always be in pleasant company. To publicly post signs banning children (except in bars, adult movies and obvious other adults-only places) is, plain and simple, discrimination based on age and should be against the law, if it isn’t already. Banning children from flights, restaurants and hotels does nothing to help them them learn how to behave in those places.

    Hitting children does not always work, sometimes it makes kids cry harder, and personally, I would be more disturbed by a parent hitting a child than I would be hearing a child cry or act out. Too many people today are irritated just by the presence of children or by toddlers talking. Think about it: you know when you aren’t wanted in a room, and for kids they pick up on these attitudes, too. Welcoming spaces for children leads to much less bad behavior.

  5. March 1, 2011
    I love this article. Today, so much of everyone’s life must be lived away from home. Even young and middle years children spend many hours in busy, impersonal places and being driven here and there. When I was a child, I walked to school and home, then I walked to my activities after school and on weekends. I always found my mom at home when I returned, and my dad was working nearby. My point is that it has never been more difficult for families to raise children, yet, most parents and children are lovely people and most children are well behaved most of the time. It is just that we see more of the interactions where children are experimenting with authority boundaries, because they are in public and not at home. Also, the noise and busy-ness of many public situations causes children to be less calm than when at home, so a normally well behaved child may cry out and act out when on a airplane where their ears hurt, or in a shopping mall with a very noisy, beautiful fountain. The idea that children used to be well behaved is an imagined wish by those whose lives do not include children. I love watching children in public places, I see them as much more patient with the complexities than most ever recognize. I see parents being very attentive to their children, as much as possible to still accomplish what they must do while there. Do not forget that in the ‘old days’, children could be frightened into silence, resulting in not expressing themselves very well. Also, for upper class folks, the children were not with the parents very much, and my husband and I would not have wanted that for ourselves and our child.
    Bravo! to Allison Stevens and her recognition that it is a sad day for everyone when children are only noticed for their noise. Those business people could learn a lot from the curiosity and creativity of children. Children mght help them to relax and enjoy life, children know how to do that. Shame on them, and Go, IKEA!