What I Wish I’d Known: Dining Out

What I wish I’d Known is a series of posts about motherhood written by moms I admire in support of the launch of my book, Secrets of The Mommyhood: Everything I wish someone had told me about pregnancy, childbirth and having a baby.

Restaurant dining – at least with young children – will never be the same again.

By Jenny Oberhaus

Jenny_Oberhaus_picture For six years, it was our Friday ritual: Come home from work. Have a cocktail or glass of wine. Go out to dinner. Enjoy a relaxing meal. For my husband and I, it was our one night to eat out and we relished it.

Enter Brogan (4) and Brynna (2) and, well, Friday night dinners out don’t quite have the same appeal. Now they’re more like an Olympic sport and we are the somewhat-seasoned, almost-always fatigued athletes. The event starts long before we even get to the dining establishment and goes a little something like this:

  1. Get the kids up from naps early enough so that there won’t be a long wait for seating at the restaurant but not so early that they’re going to be cranky from lack of sleep. A fine line, to be sure.
  2. Prepare a variety of foods that would rival any doomsday prepper’s stash just in case they turn their noses up at the same item they liked the last time we ordered it. (This happens all too often.) Just one more reason my gigantic mom-purse tends to tip the scales just shy of half a ton.
  3. Upon being seated, promptly remove from their reach anything sharp, breakable and generally not kid-friendly that may or may not have been in the mouth of the child that previously occupied that table.
  4. Be ready with their food order so the server can get it started as soon he takes our drink order. (Note: This usually requires looking at the kids menu online before leaving the house. Who’s the doomsday prepper now, aye?)
  5. Take turns looking at the menu while the other parent keeps an eye on the munchkins to ensure that no kids-menu crayons go rolling off the table thus producing drama akin to losing a cherished keepsake that they had acquired longer than seven minutes ago.
  6. Place your order then pray the kitchen has its act together so that the food comes quickly. This is one reason we typically only patronize restaurants that offer chips or bread before the meal. Life. Savers.
  7. Cut their meal into bite-sized cubes then eat your meal while feeding said cubes to one, if not two, other people. (Did I mention I gave up the notion of EVER again eating a hot meal)?
  8. Ask for the bill when your meal is nearly half eaten (or, if you’re smart, ask for it when your waiter does his post-food delivery “how is everything?” stop at your table) just in case the kids finish early or [insert any number of things that can go wrong in a public place with small children] happens and you need to make a break for it.

Now, doesn’t THAT sound relaxing??? And we have two fairly well-behaved children. Oy vey!

Bottom line? If you’re expecting or even expect you’ll be expecting anytime soon: Go out to eat often. And enjoy your hot meal for me, would ya please?

Got any tips or great stories from dining out with kids? If so, please share.

Jenny Oberhaus is a stay-at-home and work-from-home mom to two gregarious kids that produce great writing material and inspire recipes for her blog, Oberhaus Clan Happenings (& Eatings). Even though she lives in Knoxville, I  only know Jenny virtually. I met her in TheMommyhood. She’s obviously our kinda gal – funny. Thanks for sharing this, Jenny O!

8 Responses to What I Wish I’d Known: Dining Out

  1. Chandelle March 7, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday! My hubby and I have definitely been eating out a lot more lately, which honestly probably isn’t good for the pregnancy weight gain! ha ha But trying to enjoy it before we have the juggling act! Love your tips, though! Never thought to check the menu before going so we could order lo’s food with our drinks or to ask for the bill right away! Great ideas! Thanks :) I just might have to try to find some of that cake you talked about too!

    • Heather March 8, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      It doesn’t get tricky for a while. When you have one child in a carrier, you can just take them with you and keep on keep’n on. I guess it’s about 1.5 or 2 when they are hard to go out to eat with. But, as with all things baby, it levels out. Congrats on your pregnancy!

  2. Angie March 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Never having a hot meal again – oh…that is the one thing I really miss about food now that I’m a mom! We don’t eat out often, but when we do we try to bring activities (coloring book, little cars, and even possibly the phone or iPad where he can watch a video), which give us a few minutes to “enjoy” our food!

    • Heather March 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

      Great ideas. Phones/Ipads – You know I used to see kids watching movies at restaurants and stuff and think it was not great. Hah! That’s why you should never judge. It will be you one day!

  3. Penni March 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    One of my favorite tips for dining out with children…triangular crayons. They don’t roll off the table! I’ve come across one restaurant in Chattanooga that gives triangular crayons with the kids menu. I actually asked to speak with the manager and I thanked him. Of course he thought I was insane. Maybe I am. Whatever.

    • Heather March 8, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      GREAT tip, Penni! You know THAT was a mom’s idea.

  4. Elena March 10, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    I’m trying to enjoy dinners and movies as much as possible! Well, only 2 months of good sleep and relaxation left:) Great post!!!

    • Heather March 10, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      Hey! Hope you are feeling well, Elena. I saw some pictures of you on another blogger you worked with. You did a spring wardrobe thing Anyway, sending you good thoughts as you await your stork!

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