How Waiting Tables Prepares You For Your Baby’s First Month

Matt AbrahamMatt Abraham currently lives in China with his criminally insane cat Durden, his beautiful one month old son Kal, and his supportive wife Jenny. For more, check out his critically acclaimed debut novel Dane Curse (available for 99 cents) or contact him at authormattabraham@gmail.com and danecursepi.wordpress.com

I was terrified when I had my kid four weeks ago. He was tiny and fragile, screaming and shaking, and all I knew was that I wanted to succeed as a parent. However, the only skills I possessed dealt with waiting tables. What was I going to do, upsell him a bottle of wine or crumb his bib between courses? But after four weeks of fathering I realize there was no need for concern, because as surprising as it sounds, the skills I gained from working in restaurants were the only ones I needed to successfully deal with an infant. After all, he was just a weepy egocentric human who was demanding all my attention, and even on a slow Tuesday night you’ll see four of those… So if you’re a waiter who’s expecting their first kid you can rest easy, the following six lessons from your time spinning trays are guaranteed to get you through the crucial first month of parenthood with ease.

Kind of.

Lesson 1. No matter how bad it gets, don’t panic.

It doesn’t matter if your apps are dragging, the POS machine is down, or table twelve just found a human finger in the flan; you don’t panic. Personally, I apply this cool thinking to everything I do as a dad. Like right now my baby’s been crying for ten minutes straight, the cat’s crapping on the new white rug, and smoke from the toast I forgot I was making just set off the fire alarm. But am I freaking out? No. I’m writing a blog post. Because waiting tables taught me to keep a level head. Or maybe because I got six fingers of gin in me. Whichever. The point is I’m not panicking.

Lesson 2. You develop an iron bladder

It’s happened to us all: You have to go to the bathroom, but you’re weeded like Snoop Dogg at Reggae Fest with no one around to cover your section, so you seal up your bladder like a sous-vide bag and wait (sometimes an hour) before finally finding three minutes to sneak downstairs and drop your urine like one of those planes that fight wildfires. Congratulations. This ability comes in crazy handy when you have a baby. See, the first thing you learn as a parent is never wake the baby. Never. Even if they’re lying on your chest and you just drank a gallon of tea you sit there as still as possible like the kid’s pinning you to the sofa like they’re fucking Mjolnir, because the hard truth is a quiet baby trumps dry pants every time. Seriously. I’ve never wet myself to keep my baby quiet, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who has. It’s the right call every time.

Lesson 3. You’ll eat every meal like it’s a shift meal

If you’ve never seen a restaurant worker eat before their shift picture a team of piranhas working on a cow, except with more silverware and fewer niceties. And there are two reasons why: first, there’s only a tiny window in which that food can be consumed before the barbarians arrive, and second, there are precious few actual edible bits in a shift meal, and you got to fight for them. Seriously. I’ve seen cooks throw shoe leather into a hotel pan of Salisbury steak to add mass. Basically I’m saying if you want to eat you’ve got to move quickly.  Which is the same way you eat around a baby; you just power it down like it’s the Nathan’s Hotdog eating championship, because you got maybe three minutes before that cross between Golum and a potato you spawned wakes up and starts asking for shit. But whatever, tasting your food’s for pussies anyway.

Lesson 4. Booze won’t make it better, it’ll make it a lot better

Alcohol’s your friend, ally, parent, therapist, and old war buddy poured into a convenient bottle. I heartily recommend it to restaurant workers and new parents alike. But only AFTER the shift. And never when you’re breastfeeding. Unless you’re the feedee, and not the feeder. Then your freak flag’s flying so high I don’t think a glass of pinot will do much damage so go nuts.

Lesson 5. You only have friends like you

Thanks to the vampire hours most restaurant folk keep it was impossible for me to have friends who weren’t also in the industry, simply because my schedule guaranteed I’d never see them. The same thing happens now, except it’s with my kid-free friends, and if I ever do see them I have no clue what they’re talking about. “Taylor Swift’s twitter feud? China’s currency? Trump?” What the fuck are those things? I live in a world of diapers, man. Let’s talk about that.

Lesson 6. Babies and customers are NEVER right, but you still have to give them what they want

Every part of waiting tables is great. Except for the diners. They suck more than if a black hole manifested in the Dyson testing facility. With complaints like, “Where’s my food, I screamed my order at you a minute ago… This bottle’s too cold, warm it up… and, me me me me me me…” it’s amazing more of them aren’t killed annually (probably because it’s illegal, thanks Obama). So all you can do is shove whatever they’re crying for into their mouths in the hopes it’ll shut them up.I forgot if that point was directly about babies or restaurant guests, but you get my point, it works both ways.

Bonus Lesson. When it’s over you’ll miss it

Sure the industry sucks with all the doubles and clo-pens, but it’s full of the best people in the world. And you get to work and drink with them all night before waking up at noon in some strange place with no recollection of what you’ve done like a God damn werewolf. It’s awesome, and I miss it a lot. They say the same thing about newborns. That they grow up so fast and you’ll miss the time when they were itty bitty. It’s hard to believe, but I guess if I still long for my waiting days, despite being bossed around by bald assholes who thinks they’re the center of my universe, I don’t see why I won’t miss parenting a newborn despite that very same thing happens here on a daily basis, too.

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True Story: Why I Don’t Mind Serving a Table With Kids


Kids In Restaurants:  A Server’s Point of View

A lot of waiters think “Oh no!” when a family with kids is seated at a table in their section.  Other guests often complain that the children are too loud.  Some think that children should be left at home with a babysitter when parents wish to dine out.

I think there might be too much of a grey area there and that people are too harsh when it comes to whether or not children should be allowed in certain places like restaurants, museums, etc.

Being a waitress at a restaurant, I think it’s wonderful when parents bring their kids, teach them how to order their own food and say “thank you” and “please”. It’s important to learn these things early on in life.  I also have to admit that 85% of the kids that come into the Hot Spot are very well behaved.  Their parents know when their child is capable of behaving themselves in public areas.

Now that’s an interesting word.  

Public.  What is a public area?  Dictionary.com defines it as “open to all persons”.  What is a kid/child?  Dictionary.com defines them as “a person between birth and full growth; a baby or infant”.  Therefore, if museums and restaurants are open to all persons, children should be welcome as well.

Why I Don’t Mind Serving a Table With Kids

To be honest, one of my best memories as a waitress was when a family of 4 (mother, father, 3 year old boy and baby) came to eat at the restaurant.  The table was in another waiter’s section, but when it came time to serve the desserts he needed a bit of help taking the order.  I went up to the table and informed the little boy that he had ice cream included with his meal.  His eyes lit up when he asked politely for chocolate on top.  ”Excellent choice!” I said, I rung up his order in the computer.  I quickly went to get the small bowl of ice cream and when getting to the table I said “Here you go!”.

“What’s yaw name?” the little boy asked, unable to pronounce the letter R.

“Carrie!” I replied. (name changed)

“Cawwie?” he asked.

“Yes. Carrie.”

He paused.  Looked at the ice cream I had brought to him and then back at me.

“I love you, Cawwie!”

That comment pretty much brought tears to my eyes.  It was the best tip I ever got and it made my week.  I still think about it to this day and hope I remember it for years to come. Whenever kids are seated in my section, I hope they will be as wonderful as that little boy.

There’s just a few little problems…

The problem that I see as a waitress is when parents let their children run around screaming in the restaurant and are too involved in their “adult” conversation to keep an eye on them. Not only is it disruptive to other guests, but very dangerous as well.  It boggles my mind that they don’t see that waiters are running around with hot plates, trays full of drinks, and carrying orders that come with steak knives. It makes me incredibly nervous to see young children running around the restaurant because I’m so afraid that they’ll get hurt.

Do parents know how easily their child could get hurt?  I can’t stress this point enough.  I’ve seen waiters on a busy Saturday night coming full speed around a corner and walk right into a little child (all the while trying not to drop hot coffee on them).  There are many restaurants that have play areas for children and I think it’s such a wonderful idea.  A restaurant like that would be a lot of fun for kids and it provides a safe environment for them to play in!  They won’t have to be bored sitting at a table waiting for their food to arrive or run around in a dangerous area.

Another problem I see as a waitress is other customers telling  a family’s child to behave themselves.  This really upsets me.  Children automatically have a higher voice because they have not fully developed yet.  So, when they are talking excitedly about something they are passionate about, their voices get a little louder and also maybe a little higher in pitch.  While I understand it may be “annoying” to certain people, it is not a reason to turn around and shout out “Would you please keep your child quiet!”  It is a public place, after all, and there are many ways to avoid sitting in an area near children.    A good way to avoid any could-be-fussy children is to ask your waiter to change tables or ask to sit in the bar area.  That is a choice you’re allowed to make.  Insulting a family is not.

The Problem With Parents (sometimes)

Here’s a story about another problem I’ve encountered while working in a restaurant.  I’ve found that sometimes parents expect the staff to watch their children.  This baffles me.  One day while working as a hostess I was standing in the front lobby and a woman came in with her baby in a car seat (the portable ones you can carry around).  I brought her to her table, since she was waiting for her friend to arrive.

A couple of minutes went by and she came back with the baby in a hurry, placed the car seat on the floor next to me and yelled out “I’ll be right back!”.  Before I could say anything ….she just left her baby on the floor next to me.  I saw her run out in the parking lot and then lost sight of her.  My heart was racing.  Is she ever coming back?  This woman just left her baby on the floor with a complete stranger (a 19 year old stranger on top of it!).  I couldn’t seat other customers coming in because I had to watch this woman’s baby.  I waited for 11 minutes before she finally came back in saying “Thanks!” and went back to sit at the table as if nothing was wrong.  I was in shock.  First of all, the staff are not babysitters.  Second, what are you doing leaving your child with a stranger?  That is not okay by any means. Not only is it unfair to the child (to place them in the care of a stranger), but also unfair to put responsibility like that on a staff member.

 So, how about I turn it around and ask if certain adults should be allowed in restaurants?

I’ve seen a quiet family with four young children have to move to a different table because a group of 4 adults (all grown men) were stumbling around stupidly drunk and swearing like sailors.  I’ve seen a man throw a chair across the room in anger.  I’ve seen a woman stalking a man and yelling at him in front of the whole restaurant for not paying any attention to her. I’ve seen a teenage girl throw a glass at another girl’s face for just looking at her boyfriend.

I’ve seen a lady grab her little boy and carry him by one arm (body dangling), shove him into a bathroom stall and start slapping him silly (I intruded of course).  Then, carry him out of the bathroom the same way, out of the restaurant, and literally throw him into the backseat of a car and drive off like the dickens.

I’ve seen hurtful breakups, fits of anger, and loud arguments.  How does that type of behavior sound to you?  Pretty pathetic, I’d say.  If you’re so keen on worrying about children’s behavior, I’d say take a look at the way some adults handle themselves in public places.  That is all unacceptable behavior if you ask me.

What it really comes down to…

I believe if children are well behaved then it’s actually no problem at all. If they throw tantrums and scream at the top of their lungs, maybe a fancy restaurant isn’t the place to be. But, children are people too.  They deserve to be treated with respect.

Folks, we all have to learn to live together. No discrimination. People have families, families deserve a chance to go out to eat as well, and kids need to eat. Just like couples deserve to have a wonderful, quiet date-night. Of course, there are times and places for things.  You shouldn’t go to eat at McDonald’s if you’re expecting a quiet night out, just like you shouldn’t go to an expensive 5-star restaurant if you know your child is prone to tantrums.  It wouldn’t make sense to make those types of decisions.

Lastly, please be nice to children.

They are wonderful little human beings. Some are capable of behaving themselves in public, some are not.  Some children like to sit at the table with their parents and some love to run around and make new friends.  Adjust yourself accordingly and let kids be kids in areas where they are able to be themselves.

And if you are on an outing or eating in a restaurant remember that it is, in fact, a public area.  All types of people will “misbehave”.  Adults and children alike.  You can bet on that.

The Waitress Confessions