Should you clean up after kids in a café?

The Gold Coast has really lifted its game in the café and restaurant stakes in the last few years. When I moved here from Sydney six years ago, there were a handful of places that were worth spending your hard-earned money on a weekend for brunch.

Now, there are little pockets of delectable goodness popping up every other week on the sidewalks of Burleigh, Tugun, Currumbin, Mermaid and Miami.

I love taking my family out for breakfast – it’s the ideal way to support the local economy, enjoy our incredible weather and get a break from the kitchen.


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But sometimes, other diners can ruin it for you.

This happened when my friend took her kids to a café in Burleigh over the weekend. As she and her mum packed up the kids – twin toddlers, and two kids aged 3 and 4 – she noticed another patron staring at them. She ignored them and they walked to their car, but the other person followed them.

“Your kids made a huge mess, you know,” the person said. She looked pointedly at her children and added, “It doesn’t matter how many kids you have or how old they are, you really should clean up after yourselves.”

My friend was so shocked she didn’t say a word in reply – she just huddled her kids to the car, slipped into the driver’s seat and burst into tears.

Now, this might be controversial, but here’s my question: if you take your kids to a café or restaurant, why do you have to clean everything up afterwards?

Isn’t that the whole point of going out – you pay good money to eat in an establishment, for the privilege of not having to prepare food, cook and clean?

I say this as someone who always cleans up after my family when we eat out. I’m there on my hands and knees, scooping up spilt spaghetti, dusting toast crumbs off chairs and using a packet of wipes to clean the high chair and table.

It’s ingrained in me to leave it spotless. But why?

Yes, it’s the decent thing to do, to have manners and not leave it in a disgusting state. No, I’m not saying it’s cool to walk away and leave your table in a complete filthy mess for the staff to clean up.

But we shouldn’t have to leave it in pristine condition, either. For some families, especially mums, it’s literally the only meal they’ll have in weeks that they don’t have to prepare themselves and clean up afterwards.

So perhaps it’s time to challenge some ingrained behaviours and expectations – and next time, leave the wipes in the bag?