Sad as it is to say, moms the world over are used to getting kicked out of places for the simple offense of having their babies with them. Sometimes it’s over breastfeeding. Sometimes it’s a random who helpfully arbitrates where babies should and shouldn’t be. It’s a despicable practice, and it’s one that a U.K. mom, Emma, says she recently experienced when she took her 13-week-old baby to an R-rated movie.
Emma claims that despite being allowed to buy tickets to the R-rated flick Room at U.K. movie theater chain Cineworld, when she stood up to feed her 13-week-old son, who breastfeeds on demand, she was promptly told that she had to leave. The movie theater says the movie was inappropriate for a child so young, while her Facebook friends seem to think it’s one more in a long line of discriminatory breastfeeding policies.
Emma is upset either way — she had to leave her child with a staff member to retrieve her purse because they held firm to the “no one under the age of 15 allowed in the film” line that they drew.
Now, the theater sounds in the wrong for enforcing its rules after the fact. But should these kinds of rules exist at all? Well, consider this.
The issue here isn’t the relative appropriateness of an R-rated movie for a kid who isn’t even making memories (Room has references to rape and violence in it) or even an issue of breastfeeding. It’s much more simple than that: Infants and movie theaters don’t always mix well.
Hold the pitchforks and torches, please. We’re not saying that moms shouldn’t be allowed in theaters, or in five-star restaurants, or in malls or in Target stores. We’re not saying babies should be bounced at the door either. All we’re saying is that there’s a right time and a not-so-right time to start stretching your legs to go out and about once your baby is born, something you should never feel weird doing, since moms are still people who like things. What we’re saying is that darkened movie theaters with earsplitting surround sound is up there with a “you must be this tall to ride” amusement park adrenaline-inducing staple.
Moms should absolutely see the movies they want to see, even with a baby. A stray bit of nudity or even the odd violent scene won’t faze a baby whose face is pushed up against your boob anyway. It’s not likely to harm your infant if they hear an F-bomb they’re incapable of remembering.
What is more likely to harm your baby is the earsplitting noise of a digital surround sound explodaganza, which is commonplace in movie theaters nowadays, where it isn’t rare for the decibel level to top 90 or even climb up to 130, which starts putting you into hearing loss territory. For reference, a white noise machine for a baby shouldn’t exceed 50 decibels.
There’s the social aspect of all of it too, which starts getting into dicey territory. People shouldn’t ban babies from places moms want to go just because of a little crying, but when we’re talking movie theaters, there’s a certain social code that makes the moviegoing experience a little nicer. Staying in your seat and quiet makes the whole $40 – $60 price tag for a night out a little easier to digest. You expect that your fellow cinema buffs will plant their cheeks firmly, keep their phones off and shut up for two hours. You just can’t expect a baby to do that.
So what are you supposed to do?
Many movie theaters are splitting the difference. A lot of chains, Cineworld included, offer a “baby-friendly” moviegoing experience, with lights that are a little brighter, sound effects that are at a safer volume level and a chance for moms to not have to try to make silent exits with their crying or hungry little ones. If you get your panties in a twist when a mom at Cinebabies pulls out a breast to feed or when a few babies cry, you’re definitely a jerk. The same can’t be said if you purchase a later-time ticket to an R-rated movie, where it’s reasonable to assume there won’t be children.
Having a kid means adjusting the way you make your way around the world. It gets nasty when people expect you to live in exile or wear a burlap sack over the baby head-breast combo of public breastfeeding. But it also gets a little nasty when you don’t make reasonable accommodations for other patrons of the places you want to frequent and accuse them of discrimination. That’s just reality.