Low Birth Rates and Disenfranchising Families

A few months back, I was kicked out of a movie theater. Not for screaming at the screen or filming a bootleg copy, but for holding a baby. That’s it. A quiet, almost asleep baby

Apparently, in teeny tiny print on the asterisk next to “children’s tickets” online it read “children ages three and up.” My baby is not big enough to sit in his own seat, so I had never even seen the asterisk when I bought our tickets online. And of course, the employees at the movie theater helpfully scanned our tickets, sold us 3D glasses, watched me nurse my baby in the lobby, said nothing, then waited until we were in our seats and the the commercials were starting before telling us we needed to leave. Not only that, but they were unable to issue us a refund and told us to contact customer service online.

Great. Just the evening out we were wanting. To add insult to injury, customer service refused to give us a refund and instead tried to give us a voucher. Thanks Cinestar, but by the time my child and any future siblings turn 3, I still won’t want to return to your movie theater.

Anyways, so what is the point of me sharing this terrible experience? Germany, like many modern countries is suffering from negative population growth. There are a myriad of policies to help combat this here: monthly stipend for children, reimbursed parental leave for up to a year(!), subsidized (and sometimes free) child care, and much more. These programs are great for addressing the financial reasons people may hold back from having children. However, they don’t address the decreased desire to have children. I think one aspect that policy makers are missing is creating a more inviting, family friendly environment.

Whenever establishments forbid children, or make bringing children inconvenient, they are sending the message that families and children are undesirable and unwelcome. And if you choose to have more children, you are only prolonging your exclusion.

“Why not just get a babysitter?”

Babysitters are a great resource for when you want time alone as a couple, but if everywhere you want to go requires a babysitter, then when are you spending time with your children? This further enforces the idea that you are only welcome when you’re without children.

Babysitters are also cost prohibitive, particularly for young families. If a babysitter costs on average 10 USD an hour, and you want to see a movie (Marvel’s Endgame is three hours long), you are essentially charging an extra 30 dollars to anyone with children. And that’s not including travel time!

It unfairly impacts those who breastfeed (and don’t pump, like me) or anyone else who can’t be away from their children for long periods of time. Requiring a sitter also means planning. Requiring planning means going places with children is less convenient and less enjoyable.

I will admit that there are places that definitely need to be quiet and distraction free. However, these should be exceptions. Exceptions that we can find creative solutions to. Libraries, famous for being quiet, are a great example! If we want to make having children more desirable, we need to make it natural and easy to bring our children with us where we want to go.

What do you think would help make your community more welcoming to children? I’ll go first!

I wish there were more places with changing tables and high chairs. I’ve had to change a diaper on the floor, and once on that half foot gap between sinks in the public restroom! Trying to eat while preventing my baby from overturning my plate of food is also not fun! I’m pretty sure high chairs at Ikea are only 15 euro; it’s not that expensive of an investment, guys. Let’s do this! 😀

Your turn! What do you think would make your community more welcoming to children?

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