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Etiquette for "adults only" invitation and host's child(ren)

What is the etiquette surrounding an “adults only” invitation to a party and attendance of the host’s child(ren)? I recently attended a baby shower for which the invitation specifically stated “adults only”. When I arrived, I was surprised to find not only the host’s five-year-old daughter in attendance but also a friend of hers. Is that the accepted thing these days? To exclude your guests’ children but include your own plus a friend? It wasn’t a huge deal because it was only a baby shower, but I have to admit, I was looking forward to a few child-free hours with friends, plus it felt very exclusive to me. Additionally, I’m planning to have my own “adults only” party soon and am wondering what to do about my own young child. (We don’t have any close relatives around to ship him off to for the evening.)

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  1. I would not expect that a host would necessarily exclude her own children from a party that does not include her guests kids. I also would not expect that she would exclude all children, because there do tend to be exceptions. It is not bad form to invite adults to an event but include a few children but there is certainly some sort of line you would not want to cross. If anywhere near a third of guests' children were invited I think the host should go ahead and include all children.

    For your party, I think you will enjoy it most if you hire a sitter to stay with your child upstairs. You might dismiss her once the child has been soundly sleeping for an hour or so but just having someone there so that you are free to enjoy your guests will be enjoyable.

    1. Disclaimer: I do not have children.

      If I was invited to an "adult only" party, I would assume adult beverages are being served and babysitters are not availaible.

      I would arrange a babysitter and go. Or, if not familiar enough with friends\neighbors, refuse and stay home with the baby. Unfortunately, civilaziton has a very real price.

      I guess that's why we have all moved together after scattering to the coasts.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gaffk

        Thanks for your response, but my question is not about bringing my own child to a party designated as "Adults only". I would never dream of doing that. If you re-read my post, you'll see I am asking about what is the proper etiquette of somebody with their own children who is hosting a party deemed "Adults only".

        Kater -Your suggestion for me to hire a babysitter for my child at my party is basically what I was thinking, as much for my own sanity as for my guests'! I guess I was just considering that, well, if these other friends could "get away with" having their child attend their "Adults only" party, maybe I could do the same thing merely to save on expenses. Plus it just didn't seem quite fair for them to do that. Maybe I'm just behind the times.....

      2. I think it's a bit much to expect that the host won't have her own children in the house at the time of an event. Not everyone has friends/family members who will be willing to watch children in their own house and/or have them stay overnight if the event will be ending way after the children are asleep. Until my grandparents moved to my hometown when I was 8, I think I was almost always home when my parents hosted events. I went to bed fairly early and they could either start after I was asleep or have someone watch me until I went to bed.

        I imagine that in the case of the baby shower, the hostess invited one friend so her daughter wouldn't be bored to tears the whole time. I was at a restaurant a few months ago where women were having a shower and there was one lone child who looked 3-4 who had to amuse herself by playing with the wrapping paper. I thought she'd be much happier having a friend with her.

        1. This could be the scenario queencru suggested, but if that were the case, I'd expect that the kids would be off elsewhere in the house playing, not right there at the party.

          1. when I was young and when my kids were young there were dinners at our house and unless they were family occasions, neither myself and my siblings nor my kids hung around the adults.

            Kids can come and say good evening and have a quick conversation and then go and do their own thing until bedtime. If it took either my husband or myself to take them up to bed and supervise teeth and lights then for a few minutes one of us would absent ourselves. Anyway, we usually invited guests about 8pm which meant the children had already gone to bed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: smartie

              Meanwhile, my parents hosted a lot of dinners when I was growing up, and my brother and I always had to participate. To be honest, it really sucked -- our parents couldn't pay attention to us, the conversation was always about stuff we didn't care or know about, and we were stuck making nice instead of going off to play or read or whatever.

              In retrospect, I wish it had been 50/50 in terms of making us take part in those dinners. It's nice to be included and feel mature, but at the same time, grown-up dinners can be really boring.

              On a side note, we often had big, open house parties that we loved to attend and help out with. It's different in those cases, because you can walk around and it's way more casual. Plus, it teaches you to be a good host.

            2. I think there is a difference between "adults only" and "adults only".


              - In the case of an "adults only" dinner party this may mean that liquor will be served, and children would not fit in to the planned activities
              - In the case of a shower then instead of placing on the invitation, "please leave your kids at home" they used the PC "adults only".

              Would I expect to see the hosts' children there for the former. Maybe to say goodnight and then off to beddy bye time. Would I expect to see the children of the hosts at the latter. Probably since this is a "family" event for the hosts and their family to celebrate a life event. And if the hosts think their children would behave better with one of the friends, got my vote.

              And if you are "looking forward to a few child-free hours with friends" well then you might just have to plan something and get a sitter for yourself. Now as you plan your "adults only" party in the future, try calling one of the other guest sand see if they have a sitter and maybe do a swap. My child has a sleep over at your house with your sitter and i can repay the favor when you need some help.

              Other than that, you have a child and that is Ace-trump versus your desire to have a child-free night. That comes when the youngest goes off to college and none of the olders come home after college.

              1. There is no "etiquette. Host's party, host makes the rules.

                1. I would have the same reaction as you -- I'd be surprised to see the host's kids at a supposedly adults-only party. On one hand, I get that it's hard to find someone to look after the kid when you're hosting, and that having your own kid around is a significantly smaller burden that hosting lots of kids at a party. But on the other hand, it doesn't seem fair to force all your guests to find babysitting arrangements when you're not willing to do so yourself. Maybe if the kid was going to bed, and like others have said, would just be at the party for a few minutes to say hello and goodbye. Otherwise I don't think it's okay to say "no kids except mine." (Which is why we have not, and don't plan to, host an adults-only party while the kids are little.)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Pia

                    Agree. If the invitation said "adults only", I might not be surprised to see the host's chirdren make an appearance, but I would not expect them to be constantly under foot. I would also not expect them to be part of the action -- helping to open presents/taking attention away from the guest of honor.

                    1. re: PattiCakes

                      If this was a baby shower there is no better time for getting the older children excited about the new arrival, especially since the guest of honor will hopefully not make an appearance. If you exclude the other siblings you have created an us-them with the new arrival. Making it exclusionary for the older children will come back and bite you later.

                      1. re: jfood

                        I'm sorry. I did n ot explain myself fully. The last 2 showers I attended (one a baby & one a wedding) had young children of the host (not the honoree). They started off OK, bring presents to the bride/mom one at a time, but then things escalated to the point where the children were ripping the paper off the presents, mixing presents up and generally becoming the show rather than being just a part of it. The host was so busy running the shower that she did not have the where with all to keep the kids in check, and no one wanted to offend by stepping in to do so.

                        1. re: PattiCakes

                          And in my case, the kids did get to be a bit intrusive with the present-opening, although not going as far as unwrapping gifts themselves. Also, neither child was in any way related to the expectant mom (honoree). The honoree didn't even know one of the children --that child was just a neighborhood friend of the host's child.

                          1. re: VickySF

                            This really clears it up. I think a child can be in the home but shouldn't be part of the party. If the child is, then a sitter could be watching him/her and the friend elsewhere on the premises. I can see the friend being there but, again, present in the home, not at the party. Intrusive is never okay, even if it's not an adults only party.

                  2. Thanks for all the responses, everyone! I guess I should clarify that this was a baby shower for the much beloved teacher of my son and the host's child (but not the other little girl that was there --she doesn't even go to the same school), so there was a more personal element to it for me and my son. This teacher is like family to us, so I guess that's where the feeling slighted part comes in. This was not a situation of a baby shower for the mom of one of the kids that was present. And the teacher is not in any way related to the host or her family.

                    When I was a kid, my parents did the same as what a lot of you have mentioned --we young'uns had to stay out of sight during parties. I guess that's why I was a bit surprised to see these two little girls. Anyway, I'll most likely go with a babysitter for my own party, for my sanity as much as for my guests!

                    1. My guess on ettiquite would be I would likely expect the hosts' children to be staying elsewhere (sleepover!), but wouldn't be surprised if they had a dedicated sitter and were in another part of the house. I would be very surprised if the kids were seen for more than a cursory "oh, how you've grown" moment, or if the hosts were continually dragged away dealing with children.

                      If another party had brought a kid, I'd treat it as poor form (like wearing black tie to a white tie invitation) and think less of that family, but with some understanding that life happens. Unless that kid vanished with the hosts' kid and it was clearly some kind of organized sleepover thing.

                      When I was a kid (4 to 7), my father was in grad school and we had parties at our house. No other kids would be brought (I imagine some of the people had kids, but sitters must have been arranged), and I hung out with the adults for an hour or so before the party got roudier and I went to bed. That all seemed to work pretty well.

                      1. if your party is in the later evening, id expect your child to be there early, and then off to bed.

                        i do not understand why serving alcohol in the home means children will be a problem, unless you have no control over yourself when alcohol is served.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: thew

                          I agree with the "serving alcohol" thing. So what! we commonly have "family" dinner parties with another couple and have wine at the table with sparkling fruit juice for the kids. We all eat the same food (no "kid's table) and share in conversation together. I do not understand why some think that a family event cannot include alcohol.

                          1. re: thew

                            I don't get it either. As long as all the adults involved can drink responsibly, there shouldn't be a problem having family-oriented parties that include alcohol. I remember attending parties as a child that I am pretty sure included alcohol for the adults. The primary considerations should be the timeframe of the party and ability to provide interesting activities to both the adults and the children. A party that starts at 8pm is probably not appropriate for youngsters to attend more than just making an appearance and going to bed.

                          2. While I might not expect the hostess to not have her own children in the house, I would expect that, having required everyone else to make other arrangements for their children, she would have the children at least elsewhere in the house and not at the party. In my mind, you shouldn't hold guests in your home to a different standard that you're willing to adhere to yourself. Ideally, she should arrange for someone else to care for the children while she is serving as hostess at a child-free party.

                            I've also been informed that my manners are stupidly old-fashioned for a woman in her 30's.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: alitria

                              alitria, speaking as a man about twice your age, it does my ancient heart good to know that there are still some younger people who truly understand the basis of good manners. "Host makes the rules" is a statement that implies a sense of entitlement, that it's the host's RIGHT to have his or her own kids there because "it's MY house and I said so." But the heart and soul of manners is not that we do what we have the right to do, but rather what we OUGHT to do if we are to be fair. If I have asked other people not to bring their children, I will certainly take the trouble to exclude mine, just as my siblings and I were always excluded from whatever grownup parties our parents gave.

                              Good on yer, kid. Nothing is EVER "stupid" about good manners, except to consider them outdated.

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                except perhaps to consider them universal.

                                in my family, and with my parents peers as well, it would be quite surprising, and probably a bit rude to hide your children away from your guests. my parents friends and relatives all loved each others kids, and would be sad not to get a chance to say hello and goodnight to them when visiting - after all, they are part of the family being visited aren't they? No one would have felt offended that the host's children were visible in their own home, even if theirs had not been invited.

                                1. re: thew

                                  That is your family and your family's rules, and to fault you for following them in your house would be wrong. For you to expect me to follow your family's practices in my house would also be wrong. That is the point I'm trying to make: that rules and practices are not universal, but are imposed within each family or household, and those of us who visit another household should expect to conform to its practices: taking one's shoes off, leaving the kids home, whatever. That principle IS universal.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    i wouldn't dream of telling you what to do in your home. my beef was with the idea that specific manners are never outdated, clearly they become so.

                            2. It really depends on the situation. I recall a New Year's eve party we were invited to when my kids were perhaps 10 and 13. It was specified as "adults only" but we being very close to the hosts were specifically told that we could bring ours as they are the same age as the hosts' kids, and are known to all get along together; in fact they are close as well. In fact, it made life easier for the hosts to have "entertainment" for their kids. The kids were elsewhere in the house watching movies though. The hosts did *not* want to deal with a dozen kids; that would have been a completely different situation. So I can see how perhaps others may have thought "why did they get to bring their kids?" but in this case I think it is "host's perogative".

                              1. One of my routine babysitting gigs in grad school was for a mom hosting the monthly bunco night. I would show up about an hour before the party to help her set up, fix dinner for the kid while mom put herself together, play with the kid (hopefully quietly) upstairs until bed time while mom and company enjoyed the kid-free evening, then hang out for about an hour after bed time to make sure the kid was really asleep... Seemed like a really good way to handle, and not just because I was paid to be there. The kid got to sample some of the special snacks for the party, helped greet guests as they arrived, but disappeared upstairs just in time for the adults to let loose a little.

                                1. When our children were younger (and they are 9 years apart in age, so it only applied to one child at a time) and we hosted parties to which adults were invited, our child was not banished until 8PM. That said, we always invited one close friend of our daughter. This insured that our daughter was occupied, not bored and not interrupting or imposing herself into adult conversation. The kids helped themselves to plates at the buffet, but ate in the den. If it was a sit down dinner, they ate at the kitchen table.
                                  It would be unfair to have banished our children to their bedrooms or a friends house just so we could have guests.

                                  That said, I've found that girls (which is what we have) travel in pairs. On school vacations or long weekends when we head to our place on Cape Cod, each girl invites a girlfriend to come along. Makes the kids happy and preserves the parents' sanity.

                                  1. When I was growing up (60's era) we kids were available for adult parties; all of my parents friends had kids so we all hung out together. Most of the parties started off with either snacks or dinner at which we kids were in attendance. Later, we went to another part of the house to watch tv & sleep. When the parents were finished hanging out, they carted our sleeping frames home or we'd sleep over & the parents would pick us up the next morning.

                                    When my kids were young, I had card parties; my friends had kids & brought them over to play with mine. We'd be in the kitchen having a great time & the kids would be in the living room or one of the bedrooms playing video games or watching tv. They'd stay overnight. I also had parties where no kids, not even my own were present. Bottom line, the host can make their own rules, even if it doesn't seem right.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Cherylptw

                                      Hmm, I don't know about this "host's prerogative" idea that I keep hearing on this thread. I know these aren't perfect analogies because your kids are people who live there too, but I would think it was rude if someone made guests take off shoes while leaving theirs on, or told guests it would be a dry party while having a drink themselves. As a mom who socializes with other parents often, I just think that if I'm imposing a burden on others by making them find childcare for an adult-only party, it's only fair for me to abide by my own rules and do the same. (As I mentioned above, I think it's fine for the kids to make an appearance or to physically be around -- I mean, they do live there -- but they shouldn't attend the party.) Cheryl, in the examples you gave, it seemed like both hosts and guests followed the same rules. That seems fair to me.

                                    2. As my mom told me last night, " I never made my kids second class citizens in their own home". She said that we would be downstairs to welcome the guests, but after grabbing some food we would retreat upstairs to watch tv (my bro is 4 yrs older). But she did admit that we weren't clingy or disruptive kids. My BF's parents were the same with him and his sister. Unless the host is planning a drunken orgy I don't see why their children can't remain in the house (either w/a babysit or without).

                                      1. I think it's incredibly rude to specify the guests' children are not invited and then have your own children present. It shows that you think you are somehow "more special" than your guests, something a host should avoid at all costs.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: silkenpaw

                                          i do think it shows that at all. it shows that your children live in your home, and are not of lesser importance than your guests

                                          1. re: thew

                                            I agree with you. The scenario pictured above, where the kids that were there were tearing the presents open, would be a big pain in my butt, whether or not I was hosting the event, but I only have one child and he was never disruptive as long as he was the only one there and nobody was urging him on to wreak havoc. Fortunately he's no longer that suggestible and still doesn't wreak havoc.

                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                              As the host, at least with your own children, you can control them as you see fit. You can't guarantee that the guest children are going to behave well or that their parents will care if they behave.

                                              Most of the weddings I have been to where there were children showed me that I didn't want kids at my wedding. It has been my experience that there are parents who let their kids run around, get into things, etc. However, I did want my niece as my flower girl. So she was there with a friend for company. And I knew that with the combination of my sister, BIL and my parents watching out and just my niece's temperament and upbringing that the girls wouldn't be running amok. And they had a great time, but didn't cause any problems.

                                          2. re: Firegoat

                                            Maybe the host's child was there because her plans to have the child be elsewhere fell through - I can't be the only parent who didn't always have things work perfectly.

                                            But for the OP - if your child was disappointed in not being able to give the pregnant teacher a gift, then take a small one for the "official" shower, but give her a more heartfelt one when your child is present.

                                          3. Granted, I don't have kids but I see a world of difference between a party with the host's child (and a friend to keep her company) present and the children of several other guests in attendance. I don't find anything rude or unacceptable about it.

                                            1. my kidlets are now grown and moved out but when young they would politely say good evening to guests, help pass out drinks and snacks, and then go and watch TV, do homework and go to bed. We had the same experience at our friends with children. Only one couple we knew had a very badly behaved toddler who would throw tantrums and be demanding throughout the grown ups dinner.
                                              Our friends would expect our children to be present for a brief period and we expected the same at our friends, however they did not join us for dinner.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: smartie

                                                This is how my parents and their friends handled things. They used it as an opportunity to teach us how to set up for a party, how to interact appropriately with adults, and how to respect "their" time with friends.

                                              2. For about 8 years we had a family BBQ every summer, inviting parents and their children to join us. After one year when a parent stood idly by while his daughter trampled our vegetable garden and another child decided to hammer the croquet wickets into the ground, we decided to make it an adults only party. The exception was that my son, who was then 13, was allowed to have his own table, i.e. he could invite up to 11 friends. I figure that I am completely within my rights to exclude the general child population without penalizing my child, who also likes to entertain HIS friends. No one complained, and if they did, I would invite them to leave and not to return the next year. It's my party and I'll invite who I want to.

                                                1. I have a related, but not identical question -- I thought I'd post here instead of starting a new thread. When I'm invited to a party that starts relatively early and the invitation doesn't specify whether kids are invited, I always ask the host. (If the party starts around 7 p.m. or later, I assume kids are not invited.) I usually say something like, "Is this an adults-only event, or should I plan to bring my son?"

                                                  I saw a thread here where the OP fretted over how to respond to parents who asked about whether to bring their kids: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/580640

                                                  When I ask, it's because I want to AVOID an etiquette problem (bringing unwanted kids). I'm not trying to cause my friends stress! Does anyone have a good way to inquire whether kids are invited, without implying that you're asking to bring yours? (And if anyone's reaction is that the invitation should always specify, that's not the norm in my social circle -- I'd say that about 95% of the time when I ask, the response is, "Of course, we meant the invitation to be for the whole family!")

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      This. Just make it clear you are more than willing, nay eager, to get a sitter. If someone is offended or "frets", really, that is their issue.

                                                  1. It is understandable to some degree that people will want to bring their kids to a gathering, but it is important to note that not everyone has a home that is child-friendly. I myself have no children or pets, and not only do I have plenty of fragile items that could easily be disturbed, it is likely that at any time I will have also have numerous sharp objects/chemicals/medicines/ etc. around that a kid could easily get into. I have a friend who always just assumes it is fine to bring her ill-behaved toddler everywhere with her. It would be one thing if her daughter behaved or if she herself took responsibility for watching her, but alas this is not the case. It drives me crazy to watch this kid run wild and have everyone else trying to keep her out of trouble, until she inevitably hurts herself or breaks something, and starts wailing until (hopefully) said friend gives up and takes her home.

                                                    My point is that I do not think that it is necessarily rude to exclude children (especially small ones) from a gathering. Also, people who do insist on taking their kids to adult parties should 1. absolutely make sure this is OK with the host 2. take care to watch them closely and 3. if they can't behave then find a sitter or just stay home.

                                                    As for your own child, it is your party after all, so it is your call. If you think that they will be disruptive or unsafe at all then you might want to hire a sitter to watch them in another part of the house, away from the action at your party.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: NCVeggie

                                                      I held an adults only 50th Birthday party for my husband last year, and planned it on a weekend the boys were with their Dad. Most of our crowd are bikers, I knew it was going to turn into a day (and night) of heavy drinking, bad role modelling and questionable stories/memories.

                                                      Everyone understood. I have been to parties where kids are there and it is not an appropriate setting for them in the least, and lose a lot of respect for the people who get drunk and act wacky in front of them-I wanted everyone to be able to cut loose and have a blast without making a bad impression on any children. The neighbors were even warned for that one LOL!

                                                    2. Funny story:

                                                      We just had my daughter's baby shower. Mothers with infants were invited to bring them along. My almost-5 year old granddaughter waqs invited, as well as similarly-aged daughters of the Guest-of-honor's colleague. The 3 girls had the job of picking up wrapping paper & putting it in big plastic bags, but also had time to play by themselves and form a friendship. At the end of the party, my granddaughter took a napkin and carefully wrote her phone number on it in crayon (ok, so the 3's were backewards), gave it to her new friends and said: " Call me. Maybe you can come to my birthday party or we can play." Learning the social graces early!