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My SO and I are part of a group of people, and we often spend time together. While all people in the group have partners and all the couples attend to the dinners, we are the only one without kids.

Last time we hosted a dinner at our place, we felt more like being waiters than hosts: serving food, preparing special food for the kids (aged from 1 to 7 years), checking that the kids don't rumble down the living room, don't play with food around the house, etc. And the day after we still found rest of kids' food spread over several furniture. This of course took away all the fun from the evening.

During one of the dinners, they brought up the idea that

it may be good to hire a babysitter next time we meet so we are more relaxed

but they never followed up on that. And last time we talked about having dinner together, they all seemed to wait until the very last minute to offer their houses, like they were waiting for us to do it.

My question is: how can we politely invite the adults but tell them to leave the kids at home with a baby sitter?

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    "... but tell them to leave the kids at home with a baby sitter?" How the parents should make arrangements for their children should not be part of the invite to an adult only party. – chux Dec 30 '17 at 22:24
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    Why is that party getting so out of hand in the first place? Why aren't the parents of those children... well, parenting? The behavior you are describing would be absolutely unheard of where I come from. Whats your cultural background? – Polygnome Jan 1 '18 at 10:45
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    @chux I think OP realizes that. That's why they're asking for help. They want to know how to say "get a babysitter" without explicitly saying that. – ell Apr 23 '18 at 15:23
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As you've seen, young children being raised the way you describe (different meals for small people, allowed to eat away from the table, playing with whatever they see instead of only things their parents brought for them) are difficult guests at a traditional dinner party. As I see it you have at least three options:

  • host a different kind of get-together. For example a bar be que or other less formal meal, perhaps held mostly outside, in which the children's behavior would have far less drain on you
  • host an adults-only party. It's easily done, requiring only plenty of notice, the words "adults-only" as part of the invitation, and a graceful acceptance that some people do not want to or cannot go out for the evening without their children (others do, so that's fine)
  • keep doing what you're doing and consider it free parenting lessons for when you have your own children. Optionally, ask the parents to take more responsibility for their children rather than doing these things yourselves: letting the parents into your kitchen to make the kid meals, prompting the parent "can you get Suzy off the carpet with that icecream please?", reminding the parents in advance to bring particular items, etc. When I had friends over with children, I didn't chase the kids or tend to them much; they had parents for that.

I recommend against explaining your reasons for wanting an adults-only party. All that leads to is people feeling bad about what their kids did, or arguing with you about whether or not their kids did that, or telling you that all kids do that.

You are still likely to see lots of their children when events are held at their houses. If you want, you could mix it up and have adults-only dinners some times, and madhouse picnic-jamborees other times, so that your friends don't feel you dislike their children. It's clear to me that your objection is to the disruption they cause to a typical adult evening dinner get-together, which is very real. Getting together in a variety of ways means more enjoyment for everyone. If the only way this group gets together is dinners at your house, then try not to make them all adults-only or you won't see those who can't do adults-only, and you'll never see the kids growing up.

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how can we politely invite the adults but tell them to leave the kids at home

What about

Hi everyone, we’d like to invite everyone to dinner at our place, on Saturday, Jan 20 - for this time “adults only”. What do you think?

Or something along these lines.

  • you may in addition set a later starting time to underline the “adult” aspect of the dinner

  • set the date well in advance so they have time to get a baby sitter

  • expect that some might not attend, because they can’t or won’t go without their kids, so say “this time” that you can go back to the usual arrangement when necessary

Including some ideas from comments:

“Adults only” - give yourself a break from your duties as a parent and enjoy a delicious dinner at our place on Sat, Jan 20 at 8 pm!

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    I would like to add that some parents might actually like the idea of an "off duty" evening. That idea could be mixed into the invitation. – Fildor Dec 30 '17 at 12:30
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    I would like to add that, to some people, the phrase "adults only" has a totally different meaning to what you intended :-) "Off-duty" may well be a better term. – user10819 Jan 2 '18 at 6:41
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    @paxdiablo, unless that has been a 'thing' in the group of friends already, I doubt michi's friends would show up with the wrong expectations... – Hans Janssen Jan 3 '18 at 16:56
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The question makes me think "we don't want to see your kids" but the underlying info adds "this time". Those are two very different questions.

For a get-together for just parents, I'd suggest coming out and saying it. "Hey guys - let's get together for just the grown-ups." The parents will need time to find a baby-sitter, so I'd suggest allowing an extra week or two to make plans.

There's not an excuse needed. If you feel like giving one, "My place isn't child-proof" or "I have some possessions that are valuable and I'd rather not risk them around small children" are always useful; parents will understand that. If the parents won't respect that and insist on bringing kids after you've asked them not to, well, that's a whole different SE question.

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    I like the 'my place isn't childproof' explanation. Its honest without inviting conflict or embarrassment. You're letting them know the children's behavior was an issue without calling out their poor parenting. – user61524 Jan 1 '18 at 9:01
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how can we politely invite the adults but tell them to leave the kids at home with a baby sitter?

I have been on both sides of this question. We are younger than many of our friends, so they had kids when we were just in a couple-only phase. Now we have kids and our friends' kids are grown and long gone.

Many of the answers here have some good ideas. But I would suggest NOT giving reasons (breakable items, food everywhere, etc.) since I think they can engender bad feelings. The reasons also can prompt delusional thinking: "Well, it's OK if we bring our darling Esmerelda, because the hosts said they don't want the added noise / said they have breakable items. Darling Esmerelda is NEVER noisy and NEVER breaks anything, because she is so perfectly behaved! She's practically a grown up even though she's three, likes to destroy furniture, isn't potty trained, won't eat unless hand fed standing up and only screams for 50 minutes of every hour!"

Instead, invite the friends for a special grown-up evening. As others have said, give plenty of notice and provide some additional cues that this is a special, one-off evening. Do this by:

  • Sending an Evite. I don't know how you normally arrange these events, but Evites are free and you can pick a suitably adult-looking invitation. As @Mast notes below, the Evite should explicitly say, "A grown-ups-only evening at the Smiths" or something else that lets guests know to leave children at home.

  • Picking a later start time! You don't say what time these things usually start, but if you are the host, you should be able to pick the tone and time. If you start your event at 8 p.m., when most kids are (should be)in bed, that's a giant clue to reinforce the "grown-up" dinner to which you have already alerted your friends.

  • Choosing a "grown-up" theme/food. Pick your evite accordingly and note "an evening of X cuisine" with X cuisine being something specific and not necessarily child friendly. You might also choose to change the attire -- just for fun, ostensibly, but also to reinforce a "grown up" ambiance. This doesn't have to be a 1950s costume party, but you could write "cocktail attire" on your evite.

I think the key to making this evite/evening fun for your friends is testing the waters ahead of time. You can call or email the group and say you wanted to mix it up a bit, celebrate the group, whatever and want to do this by doing something different JUST THIS ONCE. "What does everyone think about a kind of grown up cocktail party? We'll start it later, make it adults only, etc. etc." You might add how much you love being around such amazing, wonderful ... spirited ... children but thought that it might be fun for the parents to let loose and not have to be watching anyone else.

I think the right email preview of the type of evening you envision could help prevent questions and hurt feelings when guests get the Evite.

Lastly, if one or another couple in the group is so tone deaf as to ask you if you really mean that they should leave THEIR darling child at home, try the following:

"Of course we always love being with your amazing Hubert! He really is an exceptional 4 year old! I never knew a child that age could so easily destroy, I mean be so creative with his crayon additions to, our fine art collection! But you know, we couldn't accommodate all the children in the group for this one evening. (Just between us, not all the kids are as precocious as Hubert!) So we wouldn't want to hurt anyone else's feelings by including Hubie after telling the others to leave their children at home. I'm sure you understand the tough spot we would be in if we included Hubert, even though he, well, um, stands alone in his behavior."

Good luck!

(thanks @Mast)

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    You started your answer so well, but all 3 of the suggestions you mentioned can still be misconstrued for the Esmerelda-paragraph before it. "Oh, sure, we understand they mean adults-only, but it isn't explicit so our little one won't count". – Mast Dec 31 '17 at 4:27
  • Fair point. I will edit to note that the evite should be titled "Grown up evening" or something along those lines, so that it IS explicit. This explicit directive also should be emphasized in the preliminary conversation about the evening, so that everyone is on board. – Mergie Dec 31 '17 at 6:47
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    On general principle I recommend not declaring that you love spending time with Hubie if it isn’t true. That’s only going to land you in a spot further down the line and might make it harder for the parents to realise what a royal PITA Hubie really is, ‘but the Mergies adore him, so axe-murdering can’t be all that socially unacceptable!’ – Spagirl Dec 31 '17 at 12:55
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    Anyone who would speak to me about my child with 'destruc... i mean creative' would get an awful reaction from me and I am pretty sure I wouldn't go there anymore. As a parent to a youngling... .we know they are messy and make for awkward events at times. Just say 'I want a calmer evening' and most parents will get it. No need to lie and be passive aggressive about what the kid is doing... sayin it that way has major risks of firing back IMHO – Patrice Jan 1 '18 at 16:05
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    Anyone who would have allowed Hubie to do the things mentioned in that tongue-in-cheek message would likely not be invited back to a house I maintain. Anyone who would think that was somehow unreasonable would not be invited back to the same neighborhood. – WGroleau Jan 1 '18 at 22:23
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A simple "Adults only" in the invitation is sufficient, along with plenty of notice.

The real problem isn't inviting them appropriately, it's doing so without causing friction.

You've indicated that you're the only couple in this group without kids, and that every other couple has kids and brings them. You've further indicated that they are all young children under the age of 7.

Disinviting the children, particularly as the only family without children, will pose difficulties for the others. Rather than a relaxed, low cost night out to socialize with friends, they're going to have to arrange for babysitting in advance, pay for it, and stick to their schedule. Given they are all young families, chances are good this extra expense will be an issue and may prevent them coming. For others, scheduling in advance may prevent them from coming.

So you must first understand and accept that this is a limitation you'd be imposing on them which may reduce participation. Since you've suggested that all the families come to every meal, this may be quite a blow to the group. If it's common for couples to not attend every get-together, it probably won't have as much impact, but be careful here.

Further, if you always disinvite children when dinners are held at your place, it may result in some resentment or feelings of ill will. When they invite you and the other couples and their children over, they each have as big a mess to clean up as you did, and as much responsibility during the event as you did. Since you don't have children you feel you should be able to opt out out of the hosting and clean-up responsibilities associated with the children.

Naturally this will appear to be imbalanced.

As such I suggest you consider two additions to your overall get-together planning:

  • Adults only parties should be rare, and seen not as a "I don't want to see your children, I want to see you without your children." It's a different atmosphere and event, but for reasons shown above it should be used sparingly, otherwise it'll be apparent you're only doing it to get out of work they are used to doing.
  • Name the issue you're facing, own up to it, and provide them with reassurance that you're not trying to get out of work. There are many ways to do this, but one possible suggestion is, when someone else is hosting, call up the host an hour early and ask if you can come over early to watch the kids, or help them prepare (clean, cook, setup, etc). Let them know you understand it's harder for them to host because they have kids and offer to help out. They may or may not accept, but I doubt it'll be much more work for you to come 30 minutes early and assist them in whatever way seems most useful. In turn some of the couples will start doing the same thing - but instead of accepting to come before the event, ask them to stay later and help clean up. Enjoy a little one-on-one time with whichever couples accept your invitation or ask to help you. When they do help, ask them for suggestions as to how better to child-proof your house. You might be surprised at how little you actually have to do to prevent most types of damage and accidents.

In summary, the invitation isn't hard and doesn't need to be carefully crafted to avoid offense. Its your actions over the long term that will or won't cause offense. Holding such events sparingly, and developing a rapport with them in offering and accepting service should alleviate most friction associated with hosting child-less events.

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