Are Family Washrooms Necessary?

My husband went shopping with our oldest daughter this afternoon to get a present for her cousin and to run some other errands. They ended up going to a very popular toy store here in Canada (and probably in the US too).

I stayed home to get some things done and to spend some time with our youngest. One on one time now and then is good for everyone.

About 45 minutes after they left, they returned. Why? So my husband could use the washroom before they continued with their shopping.

Apparently, the toy store did not have a family washroom. In most instances, this is no big deal, but what about dads who are out alone with their daughter? What do you do then?

Everywhere I look, family-focused companies cater to moms. The majority of shoppers are women, so why wouldn’t they? But there needs to be a balance because there are a lot of single dads (of daughters and infants specifically) who need to be taken in to consideration. Or, in my husband’s case, dads who just love spending time with their daughter and feel comfortable hanging out on their own.

Tonight, my husband said “As a dad, I find it difficult to take my daughters out on my own because of the lack of father-friendly family washrooms or family washrooms at all. At 3 yrs old, I don’t feel comfortable taking our daughter in to the men’s washroom.” And I don’t blame him.

Now, it isn’t because I think that something is going to happen to her (although, since I’m her mom, there is always a fear that something will). It is because there could be questions from our daughter, awkward moments, her feeling uncomfortable, or even other men coming in to use the washroom feeling uncomfortable.

Personally, I feel that family-oriented establishments need to have family washrooms, and they need to cater to as many needs as possible. There should be a small room with a change station, one stall and a sink. And the outside of the family washroom should lock. Including a chair for people who need to breast or bottle feed would be a big plus (as they can do that without locking the door to allow others in to use the facility). So in this instance, my wonderful husband who loves spending time with his daughter, could go in to the washroom, sit our daughter on the chair, lock the outside door, and go in to the stall and do what he needs to do while feeling his daughter is safe.

And to top it all off, the women’s washroom in this store had a change station, but the men’s washroom had nothing. So what is a dad, on his own, to do if the child was younger and needed a diaper change? Should he go barging in to the women’s washroom just to get access to the exclusive diaper changing table?

Let me ask you what you would do. If you were a single dad, hanging out with your three year old daughter and you were in this store with no family washroom and you had to go, what would you do? And, would you feel comfortable taking her in to the men’s washroom to stand there and wait for you? And this is even more of a personal question; what if you needed to use a stall? Would you take her in with you, or leave her out in the washroom on her own to look around?

What would you do? I’m curious because both my husband and I were at a loss as to a good scenario. (Keep in mind, this toy store had no family washroom, just women’s and men’s).

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
Found in Parenting
20 comments… add one
  • Kara Dec 6, 2011, 11:07 am

    “or even other men coming in to use the washroom feeling uncomfortable”

    Yes, my husband says it upsets him when he’s at a urinal, penis in hand, and a father comes in with his little girl. I mean, he understands the situation the father is in and that it’s a small child but still it just doesn’t seem right. At least in ladies’ rooms there are closed stalls.

    So places should have family restrooms. Thankfully, many now do.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Dec 6, 2011, 11:29 am

      Many places do have the family washrooms now. I was shocked to hear that this place didn’t.

  • Jennifer Nov 27, 2011, 5:59 pm

    This saddens me. The store obviously has a poor business model – they’d rather lose business than spend a small amount on a family washroom. They are basically telling their customers that they would rather lose their business than provide them a convenient washroom!

  • Nolie Nov 21, 2011, 5:43 pm

    This is one of the many reasons I am happy I have boys. Since I don’t drive the only one who goes out with just the kids is him and they are the same sex.

    As for the male washroom with no change table we have experienced this. I was in the car and he went in to change Big Brother when he was a baby. It was a Tim Horton’s. He texted me that there was no change table in the mens washroom so I texted back and told him to change the baby on a table in the corner of the restaurant to teach them a lesson. I was a tad on the moody side that day. He actually did do it.

    I have also gone into a women’s washroom where there was no change table. Thankfully I had a change pad and the bathroom was surprisingly clean for public washroom standards. I changed the baby on the floor on the change mat. When I came out of the bathroom I found 3 women who had seen me do this bitching out the manager for not having a change table.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 6:01 pm

      Those are awesome stories Nolie. I love how your hubby changed him on a table. I don’t think I’ve come across a women’s room without one yet, but next time I do, I’m going to go right up to the cashier and ask if I can change my daughter on her till.

      You’ve inspired me!

  • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 1:42 pm

    I love hearing from the moms out there about what they would do if in the same situation as my husband was. I think as mothers, we all pretty much just do what we have to do and I agree with everything posted.

    I was kind of hoping to hear from the dads speaking on behalf of themselves though as to how they feel.

  • Cat Davis - Food Family Finds Nov 21, 2011, 12:20 pm

    Well, I’m not a dad obviously, but my husband takes our daughters into the men’s bathrooms all the time, they’re 2 and 4. I can see why some dad’s might not be comfortable with it but we’re pretty open about girl parts/boy parts. Although it was frustrating that mens rooms never had changing tables, so he could change a diaper on the go occasionally.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 8:23 pm

      I think I am most frustrated about the change tables too. My husband usually asks if he can take one or both of the girls along when he runs errands some times on the weekend. He misses them during the week when he has to work, and it gives me some time to do some work on my sites.

      I don’t think it would take much just to add a small change table even to the men’s washrooms. They fold away and don’t take up much room.

  • cstoesz22 Nov 21, 2011, 11:28 am

    My son is 4 1/2 and I agree that boys are easier. My husband just takes him in with him but I’m finding it awkward now. My son wants to ask lots of questions and he’s not a shy kid at all (Oh ya Mommy, you don’t have a penis to stand. AHHH!). I find he often wants to go to the bathroom when I do so I now let him use his own stall right next to mine and when he is done (or if he doesn’t have to go) then he leans on my stall door until I come out (so I can see his feet). It’s worked well so far but bathrooms in general are gross so the whole thing makes me feel ICKY!!

    • Erin Nov 21, 2011, 1:19 pm

      I am with you. My 5 year old goes in with me but he can use the stall by himself. I just shout out directions to him … mostly “DONT TOUCH ANYTHING!”. Actually, my husband told me that when he goes in with the boys, my 4 year old uses the stall by himself too. He just stands outside the stall door and waits for him.

      • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 8:24 pm

        This makes me laugh. I’m always saying “keep your hands in your pockets” when we are in bathroom too.

  • Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy Nov 21, 2011, 11:11 am

    I personally just deal with these situations, as I am a mom of all boys and granted its different because of urinals but when my boys got old enough that I didn’t find it appropriate for them to walk into a woman’s room, I made them stand RIGHT outside the bathroom door and I went FAST. I think it would be wonderful if everyplace had a family bathroom but I think its highly unlikely.

  • nadine Nov 21, 2011, 10:41 am

    I kind of hate that scenario too – it happens to us often and my husband just takes her into the men’s room. She’s really outspoken and I realize now it’s something she’s never even mentioned so I guess it’s probably not that bad.
    I don’t think I’d be too weirded out if a dad knocked on the ladies room and used the change room – as long as he announced himself. Would probably be a very effective way to get the store to get a men’s room change table – imagine how many ladies would get mad on his behalf – can just picture a store ordering a rush table! :)

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 8:35 pm

      I hope more and more dads start asking for change tables. It is always so nice to see dads out with their kids and this would hopefully get more of them out. I know this is one of my husband’s biggest pet peeves.

  • Beth Nov 21, 2011, 10:19 am

    Brian tromps the kids in the men’s room all of the time. As the stay at home dad, he has no option. Grace is 5 and can take Sophie (almost 4) to the girls room now but just Sophie won’t go in the girl’s room alone. As for diaper changes, we try to change in the car/van. (This a challenge with a really tall two year old … works fine in the van but the front car seat is hard!)
    I can’t tell you how many places I have been to recently that didn’t have a changing table in the ladies’ room even. So annoying. Matthew was changed twice in the van yesterday due to lack of changing areas.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 6:03 pm

      Changing in the vehicle is always a good option in the summer time. When they went out this weekend it was -25 so that is not favourable.

      • Beth Nov 21, 2011, 6:25 pm

        Matthew HATES the leather seats in the van. They are either hot or cold if he has to get changed on them.=/

  • Erin Nov 21, 2011, 7:59 am

    I think I’d just have my husband take my daughter to the men’s room. Because I still take my boys (5 and 4) into the ladies room if there is no family room.

    But I was telling my husband how much it rocks to have boys, because I have access to all the bathrooms, practically. I can take them into the “group” women’s room. We can use the family room. And if there is a “single” mens bathroom, we’ll use that one too. No one’s stopping me and my boys when we gotta go.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Nov 21, 2011, 9:04 am

      Boys sound a little easier than girls. I don’t mind a single washroom for men either. It is when there are a lot of stalls and urinals. That creeps us out.

      And what about if my husband was with our youngest and needed to change her diaper? Should he just walk straight in to the women’s washroom? There will more than likely be someone who has a problem with that.

      • Erin Nov 21, 2011, 10:43 am

        LMAO! Teach the store a freakin’ lesson, though. You should contact your news station. Sounds like a fun little story they can do. And maybe you can be featured (or your husband and he can do a shout out for your site.)

        I always hated those changing tables, though. So ICKY! I am trying to think back to diapering days. I think … my kids always pooped at home. LMAO. Seriously. I barely had to use changing tables. I think we used the car sometimes, sometimes those changing tables … but it didn’t come up too often.

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