Public Potty Problems

Warning: if you are not at all interested in potty talk, click somewhere else right now.

Hah, I knew you’d stay. Potty talk is undeniably fascinating.

So the girls and I have been venturing out into the public realm, just the three of us, since the very beginning of my stay-at-home stint. And as we all know, using public restrooms is an inevitable part of the going out experience. As an adult with no young children, one’s primary concern about the public restroom is cleanliness. Can I use this facility without gagging? On the other hand, as a father bringing his two young daughters into the men’s room, well, let’s just say that facility cleanliness drops lower on the list of concerns.

I make every possible attempt to ensure that I won’t have to use the restroom when we’re out and about. If it means waiting around an extra hour after my daily coffee binge to leave the house, we do it. If it means depriving my body of necessary fluids while we’re out, I do it. If it means pushing my bladder as close to the point of explosion as is humanly possible, I do that too.

Let’s take a look at how this works. We’re out in public and Dad realizes that he simply cannot wait until he’s home to use the toilet. At this point, I have three choices. See if you can guess which one I opt for:

Option 1: Leave the girls, ages 3 and 1, outside the men’s room door and hope for the best. (What, they’d be fine, right?)

Option 2: Bring the girls into the men’s room, allowing them to roam free while I find a place to conduct business. (I imagine that as long as I’m OK with angry looks, kids being bruised by opening and closing doors, the creation of an ideal kidnapping situation, and all types of foreign substances showing up on the kids’ hands, this would work just fine.)

Option 3: Squeeze the three of us into a stall (preferably handicapped-accessible) and very carefully conduct business while holding 24 pounds of angry wriggling Bean in one arm and strongly cautioning a very curious Bear against getting too close, all the while consoling both of them as they freak out every time a toilet flushes and every time one of those wall-mounted jet engines otherwise known as Xlerator hand dryers seemingly blasts off into space.

If you chose the long-winded overly specific scenario presented in Option 3, you are correct.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not fun at all. But as I sit here thinking this through, I don’t really see this issue getting any easier as the girls grow up. They will reach an age at which it is just completely unacceptable to bring them into a men’s room. Actually, Bear is probably there already. But what do I do? In my mind, this age definitely does not correspond with the age at which I will feel comfortable leaving them alone outside the men’s room for a few minutes.

HELP! When is a girl too old (let’s call it age y) to enter the men’s room? When is a girl old enough (age z) to safely wait outside the men’s room on her own? And exactly how is Dad supposed to relieve himself when the girls are between ages y and z?! In my mind y=3 and z=30 so this is a problem. (Note: giving up coffee is not an acceptable suggestion)

About dadbloggit

I'm an architect-turned-stay-at-home-dad to three little daughters. Being an architect was hard. Being a full-time parent is RIDICULOUSLY hard. And equally as rewarding. Dadbloggit is a record of this journey.
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6 Responses to Public Potty Problems

  1. Whoa. I feel really guilty now. Just today I allowed my 2 and 4 year old to sit alone at a coffee-shop table while I went to the bathroom. Of course, it was a place I am really comfortable with, that we go to all the time. I often leave them though (briefly), telling my 4 year old that I need him to watch his brother and make sure he’s okay. I also ALWAYS make sure that they have something to keep them quietly occupied– a little pad with some markers, toy cars, books, cookies… something. I think that around 3 1/2 or 4, when the children begin to become acutely aware of the differences between the sexes, it might start to be inappropriate to bring them into the men’s room. But I also think that at that age they are capable of being alone and staying put for a few minutes.
    The other emergency that comes up is having to go into unfamiliar places when you are in the middle of potty-training and your little one needs to go NOW! Here’s my tip for you– Hair Salons. Bathrooms are always clean and the mostly female clientelle/employees are usually pretty understanding about these emergencies.
    Good luck to you and thanks for your post!

    • dadbloggit says:

      Thanks for sharing your tips! I don’t know though… even if my girls were capable of staying put for a few minutes, I’m just not comfortable not having visual contact with them. My main concern is not what they’d be getting into but who might be getting them. Not something I want to mess with. But the hair salon idea is excelent… I’ll have to keep that in mind as Bean enters potty training soon!

  2. Judi Burt says:

    Well, I love the beauty salon idea, but disagree about the 3-1/2 or 4 yr. age limit to accompany dad to the mens’ restroom. I don’t think that, in today’s world, you can ever be too careful. Keep taking them in with you, dad. I like the idea of using the handicapped stall for more room/privacy. Don’t let them run around the restroom unattended while you’re in the stall. You could impress on them as they get older that everyone is entitled to some privacy but that they also need to be with you. Have them face the door while you do your thing. Maybe this is far out, but you could also bring along in your backpack a piece of paper, some tape and some stickers. Tape the piece of paper to the inside of the stall door and tell them to decorate it with stickers while you go potty. That should keep ’em busy long enough to get the deed done, right?

  3. I don’t know– men at urinals can be pretty exposed, and I’m not sure little girls need to see that. And men’s rooms in general can be a lot grosser than ladies rooms generally are. But then again, if you hustle them right into the handicapped stall, I guess their exposure to anything unsavory would be minimal. I do leave my boys at tables alone, and forgo visual contact with them for a few minutes, but I pick the places that I do that very carefully, and I always make sure that they have something to keep them busy. I’ve also noticed that in Brooklyn, where I live, a lot of public places are adopting “family bathrooms” which are unisex and large, with only one toilet, so you can easily use it with a stroller and a couple of kids. they also always have changing tables and just recently I was in one that had this ingenious car seat type of device attached to the wall, so you could put a baby in it while you pee. As someone who frequently peed with a baby in a carrier strapped to my chest, I appreciate this. Maybe as more men become primary caregivers, we will see more of this kind of thing. Brooklyn is notoriously family friendly, so I imagine it might be a little ahead of the curve.
    I guess I’ve had to accept moments where my children are within my sight as a mother of two. I don’t know how that became acceptable. I remember when I was anxious about it all of the time, but somehow it became the norm. Possibly the first time I was at the playground and they ran off in different directions, and I just had to trust them a little bit. Or possibly I am incredibly neglectful.

    • dadbloggit says:

      Yes, family restrooms are definitely the ideal situation, and I’m seeing more and more of them as well. You are absolutely right about the scenery in the men’s room, and this is definitely something I am concerned about. I’m sure you’re not neglectful… every good parent has instincts when it comes to safety, and you have found ways of dealing with this situation that feel safe to you. I suppose I’m a bit extreme and overly-cautious about this stuff, but it’s what feels right to me. What doesn’t feel right is being out in public with a bladder on the verge of explosion and no good way of dealing with it! What’s a guy to do? 🙂

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