PracticalDad:  When Can I Stop Taking My Daughter Into the Men’s Room?

There are parts of fatherhood that I love and parts that…well, not so much.  One of the latter is having to take the daughter into the public men’s room because (a) there are men there, and (b) it’s often a germophobe’s living hell. 
So about when should you be able to stop taking her into the men’s room and what did I consider when mine was very young?

There is no magic number as with a driver’s license – Happy 5th Birthday to the Big Girl Birthday Princess!  You can go the women’s restroom now! – and multiple factors come into  play.  How they intersect is completely up the parent and what one father finds acceptable another might find repugnant.

  • Naturally, what’s your assessment of your daughter’s ability to tend to her personal needs?  Can she clean herself adequately and do a decent job of washing her hands afterwards?  So long as she’s still in any kind of training pants or unable to tend to cleaning/wiping herself, then it’s a non-starter and she’s with you.
  • What’s the condition of the men’s restroom?  There’s been more than one occasion that I’ve walked into the men’s room with her just to take a quick look at the cleanliness.  There’s likewise been more than one occasion that I’ve left with her to go elsewhere to find an acceptably clean restroom.  In those years, we lived in suburban Washington, DC and I could tell  you any number of acceptable men’s rooms on Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue and the vicinity of downtown Silver Spring.  I also learned to keep a clean change of clothes packed in the car in case there was a resulting accident.
  • If there’s a large women’s restroom, such as in some airports, how many entry/exit points are there to the facility?  I’ve been in the position of simultaneously caring for daughter and son in major airports where there were two access points into the women’s room.  My fear was that she might exit the other access point while I was preoccupied with the boy.  In that instance, I took her into the men’s room even though she could care for her needs.
  • What’s her common sense level?  I’ve actually seen a child pick a lollipop off of the toilet stall floor and stick it in his mouth.  I suspect that a girl’s marquee won’t be missing so many bulbs, but you have to consider judgment.
  • If there are multiple children with which to contend and only one small restroom, I’d consider sending her in the women’s room by herself while I managed the other children outside.
  • At no time if your child is in a restroom alone do you leave your place outside the door.

The point and trick in each situation is to assure that the child is either within view or in a place from which there’s no exit without your knowledge.  It can be a real test of your multitasking ability if you have more than one child at hand, and there will be moments of real stress as you manage the kids.

And at those moments, I tried to remember to thank God that I didn’t have to change a diaper in an airplane lavatory.

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