Being a stay-at-home dad with a daughter has particular “challenges.”
Don’t get me wrong—I love my daughter. She can be the sweetest, most compassionate, caring, and loving person. I cannot describe in words how much I love her hugs and kisses.
While I love spending time with her, as she grows older certain things have become…interesting. For instance, which bathroom does she use? Every time we are out, I always pause before deciding what to do. She knows which is the “boys” room and which is for “girls.” And she always wants to go into the girl’s room. Do I just let her go by herself? What if she locks herself into the stall, can’t turn on the water, or reach the soap? How do I not look awkward waiting patiently outside the girl’s bathroom?
Especially in public places like airports and parks, I prefer to take her with me into the men’s room. However, when she has to go, she has to go! One time, we were at a park where she just ran into the women’s room, and as I ran after her, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the security camera at the entrance—I didn’t want the cops to show up and arrest me for going into the girl’s room!
I was almost arrested once when the men’s room was closed for cleaning at Santa Monica Pier and my daughter was about to pee her pants. I stood at the door, yelling inside every thirty seconds to make sure she was ok. Just as she finished up, a cop car showed up to “check” that I wasn’t some “weird guy” on the pier, but once he saw my young daughter, he totally understood my predicament!
Taking her to the men’s room can be equally awkward now that she knows that boys have penises and girls have “jinas.” She asks why boys get to pee at the urinal and she cannot. Sometimes she walks up to other people while they are using the urinal. I realized that the concept of privacy isn’t inherent; it has to be taught! Add to that the judgemental looks you get from others when a father is helping their daughter to the restroom. Those looks of indignation that “mom” should be doing it (or the assumption that there is even a mom) or that unsolicited advice on how to raise your child. You can see why it is such a challenge!
Another challenge is when I have to go and ask her to “stay put” for just enough time to allow me to finish my business. Most of the time, she listens. One time, however, we were visiting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. She was so thrilled by the experience of seeing the bridge that she forgot to tell us she had to pee, and she started to pee in her car seat. We quickly jumped out of the car to go to the restroom and clean up. It was a big public restroom with dozens of people coming in and out.
After I had cleaned her up, I asked her to wait while I used the facilities. But she wanted to see the bridge again! I almost peed my pants as I ran outside—
zipper still down and screaming her name—to catch her. Thankfully, I caught her just before she stepped into the road to cross the parking lot. It was a very scary experience!
I breathe a sigh of relief when a family restroom is available because we can all use the restroom together without challenges—I can change my toddler, we can both go to the restroom in private, and I don’t have to worry about her running out the door. It’s nice to see more restaurants, malls, and public sites have family restrooms. Sadly, too many non-family people use them for the same reason that I like using them–privacy. It is frustrating when I have waited patiently, too many times, outside the family room just to see a non-parent come out and don’t care even to apologize when they see a family waiting–even when my daughter is doing the “potty” dance. We need more family rooms made available and stricter enforcement of rules around them so that actual families can use them.
Fellow dads—how do you navigate going to the restroom in public facilities? How do you address privacy issues? Do you have any fun stories to share? Post them in the comment section!
Mike Heenan says
Both daughters, at 5 and 3, go with me into the men’s room unless there is a single occupancy women’s room available for my oldest in which case she can use it while I guard the door. I’ve never felt awkward or had issues beyond stressing that she’ll somehow lock me out.
I have a 3 year old daughter. When out without her mom and there’s no one person restroom I have to take her into the men’s room. Most men either give us a quick smile or a look of recognition like, “Boy, that’s rough.” I think even the men without children can understand why we have to do it.
I’ve never intended to make anyone feel awkward or uncomfortable, there’s just not much else to do in the situation. But I would like to think she’s too young to make anyone feel that way regardless.
I’ve never had any issues. My daughter is 7 years old, but as long as I can recall, it’s just been a part of life. I take her to the men’s restroom and in to a stall. I’ve never ever had the impression that anyone else cared. I have always noticed that other boys or men understand the dilema and it happens so often that it’s second nature. Children also do not grow up in a day and realize the difference between male and female parts. When they do finally learn or ask…I simply say that boys and girls have different parts. A 3 or 4 year old child will not grasp the idea of any sort of sexual connotation if that is the concern. They certainly do not automatically associate the differences beyond the fact that they are simply different. Don’t sweat it! Don’t even think about it. If it makes a person feel any better, think about the fact that most teens up to senior citizens will not be concerned. If you are taking a girl in to the men’s restroom, you take them in a stall so there is a level of privacy for everyone involved.
About two months ago I went out to eat with my 4 year old and about halfway through the meal she really wanted to wash her hands so I took her into the men’s room. There was a man using the urinal and while helping her wash hands she did get a few glimpses of him using it. I think he was aware she was a little girl but didn’t seem bothered by her being in there. On the way out she asked me what he had been doing and I told her “using the potty” and “boys and men stand because it’s easier”. She just said “Oh.” and didn’t bring it up again so I’m pretty sure it didn’t affect her at all. We as men can never use the other restroom but it’s all right for our innocent little girls to use the men’s if need be.