The evolution of the public family washroom
I nearly dropped to my knees and kissed the floor when I came upon what looked like the Taj Mahal of public washrooms inside a bustling suburban Ontario mall recently. Alongside the men’s and women’s restrooms was a selection of family washrooms the likes of which this weary shopper had never seen.
With the privacy these big washrooms afford, there’s no need to worry about your preschooler peeking under stalls or your oldest trying to get candy out of the tampon machine — after all, you have the whole place to yourselves.
Each has a tiny toilet stationed beside the adult-sized one, with a partial divider in between, so parents can coordinate their relief effort with their child’s while staving off curious eyes and endless questions they’d rather not field at the mall. Matching kid-height sinks and dryers accommodate little do-it-myself-ers.
For moms seeking respite to nourish their new addition, there’s a tranquil nursing room that branches off the ladies’ room. Soothing music invites mothers to snuggle into one of the comfy upholstered chairs. Shiny wood side tables are positioned next to each chair to accommodate diaper bags, squeezy toys, soothers and other infant paraphernalia. And a few steps away is a fun, cave-like enclosure filled with colourful foam cubes to keep toddlers busy.
Was I seeing things, or had builders finally heeded the collective cry of parents for family-friendly facilities?
It wasn’t that long ago I found myself balancing on a wobbly toilet seat, sandwiched between two stalls inside a dingy mall washroom trying to breastfeed a wailing baby. In those days, a diaper change table in a washroom was still a novel idea.
But while washrooms have improved, there’s still a long way to go before there’s a change table in every washroom (women’s and men’s) and a nursing room at every mall. “At times I’ve had to throw a coat down onto the washroom floor to change my son,” says Brighton, Ont., mom Mandy Scarr.