Stressed-Out Parents Tell Restaurant Owners What They Need in Their Restrooms

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

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Frustrated parents everywhere are begging you

Public washroom.”

Do these two words make you cringe? If you’re a parent, they likely do. And you’re not alone. All of us who have had to encounter the phrase “I have to go pee!” – or worse – know how fear-inducing such a pronouncement can be. The cause of this dread?

Germs.

Filth.

Other people’s bodily fluids. And now - in 2021 and beyond. COVID.

Of course the other viruses, microscopic killers and more still exist. COVID just adds to the party.

Gross but true. Let’s just say that a trip to a public restroom can be the cause of extreme anxiety for not only the kids but their parents as well.

Yes, in spite of your "best laid plans" – you know: taking your kids to the washroom before you leave the house, limiting the amount of fluids that they drink before venturing out of their warm cocoon of home, double-checking that your child actually “went pee” – the dreaded declaration is uttered nonetheless. Here you are, in a nice family restaurant, just about to bite into your hamburger when your kid drops the bomb. “I have to go NOW!” they scream and you’re immediately filled with fear. What awaits you in the washroom is more than you ever want to imagine, and not in a good way.

The scenario above is not atypical and parents deal with similar situations every day. What stresses them out the most is the potentially gross situation that awaits them in the washroom stall. How many of us have made arrangements to dine out with the kiddos but then waylaid these plans altogether just because the thought of dealing with your child in a public restroom was more than you could bear?

Most parents agree that it would be great if there were some standards and “must-haves” that could be agreed-upon and expected for all public washrooms. After all, it’s pretty basic, isn’t it? When nature calls, we all have to answer; why not make it less unpleasant?

As a mother of four who has lived through the nightmare of having to deal with an unexpected yet urgent demand for a public bathroom visit by a kid that can no longer wait, I've learned a few things and have formulated a few questions and considerations for those who own restaurants and who have the power to make things easier for frazzled parents?.And what kind of mom would I be if I didn't pass on this knowledge to the next generation of moms and dads who have to deal with a screaming child who has to "go potty" NOW?

With fingers crossed and the hope that more eating establishments and other public destinations will get on board with parents’ ideal lavatory wants, here are five must-haves for public washrooms.

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Restaurant Owners: 5 Things You Need in Your Washrooms

1) Cleanliness – This is first and foremost for parents. No one wants to walk into a restroom that looks or smells like it hasn’t been recently cleaned. Considering the fact that most kids touch everything in their immediate vicinity, make the effort to assure that the bathroom is spic and span.

2) Space to Move – What’s with the cramped quarters? Ideally, one should be able to move around reasonably in the stall, even more so when there’s a young child in tow. As any parent can tell you, there’s nothing worse than trying to help a child “do their business” in a place where the door can barely close with the two (sometimes three) of you in there.

3) A Change Table – As noted in #2, parents need room to move and when there are babies in the mix, this becomes even more of a priority. Why? Well, try changing a baby on the floor of a bathroom stall. Not nice. Parents need a clean surface, large enough to hold a wriggling baby. We’ve all seen variations on these items in public washrooms but not all of them are up to par. Ideally they should include the following: a way of securing the baby to the table, a material surface that is easily cleaned and sanitized and a configuration that allows it to be opened and closed in a bathroom stall without much effort. And while I’m on the topic, a change table is not only required in the women’s washroom! So many fathers have their babies in tow and yet they are left by the wayside when it comes to accommodations. C’mon, restaurants – give them a change table in your restrooms as well. Equal rights for all parents, okay?

4) Child-Height Sinks and Soap Dispensers – This sounds so obvious but you’d be surprised at how many public washrooms don’t accommodate kids. It’s almost as if they don’t want the children to wash their hands or get clean after doing their "business."

Don’t discourage kids from this important step by making it difficult for them (and their parents) to wash up after the deed is done. Sinks and hand soap should be at child level so that parents can teach their kids good hygiene as they finish “doing their business.” Same goes for hand dryers and paper towel dispensers. Oh - and hand sanitizers as well because, you know - COVID.

5) “Hands-Free” Capability – It’s not only for driving, you know. Think airport washrooms: you walk in, there’s no door handle to touch, no having to flush the toilet with your foot (!) and the water starts flowing the minute you or your young charge puts their hands under the faucet. Less contact, less germs. All public washrooms should be like this.

With a heightened sense of cleanliness and the importance of hand-washing as a result of COVID, let's hope that more public eating establishments jump on the bandwagon and make things easier for parents and kids alike. After all - answering nature's call and keeping clean and safe shouldn't be an either/or proposition.

VIDEO: Why Don't Public Bathrooms Go All The Way To The Floor?

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I write about Lifestyle content with a focus on Parenting, Society and Trends. I also talk about how things have changed on my podcast, "Parenting Then and Now."

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