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Girls in the men’s room, boys in the ladies’ room

Categories: Mommy Angst


It happens all the time, even with careful planning. Someday, somewhere, one of your kids is going to need to use a public bathroom and only the opposite-gender parent is going to be available to accompany.

You know what I’m talking about. Your son in the ladies’ room with you. Your daughter in the men’s room with her daddy. It happens. But how do we feel about it?

My daughter, when she was 4 and 5, was frequently escorted to public restroom by her father. I was doing 24/7 nursing with her baby brother and Daddy was more than happy to assist his daughter in her time of need. I pretty much had to turn a blind eye to the whole routine and let go, but I remember being concerned with statements he made to me from time to time in an offhand way such as “men’s toilets aren’t all that clean.” He had been changing her diaper in public bathroom on airplanes and in restaurants since she was small, and I trusted that he was keeping her from contact with dirty surfaces, but it never entered into my mind until I sat down to write this post that my daughter probably was confronted with the sight of urinating grown men.

I don’t go into men’s rooms all that often. You sort of forget about the urinals if it’s not you who’s using them.

My son was another matter. When he was about five he stopped accompanying me to the ladies’ room and instead I’d stand guard outside the men’s room and wait for him to come out. I hated it but it was fine, which was a good thing since at that age he often had to go every 10 minutes. You do what you have to do.

There are other options.

1.  Take your kid to the restroom of their own gender. Befriend someone of that gender to oversee your child’s experience. In the end, your kid is safe and you’ve made a new friend. Hopefully.

2. Take your kid to the restroom of their own gender. Make a loud, grand announcement, clear the place out, and go in with your child.

3. Only patronize public places that have “family” restrooms. They’re becoming increasingly common.

4. Don’t leave your house if your child is between the ages of 3 and 8.

5. Pullups. Depends. Whatever holds it all in.

6. Men should be able to walk right into the ladies’ room with their little girls. Use the handicapped stall (if you’re breaking rules, you may as well break them all) where you both can fit. Anything ladies do in there is behind closed doors anyway, and what woman can resist a daddy-daughter moment? Pay no attention to the other women screaming or pelting you with their handbags.

7. I personally don’t mind other people’s little boys in the ladies’ room, but I draw the line at the ones who peer under the stalls.

Lisa Belkin at The New York Times’ Motherlode blog had the same question: how do you handle this in your family?

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9 comments so far...

  • This is another reason why I’m lucky to have only girls! However, I don’t mind if someone brings a boy in the ladies’ room, as long as he isn’t close to puberty. If he sees something he oughtn’t, it’s his parents’ problem, right? (By the way, what do moms of boys do when mom has to pee? Do they let the boy into the stall to watch mom, or make him stand outside, peering through the cracks at all the other ladies?)

    If my girl had to be accompanied to the men’s room with a granddad/uncle, I would hope he’d have the sense to block her view. Or maybe he could call a warning in there in advance, so the guys would wait a polite moment before they did their thing.

    I try to encourage my girls to develop some independence so they won’t have to be in that position. Before age 3, they could go into the stalls and manage on their own, with just a couple verbal reminders from outside. Once their behavior is reliable (probably by age 4), I could see letting them go into the ladies’ room alone in most places.

    SKL  |  October 21st, 2009 at 2:46 am

  • LOL!

    Our daughter isn’t potty trained…yet. BUT she goes into whichever restroom the parent in question taking her uses. And frankly, I have been in men’s rooms (don’t ask). Women’s restrooms are invariably the filthier of the two. I don’t know why this should be - but it is.

    If the men using urinals don’t care - why should we? Our daughters have probably already seen their father naked anyway and have a fair approximation of what the naked male looks like. There’s always variation of course, but probably not enough to cause comment or consternation on the child’s part.

    Right now, I’m more concerned with my daughter yelling, “MAMA! BWEASTS!!” in a crowded store (she’s become fascinated with them, God help me) than I am with which gender restroom she uses. Besides, along with “family” restrooms, gender-less restrooms with stalls in them are becoming more common in some larger urban areas, particularly in hip clubs and restaraunts.

    Potty. We all have to do it…

    Phe  |  October 21st, 2009 at 5:43 am

  • I laughed really hard at the peeking boy image; I have the image because I’ve encountered one. His mom said “he’s only 5″ that may be - but it is rude to peek at ANYONE else and can’t you teach him that on the rudeness merits alone?

    Our biggest restroom issue, far bigger than any issue about opposite sex entry is how the toilet flushes. If it has a handle, OK. If it has an eye that flushes automatically, my child would rather shut down her bladder than use it. I’ve coaxed, cajoled, threatened even; nothing doing.

    The best day was when a mom told me about carrying post-its in her purse to cover the electronic eye so it won’t flush automatically. The first few times we tried this trick we had to stay in the restroom for 15 minutes while I proved the truth of it, but it does work!

    Mich  |  October 21st, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  • When our kindergartener (girl) needs to use the restroom and her father is taking care of her, he sends her into the ladies room on her own and waits outside. She is usually quite proud of her independence in these situations. If there was a problem, I think he would either ask a lady to help her or just go in there himself. I don’t think many women would hit you with a purse if you were going in to help a screaming child or patiently helping one who was obviously yours and obviously having problems..

    Our son is still in diapers but I assume I will do the same thing when he is old enough.

    We do ;like the family restrooms though.

    Lindsey W.  |  October 21st, 2009 at 8:56 pm

  • I do not have a son, however I have taken my best friend’s sons to the women’s restroom a few times and as they got older it was more difficult. My husband takes our daughter quite a few places on his own or with me and he takes her into the men’s restrooms. He also knows where a lot of the family restrooms are located in different venues. It does bother me about what she might see then again she goes to daycare and they have potty rooms. Also while potty training there have been a few rest areas that we have stopped at that she had to go with him or there would have been an accident since the line for the women’s was too long.

    Heather  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 7:56 am

  • So, as a trailer to my original comment here, yesterday, my husband came home from taking Amelie into downtown Boston (a regular occurrence that makes me jealous I have to work) and told me that he’d taken her into the men’s room with him where he parked her stroller behind and used the urinal. There were other men in the restroom and she regaled them all with, “DADA!!! PEEEEE!!!!! PEEPAH-EE DADA!!!!”

    I’m sure the boys were all so thrilled…but he said they seemed amiable enough about an 18-month old girl cheering on their pee pottying.

    Phe  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 9:09 am

  • Oh, LOL, Phe. Which makes me wonder what our world would be like if we all had potty cheerleaders…

    Good point, Mich, about the automatic flushers. I find them disconcerting myself, and lots of kids are afraid enough as it is of “falling in”. And if you’ve ever visited Chicago O’Hare, well, I won’t get started on the automatic toilet seat sanitizer thing. I suppose kids in Japan don’t freak out over the wonderfully complicated toilets (a nice blow dry, anyone?) there?

    Karen Murphy  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 11:02 am

  • About the automatic flush toilets - I cover them with TP. There is usually some way to do it. I have always hated the dang things - they always flush before I’m done - and then I read where someone’s tot refused to use any toilet for years after that happened - and I said the heck with that. We still get caught unawares sometimes, but luckily my kids take it in stride.

    SKL  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 3:09 pm

  • There no differs in dad with daughter or mom with son. I notice in so many comment by women you have this sexually pervert mind about everything being sexually. The reason why you have so many issues of father taking daughters in men restroom is because you do things in the women restroom with boys you should not be3 doing. The women restroom is no safer than the men. There is just as many sicko pervert women and girls as there are boys and men. Girls pay no attending to the urinal but you are so gross with it.

    Robin Johnson  |  January 29th, 2011 at 2:30 pm