Ever walked into a parents’ room and got that look as if you stumbled into the wrong place? Here are six alternatives where dads will always be welcome.
There are places on this Earth where no man is welcome, and no wise one ventures. A cinema playing The Notebook, a mothers’ group meeting where someone has just started a sentence with “Well, my husband…”, or a lingerie shop.
And there is one place where we should feel welcome, but too often don’t — the parents’ room, which, I’m fairly sure, used to be called a mothers’ room.
And that’s part of the problem, this sense that by walking in there as a Dad, even with a baby and a nappy bag in tow, what you’re doing is not that far removed from walking into the women’s toilets and blundering around, looking for a urinal.
The feeling that this is not a room for you is most often communicated by the facial expressions and body language of the mums who are there when you enter.
I’d have to say, most of the time women give me either a knowing “welcome to Hell/this is rubbish isn’t it?” look or the “you look barely competent, this will be amusing to watch” one.
Sometimes, though, I have been glared at, shifted away from and even audibly tut-tutted, as if walking into a parents’ room to do parent things is only allowed if you’re female. At which point I have to fight the urge to say “do you think I want to be here, or that I enjoy the smell of disinfectant and baby poo?”
Plenty of dads have suffered far worse, though, with reports like this about a Queensland father who was the middle of changing his son’s nappy, and had to run off without finishing, after a mum walked in and abused him for having the temerity to be in there, barking: ”It’s only for mothers. Get out, you sicko.”
“She looked at me and said, ‘That’s disgusting to see a full-grown man in a parents’ room with a little girl,’ and said that I’m a ‘dirty old bastard’,” he said.
So, rather than fighting your way through ugly clouds of disapproval, where are you supposed to go?
Would you take your kid in a men’s room? We know how disgusting they are, and if you’ve ever found yourself having to change a child in one you’ll know it’s a dark day indeed.
Very, very rarely you might find one of those highly inadequate fold-down changing tables, but they’re about as common in men’s rooms as a toilet seat without urine on it.
After becoming a parent, the great Ashton Kutcher launched a petition in 2015 to fix this injustice, and the very next year, in the US, Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, which requires all federal buildings with public toilets to install change tables in both men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Until such measures are introduced here, however, we might have to find other places to change our squirming, spraying, squealing little bundles of joy. Here are our top-six ‘manly’ alternatives:
1. Local mechanic shop
Here, conversely, is a place where it could be argued that women are often made to feel unwelcome, but if you’re a bloke, mechanics are usually pretty helpful.
Pop a bit of board across a hoist, raise it to the right height and you’ve got the perfect ‘manly’ change table. And there’ll be plenty of rags around to wipe your hands on afterwards. Yes, there might be some issues with cleanliness, but changing nappies is a dirty job already.
2. Surf shop
Arguably the perfect place for baby changing, and so Australian, the surf shop gives you the chance to try on a wet suit — thus protecting yourself from those errant wee sprays when the nappy is off — while placing the baby safely on a flat, non-slip surface in the shape of a surfboard.
Also not to be missed here is the chance to casually use the word “grom”, rock out to some young and funky music, and enjoy the casual, friendly air of the well-tanned staff.
3. Bottle shop
It’s definitely a summer option, but the cool room in your local bottle shop is another great Aussie location for use in an emergency.
For a start, the frigid air will shock your child into silence, or bliss them out if it’s a hot day, and you’ve probably already noticed that a case of beer laid down flat is just big enough to operate as a change table.
Feel free to buy the case on your way out, just to say thanks. (It’s also worth noting that beer fridges, the ones in your garages and man caves, are also a good height for changing duties, and often come with a bottle opener.)
4. Your car
You’ve probably had to try this already, but in desperation, the boot of your car — not the back seats, if you can help it, because that’s a bad place for spillage — can be a winner.
If you’ve bought a station wagon, or a huge SUV, or one of those Range Rovers with the pop down rear tailgates for watching polo on, you’ll be cheering at this stage. Just try to think about where you’ve parked before you start, or you’ll suffer those glares again.
5. Pool table
Look, eventually it’s going to happen when you’re in a pub, and it’s quite likely the men’s room will be too toxic, there won’t be a change table, or a parents’ room, so what are you going to do?
Get your changing mat down, attach it to the baize on the pool table — it should cling a bit like Velcro — and you’re away. Just don’t leave the balls in baby’s reach. They’re not sterilised. And make sure there’s not a game on at the time. That would be bad form.
6. Gym change room
Look, men are just a bit more accepting when it comes to this kind of thing, they’re quite likely to look upon you with pity rather than anger, and depending on how nice your gym is, these change rooms can be quite large and accommodating.
Better yet, I’ve found a lot of them have ironing boards and, in desperation, one of those will suffice as a change table. It’s better than that weird rubber matting on the floor in the showers, anyway. And you can borrow a hair dryer to clean up baby’s nether regions. Bonus. Finally, you’ll be getting some use out of the monthly direct debit that is your gym membership.
- How I found myself hostage to a toddler and his turds
- The 10-point cheat sheet for new dads
- Smart-arse responses to unsolicited parenting advice