Public Bathrooms: Kids & Opposite Sex Parents
Archived Q&A and Reviews
My husband is taking our 6-year-old daughter to a 49er game. Is there a family bathroom in the stadium? Where? If not: We're pretty comfortable with her going into the women's bathroom on her own, less comfortable with her waiting outside the door when my husband goes to the men's bathroom. Any suggestions? anon
I'm a Dad who's been taking my daughters (now 7) to the 49ers games that past couple of seasons. I haven't found any family bathrooms. Depending on the situation, I'll either let my daughter go in on her own, or several of the men's rooms have a handicapped stall right by the entrance and opposite to the rest of the bathroom. That way we can just go in together to that handicapped stall, not have to go near the urinals etc, and several of them even have a sink inside that extra large stall so we can wash hands and exit with a minimum of time or any awkwardness. Makes it kinda-like a family bathroom for us Mike, MCM
After reading responses from women with sons in Women's restrooms, I'm wondering what dads with daughters do??? I won't want to take my daughter into the Men's restroom, and at least until she's old enough, I won't want her to go alone into the Women's restroom either! What do you guys do???? --Wondering in Advance
hi dad, not to worry. my daughter is now 7 1/2. i have been taking her into men's restrooms since she was a baby and no one has ever said boo about it. a while back she started going into the women's restrooms WITH HER FRIEND. of course i watched the door very carefully when they first did that and was very relieved when they came out. now i'm more relaxed about it. when it's just the two of us, it is now about 50/50; half the time she'll come with me into the men's room, half the time she elects to go on her own into the women's. of course i still watch the door when she chooses the latter, but i am pretty relaxed and comfortable with it. but as far as taking her with me into the men's? never have i worried about this for one second or had any problem whatsoever. most of the men and boys we encounter inside understand the situation and some are even friendly and seem glad to see her. all act as though she has the same right to be there that they do (which she does, of course). doug
I have two daughters, ages 5 3/4 and 3 3/4, and I'm familiar with your situation. I just take them into the men's room with me. Sure, the men's restroom is often smellier than the ladies' (so my daughters tell me), but whatever. Nobody seems to care, really. I see lots of fathers do this. I also take them to the boys' locker room when we go swimming at the YMCA. I know that girls over 6 are supposed to go to the girls' locker room, but whatever. Nobody seems to care. I don't worry about exposing my daughters to male genitalia. Being in the boys' locker room so much, I think they've seen enough for there to be no fascination. Are you uncomfortable with ''exposing'' your daughter? Personally, I don't see any problem with it.
Paul, daddy with two daughters
We have a 31/2 year old daughter, who I have been taking care of (sahd) for the past 3 years. I generally don't worry about taking her into a men's room with me if she needs to go. We just go into one of the stalls and I stay with her until she's done. We've gotten a coupple of odd looks but since we don't really have an alternative,(and I don't think that it would be okay for me to take her into the woman's room) I'll just continue to do this until she's old enough to go herself. Good luck
Until I was five or six, I always went into the bathroom (or the shower room at the pool) with whichever of my parents was present. Spending time in men's and women's rooms was a good lesson: everybody's bodies are different, but everyone goes to the bathroom to do more or less the same thing. (Also that urinals, though they look cool, can be pretty gross.)
I think the key is to be confident in what you're doing, so that if someone asks why you're bringing your daughter into the men's room, you're not put on the defensive. You can just state it as family policy: ''my daughter always has one of her parents with her when she goes into public bathrooms.''
If you go along with the ''conventional wisdom''--whether you agree with it or not--that appears on BPN, that male strangers are predators and perverts (the basis for most mothers' fears about sending young sons alone in public men's rooms), and female strangers are motherly and nurturing. So according to this ''conventional wisdom'', you can send your daughter (you didn't say how old) into the public women's restroom by herself and in fairly good confidence hope that some motherly nurturing woman/women will look out for her while she's in there.
What advice to people have about how a Dad can deal with toileting with a toddler girl who is in the process of potty training? If he is with her all day outside of the home, each of them will have to use the toilet. How should he use a public restroom when he needs to bring her in the stall with him? How should he help her to use the toilet when they must go in a men's room? anon
I was worried about this too. My husband is in charge of our 3 year old daughter one day a week and there is no getting around the potty problem. Occasionally they find a ''family bathroom'' or a single unisex potty room, but most of the time he has to take her into the men's room. She was very concerned about this, but we assured her that it was OK, since she has to go to the potty with an adult. She is getting used to it. My husband just tries to choose the quieter, cleaner bathrooms and quickly whisks her into a stall - they are all the same anyway. Jaime
I hope that potty thing doesn't get into the way of daddies and daughter getting around together. Some ideas...
Many cafes, small restaurants, and same stores have little mixed bathrooms, which both dad and daughter can use (at the same time).
If she refuses to go on a men's bathroom, she could use a travel potty (for example ''Potette'', you get that at Baby World or at Longs). It comes with liners, but you could as well buy a matching tupperware with lid that can be emptied into the canalisation or a bathroom (for #2). The traditional is ''to go behind the bushes'', and clean up like you would do with a dog, but that's probably a bad idea for fathers.
As to bringing a girl into a bathroom with other men in it, I am not sure either. Would the other men be offended? Would your daugher feel intimidated? This all depends on the design of men's bathrooms which I don't know very well.
A similar thing: Moms have to take their sons into locker rooms at the swimming pool until they are Kindergarten age or so. They can watch all the other women naked there, and they can see him naked. I think it's no problem and certainly not a big deal, but maybe other people feel different. Julia
My son turned 5 years-old last month. Whenever he and I are together in public and he has to use the restroom, I bring him into the women's restroom with me. He is still a young boy and I am not comfortable sending him into the men's restroom by himself, even if I were to stand outside of the men's restroom. Yet, I am astounded by the inappropriate looks I get from women when I bring him into the women's restroom with me. I would like to find out how other mothers handle these ackward glances from other women. Am I being overprotective? Also, when should a young boy use the men's restroom if he is by himself?
Many public pools use 6 as cut off age. Frankly, I think it should be less of an issue in women's restrooms since there are always private stalls. But some of those stuffy department stores have crabby ladies who don't even like moms to nurse in the ''ladies lounge.'' I'd be more uncomfortable if I were a dad bringing a young girl into men's room.
Fortunate to have child with a bladder of steel
Personally, I am mystified by rules barring, and social disapproval of, young boys in women's restrooms. I am not comfortable with sending him alone into a men's restroom; I simply won't do it. I make sure that he behaves appropriately in the women's restroom, and ignore any dirty looks that come my way. I'm With You
Of course you should bring a 5 year old into the women's restroom with you. I could not imagine sending a child that age into a men's room (unless my husband took him in there). If someone gives you a look, ignore them. If they say something to you, simply respond ''I'm so sorry if you are not comfortable with my son using the stall in here. I'm sure you understand the need for safety precautions and how irresponsible I would feel putting my 5 year old alone in a room full of adults whom I don't know and where I can't see him.''
Give them a weak smile and proceed to do what you need to do. The doors close so I cannot understand what their rational concern could be.
Mom who brings her 7 year old son too
I think a 5 year old should still go into the women's room with you. My son is almost 4, and I can't see being comfortable with sending him into a public restroom alone, any time soon. I don't think twice when I see a 5 year old in the women's room. I can't speak to WHEN it would start being inappropriate, though. anon
I take my 7 years old son with me to women's bathroom whenever possible, and I have never noticed any looks from others. Maybe I am insensitive,,, or too busy caring my children. He sometimes go to men's bathroom by himself but if he needs to go number 2 he still wants to go with me to women's restroom. Whenever he goes to men's restroom, I feel very worried. You just never know what kind of people are inside. I even ask some guys walking inside to see how he is doing, and by saying so, especially if the person asked is also a father of young children, he does look after my son while inside the bathroom. In all cases so far, he is fine. I am not probably even embarrased to go inside men's bathroom if my son shouts and calls my name from inside. I need to make sure he is safe. Mom of two busy young boys
My son is nearly 10 and I still often take him into the bathroom with me - because when I don't, he comes in to get me anyway! Seriously, I think I only recently allowed him to go by himself and I don't really care what anyone else thinks. He is respectful in the bathroom - women's bathrooms have stalls w/doors so there is no big deal there.
I think you may be projecting your own self-consciousness about this onto the other women - I honestly have never noticed anyone staring and no one has EVER commented on this.
In any case, I would think 5 is still young enough to go in with you. You could go by the 48 inch rule at amusement parks.
My son is my baby forever
I have three sons, and my youngest is 5. I wouldn't dream of sending him off to the men's room by himself. Maybe when he's 6 or 7. My older boys started to feel uncomfortable around that age and asked to use the men's, so then it was a few years of me hovering outside the men's bathroom door wringing my hands and fretting if they were gone for more than 2 minutes. I have never noticed any dirty looks in the women's room except for one time a teenaged girl gave me a dirty look when I walked in with my 5-year-old. I was surprised! Just an issue of immaturity. One day she will be fretting about this herself. Just keep doing what you're doing!
My son will be 6 in July and I still take him to the women's restroom when my husband is not with me to take him to the Men's Room. I don't particularly care what other people think about this, he is my child and it is my job to protect him. Sexual predators are known to hang out in bathrooms waiting for their next victim, and I'll be damned if my son will be the one! I've told my son that he could go to the men's restroom by himself when he is 7 or 8, and he was okay with it. Trust your gut and don't let the stares bother you. Anon
My son is 7 1/2 and I still often bring him into the women's room with me and I have never noticed any odd ''looks.'' However, I many not be sensitive as you are but I'm not comfortable having my son go into a men's room alone. He will sometimes request to go to the men's room by himself and when that happens I let him, giving specific directions to wash hands, leave as soon as he is done, etc. I don't think you are being overprotective at all. I think five is to young to use a men's room on his own and not only because of sexual predators but they get distracted easily and lose track of time.
I really wouldn't give a hoot about anybody's dirty looks. In my experience, most women understand why moms keep their kids with them, and if they don't, well...''F 'em.'' But at some point soon, your son is probably going to start feeling uncomfortable in the women's room. My 6 1/2 year old has been using the men's room for about a year. It was his choice, not mine, he just suddenly stopped feeling comfortable in the women's room and liked the independence of going to the men's room by himself. I just stand outside and look at my watch and if it ever feels like it's taking a long time I yell in and ask if he's okay, or ask a man coming out to give me a report. It's a rite of passage, like anything else, nerve-wracking at first but fine when you're used to it. Any place really sketchy, I still make him come with me.
I'm curious to see what people say. I have a five year old boy and have no intention of allowing him into a men's room on his own anytime soon. My husband is in total agreement with me on this. While I've not had the experience of women seeming surprised/disturbed to see our son in the bathroom with me, I wouldn't care if I did. As my husband said, ''I'd rather err on the side of caution than have something happen that I couldn't reverse.'' In some instances, I've gone into the men's room with him - not the big, multi-stall kind, but the single use ones. -Anon.
My son will be six in a few weeks, and he always accompanies me into the women's restroom. I've never thought twice about this--- I haven't noticed any looks from other women, whether I've ever received any or not---and to be honest, I don't really care what other people think about my son being in the restroom. I wouldn't dream of sending him into a men's room on his own any more than I'd send him away with perfect strangers (male or female) to pull his pants down. And I don't know what the ''normal'' age is for little boys to use the men's room unaccompanied, but I have no plans to do it in the near future.
My guess is the women who are looking at you funny are the same ones who say little boys shouldn't wear dresses or girly shoes, and those aren't the people I'd take parenting advice from. As parents, it's often hard to deal with other people's disapproval over any issue, but if the only question in your mind is whether other people find your decision socially acceptable or not, I say stand up for your instincts and ignore the looks.
You are absolutely in the right. It is perfectly fine for you to bring him into the women's restrooms (if it were a father with a daughter it would be different, but in women's there are only stalls). If someone gives a look, just shrug it off, and if someone looks at your son and he notices, glare at them with your ''don't you dare even THINK about looking at my kid like that'' look. It is best to bring them until seven or eight, depending on maturity level. It's not overprotectiveness, it's sensibility.
I still take my 7-year old son into women's restrooms in airports, sports stadiums, museums, etc. Everything is very private (stalls for toilets), so I don't think twice about it. He is well-behaved and not peering under stalls or staring at people. I believe it is my job to keep him safe, so I don't worry about it. However, at our swim club where women are changing clothes out in the open, I have him go into the men's dressing room as he is at the age where he will stare at women's bodies. I feel this is a different situation because there are not private changing areas. At the same time, this is a family club where I am comfortable having him go into the dressing room. I don't know what I would do at a large public pool where I didn't know the people or layout well. Bottomline is that I would follow my gut feelings and do what I think was the safest thing for my young son and handle any complaints if/when they came up.
Safe not Sorry Mom
My son is 9 and started using the mens room when he was bout 7. If I can find a family bathroom I have him use that. Ignore the nasty looks....they must not have kids or they would understand. When my son uses the mens bathroom I have him talk the whole time he is in there. He either tells me jokes or a story or something. When he was younger I would have him say the ABC's or count to whatever big number he could get to. I told him if he stops I am coming in!!! I also keep a mental description of everyone who goes in and out of the restroom and how long they take. (If I was a man doing this outside the womens room I am sure I would be arrested!!!!)
Good luck... Annon
I would just ignore looks. We've only ever gotten any looks from little girls that are in the bathroom at the same time. I think most women (esp. mothers) understand the desire to protect children. This is a very personal decision that you get to make about your son's safety. If you're comfortable and your son is comfortable, then that's the thing to do. In our case, our son started going into the men's room between 7 and 8 years old.
My older son is seven and when I am out without my husband I still bring him in the restroom with me if we are in a place that is too public (lots of people going in and out) or when I have to go too and can't be outside the door waiting for him. I started letting him go by himself occaisionally when he was six. I will sometimes let him go with his younger brother who is four, but again only if I can stand right outside and it isn't too busy. Usually if the two of them go in it takes about five times as long as if one goes alone or they go with me. I think they are playing with the water at the sinks. (OK, I hope that is what they are doing.) When my older one is on his own I ask him if he is just going to pee or needs to poop too, and then give him a time limit. Personally, I don't know if I have gotten and dirty looks and would ignore them if I could. My son is using a toilet behind a closed door, and so are the other women. He doesn't pee on the seat, look under the stall walls or doors and is usually in my company in the handicapped stall since you can't fit three people in a regular stall. The only time he can see them, or they him, is at the sink washing hands which doesn't have to be a single sex activity, and that is the end of that for now.
I've been trying to decide how old is too old. My first reaction is 8 or 9. I will amend that to, when they are old enough to be embarassed too, but only if they also have enough sense to recognize danger and behave on their own. And I probably will still be waiting outside the door until he is bigger than me!
mom of 2 boys
I say ignore the awkward glances, a five year-old boy IS too young to go to the men's room alone (unfortunate in this day and age, but true.) Your son's safety is more important than strangers' looks.
Hi, When my 10 year old stepson was in town, I took him into the woman's restroom with me. It's more important for me to know he is ok than to worry about others. People should not give you disapproving looks. If they do, ignore them. Five years old is fine to bring into the ladies restroom. Our world isn't always safe and we must do what is necessary to protect our children. I think strange looks is better than a missing child!!
Perhaps it is because I am so busy with the two year old and the five year old (both boys) I have never noticed any bad looks from other women in the restroom. I think you should continue to take you son in the restroom with you. I do--and will until he is seven or eight, at least. My son is very mature and polite (well, you know five year olds) but I would never let him go to a restroom by himself. If his dad isn't there then he goes with me into the ladies' room. Don't worry what other people think! Keep your kids safe and do what you feel best about. These other people aren't the mama of your son!
Hi- I am the dad of a 6.5 year old girl, and if I am alone with her at a restaurant, gas station, wherever, I will generally take her into the men's room. I have never experienced any grief with this. I also will take her into a single-stall women's room (for example, the one at Picante restaurant) rather than wait for the one-person men's room, if she really has to ''go'' badly. I've gotten a couple of stares when I walk out of a women's room with her, but I just don't care that much. No one has ever given me any real problem about it. I wouldn't worry about it - my feeling is, the world is full of woe, and if this is anyone's big problem, well, I just put in in perspective!
You are not being overprotective, but you might be oversensitive to these ''inappropriate looks''. Forget them! You know very well and so would they if they thought about it, that a 5 year old boy can not go in the men's room by himself! If you must, or if someone actually says something to you, just tell them that. I don't see what the big deal is at all--contrary to the men's room, everyone in the women's room is in their nice little stall and there is no way your son would see anything untoward. If you want to avoid the situation further, scout out those new-fangled ''family restrooms'' that are at the mall, the zoo, etc, or places with ''one-seaters'' like some cafes and smaller businesses.
We're in the same situation. And to boot, my son is very tall and looks a couple years older than his five years. But he's really not ready to go by himself into the men's bathroom. Some places we know have strict age limits, like four or five. So far, I've only rarely had to deal with other women who are upset by seeing my son in the bathroom. Maybe that's because I try not to make eye contact withh other people in the bathroom, but get in, do our business, and get out again. Once, however, I had a woman come up to me and basically cuss me out--in front of my son--for bringing him into the bathroom. I then checked with management and found out that we were within their age restrictions, so I tried to let it go. I think if I encounter someone who gets upset again, I'll just look them straight in the eye and ask them in this day and age how old they think a young boy should be to take care of himself by himself in the men's room? And then just keep doing what we're doing. I'm not sure how long I'll be taking my son into the women's bathroom, probably another year or two given that my son is shy and doesn't want to be left alone. I have a feeling that this is going to be another one of those issues--like finally putting changing stations in men's rooms--that management will have to help us find a solution to. Some places have co-ed bathrooms or ''family'' bathrooms for families with young kids. I look for those.
Don't like it either
I agree with all the other posters that your child's safety is paramount. The only time I think it might be an issue is at a changing room kind of place (like a pool). But in places like that, that often have age limits for children of the opposite sex, they should also have some single room option for you to use. In any case, one way to avoid any stares is to ask if they have single room bathrooms where you can take your son with you.