Among the things I would love to go back and tell my pre-mom self, one would be to enjoy solo trips to public restrooms. Embrace them. Soak it in. Because once you’re toting a kiddo, public bathrooms take on a whole new level of meaning.
Let’s be straight – public bathrooms by nature aren’t exactly a spa-like experience. But once you’re peeing for two, things escalate quickly.
See, there’s the germ factor (why does my daughter want to TOUCH EVERY SURFACE POSSIBLE?!), the stall size (I try to have compassion, but feel a burning sense of disdain for able, single people who choose the handicap stall when others are available – they clearly haven’t tried to fit a stroller, diaper bag, toddler, and mom in a small stall), changing tables that are somehow never large enough and/or broken…
But what makes the public bathroom experience worse, what moves it beyond the already stressful experience, is when your toddler decides there’s a monster in the bathroom.
Looking back, it all makes sense. My daughter has been afraid of vacuums from an early age. Loud noises upset her.
The first time we had an encounter with the Bathroom Monster, we were at the Children’s Museum having a delightful time, enjoying ourselves. And then it happened —
Someone used the hand dryer.
She lost it.
That was the day that changed how I look at public bathrooms.
These days, hand dryers and loud flushing toilets (especially automatic ones – a sneak attack!!) set her off. I have to be strategic about how we navigate the bathroom. We have a system: once she goes to the bathroom, she asks to stand in the hall while I flush (and if it is automatic, I block the sensor until she’s out of the stall). If the bathroom is crowded, we use our own hand sanitizer and bypass the wash area (not ideal, but works..). If no one is washing hands, we wash and then use our own towel from her backpack.
As I started reading about this problem, it turns out that it is pretty common. I posted in one of my mom groups about the noise issue and immediately had suggestions from tried and true moms – carrying sticky notes and band-aids to cover automatic flushers… one mom even admitted to carrying an out of order sign for the hand dryers and taping it on the way in the restroom! No judgement here – do what you have to do.
It got me thinking – I have read that while the initial launch of hand dryers was to save the trees by reducing paper waste, that environmentalists have since found that the additional electricity of the dryers actually negated the environmental effects of lack of paper towels (especially since so many paper towels are made from recycled materials). I’m no researcher and I’m not providing any credible sources, so I could just be justifying my opinion, but it seems to make sense to me. I’ve heard that a lot of places actually use hand dryers so that the bathrooms stay cleaner, since apparently the public can’t manage to get dirty paper towels into trash cans.
With that in mind, knowing that a sizable percentage of the toddler population screams bloody murder when face to face with the hand dryer monster, I have to wonder why kid-friendly places won’t consider doing away with hand dryers. I would think there’s got to be compassion for our sensory families, especially at places like our children’s museum.
And yet, I know that the world is not designed to always be kid-friendly, and that it is presumptuous of me to expect to have a public bathroom design catered to my child’s fears.
So, in the meantime, you’ll find me fighting monsters and strategically flushing in public bathrooms.