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Why Aren't More Public Bathrooms Made for Families?

public bathroom
What is the deal with public bathrooms and the slew of parenting issues they raise? Moms are asked to breastfeed on toilets so ridiculously uptight people won't have to risk seeing a nipple being used for its rightful purpose. Any mom who's tried it knows it's as uncomfortable as trying to eat a plate of spaghetti there, as this viral photo shows. Dads bemoan the lack of diaper changing stations in men's rooms—even Ashton Kutcher is complaining about it. And now a women's restroom at a mall in Oklahoma posted a sign declaring that boys older than 6 should use the men's room.

W.T.F., people? As one of our editors said, "I'm just so floored that any woman would care. It's not like you pee with the door open." And what if the mom just has to go to the bathroom and her son doesn't? Is she supposed to leave him standing outside alone? What about young girls with their dads, going into a men's room? Isn't that weirder since men pee at urinals in plain sight?

Whatever the situation, shouldn't it be the parent's choice to decide what they are comfortable with their child possibly—possibly—seeing and when they feel their kid is old enough to enter a public bathroom alone or wait outside of it by themselves? Are people really still so puritanical that having an 8 year old of the opposite sex with them in a public bathroom is unsettling? Get over yourselves.

My husband is an incredibly involved dad and he often takes our daughter out, just the two of them. Around age 6 he stopped bringing her into the men's room with him, and would just wait outside the women's room for her, and then just reverse it when he had to go. He said it was terrifying, but he didn't know what else to do. Now that she's 8, they split off and head to their gender's restroom and meet back up in the hallway afterwards. He wishes they would just do away with gender-specific bathrooms all together.

The ideal public bathroom we've encountered is one with little rooms—not stalls—with toilets that both men or women can use, and communal sinks in the center so both genders wash their hands together. Add a changing table and a comfy breastfeeding or bottle-feeding chair, and both moms and dads can take care of their kids. That's a public bathroom that accommodates modern families. Forget hovercrafts, let's just imagine a future with that kind of family bathroom. Now that would be progress.

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who, if she's being honest, would still like hovercrafts, too. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Image via Shutterstock