Before I had a child, it was the door to the unknown. It might as well have had a giant sign saying “Do Not Enter” or “Authorized Personnel Only Beyond This Point.” For all I knew there was a high-end lounge serving top shelf martinis and free hors d’oeuvres just on the other side of the door. But I dared not open it and subject myself to the criticism and judgmental stares of my fellow travelers who could clearly see I was neither a parent nor disabled.
I’m talking about the family restroom. Every airport, shopping mall and sports venue seems to have one. And I’ve found it’s one of the biggest perks of traveling with children, aside from that whole expedited customs line.
This special restroom is reserved for those who need a little extra space and assistance, i.e.: those who are disabled OR have a child.
Although it’s nothing fancy (no martinis and hors d’oeuvres after all), it is quite a bit roomier and usually much cleaner. Think about it, it’s used much less often yet cleaned just as frequently as the other bathrooms. And since its used less often, that also means there is hardly ever a line.
I first utilized the family restroom while traveling during my seventh month of pregnancy. I was far enough along that I was obviously showing, so perhaps I was spared the judgment as I darted into the bathroom. The thing about being pregnant, particularly in that last trimester when you have more baby than room in your torso, is that you constantly have to pee. For me, it was not something I could always effectively control. My bladder waited for no one. So after attempting to wait in the line in the ladies’ room, it became painfully clear, I was either going to have to waddle out of that bathroom quickly and find one that was unoccupied or pee on myself right there while waiting for a stall to open up. I chose Option A. I stepped out of the line, left the ladies’ room and ventured into uncharted territory… The family restroom.
It was like heaven had opened up and angels were singing. It was so clean. There was an appreciable amount of toilet paper, paper towels and soap, and the room was comfortably large enough for me, my giant belly, my rolling luggage, and my oversize purse to all fit. No squeezing into a tiny stall with my carry-on bag and trying to close the door behind me. That was practically an impossibility at my level of pregnant.
To top it off, there was even a little chair in the corner in case someone wanted to accompany me into the restroom and watch me pee. Fortunately, no one did. But in the future that chair will certainly come in handy considering I’ve hardly peed alone since becoming a mother.
After that experience, I was hooked. From that point on, I decided the family restroom was going to be my “go to” restroom if it’s available. It has been my happy place several times during travels and outings. It’s especially great for fathers with daughters or mothers with sons at that age when they are still too young to go into the appropriate restroom unaccompanied but too old to go with their parent into the restroom of the opposite sex without awkwardness. I love that my husband can handle diaper duty without having to take our daughter into a room surrounded by urinals and men using them. And I love that both of us can go into the family room together if the diaper change is going to be exceptionally messy or difficult.
So parents, for all the trials and hardships that go along with traveling with children, I give you this one perk. From now on march into that family restroom unashamed. Pee happily while your toddler stares at you from the chair in the corner. Wash your hands using extra soap. Dry them with multiple paper towels. Then dispose of those paper towels in the not-overflowing-public-restroom-trashcan and walk out smiling as you pass all the other people still standing in line waiting for an available stall in the “normal” restroom. You’ve earned it. Because you are traveling with children.