When I’m wandering around with my little girl in a baby sling (at 10 weeks old this happens quite a lot as it keeps her happy and can be an easier option in busy places than a pram), I sometimes have the urge to go to the loo. I know, it’s shocking! Human nature and all that…
Despite the horror this may cause, when I am carrying her in a sling and really have to go for a pee, I will hold her and do precisely that at the same time. Call it a male version of multi-tasking (I can assure you I have neither peed on my daughter or dropped her doing this!) but sometimes when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Why, you might ask, is this relevant to a blog post? Especially since going to the toilet is something that should remain a fairly private affair. Well, apparently once you’ve had a baby, it no longer remains a private affair! Going out and about in Leeds city centre today, I happened to need the loo. My wife was having a nose in a shop, I was carrying my little lady in her sling and there happened to be a public toilet nearby in Trinity. Now, for those of you who know Trinity, it has a fairly complicated (and theoretically child/baby and parent friendly) system of having a breastfeeding area, family toilets, and then the good old fashioned male and female toilets.
My error apparently was to assume the following two things:
1) my choice of toilet was in fact my choice and not one for someone else to make
2) being a male, I was entitled to use the male toilet!
Walking down the corridor to head to the male toilet (please bear in mind my baby is in a sling, is facing my chest and is asleep at this point, and is also only 10 weeks old!), you can imagine that I had other things on my mind than what people might be thinking about me. Mainly, to be honest, I was thinking about how full I was after an earlier meal.
Then, out of nowhere, I heard an increasingly loud “excuse me”, that then turned into (because I hadn’t turned round until this point…) “excuse me the man carrying the child”. I did, at this point, turn around and found that in front of me was a rather out of breath and exasperated toilet cleaner. I was promptly told (in front of a rather intrigued crowd at this point) that I wasn’t to take a baby into the men’s toilets (surely, as the lady implied, this was common sense…) and instead HAD to use the ‘family’ toilets.
Now, forgive me if you think this is well above board and completely okay but I personally thought that, despite the fact I have a child, my own decisions about how to bring her up and how I behave are on the whole mine (and my wife’s) to make!
I scurried away towards the family toilet without putting up a fight, feeling rather embarrassed and confused by the whole affair. After all, why had this lady intervened and what on earth did she think I was going to do in the toilet that was so abhorrent that my sleeping baby would be warped by it? Finally, having had to go to the loo carrying her before in her sling, what am I to do if I have only the choice of male and female toilets if I am on my own in future? I also have to wonder if the toilet attendant would have accosted me in quite the same suspicious, accusatory way had I not been a man.
So there you go, the question is now out there: is my choice of toilet a public matter now that I’m a father?