Persuasive Potty Proposal for Prudence

Dear Prudence,

Your response to the NYC father’s potty question was pitiful. I KNOW my readers have a better solution. Below, I have outlined my concerns with your response. My commenters will provide the rest!



Logging on yesterday, I came across this post. A thoughtful, concerned New York City father was caught in a conundrum. He struggled with which restroom to use when his two daughters, ages 1 and 4, just had to go. Not wanting to expose them to men peeing, he would wisk them into the women’s restroom. Most people understood, but there was still the occasional glare.

Dear Prudence had the following to say:

” Dad, you need to get out of the ladies’ room. It is cleaner and nicer, but even though you’re accompanied by your little girls, you are going to freak people out. I also agree the men’s room is not ideal. But you can quickly glance inside, make sure there is no one at a visible urinal, and whisk the girls into a stall with you. Ideally, you should get in the habit of anticipating toilet needs so that before it’s an emergency, you have a chance to see if you can locate single-stall facilities that allow you to lock the door. Sometimes there are special handicapped or family toilets at museums, etc., that would work. In a year or so, when you feel your older daughter shouldn’t be entering the men’s room at all, you can stand outside and wait for a mother and child and ask the mother if she will keep an eye on your little girl while she does her business.

1. As a mother, I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with a man escorting his daughters (young women) into the women’s restroom. We do not have open urinals. We have stalls. We’re safely tucked away, doing our business in private. Hopefully, we’re all zipped up and ready to go once we open the stall door. No harm done should a man or young boy happen to be in the same area. (As is with my case when I have to escort my two young gentlemen into the women’s restroom)

2. I disagree (with both NYC father and Dear Prudence) that the women’s restrooms are cleaner. I have cleaned up restrooms and locker rooms after many a swim meet and I’m here to tell you, women are slobs once they are away from their own homes. It’s as if they think “Hey, I pick after everyone else at home now it’s YOUR turn to clean up after me!”

3. Your suggestion to “quickly glance inside (the men’s room)” to make sure no one is at the urinal? Highly impractical. What if there is someone at the urinal? Should the 4 yr. old simply hold it? What do you tell the potty training toddler, clutching and hopping?

4. “Ideally, you should get in the habit of anticipating toilet needs” Are you kidding me? My 6-yr-old STILL will suddenly blurt out in the middle of the mall “MOM! I have to go potty NNNNOOOOOWWWWW!” after I have prepped, prepared, propositioned and prodded him to potty. “But I didn’t have to go back then,” is his clever response. Anticipate toilet needs? I don’t think you have children, dear Prudence.

5. Yes, family restrooms are ideal. I have them scoped out in every establishment I shop. Nordstrom’s is my personal favorite. I actually park at Nordstrom, go immediately to the family restroom and have both boys try before we go anywhere else. It’s also our last stop before heading out to the car. But did I tell you about my 6-yr.-old? Oh yeah, I did. Remember? Point #4.

6. And “in a year or so” when your oldest is 5 or 6 let her go in the women’s restroom with a stranger (that also happens to have a child, presuming (I’m guessing) that this stranger is “safe” simply because she has a child) and asking said stranger to accompany your child? Are you crazy? First off, no stranger is accompanying MY child anywhere. And to expect a stranger to have the same cleanliness standards as you do is unrealistic. She may let your child sit bare-bottomed, clutching the seat with her hands for support. Will she help your child reach the sink to wash her hands, too?

As you can see, Dear Prudence, I’m not satisfied with your response. You can anticipate. You can hunt down the family restrooms. But there WILL be times that your young daughter will have to go NNNNOOOOOWWWWWW. And this mom says, Come on in!

But what do my readers say?

(You can find Dear Prudence weekly at



Filed under children, How We Roll

21 responses to “Persuasive Potty Proposal for Prudence

  1. Steven Harris

    I can’t always anticipate my own ‘potty needs’ let alone those of a toddler!

  2. angelcel

    I’d say to Prudence: Please don’t encourage able-bodied people to use the disabled toilets. Disabled WCs are for disabled people. Having disabilities is hard enough without having to queue at the *one* disabled stall whilst able-bodied mothers / fathers avail themselves.

    Sorry, but what a daft suggestion to check if anyone is using the urinal before you go in. What about when you come *out* of the stall? In the meantime half a dozen men could be standing out there peeing.

    This just highlights the need for more specific family toilets, with, may I add, proper baby changing facilities and maybe loos and washhand basins set at a lower height for little people.

  3. This is tough. I think my daughters would’ve been freaked out by a guy in the women’s room if I wasn’t there. Now I think they’d be fine, but 8-13 year old girls would not be. I do think he’d need to open the door and check out the situation. Girls also change or “adjust” outfits in the bathroom. You’re right about every point you made tho. I remember taking my son at 7 and 8 into the Ladies Room at a huge sports arena; no way was he going in alone to a Men’s Room on my watch. The looks I got from some moms was crazy; they obviously didn’t have little boys. I’ve also read a post last year on a mom saying moms of 5 year old boys shouldn’t bring them into the women’s room at her Y to change for swim lessons, but let them go into the men’s changing room. Excuse me?? Not only would I not have felt safe, but my son Never would have emerged with even half his stuff and he would’ve taken forever. When are they just gonna make family restrooms a requirement?? Great post Jane!!

  4. I agree…take her into the women’s restroom…we don’t care!!

  5. I saw this Dear Prudie as well, and you’ve beaten me to the punch on blogging about it!

    I think the average woman would feel somewhat shocked to see a fully-grown man walking into their bathroom, BUT, I would totally understand were that man leading two little girls. Once, in my church restroom, a woman brought her 7-year-old son into the bathroom with her. He proceeded to gaze under the stall walls at my exposeed self. Since I knew the woman, I did say something, like- isn’t he a bit old? And she proceeded to outline all the dastardly things that men can do to a young boy in a men’s restroom. Since it was church (and we all knew each other), I felt it was extreme, but I got her point. I would totally give the man a “pass” for the sake of the daughters. Of course, ideally, every place would be like IKEA’s family bathrooms, but sometimes, that’s just not feasible. BOO, Prudence!

  6. If a man wanders into the ladies room with small children in tow, I think we *get* why he’s there.

    And “anticipating your child’s need to use the toilet”–hahahahahahahahahaha. What planet is she living on?

  7. Although I disagree with just about ALL of what Dear Prudence had to say, I know that when I’m not around Tim, he takes the kids into the men’s room because he thinks the men are fine with seeing a little girl in there and he’s more comfortable than going into the women’s room. Knowing my husband, he’d be apologizing to any woman he saw and making them uncomfortable even if they weren’t to begin with!

    To me, it’s up to the dad. Whatever makes him most comfortable. I know women would get it if they saw a man in there and I also know the men would get it seeing a little girl in the men’s room.

  8. ck

    Prudence, for real. You’re a woman, you should KNOW what a woman’s room really looks like. And because you’re a woman you were once a girl, so you should also know that no little girl is going to want a stranger – someone whom she is generally taught not to speak with unless her parent is present – to watch her while in the bathroom.

    But whatever. You’re the paid writer, not me.

  9. I vote for unisex toilets. Always have. Ally McBeal style.

  10. While I don’t agree with most of what she said, I do think that Dad needs to get out of the ladies’ room! I have never seen a father do this, and to be honest, it would freak me out.

    Obviously, the family washrooms are ideal but if there aren’t any, I think he should take his kids to the men’s washroom. My husband takes our daughter in there. Our son is 12 now, but when he was little I always took him in the ladies’ washroom… I wouldn’t dream of taking him to the men’s room! It just seems weird.

    • When you put it that way……I see your point. But if the men’s rooms were all closed stalls and the women’s rooms had open urinals with women squatting to pee I just might take my boys in the men’s room!

  11. I wouldn’t mind if a father came into the women’s room with his daughters. It’s completely understandable. But then I’ve been known to go into the men’s room when the women’s room is unavaliable.

    • I do that, too! (Especially in the teacher’s lounge at school. One restroom for female teachers and one restroom for male teachers. With a ratio of about 15:2 in our Upper School. Ridiculous!)

  12. I agree with you completely. Obviously Prudence either doesn’t have children or her children are so old and she is so senile she has forgotten!

  13. This reader agrees with you. The stigma that surrounds solo dads in bathroom situations (and plenty of others) is silly and disappointing – and it can get out of control (I’ve read terrible stories about fathers being stopped, questioned, or watched suspiciously for being alone with their daughters – in restaurants, airports, parks.). It’s a bathroom, not a shower room! I think we can cope with coed.

  14. Prudence doesn’t have children. Nor does she live on this planet.

    Guys with young kids: c’mon in! We know how it feels to have to go, or to have a young kid needing to go NOW before they make a mess (because I’m always forgetting to bring a change of clothes for him now).

    I’ve been angered by individuals tying up the family restroom when I prefer to use that so I don’t tie up the larger handicapped stall. But in reality, sometimes a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. You can’t fit 2 people in the average single stall.

    My solution: make more family restrooms. For dads too. I’ve seen them geared solely to breastfeeding mothers, and while I’m good with that, it keeps the guys out. Why can’t mothers breastfeed their babies out in public so as not to tie up bathrooms for toileting purposes?

    I’ll get off my soapbox now. Great post!

  15. I wouldn’t be upset if a man brought his daughters into the ladies’ room. I would appreciate a little knock on the door and a “Hey, I’ve got my daughters with me and am bringing them in to use the restroom” before he actually comes in. Sort of like when the janitor comes in to clean (which always seems to happen to me while I’m finagling my cart, children, and diaper bag around the Target bathroom).

    And a related conundrum: Why are there so few diaper-changing stations in men’s bathrooms??

  16. Although I can see your point, I have never seen a father trying to do this, and at this moment, I cannot say how I would react if I ever witness this. I wonder now why it seems much easier for me to bring my boy in Ladies’ Room with me. Is it only because of the closed stalls vs. otherwise difference?

  17. I can recall being a little girl in a movie theatre restroom (by myself, so I was probably about 8 or 9) and seeing a man come into the ladies restroom. I could see him through the stall crack. He was looking below the doors but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t right in front of the stalls though (Thank God!); he was just inside the doorway. But it really freaked me out. It still gives me the creeps to think about it.

    This man should definitely knock first and ask if the other women mind. Hopefully he could do that quickly and efficiently and not run into any opposition.

    I don’t think the women inside should automatically assume he’s the dad because there are little girls with him. You said “And “in a year or so” when your oldest is 5 or 6 let her go in the women’s restroom with a stranger (that also happens to have a child, presuming (I’m guessing) that this stranger is “safe” simply because she has a child) and asking said stranger to accompany your child?” in point #6. Isn’t that a bit of a double standard? Just because he has children with him, doesn’t mean they’re his or that he’s “safe”.

    My point is, we should be a little suspicious of a man coming into a ladies bathroom. I’d make sure the girls were okay by asking them or staying close to make sure nothing weird was going on. But I would let him in.

    Poor guy. I feel bad for him. It’s a tricky situation. I hope he figures something out. I suppose there’s no way of him reading this, is there?

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