When you have a baby or small child you might find yourself judging the success of your days out on the quality of the baby changing and toilets.
Was it difficult to change your baby? Could the venue accommodate your family? If you're lucky, you might be able to find hassle-free, parent-friendly facilities, get a half-decent coffee and good service too. That's the dream, isn't it? What is the reality?
Like most mums, during my maternity leave I've visited cafes, play centres, parks and places of interest. Annoyingly, some of which have failed to understand the practical issues and challenges parents like us actually face - especially when mum or dad need the toilet too. This week, I was particularly shocked by the lack of facilities during a visit to a cafe at a castle in Wales (which I should point out was marketed at families).
"No, we don't have anywhere to change a baby".
I'm sorry, what? Really?
They had high chairs. My baby had lunch in one. They had a pile of crayons and books in a dedicated basket; we borrowed a book about farmyard animals to amuse our baby while we had our lunch. So you'd think that there would be somewhere to change our baby, wouldn't you?
"We are due to get a changing station soon, mind".
That doesn't help me right now, does it?
I had fleeting intentions to change the baby right there on the shabby chic faux-french table.
"Don't worry about it". I said through gritted teeth - because it's polite to be calm and accepting isn't it? Even though as a family we felt utterly unwelcome.
Is it my fault for not asking before we ordered our sandwiches and tea whether or not they had appropriate facilities? Was it wrong to assume that a place would have a place to change our baby?
We changed our baby in the car. She was fine and fortunately for us, her nappy was just wet and not a 'dirty' one... but that's not the point.
This led me to reflect on the situation of parent/baby toilets. What happens when it is just you and your baby on a day out or when just the two of you need to do everyday jobs like shopping? Either there's a dedicated room for changing with no toilet at all, or there is a pull-down baby change in the ladies' loos. This doesn't help parents who are out alone with their baby and therefore contemplating leaving the child near the sinks while they go into the cubicle to pee without them. Also, it doesn't help Dads who are out with the baby if the changing table is confined to the women's toilets.
Some businesses double up disabled or accessible toilets as baby change and this is handy because they have both the space for the pram and changing table so that you can do your business on the loo and still keep an eye on the baby. Sadly, these solutions tend to be limited to the bigger superstores.
Changing facilities need to be up to speed with modern day parenting because not everyone has their other half with them to watch the baby while their partner goes to the loo. I would urge any business to consider the needs of the families visiting them.
And if you're lucky enough to find a place that CAN accommodate you and your family, it's likely to be a place where you'll keep going back time and time again because you'll never underestimate the importance of comfort.