Build Better Bathrooms

(The above should say “waiting in a shorter line,” but I still found it amusing.)

I was talking to a mom of (two) boys the other day, and we were discussing gender differences. She was saying how some moms will tell her that “girls are harder,” but she disagrees for various reasons. Then we proceeded to discuss the “pros” and “cons” of parenting both genders.

At some point in the conversation I said, “You know what I always resented? Going on road trips, and feeling annoyed because The Hub could not help me with two girls. So, I’d be stuck in the restroom changing two sets of diapers.”

And she responded:

“But that happens with us, too, because the men’s rooms don’t have diaper changers!”

To which I was momentarily speechless. And then I gasped and got rather excited and high-pitched: “OMG, I can’t believe I never thought about that before!! Ohmygosh, of course, they don’t! Omg, they need to do something about that! OMG, I’m sure Econ-Mom will talk about how men need to be more involved in child-rearing again!!”

Right, Econ-Mom!?!

My friend and I discussed the pitfalls and perils of gender-separated bathrooms for quite some time, including other, even more important reasons for having more family bathrooms aside from the fact that child-rearing should be a gender-neutral activity. For example, it’s awkward for moms of boys to be taking their boys-of-a-certain-age into the women’s bathroom with them, but equally dangerous for them to be sending said boys into the men’s bathroom on their own.

Tricky.

Seriously, people. Two words: family bathrooms. More of them. Please.

This reminds me of a point I have been complaining about for 15 years now, ever since my first debut as a litigator at the Daley Center courthouse: poorly designed women’s bathrooms. The women’s bathrooms at the Daley Center were clearly designed by men because they do not even have counters! So, you have no where to put down a purse,  an attache, a briefcase, or a coat.

Do the men’s rooms have counters? Don’t men have briefcases and coats? Where do they put them? The floor? And if so….gross!

This is why we need more women in the fields of architecture, design, and engineering.  (Why we need more women in all fields.) I’m personally sorry I didn’t pursue that career path, because I think it would be more rewarding than law. I’d love to take charge of a new nationwide movement to build better bathrooms!

In short, in order to be a better, more functioning, and more sanitary society, we need (1) more family bathrooms with (2) diaper changing stations, and (3) counters.

Econ-Mom: Oh gosh, bathrooms.  Having recently lived in Seattle, where there is a bigger push for gender-neutral bathrooms, part of me does feel like it’s a bit weird.  For a while I was working in a building with a gender-neutral bathroom. I rarely used it (because there were also men/women bathrooms) but the few times I did, I was always kind of worried that I would walk in on a man using the urinal.  (Yes, there was a urinal, and yes it was a multi-person bathroom.)

But a much bigger part of me is all for gender neutral bathrooms!  This is an issue where the disability community is very much in line with the transgender community, for obvious reasons.  I still take my 7-year-old (who is super tall and looks like he’s about 10) into women’s bathrooms with me on occasion, depending on how comfortable I am with the situation.  I was somewhere recently where I had him in the bathroom and a lady walked in and said something like, “Oh my gosh.” I thought that was probably directed at me/my son but I just ignored it.  (BTW, if she had asked me why I had him in the bathroom, I would have happily told her that he is autistic and I don’t feel comfortable letting him go in strange bathrooms alone.)  Of course, people with more severe autism or other disabilities go with a caretaker for their entire life (and just to be pedantic, I will point out that most caretakers are women.)

All that being said, my number one biggest issue with bathrooms is that they are quite often sensory nightmares.  I was cracking up recently because someone in one of my autism mom groups called those high-powered air dryers some really dramatic name like “death machines”, and everyone in the group was like, “Preach, sister!”  There are honestly tons of ASD parents out there who do not take their kids to certain places because the bathrooms are just not an option for their child.

Law-Mom: I get that.  I think I’ve mentioned on this blog that The Hub and I were convinced for the first few years of SC1’s life that she was autistic for many reasons, including the fact that loud bathroom hand-dryers would make her cry.

Also note: I don’t think they need to build more family bathrooms to the exclusion of gender separate bathrooms. Maybe that would be not be economically feasible? But would it really be that expensive to just have one family bathroom for families to use (not necessarily with multiple stalls)?

Finally, in this campaign to Build Better Bathrooms: when they build women’s rooms, they should just build them two to three times the size of men’s bathrooms (i.e., with two to three times more stalls). Surely that would make everyone happier, including the men who would spend less time waiting for their female companions.

We Respond To Each Other’s Podcasts

Law-Mom:  I really enjoyed your conversation with Conan Tanner on “Barbarian Noetics,” Econ-Mom. I particularly appreciated your comments about changing the paradigm so that all parents – moms and dads – spend more time with their children. I also appreciated Tanner’s comment about making the world a more “child-friendly” place to be. Shouldn’t that ultimately be the goal of our society? A more child-friendly world is a more human-friendly world.

I did want to respond to two things that I believe Tanner said during your discussion. The first was Tanner’s comment,”What’s so bad about being lazy?” or, “What’s wrong with lazy people?” At that point, I wanted to barge into the conversation and say: “Ummm…everything.”

I don’t know what that says about me, but I truly have a deep-seated bias against lazy people and laziness in general. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in relaxing and rewarding oneself after a long day, or a long week, of being productive. But I truly abhor general slothfulness. I get mildly ragey when I perceive lazy behavior in my own children. I think some of this is because I have an understanding of just how hard you really have to work to enjoy the finer pleasures of life. And I think most people have to work super hard in life to get where they are. (Not all, of course, but most.)  So, while I do not consider myself very conservative in political matters, I do understand the viewpoint of: “Hey, look: I’ve worked my tail off, so I’m not super interested in being taxed out the ying-yang so that someone else can sit on their duff and enjoy the fruits of my hard labor.” It’s the story of “The Little Red Hen”: I’m not interested in sharing all of my hard work with you ungrateful, lazy, jerks.

Is that selfish? Maybe. But I think it’s understandable. On the flip side, I do believe in cooperation (as I talked about with Tanner). But cooperation is a two-way street: it means everyone is working and  being productive. You only get to be lazy, IMHO, if you are younger than the age of six and/or an invalid. Otherwise, you don’t get a pass in my book. I’ll share with you, but you need to uphold your end of the bargain.

Last but not least, Tanner asked: Why don’t we allow jurors to do their own research? Because the judge has already carefully ruled on what the law is that governs the case and what evidence can and will be admitted. And, if jurors were to “go rogue” and find that different law applies, or different evidence is relevant, it could very-well jeopardize the defendant’s constitutional rights. Of course, the judge may have gotten everything wrong and violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, anyway…but at least there is a record of it. Since no one knows what is going on in the jury room, it is extremely important that the jury follow the judge’s instructions and not do their own research — on the facts or the law — so that everyone knows exactly what evidence and law the jury heard, received, and deliberated over.

That being said (a perfect use of the phrase, I might add), I agreed with both of you that: (1) it was an abysmal use of resources to try that poor transient man over a $20 meth exchange; and (2) that he very likely was not tried by a true “jury of his peers.”  The first point is easily solved: Stop prosecuting and jailing harmless homeless people for non-violent offenses and offer rehab and resources instead. The second point, however, is a bit more problematic and difficult to solve. I agreed with the points you made about finding a way to include more caretakers on juries. Still (and this is coming from someone who skipped out on jury duty, because I was the full-time caretaker of my 10-ish month old), I’m not sure I’d be super keen on leaving my child with government-paid daycare workers whom I’d never met or seen in action. So, I think there would need to be some choice involved on the part of caretakers, because otherwise it might feel a bit like forced child-napping. Not all young children are easily separated from their parents (SC1 being one of them) and it could be traumatic for some children to be away from their caretaker for days, or sometimes weeks, on end.

Econ-Mom:  I also really enjoyed listening to Law-Mom on Barbarian Noetics! Law-Mom and I have a lot to say, people!  It’s now already been a crazy week-ish since I listened, so I don’t remember all the brilliant points I had here, but as someone who has taught Introductory Economics, I feel compelled to say something about bartering. Law-Mom and Conan talk a lot about a more cooperative society and end up talking about bartering.  I’m not against bartering, I think it’s great when it works!  And for what it’s worth, I believe it should be studied more (for example, how and why people revert to bartering in economic crises, such as what’s going on in Venezuela right now).  But it can’t scale up that well because if you have N goods, it means you have to somehow keep track of N*(N-1) prices.  [Law-Mom: I do not understand this at all, Econ-Mom. Please do elaborate in another post.] For example, if you have apples, oranges, and pears, you must have some kind of going rate for apples in terms of pears, apples in terms of oranges, and oranges in terms of pairs, and vice versa. More importantly, when you get to the point where you have thousands of goods (which we do currently have – if not millions!) you run into almost zero chance of finding someone to make a mutually agreeable trade with.

And regarding Law-Mom’s point above about making jury duty optional for parents of young children I absolutely agree!  For sure neither of my kids could have gone with a strange caretaker, and that goes double (or times 100) for kids with more severe autism or other conditions.  But it’s just sort of food for thought.  And I do think that people abuse the chance to get out of jury duty to some extent.  I just had someone tell me that she was still using the ‘caretaker’ excuse even though her daughter was now 16.

Finally, regarding laziness…. Well, I think I’m just going to have to write a separate post about universal basic income because it’s a very interesting topic that economists are really getting into these days!