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.

Is a “Mom on 11” and a “Default Parent” the Same Thing?

Dear Friends:

Yes, you, too, might be a “Mom on 11.” How do you know if you are one?

You do too d*** much.

Now, one might argue that all mothers are, by their very nature, “Moms on 11.” (Although, I’m sure we can all think of some people who do not win this excellent award/title.) But, if you are the default parent, have a Type A personality, and/or are a WAH-Pinterest Mom, then you very likely may be a Mom on 11, too.

I acquired the Mom on 11 title from my beloved husband (The Hub, who loves “Spinal Tap”). He thinks that I try to be and do too much for my kids. I have fought him for a long time on this irritating label, because, I actually like to consider myself the opposite of a Mom on 11, who has taught her kids how to pack their lunches and do their homework without prompting – by not doing it for them.

But, I suppose, if I am forced to be honest with myself, I deserve the “Mom on 11” title by virtue of what my days look like. I mean, if you’re working at your computer from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm with nary a break, you work hard. You work a lot. And when you are not working, you are usually toiling away at unpaid domestic labor. We all know the drill: laundry, dishes, dinner. Laundry, dishes, dinner. Laundry, dishes, dinner. It’s an exhausting hamster wheel of thanklessness.

A lot has been written about a woman’s (usually mothers’) mental load, or emotional labor.

I can’t say this mental load imbalance looks a lot different in our home, but I have a few points:

(1) I have two daughters. So, I cannot raise boys who will not repeat the well-worn-out cycle of male-domestic-cluelessness. Moms of boys (Econ-mom): You need to do this for the sake of my daughters. I thank you in advance for your service.

(2) Some of it is my fault. From the get-go, I was so determined to be the “best mom ever” (ergo, “Mom on 11” title) that I took on a lot of the mental load tasks myself. And I wanted to. I mean, what mom doesn’t want to have fun shopping for girls’ clothes? Also, I “leaned away” for the first five years of parenting and only worked from home on a part-time basis, so I had time to attend to all the “default parent” tasks. [Topic for another day: Why moms, and not dads, quit their jobs to be at home with their kids. Biological? Cultural? Economic? Discuss.]

(3) The Hub is an amazing hub, who does more than the average male around the house. So, I am not complaining. But I do manage many, many tasks that I don’t think ever cross his mind. But am I wrong about that? And should I just be delegating more?

I have linked a lot of articles to respond to here, Econ-mom. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Econ-mom’s response:

Well, there is a lot to discuss here!  First of all, on the topic of raising boys to break this cycle – I have a lot to say about raising boys in general, because this topic has been in the news a lot lately.  Just yesterday I read this article in which Michelle Obama says: “The problem is we love our boys and we raise our girls.”  I am a big fan of Michelle Obama, and I’m sure there is some truth in this statement, but I, of course, take issue with it on a personal level. However I think this is a topic for another post.  For now I will say this – IF I am lucky enough to get a job soon (I am in the process of submitting job applications now, wish me luck!) then our family will soon undergo a role reversal, and my boys will grow up in a house where their father is in charge of the morning routine, shopping, cleaning, you name it. (By the way, I am terrified at the mere idea of this change, but I do think that living this example for the boys would be one of the best ways to break that cycle.)

In our house, I – of course – became the default parent. This is largely because I’m not the one earning money, but it also had a lot to do with the very early differences in the amount of time we each spent parenting.  Interestingly, I do feel like DH (dear husband) and I started out on very equal footing.  Which is to say we were both completely clueless when it came to parenting.  I swear to you, when we brought our son home from the hospital we did not own a package of wipes.  (Trust me, I remember this accurately.  If you have ever tried to clean up meconium without wipes, you would remember too.)  We laughed and cried and tried to learn everything together, as an equal partnership.  That lasted for about 10 days, and then DH left for a work trip for over three weeks.  Needless to say by the time he returned, I was the parenting ‘expert’.  And the difference in skill level only continued to snowball from there.  Once one person is better at changing diapers, for example, it’s easier for that person to just do it, rather than force the weaker parent to catch up, so to speak.

Now, our case was a bit extreme, and it was 100% our fault, since we made the decision to try for a baby knowing what DH’s work schedule would be.  However, part of why we were foolish enough to have a baby so close to his work trip was because of the message sent to us by society.  How much paternity leave do most men take? According to this article, the median amount is ONE WEEK. Clearly this is a huge part of the problem, and MEN need to be the ones pushing for this to change. Men need to be brave and trust that if they push for flexible work policies, as their female counterparts have been doing for DECADES, they will not get fired. Okay, I can’t actually promise that they won’t get fired, but I can promise that this fight is worth fighting. Men should want this. It’s baffling to me how rarely you see men come forward and say, “Actually, we’ve never ‘had it all,’ because so many of us have worked our butts off to make it to the C-suite and sacrificed our relationships with our children, and it wasn’t worth it.”

Law-mom’s response: All great points, EM! Yes, we will have to discuss some of the finer points buried in this week’s post in the future. Thank you for tackling so much here!