When you venture out to a shopping centre as a parent, there’s several things you need to consider. If you have little kids, especially babies, it’s rarely a “let’s hop in the car and go” type situation. There are bags to be packed, bladders to be emptied and snacks to be prepared. You’ll get to the shop and about half an hour into it you could be faced with several scenarios, most of which revolve around food and/or shit. It could be “Mummy, I need to go to the toilet really, REALLY badddddddd” when you’re halfway through filling your trolley. It could be the full-body tantrum of a toddler who can’t understand why you won’t give them a Kinder surprise at 9.05am, or it could be the wail of your tiny baby who wants their food and wants it now.
I’m not exactly sure how I even missed this, but I only realised Parents’ Rooms existed, like, two years ago. And what a bloody delightful little discovery that was. The first time I pushed that automatic door at Westfield, I couldn’t believe my eyes. How had I missed this?? Everything a parent could need was there – bottle-warming facilities, toilets, spacious change tables, comfy-looking chairs and even a private breastfeeding area. How far we’ve come from those grotty, shoebox-sized Baby Change rooms or worse – the solitary fold-out change table found only in the women’s toilets. I immediately thought of how lucky us parents are these days; to have these areas available for both mums and dads to utilise. Because after all, mums AND dads both take their kids shopping and you know, raise them.
Parents’ Rooms are a massive step forward in acknowledging that both mums and dads are responsible for the care of their children.
Apparently, some people believe that the ‘Parents’ part of ‘ Parents Room’ is code for ‘mother,’ as evidenced by the revolting treatment of Mackay dad Damien Leeson who DARED to feed his seven week old daughter in the Parents’ Room at Caneland Central Shopping Centre. Here’s how it went down: Damien was out shopping with his wife and baby girl, Harpah, when he entered the Parents’ Room to give her a feed. In Damien’s own words, as reported by the Daily Mercury, “I got into the (parents’) room, gave her a change and started feeding her when a mother walked in with her son. She looked at me and said ‘that’s disgusting to see a full grown man in a parents’ room with a little girl’ and (the woman said) that I’m ‘a dirty old (expletive)’, ” he said.
“She took her son to the toilet and then, as she walked out, she said to her friend who was waiting outside, ‘there’s a dirty old man in the parents room’, and the friend replied with, ‘yeah that’s f**ked up.'”
Yep, it’s pretty f**ked up alright. It’s more than sad that a father – an equal parent – is made to feel like a predator while providing one of his child’s most basic needs in an area intended for that purpose. It’s just like the public breastfeeding debate, but with a much nastier implication; that a man can’t take on a parenting role (and the duties that go along with it) without some perverted ulterior motive. Even sadder, since Damien’s story came out, many other fathers have come forward to share their own experiences with Parents’ Room shaming. According to Damien, “I had heaps of other dads comment, saying ‘that’s normal mate’, ‘get used to it’ and that they get dirty looks and comments all the time.”
“I just posted for myself to see if any other males I knew had been through the same thing, but to then see so many other dads share similar encounters – it was disturbing really.”
Parents’ Rooms are a massive step forward in acknowledging that both mums and dads are responsible for the care of their children. They are intended to be shared. They allow a father to take his daughter to the shop and not have to send her into a public bathroom on her own. They allow a mother to change her child’s nappy comfortably instead of being cramped in a stinky stall. They allow a dad to warm a bottle of milk for his hungry baby.
If there’s any comfort to be taken in the whole situation, it’s the outpouring of support Damien has received since sharing his story. It’s funny how sometimes, it takes the ugly behaviour of one person to really showcase the beauty in others. So to Damien, and all the other dads who are raising and caring for children in the same way us mothers are, please know that this lady did not speak on behalf of all women. Keep taking your kids shopping, feeding them and changing their nappies and please, keep using the Parents’ Room. Because that’s exactly what it’s there for.
Are you bothered by fathers using the Parents’ Room?