Culture Shock-Bathrooms

In the US, every single men’s and women’s bathroom has an accessible stall in it (minus super small restaurants/bars and such).  If you’re a parent out with a stroller, you use these.

In Singapore, with very few exceptions, there is one accessible bathroom near the regular bathrooms for both sexes.  These are often poorly maintained, smelly, and just not somewhere you would want to be.  Plus, they’re almost always full.

So what is a mom with a small bladder and a stroller to do?

The most common answer, and one that has taken me ages to adapt to…is to just park the stroller outside your stall, go in and close the door, and use the toilet.  (Assuming you don’t have  a maid/friend to whom you can pass the baby.)  When I have both girls, I tell Ellie she’s “in charge” of Rhi, and I’m talking constantly to her.

It’s ironic, really, as I’m one of those parents who is constantly railing against fear-driven parenting.  I know that predators are not prowling the bathrooms of Singapore hoping that a baby would be left unattended (and that other adults in the bathroom would let them take the baby without protest).  But every time I do it (because there isn’t an accessible bathroom near, because I’ve been waiting over 10 minutes at the accessible bathroom and my bladder is close to bursting), I cringe.

To be fair, my discomfort doesn’t stem from fear of predators.  It stems from fear of other parents.  I’ve read far too many stories about parents who have had the cops and child protective services on them for letting a baby sleep in the car for 3 minutes while they go into a free standing ATM, or walk 10 feet to pick up a pre-schooler (whom the school refuses to let walk the 10 feet to the car without a parent), or for any number of stupid not-child-abuse things.  I think it is entirely plausible that I could have the cops called for ‘abandoning” my child outside a toilet stall in the US.  When I was 7 or 8, I used to consider it a privlege to be left alone in the car with my book instead of having to trudge through grocery shopping.  Of course, I was also a part time latchkey kid at 8.  Both are considered bad parenting (if not outright illegal, depending on the state) now.

On the days when I’m feeling homesick, that’s the sort of thing about which I remind myself…the ways that American parenting can piss me off.

And even having said all of that, and knowing those things…it still kind of weirds me out.

Culture shock–after over 2 years, I’m still not over it.

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4 Responses to Culture Shock-Bathrooms

  1. I can totally understand your fears Crystal. I would be paranoid and keep talking through the door too.

    Toilets in Singapore can be vastly improved. Especially the ladies’ loo. Queues, the hygiene levels…much to be improved. I try not to go if I can help it. Quite an ordeal to me unless I am in a really nice mall, but even then standards can be dismal.

    Generally hotel loos are the best maintained.

    • Crystal says:

      I’ve been a big fan of hotel bathrooms ever since I worked in hotels and realized anyone could just walk in and use the public bathroms (which are generally very very very well maintained). But it kind of blows my mind that a mall like ION can have amazing bathrooms in one section, and then over by the popeyes, there’s a women’s bathrom that has two rolls of toilet paper outside all of the stalls and none inside. Just…ew.

      Sadly, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country that doesn’t have women complaining about queue’s.

  2. It’s also quite interesting to think about the way different cultures see kids as well, and at what age they’re okay to be left alone. When I found out that in New Zealand it’s technically illegal to leave any kid 13 and below alone at home I was like “WTF!!! I was babysitting and making dinner – albeit microwave reheating – and tutoring my brother at 11!”

    Also I found it incredibly ironic that it’s illegal to leave a 13-year-old at home but you seen them walking to and from school themselves. #logicfail?

    • Crystal says:

      Yeah, I am very frustrated with the increasing infantilization of kids. I had a co-teacher one year who had a thirteen year old. I asked her to stay fifteen minutes to hash out something for the next day, and she practically had a panic attack that he would get home and she wouldn’t be there. I assumed he was special needs…until I met him and he was a totally normal kid. Maybe a closet pyro? I have no idea why the idea of her thirteen year old being alone in the house or waiting on the step for five minutes was cause for alarm. Like you, at thirteen, I was babysitting other people’s kids.

      I walked to school by myself at age 8. And I lived only a few blocks until you lived far enough to get a bus, so it wasn’t a short walk either. If I was good, on fridays I’d get some money to stop at the candy store downtown on my way home.

      I really hope that by the time the girls are older (like in 7-9 years) that some of this will be more relaxed. If not, I’ll have to pay an 18 year old just be physically present, but give her/him specific instructions not to do anything except not be a minor. “Please surf the internet so that my kids can do their own laundry and homework, thanks!”

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