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.