Public Bathrooms

How can I write about this time in life without touching on the public bathroom experience? Let me say that there are few things that can strike fear in my heart like the words, “Mommy, I have to go potty!” They are usually met with my response which includes a groan and “Can’t you wait until we get home?” I hate public bathrooms. With one or even two kids it’s not a terrible situation. But with 5? Heaven help me. 

The other night we were at their Tball game when toward the end, all three toddlers needed to go potty. And of course, they all had tears in their eyes. Bless their hearts they had held it ’til it hurt. So, I took a deep breath and grabbed the double stroller, the three crying kids and set off for the public restrooms. This particular one was spacious and well kept thank goodness. I parked the stroller just outside the handicapped bathroom door. Told two toddlers to face the wall. “Do NOT look under that door!” “DON’T touch anything.” 

After lining the seat with see-through thin toilet paper 3 times, each kid takes their turn on a toilet entirely too big for them. 

“Gabe! I said DON’T touch! It’s dirty!” Micah, stop banging on the stall wall.” 


“Because someone is over there and it’s rude. …DO NOT LOOK. They need their privacy just like you.” 

Then there are the babies who are not patient waiters. Now this can play out in two ways. They are either partially in the stall with me with the stroller half hanging out the door (my preferred method). Or, if that arrangement does not allow privacy, they are parked just outside the door along the wall. Which makes them cry and a perfect target for women who want to coo over them and let me know that “I have my hands full.” Like most moms, I like to have my babies doted on. The girls are numbers 4 and 5 of my kids, and I am typically that mom who picks up the pacifier off the store floor and pops it right back in. But in a bathroom situation when women are freshly walking out of their own stalls from doing their business and have yet to wash their hands, PLEASE do not touch my baby. And the last thing I need to distract me from the toddlers going potty is having to ward off women from getting too close to the girls. 

This fresh, lovely experience with the public bathroom is what led to my poor choices the next day. After dropping our dog off at the humane society, Micah tells me he has to go potty. I balked. I just wanted to leave and not look back. Much less take all 5 kids with me again. The humane society is not on my top list of clean public bathrooms. It was a preconceived judgment because I had no intention of finding out. I told Micah he would need to hold it until we got home. Why I thought this was a good idea is still a mystery to me. It takes an hour to get home from there. 

About 35 minutes later, Micah is whimpering and the other two kids take up his cause singing Daniel Tiger’s “If you have to go potty, STOP! and go right away!”  Finally I give in. I see an outer road in a smaller town and think, maybe I can just pull over and have him pee alongside the road? I’ve always scorned moms who do this. Now I was decisively prepared to become one of them. Funny how our own judgments come back to judge us. 

I pulled over into a tree-lined retirement community driveway and remembered there’s a Thomas potty seat in the back. I whip it out and find out that Micah had already had an accident. Totally my fault for not taking him earlier and for the panic rising in my chest at the thought of another bathroom situation like the night before. Twenty minutes after having both boys go I am back on the road and wondering how I allowed my aversion to public restrooms to be the cause of this mess. I decided then and there to make a bathroom plan for when I have all 5. People have tornado plans and flood plans. It makes perfect sense for me to have a bathroom plan too.