Long ago, I embraced the identity of the horrible mom. I consciously chose not to obsess about sippy cups or apply for preschool before my child was born. I have lugged my kid to story slams and New Years Eve at the Dresden. Most of the time, I think this makes me a pretty cool mom–even if horrible by current LA-obsessed-parent standards.
Recently, though, I have been feeling like I should do more with AJ. There are so many things for kids around. I have started to feel (dare I admit it?) guilty for not showing up for story time or mid-day kids concerts at the mall.
I can’t afford full-time childcare so Wednesdays have been our day together for some time. Recently, I have been working more and my mom has been helping out. But, it’s nice to have a re-connect midweek, so I am trying to resurrect Wednesday mornings as AJ and Mommy time.
Today, I had planned to take him to the mommy-n-me movies which, honestly, are for mommy. We haven’t done this in a while, as he has become so much more aware much more easily frightened by violence or noise and curious about, err, certain things. So, today, Inception was out but The Kids Are All Right and Eat Pray Love (the other two films playing at our neighborhood theatre) were possible, with strategic distraction/eye covering.
Then, this morning, he was playing and enjoying himself and I realized that either of those films would be so dialogue heavy he would be miserable and miserable to deal with. I remembered hearing other moms talk about and then seeing a poster for this great kids’ museum in Pasadena. We had never been. In a moment of now-uncharacteristic spontaneity, I decided to go. We had a great time, AJ and I, right up to the end. The end, however, required a letter to the Director of Operations and Chief of Staff. I’ll let you read about that below.
In spite of this fiasco, we left in high spirits, and I am determined to be a less horrible mom at least once a week from now on.
Dear Ms. Earp and Ms. Maclean,
I am not sure who to address this concern to but, after looking at the staff listings, it seems most closely related to operations and overall museum planning.
Today, I brought my two and a half year old son to KidSpace for the first time. It was great! He loved exploring and interacting with the exhibits and activities. I was considering an annual membership.
As we approached the end of our visit, we needed to use the bathrooms. He had gotten very wet in the water features and needed a diaper/clothes change and I, well, I needed a loo. We used the ones by the cafe. First, we had to wait quite a while as there was only one stall with a diaper changing table. Then, when I got inside, it was filthy (likely, because it is the only one and gets overused.) Have you ever tried to change a feminine product with one hand while balancing on a toilet and holding on to your toddler because the floor is SO disgusting you don’t want them to sit down? It’s not fun. I avoid many places to avoid this experience. After a morning of encouraging my son’s curiosity, I found myself barking “Just stand up. Don’t touch anything. It’s dirty.”
Then, the pieces de resistance. After juggling our personal hygiene needs, we emerged to wash our hands. The sink area is tiny, and we had to squeeze by a woman who had tired of waiting for the changing table and was doing a ‘stand-up’ switch on her toddler. I stepped past her, up to the sink and almost fell, catching myself and twisting my right ankle as I narrowly avoided sprawling on the floor. I looked down to see what my left foot had slipped on and it was, well, poo-poo. I admit, I used a more adult term in that moment, then realized that I was surrounded by children and corrected myself.
Someone, (I think the woman who was doing the stand-up change right then, but she denied it) had seemingly dropped a nice-sized, quite green and viscous blob of feces on the floor.
Now that’s pretty disgusting. Whoever did it shouldn’t have. But, being a mom, I have some empathy for the challenges of negotiating public toilets. I couldn’t be upset with the person who gave up on waiting on the one changing table and went ahead with the stand-up change. If they were in one of the tiny stalls without a changing table, struggling to juggle such an operation, a ball of poo could easily have escaped and rolled under the stall divider, into the path of the next unsuspecting hand washer.
The problem, really is the set-up. I had a particularly unpleasant experience with the toilet facilities but overall, and unlike the rest of the museum, the toilet facilities are not at all set up for parents and young children. Also, there are very limited facilities for women, though all together in our time there I spotted exactly four men there with children…and only one who was there alone with a child. Most of the children were attended by women.
So, here’s where I get positive. While having more and more spacious facilities would be ideal, I have some concrete, possibly not-that-costly suggestions to make the bathroom situation more like the rest of the museum experience:
1. Allocate more toileting facilities to women or to be not gender specific. Do an attendee census and have bathroom facilities reflect typical usage.
2. More frequent cleaning of facilities, especially on busy days like today. Sanitation and regular stocking of diaper changing tables.
3. Install child containment seats in all stalls. This one retails for about $120 but I found it for only $72!
4. Clear signage in each bathroom indicating the location of other toilet/changing facilities and the procedures for reporting unsanitary conditions.
In our case, I cleaned my shoe the best I could, went to the ticketing window and told the young man there what had happened. He called the cleaning crew and said they would help me with my shoe. I waited a few minutes but, honestly, my son was verging on a meltdown and I wasn’t far behind him. We made our way to our car, I stuck a napkin to the bottom of my shoe to keep any residual crap from getting on my car floor, and we came home.
Again, though this was a horrible way to end our time there, I really loved the museum. I hope that this message is helpful to you in improving the mommy friendliness of your facilities.