One thing that hasn’t been taken into consideration as it becomes more common for men to play an equal role in caring for young children, is what they should do when their little daughters need to use a public toilet.
While mums can take preschool boys (as well as girls) into Women’s toilet cubicles, it is difficult for men to take their little daughters into the Men’s where there are urinals in plain view. Most fathers don’t want to go into the Ladies toilets, and their girls may be too young to go in on their own.
The issue came up recently at Stanmore Bay Pool & Leisure Centre when men using the Men’s changing room objected to an Auckland Council sign at the door that says: ‘Girls aged 6 years and under are permitted to accompany a male parent or caregiver in these changing rooms’.
Graham Mullin says this made several of his friends feel uncomfortable using the urinal in the changing rooms.
“I have daughters and I can see why Dads may need to bring girls into the Men’s, but the other side is that some men don’t feel it’s appropriate to go to the toilet while little girls are present,” he says.
Council’s head of active recreation, Rob McGee, says the signs were put up as there was no place for fathers to take their daughters to get changed or go to the toilet and no industry standards or Council policy around the issue. “Many were using the Men’s changing rooms as a default position,” he says.
He says the team at Stanmore Bay consulted other facilities that had rules in place before allowing children six years and under to use the opposite sex changing rooms with their parent or caregiver.
“Parents are encouraged to use the poolside cubicles in the first instance, but those cubicles are small and, until recently, there haven’t been toilet facilities poolside,” Mr McGee says. “During recent renovations, a poolside toilet was installed which has reduced the need for parents to use the changing rooms, however there is only one rinse shower poolside which is not suitable for children to get undressed in, so there is still a need to allow parents to use the changing room.”
Mr McGee says Council has taken on board the feedback from male users of the changing rooms and is reviewing its signs and guidelines. “Our focus is to advise parents that there are now family changing and toilet facilities available poolside which should be used in the first instance,” he says.
Mr Mullin says that following enquiries by Hibiscus Matters, the sign was removed and an apology given to the members concerned, which has resolved the situation.