I have vague recollections of a time when the bathroom was a solitary place. A place where I could calmly select my clothes for the day, apply my make-up at my own pace, and take showers that were on my own terms.
These are distant memories. In fact, I’m so far removed from those days that I can hardly picture them in my mind. The following is a fairly accurate description of “bathroom time” as a mother of small children. I will spare my readers the more graphic details, but if you are a mama and are living this life, you will smile with understanding and read between the lines...
When you are pregnant, there are certain things you give up for the sake of a healthy baby. One of these is most definitely dignity. But, it is for the good of the child and to monitor your own health, so of course you don’t hesitate. After all, privacy will once again be yours after the baby is born and all the doctors visits are over.
The other day I was in a Target restroom (because as every mother knows, the best way to cure a constipated child is to take them to a public place. It is a scientific fact that they will produce a very dirty diaper for you within two minutes of arriving at any store. Or if they are potty trained, they will suddenly have the bladder of a 9 month pregnant woman and need you to take them to the restroom at least five times in 20 minutes....but I digress...).
Anyway, during my time in the Target restroom as I changed Leighanne, I casually observed another young mother struggling with her brood. She had a son about three years old (who was quite excited at the prospect of being in his very own stall) and a sleeping infant strapped to her chest. This mother got her son situated and proceeded to take herself and her baby to the stall next door. A few seconds passed and the singing little boy suddenly charged out of his stall and into his mother’s, who was, shall w
e say, less than prepared for the door to be opened. She said her son’s name rather loudly and pushed him out as she frantically tried to close the door. All the while, her infant is just sawing logs and completely unaware of the added stress she is placing on her mother (quite literally....the stress on your back from those things is unbelievable!). This little routine happened several times and ended with the mother locking her son out and him crawling on his belly to get into her stall. You can imagine how happy she was to see his little head pop under the door with toilet paper stuck to his face and fingers in his mouth. She was probably already mentally clearing her schedule for the next day to spend at the doctor’s office and drug store.
Finally, the mother emerged from the stall (looking slightly less than relaxed) and began the hand washing process. This is no small feat when your child isn’t tall enough to reach the soap dispenser or faucet on his own. She managed to pick him up, get soap and water on his hands, and told him to scrub. Now, you and I understand what scrub means. It is not a complicated word. However, this little boy didn’t seem to grasp her meaning and just hung there in her arms like a 35-lb. wet blanket, the infant now sandwiched between her mother and her brother. The poor mother summoned all her superpower strength and managed to hold him, wash his hands for him, and hold her infant and diaper bag all at the same time. She finally put him down and directed him to the hand dryers, where he had a great time putting his head under it and opening his mouth to suck in all the air.
But the poor woman still wasn’t finished. She hadn’t washed her own hands yet (or her infant’s head, which at this point had every germ in the bathroom seeping into her bald little pores, thanks to her brother’s well meaning but grubby little hands). She leaned forward to begin the washing routine, her baby’s head wobbling back and forth as she tried in vain to rinse without actually moving. She never even attempted the hand dryer. And freshening up her lipstick? This mama probably couldn't even get to her lipstick without being a gold medal gymnast.
This, my friends, is a very typical experience in public restrooms. All this, and the poor woman had not even begun her shopping, the whole reason she entered the store in the first place 20 mintues prior. There really should be a lounge area outside bathrooms for mothers to re-group and go ahead and make tomorrow's dr. appointments.
Years ago, a friend shared her idea with me of having your children place their hands on their heads during the public bathroom visits. There have been many times we’ve sung the “head, shoulders, knees and toes” song and I’ve acted like a broken record stuck on the “head and shoulders” part. No doubt onlookers have seen me marching my kids into the restroom with their hands on their heads and wondered just what kind of discipline I am using, or assumed I have reached my breaking point and am holding them at gunpoint. I should add there have been times I’ve wished I had a gun when I finally emerge from the public restroom only to have my sweet husband (whom I love dearly and who would help himself if we didn't have all girls...he and God had some kind of deal going on that one), remind me we’re in a hurry and ask if we got lost in there. Sorry, baby, it was just so much fun in there I decided we should camp out and have a snack on the germ infested tile floor.
At home, it is much the same. The one place that should offer peace and quiet is fair game as far as your kids are concerned. Many mothers practically build a circus type atmosphere in hopes that they can escape to the restroom ALONE for 30 seconds, only to hear their children beating on the door and crying the moment they realize they are without their mommy. It’s like being in the bathroom WITH mommy is the pinnacle of their day, the crowning moments of their childhood, and they are not going to miss it for ANYTHING. And I should probably add that at no other point in the day will your children be more attuned to your every move than when in the bathroom with you. You will have their complete transfixed attention, so the good multi-tasker may choose to take advantage of this by questioning them to find out who exactly smeared desitin on the walls or discussing WHY it’s a bad idea to try to clip your siblings’ fingernails for them.
So the next time you see a mother with little ones headed to the restroom, say a short prayer for her. She is entering a place that no one but a fool (or a supermom) would ever dare attempt on her own. One day the bathroom will once again be a place of privacy, but for now, fellow supermoms, it may as well be called Wall Street, because it’s one crazy place.