Using a family restroom can cut back on germs

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If you’re the parent of multiple children of both sexes, chances are you’ve been out in public and faced the dilemma of which bathroom you should use. This is especially true if your children are small and cannot safely enter the bathroom on their own.

For example, if you’re a father and have 2-year-old twin girls and a 6-year-old boy who all need to use the bathroom, you know they would gladly all follow you into whichever bathroom you choose and use the potty willingly and happily. But as a father, you cannot enter the women’s restroom without strange looks and disapproving words. And it’s certainly scary to think about taking your two little girls into the men’s restroom, where grown men are freely using the urinal, with parts your baby girls probably know nothing about proudly displayed.

Sending any of these children into the bathroom alone is probably the scariest part. There have been multiple stories in the mass media about children being abused in public restrooms, and on top of that, you have the most common offender: germs.

I am the mother of three boys. I have 20-month-old twins and a 9-year-old son. When it was just me and my oldest son, it was fairly easy to take him into the women’s restroom, despite the funny looks I got as he got older. Women do, after all, all go into a stall to use the restroom, so no one is displaying offending parts in public.

After I had the twins and began taking all three children out in public, I had a bigger issue. The double stroller would not fit into some of the tight corners that led to the bathroom and we could not all three fit into a handicapped stall.

Enter the family restroom. I had never heard of such a thing.

According to americanrestroom.org, “Family style, unisex or single-user restrooms (often called handicapped restrooms) offer flexibility: males or females, and one or more individuals (i.e. family members), of the same or opposite sex, can use them. They can also provide such amenities as two toilets, one for adults and one for children, and a changing table.”

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This is a genius idea. Of course, I’d heard of handicapped restrooms, but I generally associated them with the larger stalls in the back of normal public restrooms, and I’d never heard of a family restroom.

In an article written about the family restroom on greatreporter.com, one mother who frequents a mall in Michigan said the restrooms were a great convenience.

“Every restroom location in the mall has next to it a family restroom,” said Becky Hopersberger. “Many places may have a family restroom, but there might be only one for the entire facility.”

Hopersberger said family restrooms make things so much easier that she is a lot more likely to visit establishments that have more of them. “These restrooms allow me to keep my children with me, safe and supervised, without cramming them into a handicapped stall.”

Not having to cram children into a handicapped stall also means keeping them away from germs that lurk in public restrooms. Family restrooms tend to have more space, most of the time incorporating a large area to park a double stroller, some even having plastic seats that fold out of the walls that have seat belts, so parents can strap smaller children who are too big for strollers into them while they wait for everyone to take his or her turn.

Leslie Reichert, nationally-recognized green homekeeping expert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning and founder of The Cleaning Coach, said in an online article on spryliving.com that family restrooms can be cleaner when it comes to germs because there is only one toilet flushing. When you’re in a public place, he said, it’s more difficult to dodge the spray coming out of toilets that have no lids to close before flushing. So family restrooms are a better choice since there is only spray coming from one toilet instead of the several that exist in regular public restrooms. When the spray comes out of several toilets, germs tend to float around in the air, being breathed in by anyone who is in the restroom.

In addition to cutting back on the germs that already exist, family restrooms often have a shorter sink and soap that is intended for small children. So not only can you thoroughly wash your own hands, but your little ones can also clean up after using the restroom without you having to lift them up and get them wet from leaning over the sink to balance.

Once I discovered the family restroom, I looked for one every time I needed to take my kids to the bathroom. It turns out they exist in more places than you’d think, most of the time hiding behind an unassuming door right near the women’s restroom. I don’t know why I’d never noticed them before, but as my family continues to grow, so will my affinity for the family restroom. If you’re looking to start using the family restroom, you can call ahead to your favorite stores to ask if they have one available. They’re becoming more and more common, so if you’d like to see them in your favorite places that don’t currently have them, be sure to make your preferences known.

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