I dread the day my daughter goes on her first daddy-daughter date. They will go to their favourite restaurant at our local mall. My daughter will drink her favourite refreshment and will need to go to the bathroom. The problem is, she will be too young to go on her own and will need her daddy to accompany her.
Unfortunately, there will be no family bathrooms so he can walk in with her and assist or even stand outside while she uses the bathroom, knowing she’s safe. This is a problem I hope I am not confronted with in a few months.
A more immediate problem I am confronted with is the lack of nappy-changing facilities in the male bathrooms. We were shopping the other day and I was busy but needed to change my daughter’s nappy. I thought my husband could help, but he couldn’t because there was no family room in that mall, and the male bathrooms did not have those facilities. So I had to drop what I was doing and attend to a soiled nappy.
What are dads expected to do in such situations? Do they go into one of the cubicles and awkwardly maneuver their way around? Or do they go back to the car to change the nappy in the back seat then return to the mall?
The reality of single fathers is one that is not acknowledged at all. We are so accustomed to seeing and hearing of single mothers, that we do not even consider dads who raise their kids on their own.
What then do we expect these dads to do in these situations? Get creative? Nappy changing is not rocket science, but society has turned it into something that is difficult for dads.
Second, we have normalised the idea of absent fathers to the extent that we do not create such facilities for them. Statistics South Africa released figures showing that 60% of South African kids live in households without a father. Ten percent of these missing have died, but 50% of them are just absent. The rest of the kids – 40% – are living with both their mom and dad. But society makes nappy changing and toilet duties a mom’s responsibility.
This brings me to my next point. Am I the only person who gets annoyed at fathers who say they are babysitting their own kids? Let’s look at the definition of the word “babysitting”.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines babysitting as caring for children usually during a short absence of the parents. Therefore, it is impossible for a father to babysit his own child.
I mention this because we live in a society where child-rearing and care is still viewed as the role of the mom alone. From the moment the baby is born, care of the child is seen as the mother’s responsibility.
One justification for this is that the mommy instinct kicks in immediately after the birth of the child, and dad does not experience the same change. Well, that is nonsense.
It’s true that moms are nurturers but dads can also be dads. If I breastfeed the baby, dad can take her immediately after that to burp her and put her to sleep. The only thing that moms have that dads don’t are boobs. Over and above that, there really is no excuse for dads not to play an active role in the lives of their children.
I asked Sechaba (my husband) why he thinks they don’t have these facilities and he argued that society has taught us that nappy changing is women’s duty, especially in public. Which further proves my point. Men apparently cannot be seen doing a woman’s job in public. I wonder if there was a dad’s conference and all dads decided on this, or if these facilities decided on behalf of all dads.
This has a lot to do with the patriarchal world we live in – but that is a topic for another day.
The recent case of the Dros rape in which a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped in a male bathroom by a 20-year-old man would also account for why we do not find such amenities in male bathrooms.
It is very possible that society does not trust the lives of young children in the hands of men. This is a very sensitive issue that makes me emotional every time I think about it. We need to live in a world where we do not have to question the intentions of men.
I have the argument about how some shopping centres do have family rooms where men are allowed. I have often seen this in upper-class areas or malls. This makes it feel like more of a privilege than a basic human need. If a mall in North of Johannesburg can have a family room, then why cant we have the same for a mall in Soweto?
If the US can make a law that men’s bathrooms must have nappy-changing facilities, then SA can definitely follow suit.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. Karabo loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of The Saturday Citizen She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.