Suzanne Tobias

August 12, 2014

Restaurant dining room is no place for diaper changing

A Texas mom filed a complaint against a pizza restaurant recently for what she says was unfair and insensitive treatment.

A Texas mom filed a complaint against a pizza restaurant recently for what she says was unfair and insensitive treatment.

According to news reports, the mom said she was at the restaurant in Spring, Texas, with her three children, ages 8, 4 and 4 months, when she realized her youngest needed a diaper change. She went to the bathroom, which didn’t have a changing table.

Rather than herding all of her kids out to the car, she “did what she had to do,” the news story says: She changed her baby’s diaper on a chair in the dining area of the restaurant.

“I thought, you know what? I’ve got my own changing pad. She’s tiny. She fits right here on the chair,” the mom told KHOU, a Houston station. “So I just laid her down (and) quickly and quietly changed her diaper.”

I am all in favor of restaurants being tolerant, friendly, welcoming places for families. I have dined with young children and have been in that mom’s position – thankful for public restrooms with Koala Kare changing stations and surprised to discover many without them, particularly in restaurants that claim to be family-friendly.

But I do not support diaper-changing free-for-alls.

In this case, given the facts as I know them, I don’t blame fellow diners for being offended, and I don’t blame restaurant employees for ushering the mom and her kids to the door (after politely packing their food in to-go boxes).

No matter how harried we get as parents, no matter how frustrated, exhausted, burned out or inconvenienced, we have to hold it together. We have to think of others. And we have to recognize that our children’s needs don’t trump everything else, including basic manners and hygiene.

Sometimes things go wrong. Our kids get sick in inconvenient places. They throw temper tantrums. They fill a diaper at the worst possible time in the worst possible location – on an airplane, in a restaurant, on the front row of a church sanctuary during the most romantic part of the wedding.

At those times, if it’s possible for a parent to make a hasty exit – not convenient, but possible – we must. Even if it means hauling everyone out to the minivan for a quick diaper change. That’s the way civility works.

Now, regular readers of this column will no doubt recall that I am a strong advocate of breast-feeding and vigorously defend the rights of mothers to nurse their babies in public. No doubt there will be folks who hear about the Texas incident and compare it to breast-feeding, saying mothers should excuse themselves to feed their babies as well as to change diapers.

I disagree, of course, and the reason is simple: Restaurants are for eating. Nobody wants to eat their lunch in a bathroom any more than they want to see dirty diapers in a dining room. So enough about that.

Perhaps the best outcome of the recent dispute is that, according to news reports, the restaurant where it happened is considering installing changing tables in the bathrooms. While that’s not required by law, it sure would be helpful, convenient and considerate.

I think we all can agree on that.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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