The Straight Poop on Changing Diapers in Public

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There can be no doubt that many parents are becoming more and more entitled these days. They are caught (and complained about) committing a multitude of sins. (Want proof? Check out http://www.stfuparentsblog.com/ for plenty of examples, and a laugh while you’re at it ….)

A growing number of women don’t just give birth, they want to craft a birthing experience. Everyone speaking in soft tones while they squeeze out the screamer into a kiddie pool on their bedroom floor, in the presence of their entire clan – plus a few good friends and a midwife and a doula and maybe the mailman – is actually a fairly mild demand. I’ve read accounts of women attempting to give birth among dolphins because dolphins offer peace, strength and healing to the mother. Dolphins also sometimes kill other animals just for sport, but let’s not focus on the negative …. Some parents expect the whole street to hold its breath while their darling is napping. They want a posh breastfeeding lounge in every establishment larger than a gas station. A few of them will call the police if a person not attached to a child is – gasp – lingering in the park. And then there are the parents who want everyone to keep the park as clean as their own home because food on the ground might cause an allergic reaction. Never mind watching your child to keep them from eating off the ground if it’s that big of a problem – everyone else ought to work around you! Oh, and that hundred-year-old nut-bearing tree that most people love? That should be cut down (we all read that story) because acorns are, apparently, a bullying tool and a public safety issue. Some parents don’t bother to discipline their children in public, and then pull out the huffy, wounded well-I-never when someone who’s tired of their brats being brats shoots them a dirty look. These same parents also believe they can – and should – go everywhere with the little one, and that any place they go must have everything they need at all times. Like Candice Pouliotte.

Back in August, Pouliotte, her two small children and her grandparents went to Kelly’s Landing Restaurant in Manotick for lunch. She noticed there was no change table in the washroom. She asked the waitress about changing the baby on a dining room table. The waitress said she could. Yes, this happened. An adult of sound mind – who is even responsible for two other human beings – asked if she could open her baby’s feces-filled diaper on an eating surface and replace it with a fresh one. Another adult of sound mind who serves food to the public said that’s fine.

Pouliotte proceeded with the diaper change. When the understandably horrified owner, Dan Dunbar, approached her, they exchanged words and she left. Then, she returned to the restaurant to explain her position to Dunbar. I don’t know how the second conversation went, but this doesn’t seem like something you can talk someone around to. “On second thought, you’re absolutely right – the people eating lunch here probably didn’t mind smelling your baby’s scat, and it’s really not that big of a deal if I serve someone lunch on the table where your baby’s ass was resting five minutes ago.” Dunbar says he was shocked by Pouliotte’s actions.

This incident sparked fierce online debate (like pretty much everything else these days, because we all live on the internet). Speaking with the CBC, Pouliotte defended her position. “As a paying customer and being a mother, I think that telling someone to leave a restaurant to change a child is treating them like a second-class citizen or worse,” she said.”A child shouldn’t have to sit in a soiled diaper while you eat your dinner or have your lunch. I think that if any business is open during daytime hours, that this should be a standard.”

Yes, Pouliotte, you’re right – no babies should sit in dirty diapers while everyone else enjoys their meal. Thing is, though, nobody’s saying they should – what people are saying is that the dirty diaper doesn’t belong on a freakin’ dining room table. Which really shouldn’t be something anyone has to say …. And suggesting that you are being treated like a second class citizen when you are asked to take your kid’s solid waste out of a restaurant dining room is ridiculous. In fact, by changing a diaper on a dining room table, you’re actually putting yourself in a class above everyone else. Not only are you showing no regard for other people’s dining experience or the restaurant owner, but you are doing something that is unacceptable for anyone to do. The idea that any business open during daytime hours should have a change table is ludicrous. Any business? Convenience stores? Banks? Law offices? Garages? Pouliotte seems to be a master of magnification.

Ryan and I have done our share of diaper duty. When Fiona was two, just after Bridget was born, we were changing up to a dozen diapers a day. We love to eat out, and we love to travel. We have travelled extensively with our children since they were born. We have changed diapers on our laps, on the grass, on benches, in parking lots, on the hood and seats of our car, on counters next to sinks, on floors of all descriptions (houses, restaurants, malls), in doctor’s offices. I once changed a diaper on a standing baby in a closet-sized washroom in Juarez, Mexico, because there literally was no surface large enough to lay her down. Know where we’ve never changed a baby? A dining room table, public or private. Never. Why? Because that’s disgusting.

Since January 1 of this year, Ontario law has required newly-built larger restaurants to have a family washroom with a changing table. This is good news – it will be easier than ever for families to dine out in comfort. Older buildings without them are not required to install them. This is as it should be. Having babies is a lifestyle choice, and business owners should not have to carry the heavy cost of renovating their restaurant just because you’ve chosen to breed. If a restaurant owner sees enough of a need – or enough of a revenue drop – to justify upgrading their facilities, great. If not, either put up with the inconvenience of getting creative about diaper changes, or take your money elsewhere. Whatever you decide to do, keep the fecal matter off the table. Even if the only thing you care about is your child, consider the bad example you’re setting by acting like the world is your trash can.

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