Is dad right to take daughter into women's toilet?

Opinions are divided.
Opinions are divided.  Photo: Shutterstock

It's one of those riddles without a correct answer: what toilet should a dad take his young daughter into to avoid outraging someone, or exposing his daughter to sights she may never forget?

One mum took that question to the Mumsnet forum recently asking for advice on what the correct course of action is.

"Help, [my husband] and I with a disagreement please," she wrote. "When [our daughter] (4) needs the loo in a public place, he takes her to the ladies' loos. I told him that women don't like that and he should take her to the men's loo. [Am I being unreasonable] or is he?"

Great question. And as someone who still vividly remembers being taken into the men's change rooms at my dad's surf club when I was a similar age, I can certainly see the benefits of taking her into the women's toilets. But on the other hand, a man in the ladies' is confronting too.

Of course, the best solution is to use a parents' room if there is one available, but away from the larger shopping centres, they're thin on the ground. Disabled toilets offer a large, private room, but it's not appropriate for able-bodied people to be using them when there could be somebody with a disability who needs to use them.

So what is the solution?

Mumsnet users' opinions varied wildly.

"I've never seen anyone do that," said one. "It's usual for the adult to go in the correct toilets, and if the child is under about 8 they go in the same one as the parent."

"I understand the conflict," wrote another. "But I would rather a father in the ladies – individual cubicles – than a four-year-old girl being taken into the gents with no idea what she might see."

A third commenter said, "In Amsterdam airport this week there was a dad with a small daughter in the cubicle next to me and I thought good on him! I think he felt awkward – he maintained a conversation with her the whole time, so that we would all know he was there, and when they emerged he studiously avoided eye contact, but I thought it was definitely much nicer for a small girl not to have to go past a row of men using urinals in a (probably much more smelly) men's loo."

Someone else took issue with men's toilets being so offensive.

"If men's toilets are so revolting that it's completely unacceptable for a father to use them with his small child, then that needs fixing. The answer is not for men to barge into the women's toilets."