'As a guilty mum': toilet training


The day I’m pretty sure I nailed life as the ultimate multitasking parent was the day my toddler’s toilet training phase went horribly, horribly wrong.

It was a sunny summer Saturday, and we had taken our two-and-a-bit-year-old to the beach. She was just learning to go through the day without a nappy and after an afternoon without any accidents we were all feeling like things were going well in the toilet training department.

So good, in fact, that on our way back from the beach I decided to risk a little side trip to a swanky homewares store with our little girl. After we pottered around for a while admiring everything, I decide to splurge on a couple of cushions.

Kate Browne with a branded toilet training potty. (The Checkout, ABC1)
Kate Browne with a branded toilet training potty. (The Checkout, ABC1) 

I hand them over to the impossibly glamorous woman at the counter and start chatting to her about where she buys her stuff as she wraps up my purchases. As we’re talking, out of the corner of my eye I see my daughter’s face fall and her cheeks turn pink. At the same time a warm puddle starts lapping at the toes of my flip flops.

Without breaking my pleasant chit chat with the lady (who, from her spot on the other side of the counter, is blissfully unaware that my child is weeing all over her expensive imported Moroccan tiles), I drop the beach towel I’m carrying and kick it back and forth frantically to mop up the puddle of wee while at the same time serenely continuing to talk, smile and hand over my credit card.

I then grab my cushions, scoop up the soggy ‘dropped’ towel, grab my child and beat a fast track outta there before shop lady discovers we have defiled her lovely store.

Ahhhh … toilet training, so much fun.

But while toilet training is a totally frustrating, messy, embarrassing, ‘two steps forward two steps back’ kind of affair, it really is a blip in the life of bringing up baby. Which is why I’m always so amused to see how much stuff is for sale claiming to help train your child to give up the nappies and get on the pot in the blink of an eye.

There are Disney princess musical potties, portable potties that look like a handbag, a ‘potty’ watch that sounds an alarm when it’s time for your kid to go to the toilet (plenty of scope to make jokes about scaring the crap out of your toddler right there), and even the terrifying iPotty. Not to mention training courses and incentive schemes which all add up to a whole mini industry just around learning to go to the toilet.


But do we need all this stuff? Of course, with my first child I totally fell for buying the special potty and special toilet seat – and, I’m ashamed to say, even a porta-potty for trips outside the house. Most of it she refused to use, and eventually, a few months after the shop incident, she simply hopped on the big toilet and we never looked back.

When it came to my second child I can’t even really remember how she got the hang of things – but I know it didn’t involve a single trip to the shops to buy any special toilet training products.

These days we are happily nappy free – and while toilet training wasn’t my favourite part of parenting, I do think the best products for that messy period of time are fortitude, humour and patience (and having faith that after some months, most kids will get there in the end).

Oh, and if you’re out in public … carrying a beach towel never hurts!

Kate Browne is an investigative journalist for CHOICE. Her ‘As A Guilty Mum’ segment on toilet training will air tomorrow night on The Checkout, Thursday 27 February, 8pm ABC1.