Like many others in London on Saturday, we took our kids into central London to enjoy what might be the last sunshine of this year on what turned out to be a lovely warm day. We met a couple of friends who’d been brave enough to babysit for the day for their 6 month old niece. There was an element of support for them, but also there was a sense of rubbernecking, as we couldn’t quite envisage how a childless couple would cope with a baby for a whole day, her having being separated from her mother.
We’d chosen to go meet in the Euston area, and gradually sauntered off to The British Museum for a browse and a coffee. Needless to say, it was very busy. Having negotiated the tiny lift at the front of the building for pushchairs and wheelchairs, we went into the central court, spent some time marvelling at the glass roof and had a coffee before our friends had to start pushing their charge round as she had entered a screaming phase. They decided to leave, and we followed, stopping only to take Toots to the loo.
There are two toilets on the ground floor of the central court at The British Museum. Both have steps down to them. Given how busy it was, I chose not to use the one disabled loo at the top of the stairs, but went downstairs to find the loos crowded and smelly with water all over the floor. I decided this wasn’t an ideal environment to help a three year old child go to the loo so went to hunt the baby changing facilities. There was only one of these, and I was disappointed to find that they had no toilet in them. I resorted to using the disabled toilet, which was also smelly, but had to be okay.
Lots of people have toddlers and many will have to accompany them to the toilet when visiting places. I have often found that there are baby changing facilities available, but they often do not have toilets (John Lewis and Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street are notable exceptions). This means that toddlers either have to go in the adult toilets, which are often dirty, crowded, small and inadequate, or use the disabled toilets which are often limited in number, but do at least have a bit of space and privacy to deal with the needs of your young children.
I’m quite surprised that more isn’t said about the needs of parents with toddlers when out visiting places. Clearly, adults can manage toilets by themselves, and baby changing facilities allow for very young children. Disabled people are manfully catered for, albeit with a palpable sense of reluctance on the part of most shops that they have to give quite so much floorspace away. But toddlers are left a little stranded in the middle. Would it not be better to provide family rooms to allow toddlers and younger kids the ability to meet their needs without feeling somehow compromised?
I complained to The British Museum about the condition of their loos, for which they seemed a little thankful.