A Rant: Where are the Changing Tables?

Family / Monday, July 7th, 2014

Before reading, know that this I was laughing as I wrote this…humor is a parent’s best weapon.

Usually if we end up running late at mealtime, we make something quick at home. I do not consider fast food to be healthy, cost effective, or a preferable meal choice, so we limit fast food to one or two visits per month.

BUT, lets talk about the times when an ear infection needs an impromptu doctor visit, an errand takes longer than expected, or a fun outing dictates the need for relatively inexpensive, quick and ‘family friendly’ food, and we aren’t near home.

On these occasions, we may stop for fast food. There is usually ample seating, and the promise of speed. And, since my son has a food allergy, a chain fast food restaurant has a consistent allergen menu that can be checked online or on site.

Lets focus on fast food places that sell the equivalent of a ‘Happy Meal’ (aka. a meal that comes with a TOY).

If you sell a ‘happy meal’, the toys are used to get kids excited to eat there, and you have intentionally marketed that you are a FAMILY FRIENDLY establishment.

A family with small children will need a few simple but necessary accommodations; high chair, a place to sit, and a changing table in the bathroom.

We have visited 5 separate happy meal selling locations this year. Two have been exactly as expected. The other 3? Not so much.

I am grateful that most of the time, high chairs are light weight. I can carry my 1 year old, diaper bag, purse, and the high chair in one trip while my 3 year old holds onto the pocket of my pants as we find our table.

No one ever told me motherhood would make me the equivalent of a pack mule.

I realize that small children who eat with their hands use these high chairs, so I do not expect them to be extraordinarily clean. However, it is pretty terrible that parents do not make any attempt to clean up after their child. Furthermore, I am shocked that any employee carried put it back, smeared with ketchup or mashed food goo, and didn’t think they should clean it before leaving it there for my unassuming hand to stick to.

In 3 places we visited, the high chair can only be described as FILTHY.

But, I digress; truth is I don’t mind cleaning it off with my handy anti-bacterial wipes, and even if it ‘looked’ clean, I’d probably wipe it down anyway. Germs.

2 establishments had absurd seating for a family with small children.

Why on earth does a place that sells a happy meal need ALL their seating to be at high-top tables?

My son could not climb into the chairs, and at one location, the high chair didn’t reach the table top. A serious oversight. I had to hand my daughter all of her food during the meal since she could not reach the table. While the seating was annoying, everyone had a seat, and everyone ate. Not a huge deal.

Here’s the serious offense; we visited 3 separate ‘happy meal’ peddling establishments that did NOT have a diaper changing table in the bathroom (men’s or women’s).

The message is clear; bring your kids, spend your money, but if you have to change a diaper, you’re on your own.

So, change the diaper, or go home. I’m not willing to let her sit in a dirty diaper so I can go home. If we were super close to home, we likely wouldn’t be there! Would you want to sit in that?

Sure, it SEEMS simple to bring your child to the car to change their diaper, but lets think this through.

First of all, we have a CAR, not an SUV. It is POSSIBLE to change my daughter in the car, but certainly not convenient. She is too big for the front seat and the back seat is covered by 2 car seats. The only large enough space where part of her body won’t hang off an edge, or be gauged by a seat belt, is the trunk. Our trunk is not readily available, as it usually contains a double stroller.

Now consider that we live in MN. Not exactly a state known for warm, pleasant weather. We visited two of these places during the marathon sub zero stretch this past winter (we would have been home if not for ear infections!). SO, now I’m standing by the trunk or with the passenger door open changing her diaper.

Exposing her bare bottom, legs, feet (and my hands) to -20F temperatures while cleaning her with WET wipes is not only unkind, and unpleasant, but also not what you call a GOOD idea.

THEN take into account that it is often windy, raining, snowing, or sleeting, and I have my 3 year old out there with me.

So, perhaps it’s best to avoid the elements and change her on the bathroom floor?

Kneeling down on a filthy public restroom floor to change my daughter on an all-too-skinny changing pad, while she wriggles about trying to touch anything in sight, and then put her fingers into her mouth also is not a GOOD idea. It is a stomach illness waiting to happen, and it is just plain gross.

Or perhaps these establishments would prefer I change my child’s poopy diaper on the booth bench, in the middle of the restaurant?

I’m pretty sure that disrupting people’s meals with a stinky diaper is NOT desirable.

Needless to say, we will not be returning to any of these locations, even for the drive thru. It is absurd to think that a place advertised to be family friendly is no longer willing to accommodate basic needs of an infant or young toddler.

Going forward, we’ll check the bathroom before the meal since my now potty training toddler needs some reminders to avoid accidents while we’re out.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are places that do not market to children, and these places do not have changing tables. I’m ok with that. It is the ‘family friendly’ advertising that makes me think the changing table should be present here.

I also know that changing tables come with a potential for stinky bathrooms. No one likes a bathroom where a a dirty diaper has been left in the trash without an odor bag. However, if this has been a problem, a note requesting that diapers not be left in the restroom garbage would be be obliged by most parents, and frequent garbage emptying, or a covered garbage can by the changing table are always doable options.


I suppose the absence of changing tables is just another reason to avoid fast food altogether, which in the end, is healthier for all of us.

I am grateful when changing tables are present at the grocery store, pharmacy, airport, or pretty much everywhere else we go. I appreciate that those business choose to be accommodate needs of families. Places that don’t claim to be family friendly and have changing tables anyway deserve a collective high five. Those establishments that have a changing station in the MENS room, deserve an even greater applause, because from what I understand, this is UNCOMMON.

Let my message be clear: if you CLAIM to be family friendly but aren’t providing a changing table, you AREN’T FAMILY FRIENDLY and you won’t have my continued business.



One Reply to “A Rant: Where are the Changing Tables?”

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