Thursday, 22 August 2013

WHERE I GO FOR A CHANGE OF SCENERY



Parenthood is a lot easier to get into than out of. – Bruce Lansky, poet to the kids.

Heading downtown with a newborn is like being a city-stalking vagabond trawling through the streets carrying a Fabergé egg. You smell, you walk with empty eyes and a vacant face, desperately hoping society can throw you a bone, and all the while you’re in charge of the most meaningful and fragile item you’ve probably ever held.

Knocking on a father’s memory when he’s in this situation can be recollections from a bygone era when solace from the fatigue of the daily grind could be found in the nearest hotel. Ye olde glimmer of pale ale would shine into the eyes of a desperate man whose only yearning would be in the form of a sympathetic barmaid, a bowl of nuts and a pint of draught.

Of course, the weary father can still escape into a pub for relief, but it’s barely socially acceptable. So, for a dad carrying a miserable excrement-covered son on his front, and a conscience on his shoulders, where can he turn? Cafés baulk at the thought of you walking in with a complaining stink bomb strapped to your chest. And really, when all you’re looking for is a flat surface to change a nappy, it’s a little humiliating to have to do it under the noses of judgemental latté drinkers.

But...worry not prospective dads...I’ve found the answer – the parents/infants room.

As a DINK (Double Income No Kids) I had reason to notice they existed. Now I see them everywhere. When I follow the sign of a little, white faceless baby sporting a nappy on a blue background I can save myself from a sticky, smelly, desperate situation.

Two Sundays ago, for example, wearing Freddy on my front in one of those baby björns that’s not a baby björn, we were traipsing the streets of Melbourne when shit hit the fan. (Actually it just seeped out the side of his too-big nappy and onto my jacket, but that’s just semantics).

I panicked. Blood was racing to my neck, and my arm pits had become a lake. But I held it together and made a rational decision to visit the nearest public toilet (that wasn’t in a pub). The nearest building was the National Gallery of Victoria, so I rushed in.

Tracking towards the men's rooms I noticed the baby sign. I looked at the watery eyes of my son, and figured that's where I belonged. I was holding a dirty infant, but he didn't deserve to be changed on the lid of a toilet. (Why are there no change tables in men's public toilets? - a topic for another day perhaps.)

The great: National Gallery of Victoria
Anyway, what I found was a sanctuary. Although I was the only male inside, I instantly felt comfortable. In this well-designed space, there was a microwave, couches, a children’s playpen, change tables with furrows in the woodwork where the babies are placed. It was warm. Everyone was in the same desperate boat. Mothers could breastfeed comfortably, and I could change my screaming son without judgement (sympathetic or annoyance).

The good: Myer, Melbourne CBD
So impressed was I that for the past six weeks Freddy and I have been on one big Tour de Parents Rooms. They’re like our home away from home. Large department stores and public venues have obviously invested a huge amount into making families comfortable, and I applaud this.

Though I’ve not been there, word from the Parents Room community is that the Melbourne Central parents room (Level 2) is “phenomenal” and more of a parents retreat than anything else. And that’s what I like to hear.

For if I’m frazzled, looking lost and desperate on the streets of Melbourne I need a safe place where my sanity can be restored and where I can relieve my son of his odorous discomfort.

The average: Myer, Southland.