Nearly four years ago if anyone had asked me to review a Parenting Room I would have choked. I honestly could not have given a frogs hippity hop and was completely ignorant of any area servicing the needs of parents and their bundles.
Once I had my son it took me forever to realise what an extraordinarily useful place a Parenting Room is and depending on the set up how it can make or break your trip out with children.
I think back to the parked car breast feeding contortions I pretzeled myself into and wonder why? Thankfully this is still a free service so why not take advantage.
So what makes a good Parenting Room?
1. Space: The only thing more aggravating than trying to wrestle and manoeuvre prams with shopping in a confined space is attempting to do it with five other women (or men).
2. Feeding rooms: I was never confident whipping out the ladies in public especially with a distracted child who was frequently channelling Sir Edmund Hillary. Hence the car feeding gymnastics which was not ideal. Privacy, comfort and calm are a bonus.
3. Facilities/Conveniences: Of course some are a luxury but so is the whole idea of a Parenting Room really. Microwaves are a blessing, as are comfortable chairs, wash areas and plenty of change tables. If you have older children the little play areas will make you weep tears of peaceful joy and even better if there are activity sets on the walls in the feeding rooms.
4. Parent and child combined toilets: Forget everything else. When you are on your own resembling a packhorse this is literally the ultimate relief.
5. Cleanliness: Parenting Rooms are a bit like child care centres, they get cleaned often and thoroughly but combine this with heavy traffic usage things may get a little grubby. And lets face it kids are grot magnets. However that does not mean putting up with foul, stale smells or having to extract your child off a change table with a paint scraper.
A quick disclaimer. All of these pictures were shot quite frantically by me when the rooms were empty. I am also standing up in all toilet shots just in case you're curious. In fact I was so engrossed in my mission that several times I forgot to "utilise the facilities" for myself and for my poor kids!
Cockburn Gateway Shopping Centre
We discovered this Parenting Room soon after the birth of my daughter and it continues to come in handy nearly every time we visit.
There are two parent/child toilets which is extremely convenient as one always seems to be in use. It is generally clean and in working order though the microwave seems to often have an "out of order" sign whenever I visit.
There are three Parenting Rooms in Garden city however I've always used the one in David Jones. There is never anyone there and though small, it's good for a quick nappy change or a bottle feed. There are no cubicles or toilets but it offers a moment of quiet solitude away from the swiping of credit cards and impulse purchasing! A little old school but always clean and functional.
The other Parenting Room I like is in the Kmart Mall and it's quite impressive. Plenty of space and a gorgeous play area with a huge wall mounted tv programmed to ABC for kids (Spicks and Specks was on, sadly I know the order of this channel better than I know my mobile phone number!).
Rockingham seems to be chock-a-block with happy consumers every single day of the week which explains why they have three Parenting Rooms! It also made for some miracle photography taking. The first one I went to next to Chemmart down the Target end, was full to the brim with bustling mums and so busy that I couldn't really get in or fit in.
The second room located in the "Fashion Mall" was smaller but still had plenty of space. It was clean and pong free. The facilities were simple yet functional.
Having come from the first overflowing Parenting Room to this one which was the opposite end of the complex was a treat as I had the entire space to myself. It was clean, comfortable, functional and visually appealing. No smells either.
I must admit the day I went I was so early I was the first one in and the room didn't look like it had been vacuumed. However everything else was clean and functional so I may have actually beaten the cleaners!
This is a brilliant Parenting Room and because of its reputation and central location (under the cinemas) it is usually very busy.
"I don't know how we survived as parents!"
This is my Mums catch phrase she's chanted since my son was born. Usually in reference to all our fancy pants equipment, space aged baby food and the modern day retail paraphernalia we really must have but really don't need at all.
Perhaps they were a very polite generation who didn't expect or demand more than a dodgy old fold out change table from 1958 shoved in a cob webbed corner of the ladies toilets. Or maybe it was the calming tunes of ABBA floating through the airwaves, hypnotically distracting them all from better nappy changing conditions other than on the hot bonnet of a Torana or even better, their laps. Gorgeous accommodating women they were!
But before a cohort of baby boomers start sharpening their parenting pitchforks, I must say my dear Mum has a point and it's one many of us take for granted. We as parents in today's world are spoilt stupid. I mean at the end of the day if we needed to feed, change or tend to our babies needs we would get on and just do it in any environment or situation. Much like those that came before us quite happily did long before the modern day Parenting Room.
However, am I going to knock back a big screen TV entertaining my three year old as he opens his complimentary toy and plays in a safe, contained mini indoor playground a few feet from me and my feeding baby? You're dreaming!
And should I be perturbed when there are no parent/child lavatories in a parenting room I have just walked two kilometres to get to? Probably not but I'm so damned used to them now it's hard to quit the convenience craving. Joking aside that's really all it is, a wonderful convenience and I'm super grateful to the people who not only offer this free service, but to those who offer it well.
I leave you with the lovely Stockland Riverton Parenting Room which totally proves my Mum right in every way! "Who know's...Mum knows...(you remember the song)...How do you think she got this far...Mum knows woo woo!"