real life

This is how to make women feel safe in the Parenting Room.

There need to be some places men can’t go when it comes to public parenting spaces. Sorry, but there does.

Last week a Peeping Tom was caught in the parents’ room at Westfield Chatswood in Sydney, lifting up curtains to spy on breastfeeding mothers. One mum who spotted the man screamed and alerted security. Apparently, they did nothing. Despite admitting to having images of the man, the police were not contacted.

These posts appeared on the Westfield Chatswood Facebook page shortly after:

One of these women, who made the original complaint on Facebook, later started a petition at Change.org, urging Westfield to make these spaces safer for mothers and children. So far she has received over 200 signatures.

Westfield Chatswood responded with the following statement:

Our policy is to always notify police of incidents, which took place. However, the guard did make an error in communicating our process to the customer, which was immediately corrected by his supervisor, and we are continuing to work with the police. Our management team is working on ensuring our policy is correctly followed and communicated to customers in the future.

Parent rooms are godsend. But are they safe?

More needs to be done to prevent this happening in the first place. Parent rooms are meant to be quiet, safe and useful places for families to tend to their children. All are monitored. Why was this guy not picked up immediately?

I have mixed feelings about shopping centre parent rooms. I lived in Bondi in Sydney when I had my first baby and when I came across these spaces, I thought they were very trendy and progressive. This was 10 years ago. Now they are everywhere. Shopping centres have been forced to transform them from rooms for mums to parents' rooms to cater for a growing number of dads who are caring for their babies.

I liked the fact my husband could come in with us and help me with the baby, but even he was a bit uncomfortable when other dads were in the room and I was preparing to breastfeed. He'd go to great lengths to make sure the curtain to my breastfeeding cubicle was closed and he'd stand guard. This became more difficult when we had our second child. I tended to breastfeed on the lounge in the parents' room so I could watch as my then four-year-old. There was no way he was going to be confined to a breastfeeding cubicle for 40 minutes.

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Should breastfeeding mums have their own man-free space?

As long as it was another dad in the parents' room I tried to just relax and continue breastfeeding. They were in there for a reason - to change a nappy or heat a bottle - so we usually smiled at each other and went about our business. However every now and then a random, childless person would walk in, look around and quickly walk out again. I'm not sure how they missed the giant PARENTS' ROOM sign out the front but it happened frequently.

What I would like to see is for parents' rooms to remain as is for both mums and dads, with one change. The breastfeeding area should be completely secure. Only mums should be able to access these areas. It's not sexist. It makes sense. There's no reason for men to use the breastfeeding area. Dads only need to access the toddler toilet, nappy changing station and play area.

If this change were made, then it would be much easier for security to spot any Peeping Toms because no men are meant to be in there. Riverlink Shopping Centre in Ipswich, Queensland, has now segregated the rest of the breastfeeding area in the parents' room so it is for mums only and I have to say that I think this is a really good solution.

I think it's really sad that we have to take these measures to provide a safe place for mother's to tend to their babies and I really hate the fact my husband is made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in parent rooms, but even he thinks this is a good idea.

Do you think segregating breastfeeding areas in parent rooms is the solution? Or do you think parents' rooms should be for mothers only?

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