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Are shopping malls dad-friendly? - By SHAMALA VELU

Many fathers today take parenting very seriously and are totally hands-on, even when it comes to diaper-changing duties.

These fathers want to be involved with their children and view parenting as a shared responsibility. But, are public places usually father-friendly? The lack of baby amenities available to dads poses some interesting challenges for them.

Two fathers share their opinion on diaper changing rooms which are found inside the ladies' toilet.

Ameer Suresan Abdullah

Ameer Suresan Abdullah, engineer and father to Alysha Yasmin, 14, Armand 12,
 Arieff, eight, and Amelia Yasmin, three:

"I've always helped out with diaper changing duties when my children were babies and I have had no qualms doing it. However, I do find it a problem sometimes when I go to certain malls. Access to common nappy rooms are sometimes hard to find.

Sometimes, I need to get my wife to change our child's diapers when the changing rooms are attached to the ladies' toilet. Otherwise, I have to find other places to do it. I have even done nappy changing in the car when my wife was not around.

Malls with separate nappy changing rooms will definitely make it more convenient for fathers.

However, this is not a deciding factor for me when choosing malls to visit. It is more for the sake of convenience.

I think the nappy changing room should be a common room. That will suffice. It is not fair to get shopping mall managements to provide specific rooms just for dads as these might be under-utilised.

Having said that, I feel special rooms for nursing mothers (restricted only to females), need to be made available. It should not be shared with the diaper changing rooms to ensure the privacy for nursing mothers.

In my opinion, malls must create a more father-friendly environment with access to baby amenities as many fathers today are more hands-on and share a lot of responsibilities with their wives.

A play area where father's can hang out and keep an eye on their children, while mothers shop would also be good. Fathers would appreciate play areas in shopping complexes especially where children can have fun since many children (and fathers) do not enjoy shopping.

Quite a few fathers I know are very much into sharing the responsibilities when taking care of their children and this is evident when you visit malls or parks. It is not uncommon to see fathers mixing milk formula, changing nappies and feeding their children nowadays. This is a good and healthy approach for father-child bonding."

Yogeswaran Govindarajah

Service delivery manager Yogeswaran Govindarajah, who has one daughter, Satyajothey, aged four:

"Fathers usually find it inconvenient to take their children out to public places because there are no proper facilities which are gender neutral to encourage fathers who tend to the needs of their children. From my experience at the places I frequent, the nappy changing area is attached to the ladies' toilet.

I normally head out to hypermarkets for grocery shopping and weekend hangout at malls. My position at the workplace allows me to work from home, hence, there are times when I need to rush out during regular office hours with my daughter in tow for the sudden need of supplies. This can be challenging during unexpected toilet emergencies. I normally get stares if I have to bring my daughter into the men's toilet and there have been times I have had to request a female stranger to accompany my daughter to the ladies' toilet.

This has not only created inconvenience for me; it has also attracted a lot of unwanted stares.

I have been working from home since my daughter turned a year old, so having a father-friendly baby changing room in public places is certainly welcome. The malls need to have one baby room for each men's and ladies' toilet. If the malls can afford to build toilets for adults at every nook and corner of the building, they should be able to include a baby room, too.

Given my bad experience in the past, I now pick and choose which malls and hypermarkets I visit. In addition, I'm willing to venture farther out as long as I know the place is father-friendly.

Many fathers nowadays share the responsibility of taking care of their children. We have heard of dads who work from home to help with their children's upbringing. It's becoming the norm these days. The mindset is rapidly changing and there's a more balanced view when it comes to family responsibilities.

However, having said that, Malaysians in general are not open to this concept no matter how modern and open-minded we think we are. Fatherhood has always been associated with making a living for the family and there is still some scepticism when it comes to stay-at-home dads. We juggle both our careers and our children - yet there is always a question of whether we are good enough in comparison with mothers. We may not live up to the expectations, but given a chance, we can prove ourselves and pull through in our own way."

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