Paranoid, protective, or just private?

Does this mom seem unreasonably sensitive, either prudish about the human body herself, or paranoid about the perverts out there who are after her baby? Or is she reasonable to expect privacy in public and restraint from strangers?

Dear Miss Manners: I was changing my baby’s diaper in a public restroom the other day. The changing table had no privacy whatsoever, and anyone walking in or out of the restroom had full view of what was going on.

While most people seemed to avert their eyes, there was one woman who, while waiting for her children to wash their hands, kept looking over at my daughter while her diaper was off, and it made me very uncomfortable and upset. I don’t feel that staring at anyone, no matter how old, in that position is right.

What would be an appropriate way to say, “Would you please stop staring at my half-naked daughter, it’s quite rude”?

While I guess it’s sort of odd that this woman was stealing glances at the baby–maybe fondly remembering her own children’s younger days? Or waiting for the changing area to be cleared so she could make use of it for a not-yet-potty-trained child?–the mom seems too eager to read creepy invasiveness, even pedophilic voyeurism, into her actions, which to me seem relatively innocent. Most people, I think, especially moms who have pushed little humans out of their nether regions and then changed thousands of their diapers, don’t see much difference between an infant with a diaper on and one with a diaper off.

The mom may have wanted some space, and if the woman were actually hovering over her, she could use Miss Manners’s response ( Gentle Reader: “Would you like to help?”). Otherwise, I don’t know, this seems overly sensitive to me. People look at babies all the time. Babies run around naked all the time. People look at the babies while they’re running around naked. This mom seems unusually concerned about baby nudity and privacy, and the other woman (also a mom, it seems worth noting) has no way of knowing that.

Carolyn, and most other advice columnists, recommend taking gut feelings of fear or general “not-right-ness” very seriously….perhaps they would think I’m being careless in assuming that if a woman is out with small children in a public restroom, that she must 1) be their mom and 2) be sane, healthy, and have good intentions for her own children and all others.

Of course it’s possible this is not the case, though, I admit, I think it’s unlikely. (A related issue: the “find a mom” rule for kids who get lost. Is a woman with children always safer than a man by himself? Of course not. Some moms are crazy, some bad people probably pose as moms in public. But are the odds higher that a mom will be just a mom, and that she’ll be sympathetic to and protective of a lost child? Probably).

Do you think this mom should have done something more active in response to her “uncomfortable and upset” feeling? Or if she doesn’t want to see anyone in public while changing her daughter, should she seek out single-person/family restrooms where she can have privacy and lock the door?

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One response to “Paranoid, protective, or just private?

  1. thesamsanator

    I’m not a mom, so I suppose I have no way of knowing what this mother was feeling, but COME ON. How can she change her child’s diaper in public and worry about people looking. Yeesh!I wonder if maybe she was more self-conscious than conscious of the other woman looking at her baby. Maybe the underlying issue was that she was worried about being a “bad mom,” changing her child in public or maybe that she was “doing it wrong.” That could have been the source of her discomfort, which was then masked by the default mommy-vision.I really don’t know, but I did find this very interesting. 🙂

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