What’s A Mother To Do? No Changing Tables In Korea

July On The Go: baby and meThe other day with daughter in tow, we met one of my friends at the new cool strip in Yeonnam-dong for a bite.

The little one proceeded to poo in her diaper just as we were digging in to our pizza and it was at that moment that all of my fears of taking her out came to fruition.

It’s funny, she’s a really calm little babe and doesn’t get all that fussy all that often. If she is fussy, it’s because the time for feeding has arrived and the food isn’t quite prepared. It’s fairly easy to take her out without causing much of a scene, but one thing I’ve noticed again and again is that wherever we go, if she were to need a changing, there wouldn’t be anywhere to do it. Bathrooms just aren’t equipped with the necessary changing table and though in the past five years bathrooms around Seoul have generally seen a big upgrade in cleanliness, they are far from clean enough to change a baby if there isn’t a changing table available.

What’s a mother to do?

Looking around, I decided the only possibility was to lay a blanket down on the grass, change her and that would be that. I don’t think I’m all that uptight, but I can’t for the life of me remember ever seeing a Korean mother outside changing her baby’s diaper and so in my head I must have decided it was somewhat of a taboo thing to do so I moved as swiftly as I could to get it done. Is it taboo to change a diaper outside in Korea? I have no idea. Lacking changing tables though,

What’s a mother to do?

I put the question to a fellow mother, who is Korean, the other night while we were out with our babies that share the same birthday to get her take on the situation.

Me: In this galbi restaurant, for example, what would you do if he needed changing?

Her: Hmm… well, I’m not sure.

Me: When you go out, what do you do? Do you just not change him?

Her: If we’re someplace where I can’t change him, I don’t. But that’s why moms go to department stores and other newer places because they all have clean bathrooms with changing tables.

This was some sort of revelation to me. For years, I’ve seen mothers pushing strollers in department stores and malls here in Korea and after hearing so often how the wives are the ones that control the money and how they don’t work so they have time to head out to shop, I just assumed that’s exactly what they were doing. It had never dawned on me that perhaps they were taking their baby to a nice clean place with air-conditioning and ample space with bathrooms that house changing tables. It’s funny how perceptions change when faced with the same situation. Thinking back on it, I hadn’t really noticed if those mothers were actually carrying shopping bags or not.

What’s a mother to do?

This week, I brought the topic up with another mother whose children are now grown July On The Go: baby crawlingand in university and was once again met with a light bulb inducing moment. She mentioned how she remembers seeing other mothers when she was younger and not yet a mum stripping the pants from their babes to pee outside and she told herself she would never ever do such a thing. When it came time though and she had her own children, she realized that she really had two choices though: either let her children pee in a dirty filthy bathroom or let them go outside. Honestly, what is the best choice? I would say outside every time and so I realized the judgments I had once made of seeing mothers in Korea letting their kids pee outside, were made when I had no idea and hadn’t really considered what they were facing. We’ve all been in a Hongdae bathroom and tiptoed across the floor hoping we could somehow use the commode and get out with touching as little as possible, have we not?

What’s a mother to do?

In this day and age, thankfully subway stations seem to be getting the necessary upgrades to assist mothers in their effort to care for their little ones and there’s always that nearby department store or mall. If you see me out “shopping” though, don’t assume that’s what I’m doing. I might just be hanging out nearby the nearest clean bathroom with a changing table.

What’s a mother to do?

What's a Mother To Do? Living and working in Korea and taking care of our wee one. Why aren't there changing tables in restrooms in Korea? No wonder Korean moms allow their children to pee outside. What's better a dirty filthy bathroom or the dirt? What's a mother to do?

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5 Responses

  1. miagataaa says:

    Wow. I feel for ya! I left Seoul 3 months ago and I can’t imagine dealing with that. Now that I’ve starting reading your blog I thought, “Wow… I really can’t imagine raising a baby in S.K. It has to be incredibly frustrating, regularly.”

    Anyhow, your blog and baby are beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing what it’s like!

  2. Eom Hana says:

    My husband and I were just discussing an “in case we have our baby in Korea” scenario, so I decided to read your blog, as I remembered you gave birth to a beautiful little one this past year.

    Anyways, this issue never occurred to me, and thankfully I read your blog. My gosh, I never thought it would be so hard to find a clean enough place to change a baby. It sort of reminds me of times I’ve ridden in cars with friends who asked me for directions, and I responded with “I cannot remember. I usually go another way, since I walk and don’t drive.” Same with this case, I have never paid attention to these details mothers deal with on a daily basis until I began considering becoming a mother myself.

    Thanks for the a) revelations, and b)tips.
    Still loving your blog. Best wishes,

    • Hallie says:

      Thanks so much Hana and good luck if you do have a baby here. Having a baby here and raising a baby here is definitely different than it would be back home but we can adapt and learn and that’s the key. Just to be open to the differences. ^^

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