My sister and her family lived in the town of Bath, Maine for awhile, and when I visited her the first time, I became a raving fanatic about the place. Why? There are a billion (or, okay, a hundred anyway) cute downtowns to stroll in Maine, but this one had at least four or five destinations that I could actually enjoy with an infant and a toddler in tow because they had given at least some consideration to children and/or moms. There are three simple things you can do to make your small business more welcoming to moms; even one would make a big difference!
1. A toy area
This is my top pick. I will choose a business with a play area first every time. I am so much more likely to buy something if I actually have time to browse while my kids are having a good time. Bonus points if the toy area is gated and you can see it from everywhere in the store. In or near Bath at the time, there was a natural foods store, cafe, bookstore, kid’s resale boutique, and a tool/building institute that all had toy areas. It was a dream come true! After all, parents are just regular people. Short of a bar, I am having a hard time imagining a business that wouldn’t gain more customers by having a toy area!
2. A public bathroom
It’s hard to decide which is worse:
A. Being pregnant and unable to find a bathroom,
B. Having an infant with a dirty diaper and no place to change it, or
C. Having a potty training child who needs to use the bathroom NOW, like, RIGHT NOW, and being unable to find one.
Any of the above has the potential to cut a whole day’s worth of shopping short by forcing a family to come home early by not having a public bathroom. Yet, this is the thing I find to be most likely lacking in a small shop. I’m sure it is not always the business owner’s fault, yet sometimes I get the distinct impression that it is. I have gotten extremely annoyed responses upon requesting a bathroom. Does that seem just ridiculous to anyone else? Bonus points for having a surface to change an infant on. I feel like even when I was a kid, diaper decks weren’t common. Did people never go out? It’s a mystery to me.
3. A nursing area
Now that I’m not nursing anymore a designated nursing area hardly seems essential, but when I had a nursing baby, I also had a mental map of all the nursing friendly establishments in an area. Toys ‘R Us had a nursing room; Motherhood welcomed nursing in its’ change rooms, and any change room would do on a slow day. Better, though, was a small local business that had a comfortable rocker set up in a quiet corner. Nursing is an easy thing to accommodate! Bonus points for having free samples of nursing pads, lanolin, etc; but really, a quiet corner is all you need (or, if you cater specifically to moms of babies, a couple of nursing chairs or nooks).
That’s my short and sweet list of ways a business can welcome moms/parents of small children. What would you add?