The evolution of the bathroom


As society evolves, one thing that has surely changed is the family bathroom.

We went from no house having an indoor toilet to every house having a family bathroom. Now, in an odd sort of way, the biggest, newest house once again has no family bathroom.

First, there came the master bath, or an en suite, so that the parents could have their own privacy. The kids shared a bath, in those dream homes.

If the kids were ultra lucky, theirs might not be the bathroom that guests also used when dropping in for a visit.

Now, in the most up-to-the-minute take on perfect family living, it is preferable for each child to have their own bathroom, as well as a separate half-bath for those visiting.

My parents, like every one of their generation, both lived through their early years making trips to the outhouse. Mom had a nice, indoor bathroom by the time she married my dad. It came as a surprise that the first farm they moved to (and later bought) did not have indoor plumbing.

It was true love, clearly, because Mom didn’t throw in the towel and run for the hills!

My growing-up years in that house involved sharing of the one family bathroom in order for four girls to get to school on time, after having helped milk cows very early beforehand.

My oldest sister devised a minute-by-minute schedule that we needed to follow. There was no dilly-dallying by a single one of us, or it threw the whole morning off-kilter. I wouldn’t be surprised if that door didn’t have a deep groove from lots of knocking, along with hollers of, “My turn!”

We established a hair and makeup station in the hallway outside of the bathroom, with a big mirror and a small dresser to hold the essentials. That narrow spot became crowded when four girls were hurrying to finish getting ready to head out the door. Our dresses were always ironed, and we took pride in looking our best.

It remains cringe-worthy, all these years later, to contemplate the possibility that some days one of us likely carried that undeniable dairy barn scent along to school because there simply was not always enough allotted time in that family bathroom for a good, hot shower.

Definition of the earliest family toilet is this: “An outhouse, also known by many other names, is a small structure, separate from a main building, which covers a toilet. This is typically either a pit latrine or a bucket toilet, but other forms of dry toilets may be encountered.”

With that in mind, it goes without saying that folks of my parents’ generation saw no reason to complain if there was only one indoor toilet.

The trend toward every child having their own bathroom still shocks my mother, bringing this response, “Mercy! I wouldn’t want to have to clean them all!”


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.



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