IT'S A GIRL: Damien and Melissa Leeson with their seven-week-old baby girl Harpah.
IT'S A GIRL: Damien and Melissa Leeson with their seven-week-old baby girl Harpah. Contributed

Dad called 'disgusting' for feeding daughter in shopping centre parents' room

UPDATE, 11.59am: People are outraged over the public shaming of Mackay dad, Damien Leeson, who was called "disgusting” for taking his seven-week-old baby into a parents' room at Caneland Central on Sunday.

Mr Leeson was feeding his newborn daughter, Harpah, when a woman walked into the room with her son and said "that's disgusting to see a full grown man in a parents' room with a little girl” and that Mr Leeson was a "dirty old (expletive)”.

Members of the public have come out strongly in support of Mr Leeson, saying they can't believe the new dad could be treated in such a way by another parent.

Amy Marks told The Daily Mercury on Thursday he should have been rewarded for his efforts and proud to be such an involved father.

"Good on him for actually giving a hand to his wife and not being afraid to touch a dirty nappy or help out with the feeding; most wives would kill for a husband like that,” she said.

"It's called a parents' room for a reason, it's not a mum's room, people need to wake up to themselves.

"I would have given him a pat on the back for being the only dad in there among so many women.”

Father of two, Jeremy Phillips, said he had also encountered similar behaviour when taking his two sons to a variety of parents' rooms in the past.

"It's awful but unfortunately not uncommon,” Mr Phillips said.

"I often get strange looks as if I've walked into the wrong toilet or something, it's not a nice feeling when you know you have every right to be there too.

"My brother was called a perve once for being in there as a woman tried to breastfeed. It's not everyone saying it but it shouldn't happen at all.”

Joanne Barclay was another shocked parent who offered her support to Mr Leeson, saying the woman's comments were "disgraceful” and didn't represent the majority of females' attitudes.

"Shame on her, just because he's a man doesn't mean he has poor intentions. He's a proud dad who is obviously thrilled about his new baby girl,” Ms Barclay said.

"When I used to see men in there I'd always think what a great job they're doing, and I know most mums would be jumping for joy if their partners offered to give them a break.

"I hope he knows that's not how we (women) all feel and think and that it won't stop him from going in there again.”

INITIAL: THE father of a seven-week-old baby was horrified when he was told by a mother he was "disgusting” for taking his newborn child into the parents' room at Caneland Central shopping centre.

Proud dad Damien Leeson was at the shopping centre with his new family on Sunday, when little Harpah was due for a nappy change and a feed.

"I got into the (parents') room, gave her a change and started feeding her when a mother walked in with her son. She looked at me and said 'that's disgusting to see a full grown man in a parents' room with a little girl' and (the woman said) that I'm 'a dirty old (expletive)',” he said.

"She took her son to the toilet and then, as she walked out, she said to her friend who was waiting outside, 'there's a dirty old man in the parents room', and the friend replied with 'yeah that's (expletive) up'.”

Mr Leeson was left speechless, and couldn't believe another parent would publicly shame him for simply looking after his daughter.

"I'm quite a hands-on dad, dirty nappies, feeding, anything I can do,” he said.

"My wife was there too and we just looked at each other in shock. I was doing the right thing.”

After sharing his experience on Facebook, Mr Leeson's post was soon flooded with hundreds of comments from other parents who had been through similar ordeals.

"I had heaps of other dads comment, saying 'that's normal mate', 'get used to it' and that they get dirty looks and comments all the time.

"Some were just local but others were from all the way in Townsville and Brisbane.

"I just posted for myself to see if any other males I knew had been through the same thing, but to then see so many other dads share similar encounters - it was disturbing really.”

One Mackay mother, Gina Dixon, responded to Mr Leeson's post, saying her partner was aggressively walked in on by a woman while changing his son's nappy late last year.

"She stormed in and asked him what he was doing and if the baby was okay; he wasn't crying or anything, it was totally out of order,” Ms Dixon said. "You can't just assume because he's a man that he's doing the wrong thing, it's not right.”

Another woman, Natalee Stencel, said her partner often felt uncomfortable if he had to enter a parents' room alone and prefers if she goes with him.

"My hubby is very hands-on, when he is home. He believes that's his time to be a dad and rarely gives me the chance to change bub's bum or feed him... but when it comes to the parents' room he always feels uncomfortable and likes me to be with him,” she said.

"I never understood why until I read this (Mr Leeson's post), how can someone think it's inappropriate for a dad to do the right thing and change and feed his daughter?”

After being flooded with support and stories from other parents, Mr Leeson said he wouldn't let the experience stop him from carrying out his fatherly duties.

"I'm still going to keep taking my daughter to the parents room and trying my hardest to be a good dad,” he said. "Males are there to look after their kids too, it's not just the mum's duty.

"I hope other dads will keep their chin up and not worry about those comments and looks, just keep doing what you're doing and stay involved with your kids.”

A Caneland spokesperson said the centre's parents' rooms could be used by men and women who needed to tend to their children.



Tegan Ashly Johns: 2 words applaud and appalled. I applaud the dad that actually wants to help out with the baby most of us could only dream of having that assistance after all the busyness of a new baby. And appalled at the mother that treated him like that its called a parents room not a mother's room. Some people are just not happy unless there is drama in there life first the breastfeeding in public then this what's next seriously grow up people.


Vanessa Brown: It's just phenomenal! My husband always goes in there! With or without me! I LOVE seeing dad's in there, taking 1 for the team. He is just as much a parent responsible for the care as me. It's double standards at its best. I can take my son into the toilet and stand there while he pees and no one cares but as soon as a man walks in there it's "wrong". Crazy! Great job dad! Don't let her stop you!


Kellie Mclean: I cannot believe someone would say that. He has just as much right as us mothers to use this room.. It's a "parents" room not a "mothers" room. There is curtains on the rooms so mothers can breastfeed in private which is what I did and plenty of dads walked into the room while I was feeding but I didn't care, I was behind the curtain so it didn't bother me one bit. My partner always comes in with me and I would be very angry and have a few words to say if something got said to him!


Joanne Jones: Go dad, it's awesome that dads do that, It's a parents room not a mothers room, my partner wouldn't go in there when my kid were little, my kids are 21 and 19 now.


Elizabeth Payne: What an absolute disgrace for a person to shame a proud new daddy, it's completely uncalled for and you lady should be the one who should be ashamed of your actions. Daddy's have every right to use the 'parents' room. My hubby is a very hands on daddy and if anyone shamed him for being a daddy then I would let them have it. Good on you Damien for being an awesome dad.


Gemma Evans: That's disgusting that it happened to not only him but other guys. I've seen 1 man in the parents room and I chatted to him, the poor bloke looked so awkward he was probably waiting for someone to say something nasty. Those women probably have lazy partners who don't help out and just assume every man is like that.

Dannyelle Miller: Does she know not all men are paedophiles and even women can be too. So her point whatever it was was invalid anyway. Who's to say a woman can't be creepy in a parents room, just saying, there's some sick people out there and this isn't one!


Justin Walz: It's one of my biggest fears, but I'm a full supporter of taking care of my son and I proudly enter any parents room. If someone ever had a problem with me doing what I have to do to take care of my son then voice your disgust but don't think for a moment I will just sit there and take your abuse. I too am a hands on dad and my son comes first above anything else. I'm a proud father. Keep your chin up mate.


Tyla Buchanan: My partner has had dirty looks when we've gone into the parents room to change bubs bum and feed him (when he was younger). And it was mainly from mother's with older kids, like 3yrs plus.

Nikki Hay: I can honestly say when my kids were little, there were dads in there quite often. . Great to see dads doing the crappy jobs. Good on him for being a great dad and ignore that person, keep going in there and being a great dad. Who the hell does she think she is! Future dad of the year!!!


Anthony Edwards: Similar thing happened to me. My son, aged two at the time, needed attending to. When I went into the " Parents Room " a woman, who was breastfeeding, rudely said, " Why are you in here " I said " because my son needs changing" she then told me "it's a mothers room only and that men shouldn't be in here, esp while she was leaving, so please leave.” I promptly ignored her, and as I walked out she muttered "Creep". Annoys me that this kind of thing happens. Keep being the awesome dad you are mate.


Hayley Taylor: PARENTS ROOM. PARENTS. if you're a parent caring for a child, then that room is for you.