Changing Tables In Women’s Restrooms: How Are Dads Supposed To Parent?

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I once babysat for a heterosexual couple who had very egalitarian approach to parenting. After their first baby was born, both parents cut back to working part-time so that they could each spend three days a week at home. They traded every seventh day of the week or sometimes hired a professional to take the baby. The father, I observed, was very dedicated to bathing, feeding, and spending as much time as he could with the child. However, the mother lamented to me that whenever they went out to restaurants, she would always be saddled with diaper changing and not because the father had a delicate stomach. As I’m sure many of you mommies have realized, men’s restrooms often times don’t have changing tables. This enforces the notion that women are the only ones who would ever be changing a diaper, in any circumstance, and ignores the dedicated men that are assuming the other half of parenting responsibilities.

Sixty-nine percent of men now say that they change just as many diapers as their female partner, according to a Pampers survey. Yet, while federal law requires changing tables in bathrooms, there only seem to be a small growing number of them in men’s restrooms — and that’s just in New York City.

Obviously this demonstrates a severe gap in our changing times. Even though more men are taking an equal parenting role in the home, this antiquated version of gender roles is being enforced in public spaces.

For more traditional families in which the woman is the primary caretaker, this still presents a problem. Having changing tables only in women’s restrooms implies that there will never be a moment in which the dad will be faced with changing a diaper. Does he never take the baby out alone? What if the mother is preoccupied with something else? What if another child is in crisis? Anyone who has been a parent can attest to the unplanned which would be better accommodated with changing tables in both bathrooms.

Single-sexed changing tables also indicate a pretty strong disregard to queer families, as what are double daddies supposed to do?

Some fathers that I know have admitted to just waltzing into the women’s restroom with their infant, as the ladies coming in and out of stalls only smile at the image of a committed father. But given how much the definition of family is changing in the US, these fathers shouldn’t have to use a women’s facility to be considered active parents.