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It’s a common occurrence. It goes a little something like this:
My family and I are out at a restaurant. My wife finishes feeding our 6-month-old and hands her off to me so I can change her. I stroll into the men’s room only to turn around and walk right back out.
“There’s uh…no changing table in the men’s room.”
I hand the baby back to my wife, who, again, has to take a break from her hot food to go change her, while I, like a dolt, sit there and stuff my face—my 2-year-old looking at me and absorbing everything.
This is annoying for multiple reasons, but I keep coming back to the blatant, unabashed sexism. The kind you think died in the 60s. At some point, during the construction of the restaurant, someone, somewhere, actively thought, “Welp! No need for a changing table in the men’s room. That’s the ladies’ job! Women don’t like to eat, right?!”
There is no other explanation. And it happens all. The. Time.
I’m not sure if this is some sort of radical thought, but I also enjoy taking care of my kids. Do I enjoy changing diapers filled with crap? No, not on its surface. But I do enjoy being an active part of, ya know, raising children. And changing diapers is absolutely part of the deal. I do not like sitting on the sidelines and watching my wife sweat it out while her food gets cold because of an archaic assumption of some old, crusty contractor.
Each time it happens, I get more annoyed, and I make slightly more of a scene. I’ll walk out holding my baby, find the manager, and inform him. And each time, the volume of my voice rises. “HI. THERE IS NO CHANGING TABLE IN THE MEN’S ROOM.” In its current state, I make a point to ensure the manager is at least 10 feet away, so it’s more of a yell-across-the-room situation for all to hear.
I’ve also started emailing the management. Most of the time, I don’t hear back. But every now and then, I’ll get somewhere. Duffy’s, a restaurant chain in Florida, immediately got back to me and said they would help.
I have since followed up but haven’t heard back.
It got me thinking. With all of the free time I have—and boy do I have none—perhaps I can start some sort of nationwide campaign to get this done. Are there more pressing matters at hand? Of course. Is this some sort of weird, black-and-white thing that my dad-brain thinks he can fix in some transparent attempt to make up for my lack of ability to zoom out and view problems holistically? One hundred percent. Will it still help? Sure!
A quick Google revealed that I was waaaay late to the party. Campaigns to get changing tables in the men’s room have been going on for years. Back in 2016, President Obama signed the BABIES Act (little on the nose but alright) into law, which requires a changing table in all public restrooms of federal buildings. (Thanks, Obama.)
Then, in 2018, better-than-me father Donte Palmer posted a picture of himself on Instagram squatting on a dirty public restroom floor and changing his baby on his knees.
His post quickly went viral, as did his hashtag #squatforchange. I immediately thought of two things.
1) Dang, I’m a bad husband for not finding a workaround like this guy did.
2) I’m actually not even sure my legs are strong enough to do this.
The campaign caught on, with tons of guys
bragging about their leg strength posting similar photos.
Alright, so if multiple celebrities and the President of the United Freakin’ States can’t make this happen, then what more do we need to do? Another hashtag? More people yelling at managers from across the room? Emailing every restaurant where you find the absence of a changing table in the men’s room?
While all of those options might help a little, they are still black-and-white solutions to a problem that needs a more holistic approach. The fact is, fathers are still painted as secondary caretakers, and perhaps for good reason. If we want old, crusty contractors to start installing changing tables in men’s rooms, we need to prove that there is an actual need for them vs. a hollow call for parental equality. Just because Ashton Kutcher, the guy from Just Married, changes his kids’ diapers doesn’t mean dads everywhere do the same.
So if you’re a dad reading this, and you’re annoyed there is no place to change your baby, don’t get annoyed and start yelling at unsuspecting managers like me; just refocus that frustration on what you can be doing more. Change the perception of how our society views you. Make sure you are actively getting in there and proving to the world that you equally share in the burden of raising your kids.
And if you’re a mom reading this, keep handing that baby over to dad at restaurants. His legs need the workout anyway.