I have to get something off my chest.
Yesterday, my wife, the boys, and I were eating lunch at a restaurant. My wife was tending to my oldest, and I was holding our 3-month-old. Without warning, he unloaded! It’s funny how 3-month-olds leave no doubt as to whether they pooped. You hear it. If they’re resting on you, you feel it.
I quickly lifted him off my leg to, hopefully, stave off a blowout situation. I inspected the front. So far, so good. I inspected the back. I think we’re gonna be . . . wait, I feel a little wetness. Oh, good heavens! Nope. We got a blowout.
Clear the way, people, blowout situation, here!
I grabbed the diaper bag and made my way to the bathroom to change him. When I reached the bathroom alcove, I noticed four doors—two for men, two for women. Of course, identifying as a man, who was holding a baby we identify as male, I grabbed the door to one of the men’s rooms.
Before I could walk in, a busser said, “Use that one,” and pointed to one of the women’s doors. In this instance, it seemed OK to enter. After all, it was a single-use bathroom, and I received the blessing of an employee. Still, I couldn’t help but recall other instances when I didn’t have that luxury.
When I walked into the men’s room with one of my kids to find no changing station.
In those situations, I’m left with a choice. First, if I happen to be with my wife or mom, I could walk back, share the situation, and ask them to make the change in the ladies’ room. Second, I could find a dry spot on the bathroom counter. Third, I could make the change out in the open, either on my lap, in a booth, or on the floor. Fourth, I could walk into the women’s room and get the baby cleaned up.
In case you’re wondering, option four is out. I’m a gentleman—a particularly large gentleman at 6’5’’ to 6’6’’—and don’t want to invite the headache that would likely follow if I were to go into a multi-use ladies’ room without permission.
I’m also not likely to go with option two. Have you been in a men’s room? They’re always wet—all over the place. Why? I’d rather not think too much about it. Let’s just call it a mystery of the universe.
So, I’m left with option one or option three. Let’s just get this out of the way right here: neither option is acceptable in today’s world.
As a dad, my wife shouldn’t be forced to change a diaper because a men’s room is not outfitted with the proper equipment.
Nor should I have to expose my kid to the masses, or my clothes and others to the mess that needs changing.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t done both. I have. I’ve come back to my wife saying, “You’re up, no changing table.” Do I luck out a little when this happens? I guess. But it’s still annoying. Which is why, sometimes, I just make the change wherever I can. Don’t worry, I use changing pads, and wipe down surfaces after everything is done. You know, ‘cause I’m not an animal. But I shouldn’t have to.
I should have a changing table in the men’s room, so I, me, his dad, can change my son in a reasonable location.
Call me crazy, but something tells me that the health inspector wouldn’t enjoy seeing a parent change a number two in the booth of a restaurant . . . where people eat. You know what, though? Not my problem. If the bathroom were acceptable, I would be more than happy to change it there.
After I get over the frustration of changing my child in a way that’s more difficult than it needed to be, I get even more annoyed. I start thinking about what this state of affairs means on a societal level. It means that socially, there are still too many implicit indicators that say caring for a child is women’s work. When men don’t have the option to care for their children while outside their homes, while women do, it says, “This isn’t a man’s responsibility. It’s a woman’s job. So, let your wife do it.”
This is insulting to both mom and dad. Outside of traditional breastfeeding, it’s goofy that certain responsibilities are considered man’s work vs. woman’s work when it comes to caring for shared children. To say that a mom is the only one capable of changing a child’s diaper is patronizing to mom at best, and insulting at worst.
It says that when it comes to the dirty jobs, leave it to mom. Bogus.
If I were a mom, and my husband came back from a men’s room with no changing table, and I had to go change our child, I’d be ticked. I’d be thinking, “Why do I have to be the one to interrupt my meal, or conversation, or break to change a diaper that my husband is more than capable of changing?”
But don’t worry, I’m ticked too. Because what it says about men is equally appalling. It says men aren’t expected to do such things, which, before long, means they’re not really capable of it.
You know you’ve seen the dad who didn’t really change diapers. Maybe it’s your friend. Maybe it was your dad. Maybe it’s you. You know that person becomes the butt of the joke, right? If they have to change a diaper, they’re in over their heads. If they have to watch the kids, they’re treated like glorified babysitters. When men don’t have access to the equipment, space, or materials to care for their kids in public, it’s a societal message, implicitly spoken, that conveys the belief that men aren’t able to care for their kids.
Well, I’m sick of it. As a dad who is often out and about with my kids sans mom, I need access to the same stuff she has.
It’s time we acknowledge that dads can and should share in the childcaring load.
Refusing to do so is inconvenient, insulting, and unacceptable.
Let’s get a changing table in every men’s room. It won’t change everything, but it’s a start. After all, moms deserve a partner, kids deserve a parent, and dads deserve higher expectations.
Oh, and would it be so hard to fill the changing mats?
Let’s do better!
This post originally appeared on Philosophy of Dad