With my three kids, I’ve gotten pretty resourceful when it comes to finding places to change them. For instance, the church I attend didn’t used to have a changing table in the men’s room. Well, I take that back. There was a small bench about the size of a French fry. Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating, but seriously, it couldn’t have been more than a foot wide. At least a quarter of my child’s body hung off the side, but it was enough to keep my daughter off the floor. Sometimes as a father on the go, this is the best you can get.
However, one day that bench was gone. I don’t know why, but I was forced to place my young daughter on a smelly men’s bathroom floor (probably the nastiest of all floors) to change her.
Sadly, this was far from the first time I’d had to do something like that.
When my children were in diapers, I really hated when I couldn’t change my child. This isn’t to say that I enjoy changing a squirmy poopy toddler. I don’t. No one does. But I dislike placing the full burden of changing every single diaper on my wife even more. This whole parenting gig is a partnership, after all.
But time and time again, I was faced with the decision to change my child on a sticky restroom floor, or ask my wife to handle the situation because her restroom had a changing table. When I was out alone with my kids, forget about it. I’ve changed them on the floor, on the lawn in front of a grocery store, on a sliver of counter next to the sink, on the front seat of my car while everyone stairs at me as if I’m doing something obscene, and… well… you get the idea. I have serious empathy for single dads with young children who are doing this without backup.
This isn’t to say that every single women’s bathroom in America has a changing table, because that wouldn’t be true. But in my experience, more often than not, the women’s restroom has one, and the men’s doesn’t.
Side note: if you are a father reading this, and you refuse to change your child and don’t see this as a problem, cut the crap. You are making us all look bad.
If you are a business or organization and your facilities have a changing table in both restrooms, you rock.
A year ago, after my church took out that little bench I had been using to change my daughter, I brought it up with some of the leaders at my church. At first, I didn’t get very far. I emailed some people and got no response. I got some eye rolls from some people who obviously didn’t see my desire to change my own child as a worthy cause. For a while there, I was that irritating dad rocking the boat, so to speak.
During this time, I took comfort in knowing there are other fathers leading the charge. Ashton Kutcher has been crusading for changing tables in men’s room for a number of years. And the very awesome blogger Doyin Richards has also been pushing for change. Even our former president Barack Obama supported the cause, passing the Babies Act, which requires that both men’s and women’s restrooms in publicly accessible federal buildings contain baby changing tables.
But even with all these notable people pushing for change, I still walk into the majority of restrooms to find no changing table. It’s been years of people asking for change without much actual change, and I cannot tell you how frustrating that is as an active father.
I want to be involved in all aspects of my child’s life, even the business end, and yet, in situations like this, I feel like my hands are tied.
Ironically, about two weeks after my daughter became potty trained, I came into my church, and — boom! — there was a changing table in the men’s room.
It was a small change, one that I wasn’t personally able to benefit from. It was one men’s room out of a million. But for me, as an active father with a desire to care for my child, it was a serious victory for other dads.
That very Sunday I went to use the men’s room, and there, at the table, was a dad changing his daughter. He looked over at me as I walked in with my youngest daughter and said, “I’m so happy we have one of these now.”
He didn’t smile because he was elbow deep in a dirty diaper, but I could tell that he wasn’t being sarcastic. He was genuinely happy to have this resource.
Look, fathers want to be engaged on all levels of this parenting gig, and the last thing we need are additional roadblocks to doing that, and adding changing tables to men’s rooms is one way to encourage that change so all us dads are able to be full partners. So business and organizations, take note. If you don’t have changing tables in the men’s rooms, get them. And if you are a father, and your workplace, church, school, or somewhere you frequent doesn’t have a changing table, ask for one. If they roll their eyes, ask again.
Because our children deserve to be changed hygienically, and dads deserve to be treated like the full-fledged active parent we are.