Equality for Parents in Public Restrooms

It wasn’t that long ago that child-rearing and upbringing was handed to women, almost as if a reflex. However, nowadays, with fathers being more involved than ever in their children’s lives, change is in the air. Due to the rise in paid paternal time off work, increasingly flexible schedules that allow parents to navigate work and home life with more ease, as well and the desire of fathers to actually be present in their children’s lives, demands are also changing.

In recent years, the conversation of the designated male public restroom has come up, but not for what one might first think.

Fathers have had to resort to using almost anything from their legs to the trunk of their car simply to change their baby’s diapers. With women traditionally playing the role of caretakers, they have been the persons awarded the lovely responsibility of doing the diaper changing. The women’s restroom was the only place where one could find a changing table – and in many places, it still is.

In recent years, the idea of motherhood, in addition to fatherhood, gender roles and negative stereotypes have all been blown to pieces, for the better, leading the way for parents to voice their demands for change and equal opportunity to care for their children in public spaces.

At the beginning of this year, Pampers and Koala Kare pledged to install 5,000 changing tables in men’s restrooms across the United States and Canada. This was a big step in the right direction.

A few well-known names have even added their voice and thoughts to this important conversation, including John Legend. He was in a Pampers Super Bowl commercial earlier this year and has voiced his own desire and concern for the need of changing tables in public places. Men have even taken to social media by posting themselves and their child in awkward or tricky situations that can be seen only as possible hygienically disastrous and delicate juggling acts of diaper changing.

While the issue can be somewhat humorous at times, it’s all part of a more recent trend in advertising.

“Dadvertising,” as some have termed it, has been on the rise, with large companies from Dove to Gillette challenging traditional roles and ideas of what masculinity is all about. The truth is clear – fathers everywhere absolutely want to spend time with their children, have a strong desire for paternal leave and love all the moments they can spend with their kids, even if they may be the icky moments of diaper changing. These moments are of great importance and create bonds between father and child while distributing care equally across the board in families.

Additionally, for same-sex couples, this is a necessity. Imagine being out in public with your spouse or partner, having your kid in tow and struggling to change their diaper because you simply don’t have a woman with you and cannot really barge into the women’s restroom. And for those persons who rightfully choose to fit into non-binary or gender fluid descriptions in life, this too can become another problem for unfortunately marginalized persons across the globe. Yet another tricky situation.

Along with the Pampers and Koala Kare initiatives, New York City passed a bill in 2017 requiring changing tables in men’s restrooms. The world of advertising is actually doing some good.

Not only is the representation of men and fatherhood changing for the better, but real-life change is starting to see the light of day, this time, in restrooms across North America.

These are baby steps indeed.

What’s Next? Talk with others. Take action.

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Photo courtesy Tim Mossholder via Unsplash