Having baby-changing stations in men’s bathrooms is important, not only for single fathers, but for fathers in general. For any parent, changing a diaper in a public bathroom can be challenging and stressful. When caring for a baby, there isn’t just the issue of carrying a baby around but diapers, wipes, extra clothes and other essentials are also a hassle. It can be tough having to worry about all of those things, and trying to find a space for the process of changing a baby. Public bathrooms are confined, which means there is relatively no space for changing a baby in a men’s restroom.
In traditional, nuclear families, women are the ones who change a baby’s diaper when needed, which is why there are changing tables in the women’s public bathrooms and not in the men’s. Men need changing stations because not all fit the traditional “nuclear” family model, which include a mother, father, and children. Many are single fathers, or are in a same-sex partnership where they are raising children. As society progresses and gender roles shift, it is becoming more of a disadvantage to have changing tables in only one set of bathrooms.
According to a Huffington Post interview with Frank and Norm Emanuele, finding changing tables in public bathrooms for their sons was a challenge. The two are in a same-sex relationship with two sons. They do not fit the traditional “nuclear” family model. In the interview, Emanuele said that if there’s no changing table, you should ask to speak to a manager or see if the women’s bathroom is empty. He continues to note that if all else fails, to find a quiet corner and change your baby there. “It only takes a few minutes. Half the time, no one will even notice. And if somebody does and they have a problem with it, we need to stay calm and be non-confrontational and ask, ‘What would you suggest I do?’”
In another article by the Huffington Post, New York City council member, Rafael Espinal, saw a father changing his baby’s diaper over a bathroom sink in a mall. This further pushes the need for changing tables in men’s public bathrooms, because sinks can harbor many germs and changing a baby over a sink like this makes them susceptible to sickness. According to Ashton Kutcher who is mentioned in the article, “Families are diverse, and it’s an injustice to assume that it’s only a woman’s job to handle changing diapers. This assumption is gender stereotyping, and companies should be supporting all parents that shop at their stores equally–no matter their gender.” Last year, when Barack Obama was serving as President, he signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, which required federally owned buildings to have changing stations in both women’s and men’s public bathrooms.
I think for most people, the thought of having changing tables in men’s public bathrooms is a bizarre idea or uncomfortable to them because it involves change. As stated before, men aren’t seen as traditionally in charge of babies like women are. However, due to these shifting gender roles, more men are changing their babies, which is why baby-changing stations are needed. This may seem like a minor change to some, but it’s a huge change for parents. With changing tables in men’s public bathrooms, father’s can change their babies in a less challenging manner. As stated before by Ashton Kutcher, changing tables being only in the women’s public bathrooms is a form of gender stereotyping. If men are doing more, there should be changing tables in their public bathrooms as well.