A Good but Stinky Step for Parenting Equality
Parents don’t have the luxury of choosing where they are when their babies drop the bomb. When nature calls, mothers and fathers alike run to restrooms to change dirty diapers, soothing both their babies and the ears of the public. But fathers across the nation have long been frustrated by the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms. Lawmakers across the country are finally starting to right this wrong.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of fathers who live with children under the age of five change diapers. When a father goes to change his baby’s diaper at the pizza place in town, he’s forced to either struggle on a dirty bathroom floor or balance the baby on his lap. He has a right to be frustrated, because if he was a she, it probably wouldn’t be such a struggle.
Currently there is no federal or state legislation mandating gender-based accessibility to changing tables. But as equality in parenting increases, we may need to make some changes. California State Senators Lois Wolk and Ricardo Lara support legislation to require adequate baby diaper changing stations in public restrooms, regardless of gender. Bills 1350 and 1358 recently passed out of the California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee with bipartisan support.
If they pass the California Assembly, the bills would go into effect on January 1, 2015. Senate Bill 1350, backed by Lara, mandates that public accommodations that undertake substantial renovations (exceeding $10,000) or install new restrooms assure open access to baby changing stations regardless of restroom gender assignment.
Senator Wolk supports the more stringent bill, 1358. Under this legislation, all public accommodations would require “…mandatory building standards for the installation of baby diaper changing accommodations in restroom facilities…” This bill would create a ripple effect by making more baby changing stations available to modern families.
This isn’t the first time a region has tried to create equality for men on diaper-duty. Pittsburgh City Councilor Natalia Rudiak proposed a bill in July 2013 that would require all city-owned buildings and facilities to offer baby changing stations for both men and women. In response to those opposed to the bill, Rudiak said the stations were fairly low-cost and would not require extensive construction.
Likewise, in July 2013, Miami-Dade County, Florida passed the Baby-Diaper Changing Accommodations Ordinance, which requires all businesses to provide baby changing stations in men’s, women’s, and unisex restrooms. Businesses in violation of the ordinance must pay a Civil Penalty of $500. The efforts of these Pittsburgh and Miami-Dade legislators are just some of the first in an effort to make parenting easier for both moms and dads.
Fathers across the nation are pleased by these new efforts. Several daddy bloggers track restrooms with diaper changing stations in restaurants, movie theaters, businesses, and other public buildings. One blogger who calls himself “daddydoinwork,” called on his fellow fathers to publicize the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms in order to create change.
The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2013 and discovered that there are more than 2.6 million single fathers in the United States. The number of fathers who act as primary caregivers is increasing–especially as our modern society becomes more accepting of single parenting and homosexual parenting. Furthermore, the trend of stay-at-home-dads is rising–they comprise a total 3.5 percent of married couples with children in which one parent works full-time.
Our ever-changing society requires complimentary progress in our public facilities. This is no grand task–baby changing tables are easily installed and low-cost. If fathers were given more opportunities to easily change their babies’ diapers, establishments would better fulfill their responsibilities to serve the public’s needs. Businesses should also follow the lead–help out our diaper duty dads, and maybe they’ll leave a nice tip.
Natasha Paulmeno (@natashapaulmeno)
Featured image courtesy of [Tex Batmart via Flickr]