Caring for a baby is hard enough, but for many families finding a safe place to change a dirty diaper is as challenging as finding a vegan option in a steakhouse. Modern families come in all shapes and sizes, but despite the huge range of family norms, baby changing stations are still offered almost solely in women’s restrooms.
The disparity in changing table accessibility was highlighted by President Obama in 2016 when he signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act (BABIES Act). The act requires that all public federal buildings, like courthouses and post offices, have diaper-changing tables in every restroom, and if a table cannot be accommodated, a sign leading to the nearest table needs to be in place.
However, the BABIES Act does not apply to privately owned and funded locations. Donte Palmer, a highschool teacher, went viral in 2018 after posting a photo of himself assuming his “perfect man squat” to change his son on his lap in a men’s restroom. The squat consists of Palmer laying his son across his thighs which act as the table and balancing against the wall of the public restroom. Palmer explained that it felt like fathers were getting the literal bum-end of the parenting deal: “In society, we have this thing where men are supposed to be macho providers and protectors, while women are the nurturing and caring ones. I’m trying to shred that,” he said.
Dusty Christensen, staff writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, lamented his own struggles with finding an established place to change his daughter, Sasha. A frequent scenario, however, is discovering that there is only a changing table in the women’s restroom and needing to ask his wife to care for Sasha. Christensen’s wife, Ariane, explained how such situations make her feel. “Great, just another thing I have to take care of because I’m a woman, and I’m a mother and, therefore every burden falls on me to take care of the baby,” she said.