Since pretty much the dawn of time, there has been a societal expectation that moms have to be children's primary caregivers, and that dads can just pitch in when they get home from work. *Cue major eye roll.* And to this day, women are still seen as the ones primarily responsible for taking care of babies, further perpetuating so many archaic, patriarchal, sexist, and heteronormative stereotypes. Not to mention, there are constant reminders of the inherent sexism in society's expectations of parents; for example, how changing tables are often only in women's restrooms but not in men's restrooms. One new dad recently noticed this imbalance, so he wrote a Twitter thread about changing tables in men's restrooms.
Clint Smith, a writer, teacher, and Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, has been hyperaware of this problem since becoming a father. "Something that’s really bothered me since we had a kid is how few men’s restrooms have changing tables for babies," he tweeted. "It 1) further perpetuates the notion that the burden of childcare should singularly be on the woman 2) assumes that men are never out by themselves with their kids." Within one day, the first tweet of the thread racked up more than 11,000 likes.
He then further explained how not only is this an inconvenience, but it emphasizes the expectation that women should be primary caregivers.
It assumes that men will not need to change a child's diapers, but women will. (And our president evidently agrees.)
He adds that society is, "set up to make it so that the burden of parenting falls primarily on moms and is set up to let dads off the hook."
A fellow dad of Twitter responded to Smith, explaining how backhanded it is when people compliment a dad for performing basic parenting duties.
"People will act like you're Super-Dad for doing mundane stuff with a kid," he tweeted.
Smith agreed, noting that he has experienced similar comments.
"Men get praised [for] doing basic parenting things in ways women rarely do," he wrote. "I took my kid out of the stroller today and someone said 'so impressive, such an involved dad.'" He also added that there's more to unpack on this topic when it comes to being a black father.
Several others who caught wind of the thread responded with suggestions for actionable change.
Many advise directly asking managers of establishments to add changing tables, or writing about the problem in a Yelp review.
Several others shared the solutions they've come up with when in situations when they couldn't find a public changing table. There's the sneak-into-the-women's-restroom move as well as the direct-haters-to-the-manager move.
Some people have donated changing tables to places they attend frequently.
Other parents have simply changed diapers on the floor or on a public bench.
And one mom recommends working on the "lap change" — just be sure to retire the move once your kid turns 1.
Of course, the best solution would be for the law to require establishments to have changing tables in both men's and women's restrooms. However, it's still great that so many parents are sharing their tips for working around the problem while simultaneously sending the message that this needs to change, because not only women are parents who change diapers.
And while there are still so many establishments across the country where only women's bathrooms have changing tables, progress is slowly happening. Last year, New York City lawmakers passed a bill requiring all public men's rooms to have diaper changing stations. Here's hoping other cities follow suit and add changing tables to men's rooms to help make parenting expectations more equal.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherlode, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.