This past weekend, my wife, her mother, and I took my daughter, Emily, to the far-off land of Indiana to meet some of her maternal relatives who have yet to be graced by her presence. Some are elderly and have difficulty with travel, while others have large families of their own making lodging a logistical nightmare. Regardless, this post isn’t about why we were traveling, just that we had a 4.5 hour drive with an infant just north of 7 months old.
Shit happens, and – in this case – literally.
Sensing that Emily was in diaper-related distress, we decided to stop for lunch at a popular fast-food franchise a few miles east of Indianapolis. Knowing my lunch order, I volunteered to change Emily’s dinner while my wife and mother-in-law use the facilities and order lunch; without a fight, they agreed and I scooped Emily into my arms and ventured into the empty men’s room.
The room was tiny – a urinal next to the sink (sans-divider) and a single, handicap-accessible stall – but empty. I looked around at the walls, searching for the familiar gray Koala Kare Baby Changing Station that I’ve seen in so many restrooms before. Nothing near the sink, nor on the wall opposite the urinal. Inside the solitary stall, there were two empty walls, either of which could support a changing station.
The vanity didn’t help either, despite my folding changing pad clutch, as there was barely room for the hand sanitizer pump sitting on the counter (someone had ripped the soap dispenser off the wall), much less two feet of squirming, half-diapered baby girl.
I walked out of the men’s room, meeting my wife in the lobby. “That was fast!” she exclaimed, pausing when I shook my head. “Oh, well, I guess I can see if they have one in the ladies’ room.”
As luck would have it, the women’s room was better equipped for the parent-on-the-go, and Emily was soon content sitting in the Koala Kare-branded high-chair in her fresh, clean diaper. Even so, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth: why can’t a father change his child’s diaper?
I was fortunate that I was traveling with two adult women, neither of whom would look out of place taking a 7 month old little girl into the women’s restroom, but what about the men who aren’t traveling under those circumstances? What if I was a single father? What if I was my dad or my brother – Emily’s blood relatives who happen to be male – running some errands watching her for the day? What if I were in a same-sex relationship where there was no woman in Emily’s life that could change her in the women’s room? What possible explanation could there be for not putting a changing station in both restrooms?
Perhaps what was most frustrating was that this particular restaurant was clearly renovated very recently. This wasn’t a case of “well, this restaurant hasn’t been updated since the 70s and back in those days men just didn’t change diapers.” (which would still be a B.S. excuse, by the way).
All or none (apparently)
Someone at another fast-food chain must have read my thoughts, as we had to stop again for diaper-related exploits on our way home, this time just north of Indianapolis. With a screaming baby behind me, I pulled into the first fast food restaurant I spied off the next exit ramp, released Emily from her carrier, and walked inside. My wife decided to join me, just in case we had a repeat of the first restaurant (and because she actually enjoys the food at this restaurant, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to use someone’s restroom without making a purchase).
Walking into the men’s room was déjà vu; a urinal and a stall, with a tiny vanity and no changing station in sight. Fuming, I walk out to the lobby, where Kim takes her daughter into the women’s room. Shockingly, she exits as quickly as I had: even the women’s room lacked a changing station.
Not wanting to sit Emily back in her car seat atop a pile of human waste, we spread the changing pad out on what little room was available in the backseat of our car and changed her in the parking lot (admittedly, disposing of the soiled diaper inside the restaurant as an act of protest).
Something needs changed (heh)
Why have I spent the better part of an hour writing a blog post about dirty diapers? It’s quite simple: the availability (or lack thereof) of baby changing stations in public places needs to be addressed. This isn’t (and shouldn’t) be the top, most-pressing social issue of our day, but it’s also low-hanging fruit that’s easily solved: Koala Kare baby changing stations retail for right around $200/each, and there are other, more cost-effective solutions for struggling businesses.
For businesses that market themselves as “family-friendly”, this should be a no-brainer. Fathers and other male guardians of the child can change him/her in comfort without having to impose on a [female] stranger to watch the door while he enters the ladies room to care for his child, nor will they have to leave the premises to change a soiled diaper.
I’m not the first person to run into this lack of changing stations, either; in December, a father in Maryland wrote a letter to the CEO of Macy’s about their lack of changing stations in the men’s rooms, which the company swiftly responded to. After becoming a father, even Ashton Kutcher has gotten involved, petitioning Costco and Target to install changing stations across all of their stores’ restrooms.
To raise awareness (and conveniently move some inventory), Koala Kare has also initiated the #ParentsForChangingTables campaign:
The moral of the story: whether you’re regularly changing diapers or not, if you see public restrooms in family-friendly locations that don’t have changing stations, don’t be afraid to bring it up with the manager. It’s a small act that can help keep babies clean and healthy (and their parents sane). For those who aren’t regularly cleaning up after a little human, it also ensures that bathroom business is done outside of the dining room.