Over the past decade society has slowly seen a transition from the working dad to fathers fulfilling traditional motherly roles. The “Stay at home dad” isn’t quite as rare as it was years ago. With these new roles being satisfied, has there been a change in society to adapt to the needs of a father taking care of his child? A few weeks ago my wife left town and left me with our ten month old daughter. I would truly find out if local society has catered to the needs of a father and child. However, I really didn’t consider changing her in public until I was at the local library and realized that there was no changing station; instead I had to change her on the counter. I figured it was the best option that I had since I wasn’t going to go out to the car. Was it fair that just because I was a male I wasn’t provided with the same needs for my child? I would soon find out how common a baby changing station in a male restroom was in the carious places that I visited. This wasn’t the first time that I ever changed my daughter in public and I had never considered how uncommon they were since my wife usually takes the lead on changing our daughter in public.
The worst is when the facility you are at doesn’t have a changing station and you have to resort to using unconventional methods such as changing the baby in the trunk, back of the truck, or on a table. I have even seen a couple change a baby on a table next to the bathroom. I guess there wasn’t a changing station so they wanted to make it obvious that they were angry about that. Luckily there weren’t that many people in the restaurant but then again what would someone say besides the fact that it was unsanitary. We are sorry that our restaurant doesn’t have a changing station to change your child; however, we do have a children’s menu, crayons, high chairs, and booster seats. What is a parent to do?
As a new father, trying to take on traditional motherly roles such as changing the baby in public has been quite troublesome. A month has now passed and I have tried to identify locations with father friendly changing stations. However, I have even found locations that don’t have a baby changing station at all such as Taste in Chesapeake. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since it is a new location and their food is good, but “really, no changing station at all, not even in the women’s restroom.” This makes absolutely no sense since they have toddler seats! This also poses an even greater challenge for my wife who is seven months pregnant with our second child. How is she supposed to change our daughters diaper with her pregnant belly? A few places that I have visited that don’t have changing stations in the male restrooms include: Subway on Great Bridge, Atlas Restaurant, and the Chesapeake Public Library. On the other hand, places that have embraced the new father role and have changing stations in the male restrooms include: Plaza Azteca on Cedar Road and Holland, Cracker Barrel on Greenbrier Parkway, Golden Corral in Virginia Beach, Farm Fresh, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, and One Life Fitness.
Apparently I am not the only dad doing this type of research. Pierre Kim (blog: metrodad.typepad), a New Yorker with a 15-month-old daughter claims that he assumes that there isn’t going to be a changing table in the men’s room so he must improvise. He has changed his daughter on his lap while sitting on the toilet. “That’s crazy but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.” I wouldn’t say that I have done that but, creating a blanket with toilet paper on the floor and changing my daughter isn’t the funnest or most convenient thing ever.
One of the largest manufacturers of changing stations, Koala Bear Kare, conducted a recent survey that found that 77% of parents with children under 6 have used a changing station and 34% of the subjects utilized the stations more than 6 times a month. In addition, John Helmsderfer, founder of changing-table maker Brocar Products estimated that 60% of all public restrooms have them today and it is relatively unheard of to get an order for just a women’s restroom (NY Times). However, I would say that the figure is a little higher than 60% locally. Looking at the changes in society is only a starting point regarding a father’s role.
There are plenty of benefits to a paternal lifestyle. According to Kyle Purett, a child-development research and co-author of Partnership Parenting, says that parents differences often benefit the children. “Dads’ hands-off style tends to instill problem-solving ability while the more engaged style typical of mothers often instills a sense of security and optimism.” Research conducted by Dr. Pruett at Yale School of medicine claims that “over the long term, having an involved father is linked in research to better self-control in children, less risky behavior and better grades” (WSJ Online).
Overall, I would say that our local area has for the most part embraced the role of a father. Not having a changing station in the men’s room isn’t too big of a deal and a minor inconvenience because parents find a way to make it work!