Dad asks: Was I wrong to use the women's bathrooms to change my baby?

Photo:istock
Photo:istock 

While it's hard to believe that in 2020 there are still men's toilets without change tables, it's an issue new fathers continue to encounter. So what's a dad to do when they're facing a poo-maggedon with no change tables in sight?

For one new dad the solution was simple - but not everyone agreed that it was the right thing to do.

"I was out to lunch with my five-month-old son and he needed to be changed," he wrote in a post to Reddit, adding that with no tables in the men's he went to the women's instead.

"I walked in and there were some hushed whispers from a couple of women," he said, "but everyone else just went about their business. I was sorting through the diaper bag getting everything I needed ready to go when a restaurant hostess approached me and said "oh sorry sir, the men's is actually at the other end."

When the "flummoxed" dad explained the lack of changing facilities, the hostess was unmoved. "Nevertheless, this is the women's room," she said. "And your presence is making some of our patrons uncomfortable."

Noting that he was "fully clothed, not peeking under stalls, and just want to change my son and finish my meal," the dad explained that the hostess became upset.

As he began to attract attention in the toilets, one of the women said, "I've been there with four of my own. I can change him." But while the hostess seemed to think this was reasonable, the dad admitted that he didn't feel comfortable leaving his baby alone with a stranger.

"I said this," he explained, "and another woman, who I think is one of the ones who complained, said 'Then go home and change him at home or lay your changing pad on a counter surface in the men's bathroom."

Another added: "Cisgender men aren't entitled to violate our space this way. You're making people uncomfortable, you need to respect that."

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Ignoring her, the dad continued to change his son, before being asked by the manager to leave.

"I wasn't about to drive my baby home in a soiled diaper though, so finished up," he said.

But was he in the wrong?

The post has attracted over one thousand comments and a range of different views.

"Women are social, the bathroom is a watering hole. Slipping in silently without saying a word, ignoring the women in there and then reacting defensively immediately is frankly unsettling behaviour," one commenter said. "All he had to do was treat the situation like he was in a foreign land, because technically he was. 'Hey ladies, I know I'm not supposed to be here, but the men's room doesn't have a changing table can you believe that? Can I ask for your help? I need to step in and change my baby quickly, can I do that now? Can you watch the door and maybe explain the situation if someone else comes in? I'd be grateful, it's my first time out with the kiddo alone and I didn't expect this situation.'"

"As a female and mother, I would never be offended by a father coming into the woman's restroom to change his infant announced or not! "said one mum. "Anyone who does get offended by this is absolutely ridiculous and petty,"

"So we're going to demand that men start taking better care of their children and then not give them the tools they need to do so?" said another.

"The bigger problem here is that men's rooms don't have changing tables which is disgusting," one commenter argued. "Men are parents too. We recently went to Pizza Hut and my boyfriend had to go outside in the winter and change our baby in the back of our car because there was none in either of the bathrooms. Ever since then whenever we go out I have him check the men's room to see if there is one and there has never been one. But nine times out of ten there is one in the women's room."

In 2018, writer and teacher Clint Smith raised the issue of the lack of change tables in restrooms in a series of tweets:

"Something that's really bothered me since we had a kid is how few men's restrooms have changing tables for babies. 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," he wrote
 

As far back as 2015, actor and father-of-two Ashton Kutcher also argued for more change stations in men's toilets, urging organisations to #bethechange.

"Changing tables in men's rooms will be a tiny step in the long process of rectifying the legacy of gender discrimination, but it's a step we need to take," he said at the time.  "Dads, like myself, want to participate equally in the child care process and our society should support that. "