At first glance, a changing table may simply be an object of utility, a means of changing your baby, keeping them clean and healthy.
But for many fathers across the world, the humble changing table represents so much more. It’s a chance to be a hands-on dad, to spend time caring for – and bonding with – their child.
Sadly, changing babies while out and about can prove to be somewhat of a challenge for many men, who are confronted by hurdles some would never even consider.
— Max (@airmax617) July 13, 2019
With many public changing facilities being made available only in women’s toilets and disabled bathrooms, fathers from various countries struggle when it comes to the seemingly mundane task of changing their baby’s nappy.
From heading out for a relaxed afternoon with their little one, to whizzing around the precinct shopping, the lack of baby changing tables in the gents’ loos makes a mountain out of a molehill of baby poop.
Speaking with some of the lovely, caring fathers in the UNILAD office, it became clear how crucial this issue is; a barrier which represents hopelessly old fashioned ideas about fatherhood.
It’s 2019 and it’s completely unacceptable how fathers are made to face such easily fixable boundaries, relics from some misremebered Mary Poppins past where the sherry-sipping household patriarch would simply pat his children on the head and send them off to bed.
— Donte Palmer (@3boys_1Goal) July 13, 2019
On the other side of the pond, progress is being made, all thanks to Donte Palmer, from Jacksonville, Florida. A father of three young boys, his campaign to introduce more changing facilities in men’s bathrooms has sparked serious discussion.
Inspiration struck under seemingly ordinary circumstances. Palmer had been enjoying dinner out in a restaurant with his wife and sons when he needed to change his baby’s diaper. Little did he know this act would spark a fire for a cause which would resonate with fathers across the planet.
Speaking with UNILAD, Palmer, 32. said:
When I started changing my child, my 12-year-old son, Isaiah, usually comes with me to assist me; handing me the new diapers, handing me new wipes.
As he’s doing that, he pulls his phone out and starts taking pictures. I’m thinking at the time, he’s just playing on his phone, you know, doing what a 12-year-old kid usually does
It wasn’t until we got back to the table he showed my wife and I this picture. And I was like, well that’s a powerful picture, I’ll put it on social media when I get a chance, and we’ll just see what happens.
The now famous photo shows Palmer squatting with his back across the wall, baby Liam on his lap. Without the use of a changing table, Palmer had been forced to improvise like so many dads before him.
Thanks for the support @TaffiDollar ❤️🙌🏽 What a powerful women of God! It is truly a honor to receive support of the campaign from you. #LoveTheChange #SquatForChange #PampersPartner pic.twitter.com/U1oYL6UVO8
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) June 30, 2019
Palmer didn’t share the picture online until a couple of weeks later, intending to get a few reactions from family and friends. But by the following morning, Palmer’s post had gone viral worldwide, birthing a brand new parenting movement.
Many fathers were prompted to share similar photographs of their babies being changed in an array of makeshift ways; on laps and in car boots, all using the #SquatForChange.
This was all back in September 2018. In the months since, Palmer’s activism has grown beyond anything he could have expected, with a sometimes ‘overwhelming’ public reaction.
Speaking with UNILAD, Palmer revealed he and his wife are ‘amazed’ at how one picture has led to him ‘having so many friends around the world’:
Regardless of colour, regardless of social background, regardless of your financial status. One thing that we all can agree on is being a parent. And that is why this campaign is so important when it comes to fathers around the world.
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) May 5, 2019
Frustrated fathers have shown solidarity for the cause from ‘Houston to Uganda, West Gambia, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Brazil’.
The campaign has even reached the ears of celebrity papa John Legend, who Instagrammed a vid of him changing his own baby, Miles, on top of a piano.
View this post on Instagram
Most dads have been there: you’re out with your kids & there's no place to change their diaper. In honor of Father’s Day, @PampersUS is providing 5,000 Koala Kare changing tables in public restrooms. Finally, no more diaper duty on your lap! #LoveTheChange #PampersPartner
Palmer told UNILAD of the ‘significant changes he has already seen’:
A couple of local restaurants right in in Jacksonville have reached out to me, saying they have put changing tables and they were inspired by the campaign so they started placing changing tables in about two or three restaurants. And they placed changing tables in their restroom.
Major companies have begun to listen to these concerns. Squat For Change have already forged partnerships with nappy giant Pampers and baby changing station company Koala Care.
Over the next two years, 5,000 changing tables will be installed in men’s bathrooms throughout the US and Canada, all thanks to Squat For Change. However, there is is still much work to do.
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) April 29, 2019
In decades gone by, the father would traditionally have headed out to work and the mother would stay at home to care for the children.
Nowadays, we have much different perceptions about what constitutes an equal partnership, and yet there are plenty of outdated and sexist presumptions about the role of the father.
The employment rate among women between the ages of 25 to 54 has soared over the past 40 years, from 57 per cent in 1975 to a record high of 78 per cent in 2017, according to data from the href=”https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN234.pdf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Institute of Fiscal Studies.
Over the same time period, the number of parents where only one half of the couple works has nearly halved, dropping from 47 per cent in 1975 to 27 per cent in 2015. The proportion where both parents work has increased from 49 to 68 per cent.
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) July 3, 2019
Palmer told UNILAD about the presumptions implicit within the notion that baby changing tables should only exist within women’s only spaces:
It says that moms are the ones who are supposed to be the caretakers. They’re the ones who are supposed to provide for the babies, cook for the babies, change diapers. You know, stay at home and cook and clean.
And that’s false. And for a long time I believed that. Until I got married a year and three months ago, and I met my beautiful, strong wife. And she said, ‘no, this is how life works’. If I came home from work, and I just expected my wife to cook everyday, I’d probably be divorced right now!
But I say that in all seriousness, my wife and I, we play everything on an equal playing field in my household.
We have to change that narrative of what the world views mom and dad as, or male and female as when it comes to our society and roles of being married or being parents.
It’s just one of those things, we have to break those gender boxes. And that’s why my wife stepped up and she’s really helping me push the Squat For Change campaign for we can put our marriage and our parenting roles on a pedestal, so we can show society how we should be.
Mom and dad working together, for a greater cause, making sure everybody in the house is good. And making sure parents around the world can see what exactly it is to be a parent, a husband and a wife.
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) May 9, 2019
Over in the UK, it’s clear British fathers share Palmer’s desire to share nappy changing fifty-fifty when out in public.
Public relations professional Taylor Edwards told UNILAD:
I am the father of a near-two year old and I have had so many times when I needed to change my son’s diapers and couldn’t find anywhere to do it.
My wife works while I stay at home and take care of him, so it’s pretty common for me to get stuck with a dirty diaper and nowhere to change it while we’re out running errands.
I have had to get pretty good at finding a secluded corner in a store to change him, or I just leave the location and change him in my car. I’m pretty used to it now but I don’t feel like I should have to be used to this kind of inconvenience.
Co-founder of adventure holidays website, Much Better Adventures HQ, Sam Bruce told UNILAD:
Got a two-year-old girl and this has bothered me at lots of places, and you do feel guilty taking up a toilet that is really designed for people with disabilities to use. So I’m glad it’s being discussed.
Awesome news!! ❤️🙌🏽🙌🏽 #HowardCounty passed a bill to expand access to diaper changing stations! #SquatForChange
Thank you @councilwomancmr for supporting our movement. #hococouncil #maryland #HowardCountyMD @HoCoCouncil pic.twitter.com/npdRsoBfT1
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) May 7, 2019
Raymond Boyd Martin, managing director at the British Toilet Association Ltd, a widower who single-handedly raised two girls, has fought against this sort of inequality for for many years.
Martin told UNILAD this issue has been among the BTA’s prime objective drivers for the last 15 to 20 years, with staff delighted to see the progress being made in both the US and Canada.
Martin elaborated the issues of providing adequate baby-changing facilities in the UK to UNILAD:
The majority of toilet blocks across the UK have always had baby-change units fitted – however most are located in the Accessible units – as there was additional space in these units to allow for parents with buggies/pushchairs and other young children to be accommodated.
The units are mainly controlled by a RADAR key lock and we are delighted to understand that most councils are now issuing these keys to pregnant women and parents with very young children.
Over the years we have been quite successful in persuading public and private providers to also install separate beds in both Female and Male facilities. Some have readily adopted this recommendation and we are delighted to see a positive increase in the number of installations.
However, the total lack of government funding and their unwillingness to introduce regulations and legislation to force the correct installation and maintenance within these facilities has left us with a thin reliance on the goodwill of councils and providers to make this additional investment in each facility.
#southkorea🇰🇷 supports #SquatForChange ❤️🙌🏽 •#dadshelpingdads #diaperdutyisacivicduty #ittakesavillage #dadsareapartofthatvillage #soareunclesandfriends #parenting #dads #change #diapers #wegotthistoo #moms #makeabetterworld #beaccessible #grassroots #achangeisgonnacome pic.twitter.com/trt3WBxLgy
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) May 6, 2019
The uneven distribution of changing tables signifies so much more about society’s backwards attitude towards parenting and in particular fatherhood. Furthermore, it brushes aside the varied experiences of fatherhood; from single parents to widowers, care givers to those in same sex relationships.
We live in a society where men caring for their own babies is spoken of as ‘babysitting’ or ‘giving mum a rest’. This just isn’t on, for anyone involved.
Not only does this imply mum should be doing the majority of the parenting, it is also condescending to all the wonderful, inspirational fathers who are looking to establish a lifelong bond with their children.
Palmer told UNILAD:
This is a time when new fathers – and fathers like myself who are seasoned – can spend that two minutes of time changing their baby, singing songs, bonding with their children.
You know, tickling them, making them laugh, giving them eye contact. So it’s more than just a changing table. I am fighting for, you know, the bonding of father and child.
That’s what we have to bring back into the forefront. A father and a child having that time to themselves so they can focus on each other and the baby can find security in the father.
But we definitely need to have this conversation more often, you know. What can we do to have a better resource for fathers? Especially for new fathers, when they have no idea what to do.
Just giving us that platform to highlight those beautiful fathers in the world because we’re active, and we don’t just want to shy away and give all our responsibilities and roles to the moms.
9 out of 10 dads have gone into a public restroom only to find there is NO changing table.😡That’s why we’re providing 5,000 @KoalaKare changing tables for public restrooms across the US & Canada by 2021, so dads & their babies can #LoveTheChange together @johnlegend @Pampers pic.twitter.com/3x9VZGf0jF
— Donte Palmer (@SquatForChange) June 10, 2019
Becoming a father is a momentous occasion for any man, and they should be supported in every possible way as they bond with their newborn.
Acts such as changing a newborn’s nappy have been shown to build trust and develop attachment between baby and parent. Fathers shouldn’t be denied these ordinary, yet special, moments, which are of course building blocks to a lifelong connection.
You can sign a petition for Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero to add baby change facilities in the men’s toilets here
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.