It’s a man’s world
As the father of six children, Alberto Alfaro has changed a lot of diapers over the years.
Like all dads who change diapers, he has war stories of the worst diaper-changing experiences. The time on a road trip in New Mexico, in a rest-stop bathroom without paper towels or a changing table. That was an epic blowout, and he reluctantly used the nasty bathroom floor to change the diaper and hold the baby up to the wall-mounted hand-dryer, a la “Mr. Mom.”
Diaper-changing dads have to improvise, because they often find that there isn’t a diaper-changing table in the men’s restroom. Sometimes it’s on a restaurant booth seat. Other times it’s in a bathroom sink, or in the car.
But a new law signed last week gives Alfaro and others hope that the times, they are a changing, along with those diapers.
President Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, requiring both men’s and women’s restrooms in federal buildings to be equipped with diaper-changing facilities. Facilities have two years to comply with the law.
While some public buildings and private businesses have already started to do this, or designated “family” restrooms to provide diaper-changing facilities, it’s hard for parents to find a sanitary, safe place to change their children’s diapers sometimes. And more dads than ever are changing diapers, studies show. A National Center for Health Statistics survey released in 2013 revealed that dads are becoming more hands-on. In the study, 90 percent of dads who live with children younger than 5 reported that they diaper, bathe, dress or help their kids use the toilet at least several times a week.
Not having diaper-changing facilities in men’s restrooms limits dads’ ability to participate equally in parenting, some said.
“It’s important because you see a lot of dads who want to have that time with their children,” Alfaro said. “The last thing you want to run into is nowhere to change them.”
When he’s taking his children around town, he keeps a mental note of everywhere he could drive to within five minutes, in case there’s a diaper-changing emergency, thinking, “that’s a safe place, I know they have one.” This kind of diaper-changing facility radar is something dads develop out of necessity, Grand Junction dad Nate Underwood agrees.
“It’s definitely something I think about,” he said, noting that he plans errands at businesses with his 4-year-old and six-month-old children with diaper-changing facilities in mind.
“I would say only about 25 percent, if that, have a changing table in the men’s room,” Underwood said, noting that he feels restaurants are the least accommodating.
“Restaurants probably have the least options,” Alfaro agreed, noting that eateries in downtown Grand Junction can be hit or miss, possibly because of the older buildings with less room for changing facilities. He and his wife provide a place for families to change babies’ diapers in their store on the corner of Sixth and Main streets, Colorado Baby.
Underwood said he feels bad when his family is eating at a restaurant, takes his baby to change in the restroom, and ends up handing over the duty to his wife because there’s nowhere for him to accomplish the task.
Both dads said they hoped the federal law would trickle down and encourage the installation of diaper-changing facilities in men’s restrooms in other places.
Some famous dads have shed light on the problem recently, including a petition started by Ashton Kutcher on change.org.
A Colorado company that manufactures diaper-changing equipment said it was thrilled with the legislation, and said the availability of changing stations is something families expect these days.
Centennial-based Koala Care Products has sold more than 1 million diaper-changing stations over the years. Company spokeswoman Bonnie Yatkeman said the law reinforces the expectation that diaper-changing facilities are available in bathrooms for families, not just in women’s restrooms.
“Caregivers take their kids everywhere,” she said. “It’s come to be an expectation and it’s because of the way people go about their day.”
“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Alfaro said. “This is something people need.”