Already, the new year is off to a great start. A Maryland father’s frustrated letter to Macy’s has spurred much-needed change by motivating the department store to add a changing table to the men’s room.
Anthony Dew first discovered the problem when he was Christmas shopping with his 4-month-old son, Jeremiah, at a Macy’s in Prince George’s County in December. As Dew explained to Fox 5 DC, he set out to change his son’s wet diaper before he started shopping to keep his baby content. Dew said that throughout the department store there wasn’t a changing table to be found for men to use. After alerting management of the issue, Dew was forced to leave Macy’s without making a purchase.
But instead of letting it go and choosing a different store to shop at next time, Dew wanted to “take it to the top.” He wrote a letter to Terry Lundgren, Macy’s chairman and CEO, on behalf of all fathers who need access to public changing tables. And it worked — Macy’s corrected the issue right away by renovating the men’s room at hat location and adding a new changing table. Even better, Dew was given a Macy’s gift card to apologize for his poor shopping experience.
If you’re wondering what the big deal is about a missing changing table in the men’s room, then you may be far enough past the baby years to remember what it was like to deal with a diaper blowout in public. For moms, the fallout is relatively easy: Changing stations can be found in most women’s restrooms across America (save for a few rare and highly publicized cases where moms have been forced to change diapers on the floor or on restaurant chairs when there wasn’t a changing table available.)
For men, a simple diaper change grows a little more complicated when the changing table offerings are slim to none — most restaurants and department stores have yet to catch up to the new millennium. There’s a reason legislators in California are pushing for equal-access (or “potty parity”) changing table laws in both men’s and women’s restrooms. Dads are doing half the work in many cases, without getting nearly enough credit.
Today’s distribution of labor for modern parents is vastly different than it was even a few decades ago. A 2013 Pew Research Center analysis of data from 1965 to 2011 confirms what most of us have observed among the parents we know: Dads are taking on more childcare and housework duties, and moms are working more outside the home. In the past year alone, we’ve seen a big shift in what the average dad looks like — stay-at-home dads, single dads, and hands-on dads are becoming the norm.
When you look at Dew’s story through this broader lens, it becomes clear how important this changing table issue really is. We’re not just talking about a poorly equipped department store men’s room. We’re talking about a common problem that’s making it hard for dads to hold up their end of the bargain. Even celebrity dads have noticed this imbalance enough to bring it to light. In 2015, new dad, Ashton Kutcher, started a social media campaign and Change.org petition to get changing tables into all public restrooms at Target and Cosco.
This is a common theme we see in many parenting arguments, and especially among parents trying to challenge gender roles: You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. Dads who don’t pitch in are criticized for being old-fashioned and not doing their part, while dads who complain about a lack of changing tables are “making a big deal out of nothing.” But the reality is, dads often aren’t given as much support as moms in public places.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution that can put moms and dads back on the same team again: We can take parenting problems that represent gender equality seriously, instead of sweeping them under the rug. We can also give our money to businesses that provide universal changing tables to be part of the “change.”