Parents everywhere, rejoice!
On October 7, President Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act (BABIES Act) into law. The Act, introduced by Representative David Cicilline (D. RI), requires that every publicly-accessible federal building (including post offices, courthouses, social security offices, etc) must contain changing tables in both the women’s and the men’s restrooms. Not only that, the changing tables must be present on every floor, with proper signage to point parents and soiled-diaper-wearing children in the right direction!
“Government needs to do more to ensure that public buildings are family-friendly. No mom or dad should ever have to worry about finding a safe, sanitary place to change their baby ― least of all in a federal building that’s paid for by taxpayers,” Cicilline stated on his website.
The Act received bipartisan support in Congress, and although it only mandates that certain federal buildings must make changing stations readily available to both men and women, it is a small, but greatly appreciated, step in the right direction.
I can’t count the number of times my husband has been out with one of our children when they were babies and needed a space to change their diaper, only to be met with the fact that there wasn’t one– or that it was in the women’s bathroom and inaccessible to him. This leaves parents the option of changing babies in public places, or in unsanitary conditions, like on the ground. I imagine, for stay-at-home dads, male nannies and same-sex couples, the lack of available changing stations is a common frustration.
Thankfully, this is not the first time this issue has been publicly broached. One of the most widespread requests for change in the past year was brought by actor and father Ashton Kutcher, who first started out by sharing his no-changing-station woes on social media. When he saw the overwhelming response from parents all around the country, he then launched a Change campaign publicly asked that large retailers Costco and Target start making changing tables available to both fathers and mothers (both stores have set plans into motion to remedy this problem, now, too!).
In an interview with website A Plus, Kutcher states, “ “I would like my daughter to experience a world where gender doesn’t dictate one’s responsibility or limit one’s opportunity.” Us too, Ashton.
We are living in an age where the standard of fatherhood and masculinity is changing, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Dads are emboldened to take part in the child rearing process in an incredibly hands-on and involved way; seeing themselves as equals in the process of caring for their little ones. I hope we as a collective society continue to encourage positive changes on both a political and societal level. Not only do we benefit from it, but our kids do, too.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.