Social media is currently blowing up with long overdue news out of New York City: the City Council just passed a bill that will require all new public bathrooms to have changing tables — including the men’s rooms.
Thus far, this news has been picked up by the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Babble, Fatherly and literally dozens of other parenting-centric blogs.
Clearly, people have strong feelings about it.
My only question? Why did it take someone until the end of 2017 to figure out that this is a problem?
According to reports, the bill’s sponsor, Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal, isn’t even a parent. But he said he realized how much the legislation was needed after he saw a father trying to change his daughter’s diaper over a sink. He was, understandably, shocked and horrified.
I can’t begin to tell you the number of truly disgusting places I was forced to change my two kids for lack of a changing table in the women’s room. Floors, backs of cars, sinks. Tables. You name it. We’ve done it.
And my husband? He did diaper duty at home, but guess how often he changed one of our children when we were out and about? Zero. That’s right. Not a single damn time. With either kid.
It wasn’t his fault, really — there was simply no place to put our children in any of the bathrooms he visited.
Which brings me full circle back to my original point.
This is 2017.
Dads are sharing more parenting responsibilities than ever before. And the number of single-parent and stay-at-home dads is higher than it has been in decades.
In fact, according to a fact sheet issued by the Pew Research Center in June 2017, the dads they surveyed are spending — on average — more than seven hours a week directly involved in child care.
That’s triple what it was in 1965, according to Pew.
The New York City bill will apply to all newly built or renovated bathrooms, said the bill’s co-sponsor and District 4 New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick.
Garodnick, who represents the east side of Manhattan, said in a phone interview that he’s always been an advocate of dads and their involvement in their kids’ lives. He is a father of two, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old.
“(Today’s) dads are all in on diaper changing and everything else,” Garodnick said. “And our laws need to respect that. When you are engaged in baby gymnastics and trying to change a diaper on the floor or sink of a public restroom… it’s just not right.”
The bill, which was passed Monday, is on its way to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desk. He can choose to sign it, veto it or do nothing, in which case it becomes law by default. But Garodnick said he’s optimistic de Blasio will sign it.
“The cost is nominal. The benefits to families are enormous,” Garodnick said. “We designed it in a way that is not onerous but will move us over time in the right direction.”
The bill will take effect 180 days after it’s signed into law.
An equal playing field
This is not the first time politicians have tried to equal the playing field when it comes to diaper duty. In October 2016, then-President Barack Obama signed H.R. 5147 (also known as the “BABIES act”) into law. It requires changing stations in all restrooms (yes, men’s too) located in publicly accessible federal buildings.
So will other City Councils or state Legislature’s follow the New York City Council’s lead in creating sanitary diaper stations in all public restrooms. Garodnick thinks so.
“Other cities tend to follow New York and we hope they will on this,” he said.