We could all use a bit of good news lately, couldn’t we? Well, check this out: On Monday, New York City passed legislation mandating that all public restrooms have changing tables in them. Yep, including men’s rooms.
Can I get a HELL YES?
The law was pushed through by New York City Council member Rafael Espinal, who noticed the problem while visiting a local mall’s men’s room, and watching a dad change his baby’s diaper while hunched over the sink. Espinal was horrified, and rightly so. When he investigated, he found that the majority of women’s restrooms had changing tables, and the fact that most men’s didn’t was a gross error (pun definitely intended).
“It was terrible to see a father changing his child’s diaper on top of a public sink where hundreds of people wash their hands after using the restroom,” Espinal told HuffPost this week. “Parents should be changing their children’s diapers with a little more dignity, in a space that’s sanitary.”
He’s right; they absolutely should. And isn’t it refreshing for a man to be standing up in such a major way for equality among the sexes? Not to mention, Espinal isn’t even a parent!
Of course, not every woman’s restroom has a changing table in it, either. But Espinal says that most of the public women’s restrooms in New York City do, compared to almost no men’s rooms. This new legislation will work on all fronts, though, and make it mandatory that all restrooms have changing tables, both men’s and women’s.
Even older bathrooms will have to install changing tables if they ever renovate, according to HuffPost. And the legislation requires that public establishments of all kinds participate — including movie theaters, restaurants, coffee shops, and even nightclubs (yes, really!).
As a NYC mom of two, I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. When my kids were young, my husband was just as responsible for changing diapers as I was, and he would tell me often that there simply weren’t changing tables at all in the men’s rooms in the city.
And yeah, sometimes those city bathrooms were gross enough that he wouldn’t have wanted to change a diaper in them even if there were changing tables. But when there was a perfectly clean bathroom without a changing table, it pissed us both off to no end.
Not only was it inconvenient (I mean, it’s not like the city is overflowing with other sanitary, private rooms to change babies), but it reinforced the concept that women are the only ones responsible for the work of raising kids.
Remember: this is something kids themselves pick up on, too. Whenever I brought my boys into a women’s bathroom to pee, they would often see a mom crouched over the changing table tending to her baby. Imagine how much of an impact it would have had on them to see a dad doing the same in a men’s room.
New York City will be the first major city to make this change, but the hope is that other cities will follow — and follow soon. It won’t even be that costly for the city, either. HuffPost reports that installing changing tables only cost between $155 and $185. And while that certainly adds up, “It’s a low cost for a big benefit,” he tells HuffPost.
As of now, there is no national legislation on the horizon about this issue. However, last year, Barack Obama signed the Babies Act into law, requiring all Federal Buildings to have changing tables for both moms and dads. That’s definitely a start, right? I mean, how amazing would it be if restrooms everywhere were required to have changing tables in them?
Espinal hopes that the legislation enacted today might make that a reality in the future, but it will take time.
“I don’t think the burden should just be on women,” Espinal added to HuffPost. “Men should step up and be on diaper duty as well.”
YES. They absolutely should. Let’s hear it for Espinal and the fantastic city of New York for doing the right thing, making the lives of families that much easier, and lifting dads up to be the equal contributors to their families that they can and should be.