NYC To Dads: Yes, You Can Change Diapers

Photographed by Refinery29.

Things are about to change for dads in New York City, for the better.

The city approved a bill Monday, which will require all new developments that have public bathrooms to install diaper changing tables in both men's and women's rooms.

New York City Council member Rafael Espinal introduced the legislation after seeing a man who was forced to change his baby on top of a sink in a public restroom.

"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 The Huffington Post. "Parents should be changing their children’s diapers with a little more dignity, in a space that’s sanitary."

While the bill will certainly also help mothers, because changing stations aren't yet available in every women's restroom in New York City, it will also help to change the gendered dynamics of who is responsible for childcare, and help dads feel more connected to parenting.

Ellen Bravo, co-director of Family Values @ Work, told Refinery29 in June that gendered parenting policies — like giving maternity leave to women and nothing to men, or assuming that only a mother would change a diaper — creates the perception that “dads are the spare part."

There are several dangerous assumptions at play in leaving changing stations out of men's restrooms. For instance, that women should be the ones who change diapers, but also that men would never be taking care of their child without their female partner present — both of which rely on gendered stereotypes about parenting. It also completely ignores the fact that gay men exist and are parents. (Which is a shame, because they make beautiful families).

"I took a birthing class, I read Happiest Baby, but the majority of things — whether it was clothing or gear or research or classes — the vast majority focused on the mother," Andrew Bentley, an entrepreneur in D.C. who left a job at Google to stay home with his son and then launched Father Figure, a clothing line tailored to new dads, told Refinery29 in June. "It made me feel like my emotions, my love, my anxiety weren’t valid, like I was a second-class parent. It’s assumed that the mother is the one that is going to be the primary caretaker and needs the most information and support. What that does is forces dad into a particular current and gender role. I think a lot of dads probably feel resigned to that."

As much as we can complain about dads who don't take a more active role in parenting, and rightfully so, the sad truth is that sometimes the resources just aren't there for men who want to be active parents to do so. This law will change that, at least for the dads of New York City.

Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.

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