Today in things that should have happened forever ago: thanks to new legislation freshly inked by President Obama, your husband, male significant other, son, nephew, uncle, and dad can change your little darling’s bum in federal buildings! Parents everywhere are throwing up praise hands.
The legislation in question—dubbed the BABIES act—seems to be a rare unicorn on Capitol Hill these days: necessary, commonsense, and backed by generous bipartisan support. The act was championed earlier this year by Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline (D), who presented it to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The “Bathrooms Accessible In Every Situation” was passed in the House with only 34 “nays,” and with unanimous consent in the Senate.
The new law gives federal buildings two years to install changing stations in both male and female restrooms. Although the act doesn’t mandate any change in businesses or restaurants, it’s a step that has the potential to make changing tables the norm in both men and women’s public restrooms. Acknowledgment that fathers take an active role in every part of parenting—including the crappy ones—is long overdue.
When my first was born, my husband was committed to sharing as much of the burden of parenting our daughter as possible. He made me a promise: as long as it was in his power, I wouldn’t change a single diaper. Since I had recently become a human milk machine and was still recovering from birth, this arrangement worked out swimmingly for the first few weeks. Sure, I was clueless about how to wipe those tiny cheeks, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Fast forward to one of our first outings as a family of three. Of course, our sweetie took the opportunity to blow out her diaper all over her carefully-chosen outfit in the chain restaurant we’d chosen. My husband grabbed the diaper bag and the soaked newborn confidently. “I got this.” Except that he didn’t have it. He had to walk back, a little dejected. There was no changing room in the men’s bathroom. Up to that point, it had never occurred to me that society had officially designated me as the default diaper-changer for my daughter. The outdated assumption behind this infrastructural oversight struck me as absurd. I’ll bet the majority of moms in the U.S. have a similar story.
My husband isn’t the only guy to notice he’s been left out of the diapering party. Websites like the Good Men Project have highlighted the lack of accessible changing tables, while Hollywood dad Ashton Kutcher has advocated for change as well. This commonsense law may not seem like much, but it’s one more step toward parental equality. Dads deserve support in doing what they already do: parenting. And who doesn’t love celebrating a little good news from the political beat?