California legislators have decided dads are getting the short end of the stick when they are on diaper duty. Not because it is a dirty job (and yes, somebody has to do it) but because while public venues generally offer changing tables in the women’s restrooms, no such amenities exist in the men’s facilities. Dedicated dads have had to resort to changing diapers on floors, countertops or their own laps to get the job done. Two California bills that would provide changing tables in men’s restrooms, have cleared the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and will make it easier for dads on diaper duty.
The stated impetus behind these bills is not really the convenience issue for dads, it is more about creating a family environment in which both parents have an equal opportunity to participate in childcare. This is a warm and fuzzy feel-good concept that deserves support especially given the current percentage of broken or part-time family dynamics. Bringing dads closer to their children, no matter the occasion, is a laudable goal. Those dads that have already been making do with random changing surfaces will appreciate the efficiency of a changing table as a useful tool in what can be sometimes be a sloppy affair.
However, for California businesses this will be yet another regulation with a financial outlay during a time when businesses are struggling in a depressed economy. Not to mention that in California, business are so over-regulated many are considering leaving the state. Case in point is the recent revelation by Toyota that it is moving its U.S. headquarters out of Southern California to Dallas, Texas. This one business relocation alone will result in the loss of 3,000 jobs. Former presidential Republican Candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry has been poaching over-regulated and over-taxed businesses from California with the promise of an environment more conducive to conducting business.
While the diaper changing table regulation is minor in compared to some of the other over-reaching regulations imposed on California businesses, it might just cause enough of a stink to make some business owners take a hard look at states like Texas. Currently there are no existing regulations that require businesses to provide changing tables and those that have voluntarily done so have installed them as a courtesy to their customers. In practical terms, these changing tables allow customers to spend more time onsite, which in turn allows more consumption of goods or services. In this way, the relatively minor financial investment in a diaper changing table is likely a sound one.
California Senator Lois Wolk (D) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D) are the authors of the two Senate bills respectively. Wolk’s bill would mandate that public venues from restaurants, sports arenas, libraries and movie theaters provide at least one “safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station.” The station is to be maintained and cleaned on the same schedule as the standard restroom facilities. Senator Lara is focused on the social dynamics of unequal access and states that “traditional gender roles” are evolving and that dads are becoming more involved in the care of their children. While he is not mandating that additional changing tables be installed, he is mandating that equal access be provided to existing tables. Lara also points to the number of “same-sex households” and believes his bill is a “common sense approach” to handling inequality.
It is likely that California businesses will be faced with yet another regulation but the implementation of diaper changing table equality may not be much of a hassle. In fact, many public venues already have this amenity in place – they will simply have to expand to include the men’s restroom. Dads on diaper duty will certainly be grateful, as these diaper changing tables will make a dirty job much easier.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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