While at a restaurant, Donte Palmer came up against an issue that many parents of young children face: having to change a diaper in public. After the dad took his son into the men’s restroom, though, he found that he had a problem on his hands. Then, after going through that experience, Palmer took to the internet in order to raise awareness – and hopefully provoke some change.
Palmer is a video production expert who resides in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife Lakeisha. And the pair are proud parents to three sons: Isaiah, Taylor and Liam. On a family outing to Texas Roadhouse in September 2018, however, Palmer noticed that little Liam was becoming restless. It soon became clear to the dad, in fact, that his one-year-old may need a new diaper.
So, Palmer took his youngest child to the men’s restroom to investigate. Upon entering the space, however, the father had a problem: there was no changing table available for him to clean up Liam. This is far from an uncommon occurrence in the U.S., either.
As a result, Palmer would have to improvise to check Liam’s diaper situation. So, the dad squatted down and rested the one-year-old on his lap. And even though the father of three needed to remain very still to keep Liam balanced in place, he managed to carry out the task in hand. In fact, he’d become somewhat of an expert at the “squat diaper change.”
Isaiah had joined his dad and brother in the men’s restroom to boot. In the past, he had even lent a helping hand to Palmer, such is the difficulty of the squat-changing maneuver. On this occasion, though, Isaiah played an altogether different role – one, as it happens, that would ultimately help spark a demand for change.
You see, as his dad performed the uncomfortable diaper change solo, Isaiah began taking candid photographs of the routine. And in the process, the 12-year-old did a great job of capturing an awkward moment to which many fathers could potentially relate.
In the snaps, Palmer’s position up against the wall shows just how much dexterity is required to change his son. Meanwhile, little Liam lies across his father’s knees. It’s a difficult situation for all involved, with the candid photos revealing exactly the lengths Palmer has to go to to fulfil his duties as a parent.
Then, once everyone had returned to the restaurant, Isaiah showed his family the photos of his dad and his little brother. And while everyone initially found the images amusing, the conversation then took a more sober turn. “We as women – we don’t have to come up with creative ways to change a diaper. And you have to get a ninja squad to change Liam,” Lakeisha told her husband, according to an October 2018 BuzzFeed report.
Palmer hadn’t seriously considered the problem, however. In the past, he had focused only on getting the job done to help his children out. And it hadn’t previously occurred to him, either, that the lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms could potentially be seen as a symbol of sexism.
When Palmer posted the pictures of him changing Liam to Instagram, however, he was more than aware of the unfairness of the situation. In the caption accompanying the shots, he wrote, “What’s the deal with not having changing tables in men’s bathrooms, as if we don’t exist. Clearly, we do this often, because look how comfortable my son is. It’s routine to him! Let’s fix this problem!”
And the post garnered a lot of attention, ultimately picking up more than 8,000 likes. Some commenters even revealed that the message had opened their eyes to the reality of public provisions for dads. “I think we just assumed there was a changing table in [men’s] bathrooms too. Wow! That definitely needs to be changed and makes no sense,” wrote one commenter. Another added, “It is sad to say I never thought of this, and it is necessary.”
The campaign has gone international, too. In October 2018 Twitter user Rui Santos shared an image of a public men’s restroom from his native country of Portugal, accompanied by the #SquatForChange hashtag. Fortunately, this space, it seemed, had adequate baby-changing facilities. “Some places we do have [a] diaper changer in [the] men’s bathroom,” Santos wrote.
On the other hand, parenting blogger Jamie Day revealed that diaper-changing facilities were also sorely lacking in men’s restrooms in the U.K. Speaking about a particularly unpleasant situation with his daughter, Day said to the BBC in October 2018, “I headed into the men’s [restroom] and changed her on the cold and dirty tiled floor.”
Day added, “I think I used an entire [toilet] roll to cover as much of the floor as possible and create some level of comfort for her. But the whole experience was awkward and unpleasant, with men shuffling around me as I was squatted on the floor.”
But Palmer’s campaign didn’t mark the first time that the issue of the lack of changing facilities has been brought to wider attention in the U.S. In 2015, for instance, Ashton Kutcher began his own crusade to introduce changing tables in men’s public restrooms. The Change.org petition the actor started ultimately attracted over 104,000 signatures.
Kutcher’s actions appeared to be starting to make a real difference, too. After singling out Target and Costco as businesses that could improve their facilities, the star revealed that both companies had agreed to make changes. An update to the petition added, “With Costco vowing to include family bathrooms in all new or remodeled stores, and Target’s assurance that they are dedicated to this cause, we really have made a change to stop gender stereotyping.”
Then, in October 2016 the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act came into law; the legislation required changing stations be included in every men’s restroom in U.S. federal buildings. Rhode Island member of Congress David N. Cicilline, who had first proposed the measure, said of the decision, “Federal buildings are paid for by taxpayers. It’s important to ensure that they are as open, as accessible and as family-friendly as possible.”
Still, the support for #SquatForChange – and the images of men still changing their children while squatting in restrooms – suggests that more needs to be done. It also remains to be seen whether the public support for #SquatForChange will result in any new legislation.
Even if the campaign only raises public awareness, though, it’s clear that Palmer has discovered a real issue when it comes to parenting inequality. And he is happy by the outpouring of goodwill towards his campaign. The father told Jacksonville TV station WJXT in September 2018, “When dads come together, it’s like a big teddy bear you get on Valentine’s Day. It’s, like, all love, you know?”
Palmer also told BuzzFeed, however, “[Fathers are] more than just protectors and providers. We’re the stroller pushers [who] get up at 4:00 a.m. to warm bottles. My wife and I, we share everything equally. We cook and clean. We work hard – equally. Why do we share equal responsibility, but society views us differently?”