Until you become a parent, you never really notice changing tables when you're in a public restroom. But the moment that status changes, those little fold-out hunks of plastic growing like tumors on the wall become welcome sights. Without them, you may be forced to precariously balance your child on the hard, cold, narrow, and often wet marble sink while navigating a dirty diaper, a clean diaper, wipes, and a diaper bag. Cloth diapers add to the mix as well, and if the child is poopy... well let's just say almost no one actually cleans the diaper properly. If the sink is too small, the bathroom floor is usually a very bad idea, leaving you to change your child in public!
Now, I am not saying that these changing tables are perfect. Far from it! I should invent a changing table that A) has a place to put/hang your diaper bag so it is off the disgusting (and often wet) bathroom floor, B) Has a place to put dirty diapers temporarily and sanitarily (even cloth ones, so a trash will not do) while you continue the unpleasant chore, and C) has a place to put the wipes and clean diapers. The tables are also often placed in unusual locations... one was placed right next to the automatic flushing urinal, causing it to evacuate its contents ever ten seconds. Another was in the way of the door to the wheelchair stall. But despite these shortcomings, just having a table is a blessing. I can manage the clean diaper, dirty diaper, wipes, wipe bag, diaper bag, wet bag, baby, and baby's clothing.
Here is where we often have a problem. Women's rooms, from what I can tell, usually have a changing table, if not always. Men's rooms, however, rarely do. There is something inherently wrong about going to the trouble of installing a changing table in the women's and neglecting to do so in the men's. It's not THAT much more money. Not only is there a growing number of stay-at-home dads out there, but there are also plenty of dads on outings with the baby, single dads, and dads who want to do their fair share of diaper changes.
Today I was at the Greenville Zoo with my infant daughter. It was just the two of us, and the zoo was mostly filled with moms and their kids. There were plenty of them and only one other dad with his daughter, but we were still there. In order for me to change my baby, I had to have an employee wait until the women's room was empty, then go in and check it, then stand guard while I used it to do the dirty deed. It was a bit undignified, and something that could and should have been easily avoided.
Who knows how long it will be before us fathers are seen as equals on the nurturing front.