Like many young fathers, Donte Palmer is eager to take on a greater share of childrearing responsibilities that have often been relegated to women—like changing diapers.
But often, the 31-year-old Florida man would be confronted with the same annoying problem: public restrooms for men almost never have changing tables, requiring Palmer to squat on the floor and balance his 1-year-old on his lap in order to perform the messy duty.
Palmer documented the ordeal—which he described as routine—a couple of weeks ago, hoping to inspire more businesses to install more changing tables in men’s restrooms (as he clarified in a subsequent Instagram post, the photo was taken by his eldest son). He added the hashtag #squatforchange and the post quickly became viral, with other fathers sharing their own photos and stories about changing their kids’ diapers.
The message was seconded by Rapper T.I. and TV personality D.L. Hughley, according to WJXT News4Jax.
One Twitter user said he often had to change his kid’s diaper in the sink. Another said he would lay his hoodie on the bathroom floor in order to do his Daddy duty, the New York Daily News reports.
But real change appears to be coming. Palmer tells the paper that state and local officials have reached out to him about setting up changing stations in men’s restrooms. Last week in Baltimore, Md., Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer posted a photo alongside recently installed changing tables in City Hall men’s bathrooms. “No need to #squatforchange in Baltimore City Hall,” he wrote. The city also approved a “Diaper Duty bill” that day, which would make changing tables accessible to all mothers and fathers in city buildings.
Other social media users have suggested that more gender neutral bathrooms—with changing tables inside—could be another way to combat the problem.
As expectations around gender and gender roles continue to shift, how to spread parenting duties has become an increasingly hot—and salient—topic. A recent New York Times article titled “How I Trained My Husband to Be a Dad” touched on some of these issues while stoking debate about the proper way to share the tedious, demanding work of child-rearing between both parents.
In an interview with BuzzFeed’s online show Am2DM last week, Palmer said that he received a number of negative comments about his campaign.
“[Commenters] were painting the picture that I was a single father with an autistic son,” said Palmer, who’s married. Or “that my wife is lazy...that the mother of his child must be lazy because she’s not there to help him.”
But Palmer has been buoyed by the numerous messages of support, which have come from parents as far as Uganda, Malaysia, and Australia.
They tell Palmer, “You are speaking to an issue of all fathers,” he says. “It’s not a left or right thing. It’s not a Democrat or Republican thing. It’s a father and a parent issue.”