Donte Palmer had done it many times — squatted down on the floor in a public restroom, stretched a squirmy child across his lap and changed a dirty diaper.
Unlike in many women’s restrooms, the 31-year-old father from St. Augustine, Fla., said, it’s common to walk into a men’s restroom armed with a diaper bag and a wet child only to discover that there are no diaper-changing stations. He said that when he became a father more than a decade ago, he learned to think outside the box — stretching babies across sink counters, having older children stand, and polishing what he calls his “perfect man squat” — changing a kid on a levitating lap.
It wasn’t until recently when his 12-year-old son, Isaiah, captured Palmer’s technique in a photo that Palmer said he started to seriously think about it.
Palmer posted the picture on Instagram and Facebook last month to raise awareness about the issue and, since then, he said, thousands of fathers have reached out to show their support — and their own squats.
Palmer said he wants more businesses to install diaper-changing stations in men’s restrooms.
He said he also wants to encourage other fathers to take active roles in their children’s lives.
“We are active fathers,” Palmer said about the men who responded to his call, saying many of them are happy to be the stroller-pushers and the bottle-warmers but that “we don’t want to have to get in the man squat to change diapers the rest of our lives.”
Palmer, who has three children, said it all started last month when he went to change his 1-year-old son’s diaper in a men’s restroom at a restaurant in Jacksonville. He quickly realized that there was no place to change Liam’s diaper, so he squatted.
He said his oldest son, Isaiah, had been assisting — handing him wipes and a new diaper for the toddler. Then the 12-year-old started snapping photos.
Palmer said he and his family had a quick laugh about it but that “I didn’t think anything of it.”
“I did my duty as a dad,” he said.
But a couple of weeks later, Palmer said, he started to wonder why men are forced to get so creative.
He posted the photo online Sept. 23, writing: “This is a serious post!!! What’s the deal with not having changing tables in men’s bathroom as if we don’t exist!! #FLM #fatherslivesmatter clearly we do this often because look how comfortable my son is. It’s routine to him!!!! Let’s fix this problem!”
It has been shared widely across social media, prompting dozens of comments from men and women and nearly 7,000 likes on Instagram. And men have been sharing their own photos with Palmer’s hashtag #squatforchange, showing fathers with diapered children draped over their laps in restrooms and other spaces, and even outdoors.
Palmer said that he was shocked by the response, admitting, “I just thought it was a Donte issue.”
It’s not. As The Washington Post reported in 2015, Ashton Kutcher, who was a relatively new father at the time, ranted about the problem on Facebook, saying, “There are NEVER diaper changing stations in mens public restrooms.” Then he made a deal: “The first public men’s room that I go into that has one gets a free shout out on my FB page!”
The post got more than 11,000 comments, 13,000 shares and 240,000 likes.
“I would like my daughter to experience a world where gender doesn’t dictate one’s responsibility or limit one’s opportunity,” the actor told his website, A Plus. “Having changing tables in men’s rooms is just a tiny step in the process of rectifying legacy gender discrimination. Men who are aware of this bias want to participate equally in the child care process and our society should support that. It’s time to get our hands dirty.”
Palmer said the notion that fathers are the breadwinners and mothers are the caretakers is an outdated one. He said men and women should “share an equal playing field” when it comes to parenting.
He said he does not want to diminish what mothers do because “they’re the superheroes,” but he wants fathers — and their role — to be recognized as well.