Long gone are the days when fathers were, at best, auxiliary parents: smoking in hospital corridors and waiting for the birth to be over; disappearing to the office early in the morning and returning long after the kids have gone to bed; or handing screaming tots back to tired mums whenever a smell arose.
These days, dads are active and equal partners in parenting – from doing the school run and cutting crusts off sandwiches to long nights with a screaming baby and even, that’s right, changing nappies. So if new papas are all caught up on What to Expect When Expecting, when are restaurants and retailers going to catch up on what dad-friendly facilities to provide?
Proud father and founder of The Dad Network, Al Ferguson, found himself asking this very question after visiting four different restaurants and being unable to find a place to change his 19-month-old son, Ted. Caffe Nero, Strada, Pizza Express and BHS were all found guilty of providing women-only changing facilities.
As he put it, “I’m not a mum, but I am a parent!” His struggle inspired him to launch a campaign, #dadsforchange, to recognise that dads are equal parents and to share dad-friendly facilities.
Hands-on dads were also the inspiration behind this year’s Sudocrem Care & Protect Baby Changing Room Awards. After Ashton Kutcher took to social media to vent his frustration at a lack of dad-friendly facilities when out and about with Baby Wyatt, Sudocrem Care & Protect decided to focus their efforts in the third year of their popular awards on finding the best gender-neutral facilities.
Winners included national retailer Mothercare, family theme attraction Bewilderwood, gastropub The Pointer and even Southampton Airport! With over 1000 entries, the dad-friendly awards were a resounding success and spread the word about the important of clean, accessible baby-changing facilities.
Al’s story has a happy ending too, after Italian chain Strada installed male-accessible baby-changing facilities at Al’s local chain. Not only that, but they have promises to install similar baby changing stations in all branches.
It’s just the beginning of Al’s campaign for parental equality – but this victory sets a high bar for businesses in the future. It’s time to accommodate dads too!