This week on the blog, I invited entrepreneur Jacob Smithers to talk about the frustrations he experienced due to a lack of changing tables in men’s restrooms and the actions he taking to fix the problem.
Counter or Floor? Where do I put the changing pad?
By Jacob Smithers
My parents always told me that their goal in life is for me to have a better life than they had. I respect them for that and truly believe that all parents feel this way. We all want what is best for our kids and to see them succeed to the best of their ability. I would like to see parents in this country take those same extremes with family values and child safety. If you walk into 100 restaurants in a year, and use the men’s restroom, how many have a baby changing station? It is amazing to me that we have people in our world who are agoraphobic, but yet nobody has made a push to make these same situations suitable for children.
As I continue to read the signs that say “employees must wash hands before returning to work,” I am going to put up my own sign that says, “You have clean hands, but I have to use the counter or floor to change my child’s diaper? Thanks for thinking of us.”
As the influx of male childcare has mirrored the number of women in the primary income role for the family, society has not supported this. Some restaurants have changing tables in the women’s restrooms, but have failed to change with the times and install one in the men’s room as well.
2 ½ years ago I was with my 3 kids, wife and parents at a nice restaurant downtown Chicago. We made sure that they served food for kids and also had a high chair for my son. We were greeted warmly by the hostess as well as the bartender, whom we passed by on the way to our table. Once seated, we received our menus and ordered our food within a short amount of time.
As always, my son who was only 6 months old, decided it was a good time for an old fashioned poop in the middle of the restaurant. Can’t plan everything!!! I let him finish, and then grabbed my wipes, diaper, dirty diaper bag, and changing pad. This is nothing new, as we have been through this numerous times with the first two kids.
I walk into the men’s bathroom since there is no family bathroom, and realize that there is not a changing table. I am not about to put my son on a public floor downtown Chicago, no matter how nice the restaurant is. I bring him out and do the “handoff” with my wife. She takes our son and is back in 2 minutes. “That was fast,” I said. Her face said it all, and I knew that there was not a changing table in the women’s bathroom either. I told her to give him back to me and I would take care of this.
I took my son and all of the necessities, and went searching for a manager. Once I found him, I asked where would be a good place to change my son in the restaurant. “I am sorry sir, but we don’t have anywhere for you to change him.” Not the response I was looking for, yet I expected it anyway. “How is it that a restaurant with highchairs does not have a changing table in either of the restrooms, sir?” His answer was a simple, “ I am sorry sir.” At this point, I was not very happy, to say the least. I knew in my head the solution to this, but the manager did not. I prompted him with the following questions… “Do I walk 6 blocks to the hotel where we were staying, in the middle of January? Do I walk door to door at other restaurants until I find a changing table? Do I lay him on top of a table not being used for a meal at that time? I could lay him on your desk in your office sir. What do you think would be our best option, sir?” He quickly said, “I am sorry, sir.”
Unfortunately, our food was on its way out, and was a little too late to leave the establishment. I went into the bathroom and emptied out the paper towel dispenser. I used every last paper towel in that dispenser and laid them on the floor. It did not look too bad if my purpose was to clean up after a larger animal mess. I laid my changing pad on top of this pile, and took care of my son’s needs.
We finished our meal, and in leaving I gave the manager a task to complete. “Sir, please tell the owner of the restaurant, who is a superstar in the world of sports and has kids, that if he is going to provide highchairs, he better install changing tables in the men’s and women’s restrooms, or create a family restroom.”
It was in leaving the restaurant, that my wife was livid and said that something needs to be done about restaurants that have high chairs and no changing tables. Here we are 2 & ½ years later with a fantastic website that has over 4,000 family friendly establishments throughout the United States and soon to be integrated smart phone app that can provide parents with family friendly locations which have baby changing tables in the restrooms.
We are raising funds to launch our app and continue to “Empower Parents With Knowledge.” Our app will be user friendly and parents will be able to add new locations while traveling. Our website www.changingtablelocator.com allows adults traveling with children in diapers, to plan their travels ahead of time and expect the unexpected.
Our solution is simple: If you can offer a high chair or booster seat, then you better offer a changing table in the men’s and women’s room, or have a family restroom.
Changing Table Locator
Executive Vice President