Sunday, 1 September 2013

Double Standard

This morning, we took the kids out to brunch with our next-door neighbours and their kids, who are of similar ages. Any parent knows that meals in restaurants with small children are never relaxing occasions: much time is spent coaxing them to eat; the rest, trying to keep them entertained without letting them destroy the place. 

My 13-month-old recently starting walking, so naturally, she refuses to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. And she's now going through every parent's favourite toddler phase: the obsession with stairs. Up the stairs, down the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs....

At some point during her adventures, it became evident that she needed a diaper change. Urgently. My husband kindly volunteered and whisked her off to change her...only to return just a few moments later. The only change table was in the women's washroom. 

Reluctantly, I abandoned my coffee and carted her off to change one of those lovely diapers (why, oh why, do I ever give her corn?), but part of me was annoyed. Not at having to do yet another diaper change—after all, I've been changing diapers for one child or another for more than three years now—but because my husband didn't even have the option to do it. And it's not the first time we've encountered this scenario.

Come on, folks—it's not the 1950s anymore. In our family, we share responsibility for taking care of our children. My husband pays his dues in everything from diaper-changing, to feeding, to entertaining a squirmy baby on four-and-a-half-hour plane ride. Granted, the restaurant was an older one, but it irked me that the natural assumption was that any diaper-changing on the premises would be done by the mothers.

I don't want to read too much into this; I'm not suggesting that the lack of change tables in men's restrooms is to blame for an uneven division of labour in child-rearing. But I do think  it propagates a stereotype that we've been trying to get past and which, for many families, is patently untrue: women are responsible for the "dirty work" of having babies.

Having helped to bring these children into the world, there's no reason why men can't take equal responsibility for raising them. And our culture, from restaurants to retail, should support that.


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