Where are the baby changing rooms for Dubai dads?
The other day I was eavesdropping on three men sitting at a bar in Dubai. Rather than talking about football, explaining the various endings of the new Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, or pitching world-solving tech start-up ideas to each other, they were deep in discussion about nappies.
The trigger of the conversation was the news that as of 2019 in New York all new and renovated buildings with public restrooms in the city will now be required to have nappy-changing tables in both men’s and women’s bathrooms. As a parent of a potty-trained young daughter I listened both smug and sympathetic. The men traded stories of changing their toddlers’ nappies in elaborate places (from their knees in flooded in public restrooms, to the boot of their car in a supermarket car park) to mishaps of not finding a suitable place in time. I had experienced similar situations. In fact, these days most young fathers have.
Fatherhood has changed. More so than any other time in human history families have men and women who work, and progressively have begun sharing the childcare load. Thankfully, that reality - basic domestic egalitarianism - is gradually becoming less of a novelty.
A 2013 study from Pew Research found that men and women found nearly identical levels of meaning in childcare. The problem of work-life balance isn’t just for women anymore, and the father who works 70-hour weeks because his job is so important is no longer seen as something to aspire to. He’s pitiable. The fact that women are increasingly breadwinners has opened up new options for men - the stay-at-home dad has changed from sitcom-worthy freak into a viable option of the new state of the dismantled nuclear family.
The new provision to ensure that changing tables are added in men’s bathrooms in New York is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. It would be hard to see why a growingly progressive country such the UAE - especially in terms of public services and amenities - would not soon follow suit.
The old fatherhood was a series of unexpressed assumption. The new fatherhood requires intelligence. It requires judgement. The new fatherhood is messy. The new fatherhood requires baby changing tables.