By Donte Palmer, as told to Thrive Global
Donte Palmer, of St. Augustine, Fla., went viral after posting a photo on social media of him changing his youngest child’s diaper in a squat position, because there was no changing table in the men’s restroom. The photo launched a movement: #squatforchange. Here, he talks about how he’s continued to fight for more changing tables in men’s bathrooms, and about how he strives to parent — sharing responsibilities equally with his wife, and creating a supportive and open environment for his children.
Four months ago, I was teaching video production at a high school when a photograph changed my life. We were in a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, and, once again, the men’s room offered no changing table to change my youngest son’s diaper. As usual, I squatted against the wall and changed Liam’s diaper on my lap. My oldest son, Isaiah, caught the moment on camera. That photo went viral. Media and legislators reached out, and a movement was born: #squatforchange, to advocate for more changing stations in public bathrooms.
I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this change, and for the fact that Pampers is supporting dads everywhere by pledging to install 5,000 changing tables in men’s restrooms. More changing tables in men’s rooms may not strike everyone as a huge deal. But for families with dads who share childcare duties, or with dads, like me, who are primary caretakers, more equal facilities help us live the life we want to lead. Pampers knows it’s important to enjoy parenting, and also to confront its daily challenges head-on, with support from the world around you.
My wife works full-time as an executive director of Teach for America, and I care for Isaiah (12), Taylor (7), and Liam (2). We believe that when it comes to dividing and conquering parenting with a partner, the first thing any couple should do is communicate. Without communication, there are gaps — we call them “gray areas.” When we have a gray area, we sit down and communicate. For instance, who’s going to take Isaiah to football on Saturday? My wife shouldn’t think that just because football is a “man’s sport,” I’m going to always take him. I may take him three weeks straight, but then there might be a Saturday when I can’t do it, and if she doesn’t know about it, then Isaiah would be stranded.
Communication isn’t just about us — we also want to teach our boys about their responsibilities. As a man, I want to show them how to cater to their future partners and give back to their mom. It’s just as important for them to see me cooking and cleaning while mom watches her talk shows as it is for them to see mom preparing a meal while dad watches a game. I tell the boys this all the time: “Take care of the house first, and then you can do what you want.” You want to go to the pool with your friends? Fine, but make sure the trash has been taken out and see that your parents don’t need anything from you.
Since every kid is different, I try to be resourceful with my parenting and communication. When my middle son had colic, he cried and cried. Google told me that putting him next to a running faucet would put him into a deep sleep, and it worked! These days, when my youngest becomes inconsolable, I get on my hands and knees and ask, “What are you crying for? Show me!” He’ll pull my hand to whatever he wants. If the thing he wants is something he shouldn’t have, like a cookie, then I use re-direction to make him forget about the cookie. I focus him on a toy, or just change his environment.
Focusing on communication — with my children and my wife — helps me take pleasure in being a dad. When my wife and I communicate clearly and often, we can be equal partners in parenting, and we can share those responsibilities. And when I can easily find changing tables in the men’s room and avoid squatting — thanks to Pampers’s efforts to support equitable parenting — that helps a lot, too.