For Scotty Schrier, it started in December 2009 with a dirty diaper.
The Riverview work-at-home dad and his wife, Sheri, wanted to enjoy dinner out with their 3-month-old son, Xander, at a local chain restaurant. When the baby needed a diaper change, Schrier slung the diaper bag over his shoulder and picked up his son. They headed to the men's room to take care of business.
"No changing station in the men's room,'' says Schrier, who made do with the available space and went to the manager to ask about the lack of a clean, well-maintained table to change a baby's diaper in the restaurant's men's room. "They didn't seem like they cared too much, but they lost a customer.''
Schrier decided to do something about it. He went home and launched a new website, Dads Who Change Diapers
. His mission: Bang the virtual drum online for more diaper changing stations in public men's rooms.
"I thought if I called them out in the blog, something might actually happen,'' says Schrier, "but it didn't.''
Undeterred, Schrier's next step was to add a men's room diaper changing station locator to his website. Users can upload locations to the interactive map, allowing dads to find the nearest place to make the change without having to resort to the back seat of the car or a bathroom stall floor. Schrier's site lists 44 locations in the Tampa Bay area.
"I really want this to become a thing,'' says Schrier, who is a novelist and the primary caretaker for his two young sons. "I want it to become a success. I want there to be a time when some new dad is out there and wants to take his family out to dinner and says, 'Hey, let's go here because I can help [with diaper duty]'.''
Laws Catch Up With Reality
The idea that fathers are increasingly engaged in the day-to-day care of their children actually already is a "thing,'' based on data from a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on fathers' involvement with their kids. The study revealed that nine of 10 fathers who live with their kids bathe them, dress them and change their diapers.
Politicians are taking notice, too. In Miami in 2012, city commissioners voted to enact "Brianna's Bill,'' which called for the addition of 165 changing stations to the city's public facilities, such as City Hall. The bill was named for the daughter of sponsoring Commissioner Frank Carollo.
In California, two bills that would require public diaper changing facilities to be equally accessible for men are working their way through the state legislature.
The website Changing Table Locator, not affiliated with Schrier's site, has more than 3,000 sites listed around the country where dads have equal access to diaper changing stations.
Schrier was at the forefront of what has become one of the summer's hot parenting topics.
Dads who want changing tables in public restrooms have been featured on the TODAY Show and in USA Today. Schrier was featured on a story by a Portland, Ore., TV station about the topic, as well as on a local news website in Kansas City.
The next step, Schrier says, is to try to build on the recent momentum.
Perfect Gift For Dads
"I would love to see 'Dads Who Change Diapers' as an app that is put into every packet when a couple gets pregnant,'' Schrier says. "You go to the doctor and the mom gets an entire goody bag of stuff. I remember going through the bag and I was like, wow. There was a little part of me that was like, 'What do I get?' and I get the driest book ever. There was a text book. This is it? What if we got an app?''
If he and his wife had had access to such an app in 2009, Schrier figures, they could have checked their phones before heading out to dinner and would have chosen a restaurant that caters to dads who change diapers. Then again, that initial negative experience was the catalyst that helped Schrier become an agent of change.
"I'd like to say at some point I made it easier for someone,'' Schrier says. ''If I can sit there someday and say somebody, somewhere used my site and they were able to help their kid, then mission accomplished.''
Carter Gaddis is a Tampa writer and journalist who publishes the personal blog, DadScribe. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.