I am disappointed to reveal that there hasn’t been much excitement for me in the toilet arena over the years. I never had a fumble in a pub bog and I never took a Dip Dab lolly from the skanky wicker basket in Northampton’s Ritzy. (Just couldn’t get my head around scoffing something after having a wazz; my loss, perhaps).
But today all my toilet dreams came true in Marks & Spencer, Stratford. No fumbles, no free Wham bars and no revolutionary advances to the humble crapper. Just a sign – a sign that had a man holding a baby. A sign that indicated that a man could wipe infant arse as well as a woman. Thank the shitting gods.
I risked seeing a few hairy pickles in the name of investigative journalism to ensure this man/dad-friendly effluence station delivered the goods. There it was – a baby changing table beaming down triumphantly next to the urinals. Two very simple additions: a sign (guestimate: £30) and a hunk of baby-facilitating plastic that retails at £69.99 on eBay. Not much to ask, really and yet, this was, indeed A Moment – even more exciting than if I’d taken Dean from Abbey National up on his fruity offer in the Red Lion.
I’ve lost count of the times Matt (@papa_pukka) has headed off stridently to a restaurant toilet with a soiled squawker only to return defeated (or, perhaps, relieved; we must not get above our station, wiping arse is shit). And we’re not talking small independent organic hipster gafs – the full gamut from monolithic supermarket chain to family-friendly restaurants, complete with colouring-in packs, has turned a blind eye to the wanger-bearing contingent.
It’s just a sign, it’s just a bit of light DIY to tack on the side of plans for the intricate, brand-addled serviette dispenser that shows your restaurant/ festival/ pub/ shopping centre/ surgery/ maternity ward understands that most Dads don’t just scarper post-spunk.
More than anything it’s a basic nod to a world that has moved on from women being left holding the baby. The minute I had Mae, I was so physically and mentally mangled, Matt had no choice but to cradle her in his hairy man pit. He changed her first mustard-hued nappy, he gave this 6lb mewling infant her first dunk. He had an eye-wateringly hilarious meltdown when her belly button scab fell off. (“What the fuck do I do with it? Do people keep it? God, who are those people?”)
He’s taken 2,457 photos of her surreptitiously (I only saw his Dropbox last year and it reduced me to a weeping mess) to my 1,456. He’s, furrow-browed, questioned her broccoli intake more than me and ordered her educational toy after educational toy in the vain hope that it will break through my natural penchant for a stuffed Disney stalwart.
He’s a primary, not secondary carer. Like a relentless basketball game, if he drops the ball, I pick it up and if he slam dunks, we high five. Like, we actually high fived when we seamlessly managed to clean up a basinet of chunder on an Emirates flight to our mate’s wedding in Dubai.
We’re ebbing and flowing – often huffily in the face of procreation-fuelled exhaustion – around this kid. And sure I think he could offer up more in the waking-up-when-she-cries-in-the-night department, while I’m sure he’s concerned by my baby gro draw admin. But we’re parenting. Not dadding or mumming. A parental unit. We’ve been fighting hard to get to a place where women are equal in the workplace, so why not offer up an even more common denominator on the side – make us equal in the humble crapper.
Marks & Sparks (not sure if anyone who isn’t a parent from the 80s still calls it that), thank god for thinking outside the cubicle. Bog standards, indeed.
While Ashton Kutcher got hacked off on behalf of US Dads (“I’ll give a shout out on all my channels to the first restaurant that installs baby changing facilities in the Dad’s restroom”), the UK has Al Ferguson, founder of The Dad Network here to flush this shit away. His #dadsforchange campaign names and shames the places that are letting the paternal side down.