Justin Simard just wanted to pop in to the grocery store with his newborn son when he found himself in the middle of a parking spot conundrum.
After excitedly pulling into what he thought was a primo parking spot, he noticed a bright pink sign declaring it for "expecting mothers" and "mothers with small children" only.
The veteran dad only had one question for Sobeys, the Canadian grocery chain that had placed the sign there: Uh ... what gives?
@sobeys crap, am I allowed to park here? #notababysitter #dadissues https://t.co/NY3OkcBbnP— Justin Simard (@Justin Simard) 1503338253.0
While closer parking spots for moms with young children are a thoughtful gesture, they leave out a pretty important group of people: dads.
"The wording of the sign bothered me," he told The Huffington Post. "What about single fathers? What about same sex couples? It occurred to me that the sign could be more inclusive.”
Simard's Tweet struck a nerve, quickly racking up over 100 retweets and even getting the attention of Sobeys' marketing team. The brand quickly issued a clarification and offered to change the wording of the sign.
@JustinSimard You are definitely entitled to that parking spot, Justin! Which location was this so we can update the signage? #SuperDad— Sobeys (@Sobeys) 1503341903.0
Simard, who included the hashtag #NotABabysitter in his original tweet, wasn't trying to be snarky: The age-old idea that parenting is a women's job hurts, well, everyone.
The National At-Home Dad Network estimates the number of stay at home dads in the United States is approaching 2 million, meaning it's far from rare for a dad to be the primary caregiver. It shouldn't be considered a rarity for any dad to bring his baby or toddler along while he does the grocery shopping or runs errands.
This way of thinking pigeonholes women into caregiving roles and lowers the bar for men who become fathers, to the point where they can be celebrated for something as simple as being in their child's life at all, or find themselves praised for "babysitting" the kids, when what they're actually doing is parenting them.
Attitudes on traditional parenting roles are slowly changing for the better. More and more men's restrooms are required to have changing tables inside, and better paternity leave options for men seem to be gaining support around the country (though we have a long way to go).
And then there's this:
Within a few days, Simard's local Sobeys had updated that specific sign, along with a promise to look into changing the signs at all of their locations.
Here's the new parking signage at our store in Stratford, P.E.I., thanks to feedback from @justinsimard. https://t.co/loKU1OuEYd— Sobeys (@Sobeys) 1503672598.0
It says a lot that people are paying attention to issues like this one, and taking dads seriously as caregivers. It'd be better if Sobeys didn't need to be asked to change their sign, but Simard says he doesn't hold it against them.
"I’m sure that Sobeys meant their signage to be inclusive of all caregivers in the first place, regardless of gender, cis or trans, sexual orientation, or however it is they came to be the guardian of a small child or infant," he explains over Twitter. "Their willingness and action to change it so quickly really speaks to that."
"Thoughtless sexism," he calls it. It's not meant to hurt anyone, but it needs to be called out and addressed all the same.