I changed more diapers on my daughter’s first day on Earth than my father-in-law has changed in his entire life. He’s the product of an older, more rigid environment in which the women always tended to the baby’s needs, and the father’s role in diaper-changing essentially amounted to an ostentatious sniff and the helpful suggestion, “Smells like someone needs to have his drawers changed.”
The mentality towards a man’s role in the nursery has largely shifted, however. Women now share diaper duty. But exceptions still remain, and along with them are some disturbing attitudes toward men and their relationship to babies.
Lenore Skenazy, whose Free-Range Kids blog discusses how the over-protection of children produces paranoia in some segments of contemporary American society, recently highlighted a church in Michigan whose daycare policy more or less explicitly paints males of all ages as perverts who cannot be trusted around kids.
A reader sent Skenazy the “safe haven” policy for the children’s ministry services of the Recast Church in Mattawan, Michigan, and two provisions are particularly troubling.
- Teenage boys will not be permitted to work in the nursery or toddler areas.
- Only adult women shall change diapers and help toddlers in the restroom. When taking children to the restroom, the door shall be partially open.
Obviously I’m not the only one who was disturbed by these rules.
I am interested to know that teenage boys are, as a group, not allowed to work with young kids. I guess thousands of years of older siblings looking after younger siblings matters not when “Worst First” thinking creeps in. The “worst” being: He’s male, he’s young, why would he want to have anything to do with a child unless, of course, he’s a pervert? Get him away! Then there’s the idea of only women changing diapers. Sometimes it feels like the easiest way to roll back feminism is to insist, “We DO believe in equality. But think of the children!
Don Filcek, the pastor of Recast Church, responded to Skenazy’s blog after the church’s website experienced a spike in traffic, most of it from people wondering why his church would discriminate against males who wanted to work with children.
I am not a fear-monger. My children DO ride to the store on their own. But statistics show that child abusers go to places with least resistance and are more likely to be someone with whom the child is well acquainted. I will NOT allow my church to be a Safe Haven for sex offenders and just as in anything … safety and convenience are always a trade-off. I hope you can understand how your blog came across as condescending and offensive to someone who is doing the best they can to protect children from potential abuse as well as volunteer workers from false accusations. The diaper and teenage thing was a stretch for me personally, but at the recommendation of my insurance company and the thought of potentially stopping abuse, I saw it as a worthwhile compromise.
The compromise, however, explicitly promotes the idea that males of all ages are turned on my kids in diapers. Gender profiling? From a Christian church? It’d be better to just shut down the children’s ministry than to advance the backward thinking that all men are potential pedophiles.