A Canadian dad used Twitter to make a small but meaningful change for parents today.
On Monday, Justin Simard tweeted a photo of himself and his 9-month-old son in the parking lot of a Sobeys supermarket in Stratford, Prince Edward Island.
The photo shows the duo next to a sign designating the parking spot for “Expecting Mothers” and “Mothers with Small Children.” Addressing the company’s Twitter account, the dad tweeted, “Crap, am I allowed to park here? #notababysitter #dadissues.”
Simard told HuffPost when he first saw the sign, he simply thought, “Oh good, a place to park that isn’t too far from the door while I’m with my son.” But after he parked there, he had a change in perspective.
“When I went to get out of my car, the person in the spot next to me gave me a dirty look, which quickly vanished when I took my son out of his car seat,” Simard explained. “Then the wording of the sign bothered me. What about single fathers? What about same sex couples? It occurred to me that the sign could be more inclusive.”
Dad and blogger Aaron Gouveia retweeted Simard, noting “This kind of crap obviously isn’t the most egregious wrong in the world but it’s still stupid and unnecessary. Just make it ‘parents.’”
Indeed, several brands have made updates over the years to the way they refer to parents. In 2015, Amazon changed the name of its Amazon Mom program to Amazon Family. In 2014, the Today Moms website was rebranded as Today Parents.
Simard was happy to see a response from the Sobeys Twitter account. “You are definitely entitled to that parking spot, Justin!” the tweet read. “Which location was this so we can update the signage?
“I was blown away. The reply was almost immediate, and had exactly the tone I hope to find on social media ― that is to say, I felt like a human being, being answered by a human being who could see my point of view,” Simard recalled.
A representative for Sobeys told HuffPost the company is currently looking into the issue and the possibility of updating its parking lot signage beyond the Stratford location.
“All expectant mothers and parents of small children are welcome to park in the expectant parents parking spots in all our Sobeys stores,” said the representative. “We will continue to look at this in the future and thank the customer for bringing it to our attention.”
Simard said he hopes all companies who offer these kinds of perks to parents check their signage to ensure it isn’t outdated and make moves toward inclusivity. In the meantime, he also wants people to realize that signs like the one at Sobeys are intended for customers who are pregnant or parents with small children ― regardless of whether they are moms or dads.
“My hope is that the sign was simply an echo of a thoughtless sexism that insists that raising children is ‘women’s work,’ and that people will realize that raising children is ‘parent’s work,’” he explained, adding that he believes people still have to overcome the subtle suggestions that dads aren’t involved parents.
Said Simard, “Blatant sexism is easy to denounce, but I think it’s important to see the non-inclusive language that is all around us, recognize it, and replace it.”