Why Pregnancy is a Lot Like Watching Sports

As difficult as it must be to play in and lose a sports championship, the agony of defeat is stronger for the fan.

Some of us have experienced that competitive loss as an amateur participant, but most of us have no way of knowing what it’s like to lose, say, the Super Bowl. Yet as painful as that numbing loss must feel, it’s harder to stomach for fans.

Why?

As much as fans can scream and support their teams, they really have no control over the situation on the field. It’s a feeling of powerlessness, of not being able to have a direct effect on the outcome. As invested as they are in their team, as strong as they love and support their squad, as much as they ooze lifelong civic pride – the best they can do is watch. And maybe pray.

All of this is a little bit what it’s like to for pregnancy and men. The dad-to-be can do plenty to cheer, motivate and support his baby-carrying-wife, but ultimately it’s on her to deliver the trophy – er, baby. He can maintain a healthy diet and stay fit as much as he wants, but it will matter little to the baby’s immediate development. He can get rest and seek plenty of help from family to prepare for the arrival, but the baby will still come as planned. He can study birthing and practice all the breathing exercises until he’s blue in the face, but the apple will eventually fall from the tree.

Granted, there’s actually a lot a man can do by way of touch, action, preparation, studying, coaching, and so on. A man can tell her how beautiful she is, take the far majority of the load when it comes to domestic duties, give massages, and romanticize her – and on and on.

But that dad probably would like to do more, and he probably wouldn’t mind being a little more in the game, as opposed to sitting on the sidelines. Go ahead and laugh, but you’d be surprised how many men wouldn’t mind giving pregnancy a try, if called upon. Those comments are always made out of mutual respect and in communion with wives. That’s true empathy.

So, let’s not forget that dads have plenty to think about during pregnancy, too. It’s an emotional time that requires a lot of patience and understanding. Dads deserve some of that, as well.

Marketers and media must remember that parents can reach the championship moment together. It shouldn’t be portrayed as a one-sided moment. Talk to dads in ad copy and your profit sheet will thank you.

It’s Not Just the Mom That’s Pregnant – It’s Dad, Too

When a child is on the way, a couple is overjoyed and over-the-moon about the huge change they’re about to experience.

But dads tend to feel left out.

When a couple becomes pregnant (more on that expression in a moment), it’s the woman who gains instant adulation by way of carrying the child. The wife goes shopping for new maternity clothes, often with sisters or girlfriends. She’ll likely host a baby shower with lots of guests, food and presents. She’ll physically start to change and receive extra consideration at doctor visits. She’ll get to request special foods not normally part of one’s daily diet (see cravings).

All of it is a wonderful, exciting time, and any husband is happy to see the added care and consideration his wife gets. The husband’s life will change, too, but the lack of attention can easily make a dad feel shut out.

The Boppy Company didn’t make things any easier with one of its recent blog posts.

In it, the writer states, “…it’s really not about you (male). You may have had something to do with conception, or were very involved with satisfying late night cravings, but the reality is, the person giving birth is going to be going through a lot and you’re not. In fact, you’ll likely be just sitting there most of the time.”

Any dad who’s gone through a pregnancy knows that’s not the case.

The change may not be physical, but dads go through a lot during a pregnancy. During delivery, he’s hardly just sitting there most of the time. And, he may have had a lot to do with conception.

Of course, there’s plenty a wife can to do make a dad feel like a part of the team: register together, attend appointments, plan the room, and feel the baby’s kick. All of this should go without saying. But the best idea is often overlooked.

So, what is that one, easy, surefire, free way to make dad feel appreciated and involved?

Let everyone know you’re both pregnant.

Sure, we all know that, technically, the child is growing inside the female. However, as stated, we also know that none of this is physically possible without a male – and that child is his, too.

So get used to saying it: couples become pregnant.

By telling the world, “We’re pregnant!” and “our baby is on the way,” it’s a telltale endorsement to friends and family that the baby is yours together, and dad-to-be is every bit an equivalent parent as mom-to-be. There’s no better way to make dad feel like a valued, equal part of the team. And yes, dad’s heart melts, too – he loves hearing togetherness words.

When women inevitably exclaim, “I’m pregnant” – it’s not that they intentionally meant to exclude husbands, or invoke any fatherly emotional detachment from the baby. It’s likely they just didn’t realize their word choice, or forgot, or omitted, or assumed, or overlooked.

Yet, that’s what happens to dads all the time.

So, make a pledge to use the proper pronoun during your pregnancy and beyond. Your relationship – as well as a genuine, committed, unified parenting approach – will be the better for it.

Why Did “Luca” Have an Absent-Minded Dad?

Alberto and Luca in a scene from Disney and Pixar’s “Luca” (courtesy Disney/Pixar)

For all the fun that Disney and Pixar’s latest film, “Luca,” predictably provides, it steps backward by employing a time-worn trope you might not have expected: the absent-minded dad.

With likable Jim Gaffigan at the helm – who admittedly knows a thing or two about dadly self-depreciation – it’s a surprising move while the rest of Hollywood seeks equality and eradication of stereotypes.

Of course, films are trying to right the ship. Superheroes aren’t just white anymore; they reflect nationalities across a wide spectrum. We’re largely done seeing damsels in distress; today’s successful female characters don’t sexualize or diminish their gender, they lead. Even animation has taken strides by employing actors whose skin represent their cartooned personas.

But then you have “Luca” with its preoccupied dad.

What in the name of Pixar’s lamp is going on here?

The sad part is this was unwarranted, gratuitous and preventable. While Luca’s overly protective mother Daniela (Maya Rudolph) admirably tries to save the day – Gaffigan’s character is left looking like her passive assistant at best.

For once, moviegoers get to see both Disney parents alive and instead they’re treated to a dad who can’t seem to get this parenthood thing down. The same idea was employed in 2018’s “The Incredibles 2,” as the dad from the titular superhero family struggled in his new role as a stay-at-home parent.

One could claim this film’s 1950s period setting merely reflects how dads were less involved during a simplified “Leave it to Beaver” era. Yet this categorization is unfair to the Greatest Generation who worked hard to provide for their families and got labeled as “distant” or “uninvolved.”

What moviegoers could have really used is some dad positivity, especially as the Disney+ film opened a mere two days before Father’s Day, and with the world slowly opening from a pandemic. Instead, subscribers were not only treated to an unnecessary absent-minded dad, but another – only mentioned by name – who abandoned his son (Luca’s new friend, Alberto).

In an otherwise beautiful Disney/Pixar movie filled with dazzling visuals, strong character development and a kindhearted story – even if it mimics 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” – it was a shame to see a dad used so little and leaning lazily on threadbare comic material.

While the rest of the nation looks with careful judgment on unfortunate stereotypes, this film sadly takes a step backward with equality. Dads have never been more active and involved in their families – and they’ve operated this way for a long time. Disney/Pixar should reflect this in film.

It’s time the entertainment world truly catches up because the next generation of fatherhood is watching.

Equal Holidays Deserve Equal Contests

Last month, Arm & Hammer ran a Mother’s Day promotion with wonderful prizes and accolades in thanks for the goodness of moms. And now here in the month of June, it appears no comparable campaign is in the works for dad.

The omission is glaring enough, but it goes beyond that of a contest.

In avoiding an equivalent promotion for fathers, Arm & Hammer is effectively declaring laundry to be a mother’s task – a dangerous proposition.

There’s no need to debate who really does laundry in a home (it varies depending on circumstances), or who it fell upon in past generations. There’s no need for one-sided media stories, or studies claiming who handled the brunt of it during the pandemic.

The fact is it’s 2021, and the equality-driven world of today places that responsibility on both spouses whether that’s one’s actual reality or not. Companies, media and the public wouldn’t dare suggest it’s a mother’s job to handle laundry. But it sure seems Arm & Hammer did.

And even if Arm & Hammer’s market research insists it’s mostly moms who buy their detergent, wouldn’t it look better if it didn’t acknowledge that through a promotion? It would be like Kraft running an ad that implies a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Those are fighting words, so why would Arm & Hammer even insinuate something similar?

Dads deserve the same honor for being superdads. They’ve done impossible juggling, too, and families count on them for everything.

How about surprising dads with the same experiences and prizes extended to moms? There’s still time, Arm & Hammer. Get it done and lighten some deserving dads’ loads.

The Trouble with Digital Media – and its Purpose

Newspaper editors have always had a difficult job. On top of ensuring that content is objective, fact-checked and accurate, they have two more daunting tasks – to ensure that content is of interest to readers and that there is space for it.

It’s the very reason that one of America’s foremost daily newspapers, The New York Times, still prints its famous slogan on the upper-left corner of page one: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” That motto was added to insist of its intention to report the news impartially, but it also underscores a common trait of which digital media knows nothing about – space in printed media is limited.

The fact whereby digital media has no limits to the stories it can publish is also its curse. The result is a tendency to produce seemingly senseless pieces by today’s digital shock jocks who write and often opine to deliberately offend and demean – all for clicks. They are, in essence, the digital newspaper equivalent of tabloids who entertain rather than provide factual or newsworthy information.

This sort of thing happens every day, of course, but was recently noticeable in a Parents magazine online story (above). It’s hard to imagine why else one mom’s attempt to ridicule her husband gets this kind of attention on a national level.

Only on a digital platform.

Maybe if we stop keeping score, stop pointing fingers and simply encourage, uplift and treat everyone equal – and in the way we speak to others – we won’t need a useless headline like this.

Parenting Isn’t a Mindset, It’s a Vocation

Similac has long offered a StrongMoms program despite selling a product any parent can use. We’ve pointed it out in the past and received nothing in response – until now.

We replied to one of Similac’s StrongMoms social media posts with, “It’s baby formula. Why not call it StrongParents Rewards? #DadsCountToo”

Similac had a most curious response.

“While named StrongMoms, it’s really meant to be a mindset that encourages and supports all parents in the decisions they make for their families. So any caregiver who identifies with our message should feel like they can be a part of StrongMoms. We have plans to continuously improve our program for ALL caregivers, and we’ll be sure to share your feedback with our team.”

A great deal of sexism can be deduced from this three-sentence response:

1. If you’re a male, you’re not a dad – you’re a mom. Similac says that if you identify with their message of being a parent, you’re essentially a mom. Forget the fact you’re a dad or could even be a grandparent caregiver. Everyone is considered a mom in its program because mom is the default parent. Dads don’t matter.

2. Dad isn’t capable of being a caregiver. Don’t beat around the bush Similac, just say it – you don’t think dads are equally capable parents. You don’t believe dads are as good parents as moms. That why you can’t even state the word dad in your response. Of course, the truth is mothers bear no more instinctual ability to parent than fathers.

3. Let’s call a spade a spade. Why doesn’t Similac simply change the program’s name? Why can’t it employ the word parents instead of moms? Does Similac feel inclusion of the word parents would cause moms to become less interested in its products? That seems unlikely. Here’s what we do know: if your name is biased, your program is biased. If your logo is biased, your message is biased. If your photos are biased, your potential customers can’t identify with whatever message you’re trying to convey.

4. Gender equality doesn’t work both ways. Women deserve gender equality in the work force and companies wouldn’t dare suggest otherwise. Men deserve gender equality in the home but don’t get it. Promoting a mindset where dads aren’t supported in name isn’t supporting. It’s time for change.

5. Conduct a ‘switch the name’ test. Replace the word mom with dad to see how it reads and whether or not it might exclude. If so, it might be time to consider a more inclusive name. When a company doesn’t recognize and see the value of the man a woman chose to be her husband and father of their children, that could very well be insulting to moms, too.

Looking at Fatherhood Differently

Have you ever noticed how many organizations, groups, websites and social media accounts are devoted to helping men become better husbands and fathers?

Quite a few. It’s a noble effort to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

On the flip side, you see far less devoted to helping women become better wives and mothers.

Why is that? And why is there a fatherhood.gov, whose goal is to provide, facilitate, and disseminate current research and proven and innovative… Why does it have a “Take Time to Be a Dad Today” slogan?

All of this is nice and well-intentioned. But there a motherhood.gov with a slogan, “Take Time to Be a Mom Today.”

Don’t these organizations at least provide the possibility they could be making dads feel inadequate, deficient and lessening their worth in the eyes of others? Moms bear no more instinctual ability to parent than dads.

There is no gender equality for dads in the parenting world. If a working mom requests time off for maternity leave or to care for a family member, companies oblige. The reaction is different when a dad requests the same.

Dads make huge sacrifices to provide for their families. While they’re at work providing for their families – sometimes gone days or weeks due to demanding jobs – they’re unable to spend time with their children through no fault of theirs. Oftentimes unfortunate economic circumstances have them living in poverty. The things dads do for their wives and children is commendable.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve got fatherhood all wrong. Maybe dads aren’t broken. Maybe dads don’t need fixed.

Maybe we just need to look at things differently.

Is This Really a ‘Parents’ Magazine?

Parents Magazine has provided much inspiration for our recent social media posts. For a magazine that purports to be for “parents,” its readers and the parenting community might insist otherwise. But don’t take our or others’ words for it. Check out Parents Magazine’s very own content and you be the judge.

Dads love making and serving their kids healthy snacks, too. Why does Parents Magazine insist on making mom look like the only one who cares about nutrition?

This is another example of a headline that makes mom out to be the lead parent.

Don’t dad-tested discipline tricks work? “Parent-tested” would have been much more appropriate.

Here’s a way to increase male readership — mention them, involve them, ask them, survey them, talk about them. There’s no better way to engage someone with your mission than to make them feel like they matter.

What Do These Photos Say About Dads?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we’re all wasting a lot of time writing.

Take a look at the print ad copy around you. That’s right – go ahead, pick up a magazine.

Companies spend millions with ad agencies to promote something in order to sell, but the images arguably do more than the writing.

And that leads us to the curious use of dads in marketing. Fathers aren’t used very often to sell parenting products, but when they are, it’s not always in a glamorous light.

Check out this TV news story photo (right) which tried to use lighthearted humor while an expectant dad shopped for baby items, but instead made him look inept and clueless as if he didn’t know how to operate a baby wrap.

Look at this parenting story from a lunch meat maker, where a young child cowers and hides from a father that comes across as overpowering and cruel.

Here’s another of a dad-to-be that’s seen admonishing his expectant wife.

Or check out this one accompanied by a headline that questions dad’s ability to be left alone with the child. One can only assume the dad here is indulging in TV first while tending to his child second.

Each story was well-intentioned, but what does this type of imagery do for the institution of fatherhood? What messages are these sending to our children? To spouses? To teachers? To neighbors?

Marketing has a duty to sell, but how is it shaping society-at-large with images like these? At best, it’s motivating only half of the parenting duo and distancing everyone else from men, making them to be less appealing as consumers and legitimate parents.

The next time you see advertising directed to the parenting community, don’t look at the words – look at the photos and ask yourself if they’re showing dad’s best side.

‘Twas the Night Before Shopping

‘Twas the night before shopping, as Christmas was coming,
Dad got the list ready, his fingers were humming.
He had to get set, he led the charge,
He scoured the ‘net, finding deals that were large.

The children were snoozing asleep undercover,
Also dreaming of Black Friday deals they’d discover.
With mama beside him, they both went a-clicking,
Shopping online takes a lot of nitpicking.

When they got to homepages, they saw some odd chatter,
Which insisted that dads didn’t all that much matter.
Site after site excluded dear dad,
Using wording for moms, which left them both sad.

It was hard to believe how dads were excluded,
“moms ran the home,” some companies alluded.
Wherever you looked no matter the price,
The omission of dad didn’t seem very nice.

When out on social media things got rather viral.
Other parents complained of this bad downward spiral.
So away to the car dad flew in a dash,
To confirm dads shopped and used hard-earned cash.

The tune as you’d guess on the mall speakers,
Was Bing Crosby singing to dads in their sneakers.
Across the food court and wide galleria,
Dads shopped and hunted for their next idea.

Not vapid but lively dads moved all about,
Wives and kids tagged along as dads started to shout:
“I know where we’ll save, I saw deals on my phone.
Just follow my plan, I’m so in the zone.
I worked hard for our money, so let’s stretch our dollar.
Finding deals is my game,” the dads seemed to hollar.

So up to each level, dads and families flew,
Finding specials, discounts and markdowns anew.
And then, I noticed and heard just for proof,
Dads tending to kids, they weren’t aloof.

They were dressed in their best, their entire outfit,
And some dads were stained with yellow baby spit.
A big diaper bag they’d flung on their backs,
They sure looked like parents, they even carried snacks.

Their guise wasn’t wrinkled, their beards were so hairy,
For months they were sleepy yet still acted merry.
‘Cause nothing did stop them with kids all in tow,
with presents to buy, they couldn’t move slow.

Their teeth how they shined, not the least bit of faint,
A halo encircled their heads like a saint.
They had broad faces, some were fit, some were not.
And they always stooped down to wipe faces with snot.

Called hubby and dad, those men never stopped,
And I nodded in favor and as they heroically shopped.
Those marketers who think that dads don’t shop,
Should have seen these guys their children call pop.

Mentioning dad by word may not seem like a lot,
But it gets them involved, makes them feel like they ought.
Dads sense that they matter when included by name,
It strengthens the family, it treats them the same.

Then you’ll hear them exclaim, above Christmas décor,
“I am daddy – hear me roar!”