Let’s stop telling dads they’re not parents

A clear shortcoming of excluding dads from marketing is how it diminishes his ability as a capable consumer.dadshops6

Of course, moms possess no more instinctual ability to purchase items than dads, who are fully fit shoppers. The current message and stigma about dads, however, has trained us to think otherwise. It’s that same messaging that influences moms while they shop on their own. It’s curious to contemplate that while some people believe everything outside the home is a man’s world, the marketing community firmly believes otherwise when constructing messages in relation to everything inside the home.

With all of the emotion, empowerment, and authenticity of advertising directed toward mothers, how constructive are advertisements which speak only to them?

armandhammer1.jpgIn other words, is society really taking mothers seriously when all the focus is placed on them to the exclusion of fathers? Do mothers really want this heap of responsibility when scores of moms incessantly plead for help in the home and caring for children? Do mothers really want it all, as ads so often suggest: motherhood, career, and control of the household and family? Is it fair to portray women solely as happy homemakers in half of the ads and as sex objects in the other half?

Viewed collectively, these ads seem to be at odds with how women are regarded in society and inadvertently places unwanted labels on them.

The subjective conception of such marketing means that women pay a price beyond labels and undesirable pressure.

Humanity will never achieve overall equality for women, particularly at work, until the same equality for men is achieved as parents. The two are intertwined.

When gender stereotypes unfairly discount men as true parents and view women as instinctual caretakers of children, it conveys a message that it’s a man’s world everywhere but home.

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Beware of the unconscious bias

To see food products like Jif and Kix hold on to their timeworn, stereotypical catchphrases — all of it has reached a state of comicality. It certainly suggests absurdity and irrationality. We’re talking about peanut butter and cereal. Those products are specific to moms?

But then there are those items related to babies, and less people seem to notice the exclusionary practices tied to its marketing. Boppies were never invented solely for mothers, but they’re regularly positioned to exclude dads from messaging and thus, demote dads to secondary parental status. Similac offers baby formula – a surefire product for dads if there ever was one – yet its makers go out of their way to reject dads in messaging.

drbrowns4All of this is detrimental to families, of course, because it impedes the family from flourishing as it should without recognizing fathers as equal, competent parents.
Dr. Brown’s can now be grouped with the Boppy and Similac. They’re all products that owe us a little more, that need to try a little harder, that have a responsibility to go out of their way to ensure that dads don’t feel left out. They’re products that should regularly feature dads and speak to them in all that they do.

Go ahead and try to find a single image of a dad on the Dr. Brown’s site. Is there even one? That’s hardly representative of today’s modern families, or even families of yesteryear.

The current actions of companies like Dr. Brown’s, Boppy and Similac would be a little like Lowe’s only using men in its ads and scripting slogans and ad copy that only speaks to that one gender. And imagine the uproar if they did! Rather, they know that home improvement is hardly a gender-specific thing, even though common stereotypes indicate that power tools and outdoor work is supposedly for men.

But instead, Dr. Brown’s takes the old-fashioned route and tells us that dads don’t take drbrowns2.jpgcare of babies, or can’t bottle feed, or don’t want to. It’s all very troubling for a company that prides itself on innovation and support. And check out the disconcerting use of moms as a synonym for parent. Sorry Dr. Brown’s, but not all parents are moms, and thus, those terms can’t be succinctly substituted without leaving someone out.

Also take note of its Ambassadors program. Not only does it exclude fathers, it behaves as if they don’t exist.drbrowns5

Dr. Brown’s Twitter bio promises that its focus is “to create innovative feeding products to promote good health and optimal nutrition for baby.” If that’s true, then it’s time to make several revisions to its website and social media.

Dads want to deliver those things, too, and if someone tells him he can’t, he’s going to look elsewhere for someone who believes in him.

Baking up parental equality

Most consumer products have peak sales times of the year – periods on the calendar when companies can best capitalize on generating the most revenue.entenmanns.jpg

For many, that time of year is the holiday shopping season, when gift buying is strong. For others, such as home improvement stores, that time occurs during the spring when home owners are fixing and planting. Fitness centers especially profit during January and February as New Year’s resolutions mean losing weight and exercising more.

Of course, this time of year – back-to-school season – is when breakfast and lunch makers ramp up efforts to get families in the groove of using their products.

And what is snack maker/baker Entenmann’s doing? It’s telling the nation that only one parent takes care of kids.entenmanns2.jpg

Not only can you find use of the word mom (not parent), you can also find images of a lopsided 13 moms vs. 4 dads on its Parents/Have Fun With Us page.

All of this would have been appropriate some 60-70 years ago when moms ran the show. But parenting has changed dramatically since then. In today’s modern families, dad is now also in charge of buying groceries, clothes, school supplies, and other products and services the family needs to exist. So the marketing approach is key, because dad needs to see he is a trustworthy purchasing agent for his family. The best way to do this is to involve him in the marketing process and value him as an equal parent as well as a valued customer.

By marketing directly to moms, Entenmann’s reinforces a certain stereotype and subliminally makes dad feel that mom is a better/leading parent.

Entenmann’s could do everyone a service by ending this practice of only conversing with moms. It will also do itself a firm favor by winning back dads who are currently reaching for another brand.

Not all parents are moms

While it’s disappointing to find another lunch product maker ignoring dads as equally competent parents and shoppers, the latest exclusionary campaign – this time from Land O’Frost – hits dads landofrost7below the belt in a variety of ways. But you’ll have to look carefully for its greatest offense, which is buried beneath several gender-biased marketing methods.

No, it’s not the spinoff webpage section which uses its company name for a play-on-words covering everything related to parenthood, er, um, motherhoodlandomoms.com.landofrost2.jpg

It’s not the numerous web graphics which speak only to moms with language like, “Ah, mom life,” or definitions of “mom-ism.” Imagine the strange vibe a dad might get who visits landofrost.com or landomoms.com, and is repeatedly having to read that he’s a “mom,” which at the very minimum makes it clear with whom the company wishes to communicate.

It’s not social media posts, which landofrost6.pngsometimes awkwardly encourage both “moms and dads” to check out its tips and recipes at its one-gender-only named site.

It’s not even the problematic trademarked pledge above its logo that insists, “From our family to yours since 1958.” Keep in mind, this is a family company headed by three consecutive dads, who one can only assume wish for dads to be treated as important as anyone else. landofrost8.png

What’s really disappointing is how the one-and-only dad imagery found on the front page of landomoms.com reveals a dad shouting and pointing at a tiny child who’s cowering on the ground, in the corner (right). Don’t dads deserve a little better than this? Does Land O’Frost really want to use its only photo of a dad in a terribly negative light? It’s not that the story’s topic itself isn’t valid – it’s a helpful topic of interest for parents – it’s just that there should be a greater quantity and quality of dad images. It would be nice to see an equal mix of genders celebrating the good in parenting, rather than furthering negative, stereotypical imagery of dads who aren’t happy, engaged, nurturing and caring parents.

That really was never true long ago, and it certainly isn’t now.

Land O’Frost seems like a fine company with quality products and strong community involvement. We say celebrate all that is good and show the nation what its story represents: how it was founded and carried on by three wonderful fathers who remained devoted to their families for generations.

What do you say, Land O’Frost? It’s not just dads and moms who are watching – it’s the kids. A renewed approach to marketing will remind future generations that family matters, and that the motto above your logo isn’t merely words.

Dads deserve better

There’s a great deal of misinformation about dads, and – ironically – it starts with the very groups and organizations who purport to uphold fatherhood.

While we appreciate the efforts of fatherhood organizations like the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and National Center for Fathering (NCF), we question the level of father absence that they claim exists in America, as well as campaign strategies from similar fatherhood organizations who continue to highlight father absence as a growing problem in America.

In the 1990s, the NFI and NCF established campaigns to build society-wide movements to reverse father absence, initiated by a growing body of social science research that showed there were record numbers of American children living in father-absent homes.

Three decades and hundreds of millions of dollars later, both organizations proclaim that father absence has reached “epidemic” and “crisis” proportions.

In fact, the following statements are posted on their websites.
“According to the national surveys conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative, 9 in 10 parents believe there is a father absence crisis in America.”
“If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency… In short, fatherlessness is associated with almost every societal ill facing our country’s children.” – National Center for Fathering

How is it possible that after three decades of working to reverse father absence, these organizations can claim there is a fatherlessness crisis in America? This question prompted us to raise even more questions about father absence that pundits have failed to address. To help us find the answers, we contacted the Pew Research and asked:
1. Is there a clear definition of father absence?
2. Do you know if anyone has conducted research on what causes father absence?

Although we’re grateful for their prompt reply, we’re also very frustrated that they never answered the questions. Instead, we received two links to reports with the same old song and dance about father absence. Much of it was stereotypical, based on attitudes and tradition from yesteryear, similar in vein to the slanted and subjective messages that continue to describe a dad’s parental inadequacy and how he’s lacking in paternal deeds – and how there is a connection between father absence and an increase in social problems in America.

We reviewed both reports and found no definition of father absence, nor research on its causes. We also conducted our own investigation and could not find answers to our questions.

Why are the questions we presented important? How is it possible to conduct research without a clear definition of “father absence or what causes father absence?”

Sadly, most people mistakenly assume only a dad causes father absence when the truth is that there are many other origins.

Physical absence also doesn’t necessarily mean a dad is emotionally absent. And who should have the power to decide if a dad or mom is emotionally absent?

The reports also raised questions with respect to gender equality. For example, the report reveals that more moms are in the workforce and that the divorce rate is up.

Could we consider a mom who chooses a career over staying home as an absent parent? Could we consider a mom who does not have full custody after a divorce as an absent parent? Could we consider a mom who is in prison as an absent parent?

The report also admits that mothers are more overprotective than fathers, which many mental health experts define as maternal gatekeeping. Maternal gatekeeping can sometimes become an intimidating force. Even fathers who desire to be active and involved with their kids often drift away in the face of persistent maternal advice. Usually the way a dad parents is viewed as being wrong, when in truth, it’s simply different – each parent, regardless of gender, brings value to their children.

As such, more questions abound.

Where is the study on how maternal gate keeping prevents a father’s involvement or how it negatively affects children and causes social ills? Where is the study on mother absence? If one has not been conducted, why not? And if there is, did the researchers use the same rules and criteria as father absence? Did they spend the same amount of time analyzing mother absence?

One might also logically ask, where are these national organizations’ counterparts? Every parent can become better versions of him or herself, yet we do not see a National Responsible Motherhood Clearinghouse and slogan like “Take time to be a mom today.” What message does this send to dads toward being respected as equal, competent parents?

It strikes us as odd that these academic experts are held in high regard, yet create their own rules/definitions – or in the father absence case, yield no definitions or common sense upon which to conduct their research.

What we find even more frustrating about one of the reports is how it was conducted by telephone as stated on page 8 of “Parenting In America.” If researchers are directing a report of this much social and cultural significance, could it not have been done by observing and questioning actual parents in their respective communities?

Yes, it would require more work. However, it also might divulge some truths about fatherhood the public doesn’t want to hear, such as: fathers are every bit equal, are more active and involved, and are just as competent parents as moms – even in the primary caregiver role. The latter is a fact supported by the increased population of dads who choose to be the primary caregiver for their families.

Unlike the NFI, NCF and other fatherhood organizations who continue to play the father absence card, we are more optimistic about the state of fatherhood.

We wholeheartedly believe there are far more good people than bad people in this world. Therefore, we also believe the responsible, active dads far outnumber the irresponsible, absent dads. And we believe this to also be true with moms!

To prove our claim that the responsible, active dads far outnumber the irresponsible, absent dads, we propose a new “Fatherhood is Alive and Well” campaign. This endeavor shares real facts on how much growth has occurred with the active role dads have played as parents in the last three decades.

Our proposal is not just for dads, but moms too. Why? Because when business and organizations devalue a dad’s role as a parent, it also insults a mom – that’s the husband she chose to marry and serve as the father of their children.

It is time to stop the dad bashing and gender war in the parenting community. Let’s focus on finding ways to encourage dads and moms to create and model a loving parenting community for the kids!

Why your oatmeal doesn’t like you

quakeroats.jpgIf you’re a dad, take a moment to read these featured screen shots from the pages of Quaker.com.

How do they make you feel?

Left out? Like a forgotten parent? Like an assistant parent at best?

They only speak to moms, and yet these are from Quaker Oats, a product consumed by nearly everyone at some point in life. Quaker should take steps to review its content so as to not alienate readers. Specifically, Quaker should take the responsible road and consider its entire customer base, which includes dads.quakeroats2.jpg

If Quaker claims it’s purposely targeting moms, that’s wrong, because parenting is a shared duty. Anything else furthers the myth that it’s mom’s job to shop, to cook, to care for the family. Dads deserve better.

Quaker was founded by a dad, Ferdinand Schumacher, who had seven children of his own! It even features a man on its well-known logo. What might Schumacher think of the way his company treats dads today?

Dads place trust in Quaker, too, and it’s high time that Quaker recognizes that parents raise children, not just one gender.

quakeroats3.jpg

Having a baby isn’t a one-sided affair – it involves teamwork

A few months ago we stumbled across a story so sexist it deserved some extra attention here on the site.  And now we’ve discovered one (albeit over a year old) that’s so problematic we believe it needs even more consideration.babyprepping.jpg

Of course, the author probably meant well, but the story vibe hardly gives dads treatment as equal, competent parents. It’s emblematic of the way dads are often viewed in society, media and even social media.

The writer, however, appears to be male (it isn’t clear if “Richard” is the author, or gets the photo credit) – possibly even a dad? – which goes to show how much farther society needs to climb. After all, what kind of a world do we live in where a man devalues his own important role in pregnancy and birth? We contend it’s caused by stereotypes and media, who have influenced the way he believes he fits into all this.

To best explain our position, we’ll address this story from BabyPrepping.com sentence-by-sentence:

When it comes to being pregnant, it’s mom’s show.
Ouch – a rough start right from the beginning, and there’s just one problem with this opening statement: that baby in there, it’s not biologically possible without dad. So, suggesting that the pregnancy is mom’s show is demeaning and insulting to fathers-to-be everywhere. Dad is an equal player in this pregnancy.

We can only assume that the writer was talking about how, physically, only mom can carry the child. We get that, but that doesn’t mean pregnancy is her deal alone. Of course, it makes a mom’s stake in this very unique, but it’s every bit an equal show for dad, too.

That doesn’t mean she can, or should, handle everything on her own.
Agreed, and it should have never been suggested.

Many fathers-to-be want to help but aren’t quite sure what to do or how they can be of most use.
Not true. Many, if not most fathers, know that there’s plenty they can do during those nine months. Today’s modern dad remains active and involved, knowing that there’s lots to do to get ready: register together, attend appointments, educate themselves on the science behind pregnancy, make his partner feel comfortable, pamper her, send announcements, select names, plan the room, feel the baby’s kick, and talk/sing/read to the baby. Much of this comes naturally, just as it does for the mom-to-be.

The first step is making sure dad is well-informed as Mom’s pregnancy partner.
Dads need to be well-informed just as much as moms do. Neither gender is more instinctually capable of being a parent than the other – it’s only stereotypes and media/marketing which make people feel otherwise.

The more prepared the father is, the more he will be able to provide support throughout the pregnancy and birth.
True, but again, the same goes for mom. They’re in this pregnancy together. Dads needs equal amounts of support, but in a different way because he too endures plenty of challenges and struggles during pregnancy – some ways those challenges are similar, and in some ways different.

Men, however, don’t as often attend prenatal appointments and are less likely to have had the same motivation to read through the books and guides.
Says who? This kind of judgmental statement puts words in dads’ mouths, it labels and simply isn’t fair. Sometimes a man’s work or other obligations prevent him from attending a prenatal appointment, but most men we know attend the majority of appointments – or never have never missed one. And, they usually have more motivation to be there or read through the books and guides because it’s an opportunity to learn about something they’ll never experience.

It’s important you ensure the dad is well prepared for the tasks and struggles ahead.
This insinuates that dad is inadequate, needs help and isn’t prepared for what’s coming. Remember, the mom-to-be has never been pregnant before, either. She isn’t any more prepared for the forthcoming tasks and struggles than the dad-to-be. They’re in this together.

Getting Dad Involved
This heading makes dad sound like he’s a pet that needs trained, or is like a child that needs to be taught something while unfairly implying that dad currently isn’t involved. Why even go there? Could you ever imagine a headline that reads, “Getting mom involved”? Of course not, so why make dads appear to be deficient?

1. Communicate with one another!
Make the birth plan together. Dad is your life partner. Why not make him your pregnancy partner as well? Making sure you both are on the same page throughout the process can do a great deal to improve your relationship. Create a regular date night and make it a habit throughout parenthood.
All true, but let’s refrain from calling dad a pregnancy partner or coach – he’s dad. Anything else makes him out to be less than an equal player in parenting. He has an equal stake in this pregnancy and its outcome.

2. Attend Appointments and Classes Together.
Attend at least a handful of medical appointments as a couple and make sure you both attend educational classes. This helps dad understand more about what’s needed with prenatal care and prepares him for the ins and outs of birth. It also lets him experience important moments like hearing the baby’s heartbeat. Encourage him to pose his own questions to the doctors and educators.
Again, the woman is going through this for the first time, too, and isn’t any more prepared for pregnancy than a man. She’s hearing the heartbeat for the first time. She has questions, too, and doesn’t need to be prodded to speak. Let’s not make dad-to-be to be inferior when it comes to pregnancy just because he isn’t physically carrying the child. And let’s not perpetuate the myth that dad is incompetent, absent and irresponsible.

3. Prepare for Roles to Change.
Getting Dad ready to handle more of the burden around the house and to make sure he preps for the little things, like memorizing the route to the hospital, is essential for a smooth transition. Make sure you both know how to cook, clean, and handle all of the chores. Then establish what you both expect to be the household plan during these challenging months.
Who said dad isn’t carrying his load? Who said he doesn’t know how to cook, clean and handle the chores? By suggesting that he needs to “handle more of the burden around the house,” it implies that he isn’t currently doing his fair share. This stigma is also unfair to moms by creating a perception that housework and cooking is her domain. No matter whether the dad or mom is the breadwinner or homemaker, each contributes to a family and household, and no job is more important or more commendable than the other.

5 Basic Rules for Dad as a Pregnancy Partner
Be flexible
Be ready to work hard
Be prepared
Be ready for surprises
Be aware of what she wants
Once again, the implication here is that dad is insufficient and needs to work on things in order to become equal to mom. And as much as dad needs to “be aware of what she wants,” that last rule seems rather one-sided; dad also has “wants” during this monumental change in life, and he matters every bit to the child as mom. A nice follow-up column might focus on those dadly wants.