What to expect — when you’re a dad

There’s no denying the impact of the legendary book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Author Heidi Murkoff didn’t just write a book in 1984, she created a brand whattoexpect3.jpgthat has spawned a series of books, an online companion site, a feature film starring Cameron Diaz, and a foundation that has benefited over a half million parents.

Simply put, when Murkoff speaks, people listen. And they should. Her easily accessible WhatToExpect.com is a treasure trove of exhaustive pregnancy subject matter. The site is still greatly in need of a “For Dad” section, and while we’ve already addressed that once, we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Today, let’s look at its latest email newsletter, which tackles an amazingly thoughtful question from one of its readers and is also kindheartedly addressed by its founder Murkoff.

While it’s easy to appreciate this column’s intent, dads may find a real problem with parts of it.

whattoexpect4.pngIts headline sounds like dad is some sort of project that needs to be developed, and can only be done so by a woman. As the reader’s question poses, yes, dad needs cared for – which is part of the definition of nurture – but he doesn’t need to be grown or developed (another part of the definition of nurture). If mom was given space to figure out things on her own, so can dad. That learning can also come together, but there’s no need to insinuate that a dad needs training that only the “lead parent” (e.g., mom) can provide.

To draw a comparison, let’s say a husband posed a similar question about his wife. Would anyone ever attempt to write a comparable headline, “Nurturing the Mother-to-Be”? No, because moms would likely be terribly offended. Most assume – because females give birth – that mothering is instinctual, and fathering must be learned. The truth is, mothers bear no more instinctual ability to parent than fathers.

whattoexpect5Now looking at Murkoff’s response, the opening line also shows a lack of respect for men. No, men don’t care only about sex, and it also suggests that men aren’t as dedicated to conceiving as women. Saying anything otherwise is demeaning to the many caring dads-to-be who are just as interested in having a baby as the mom-to-be.

That first sentence is a rather insensitive opening for a question that has a lot of heart. Remember, the wife’s question says that her husband is feeling “a little neglected,” and she wants to “let him know he’s special too.” That man sounds rather sensitive to us, not anything like the ones portrayed in a beer commercial near you. The bottom line is, it’s sexist to assume that the majority of men only care about the sex part, not the baby part.

That gender bias wouldn’t be so bad had it not been punctuated in the third paragraph, where Murkoff suggests a sports day for the husband. That’s a fine suggestion which most dads would probably enjoy, but not all dads do. It’s a little like how dads are portrayed on Father’s Day cards, almost always with neckties, suits and tools. Again, we’re not against the sports suggestion itself (it’s a great one!), but coupled with the men-only-care-about-sex anthem earlier, dads are feeling a bit profiled by the end.

What to Expect seems to have all the bases covered when it comes to pregnancy, but it might consider another book in its series which comes from a dad’s perspective. Alas, no pregnancy guide is complete without considering dad, because there’s a lot more to pregnancy than just the woman’s body and mind. That baby in there, it’s theirs equally.

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View Father’s Day in a different way

Dad’s day is almost here, and for weeks marketers have exhorted us to buy anything and everything – and everywhere. But like any holiday, the Father’s Day joy, hype and fuss will immediately cease come Monday, June 19.different.jpg

And like clockwork shortly after that, retailers will inevitably bemoan that Mother’s Day is larger than Father’s Day in terms of sales.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

To the optimist, that disproportion is merely an opportunity for growth. If when comparing those holiday sales the supposed disparity is a source of complaint, marketers should seize that chance to even the score.

That’s because a boost in revenue can happen by looking beyond Father’s Day. Yes, it’s predictable and expected to see plenty of dad-centric marketing in June, but then it often stops shortly after. Those companies who pander to dad but once a year are missing the opportunity to focus on dads for more than just a holiday. The mindset to include dads in advertisements should permeate everything a marketing department does, and brands should embrace dads year round.

Even still, the holiday shouldn’t just be about dads – that would be missing the point. Kids should also be acknowledged, who made them dads in the first place. Without them, there’s no Father’s Day. The same goes for moms, who make dads better men through their support and love.

Some claim that dads are difficult to buy for on Father’s Day, but why? Is it possible that those people, too, are as guilty as many corporations across America? Dads have plenty of passions, hobbies, and interests, so more than likely, those people simply never bothered to talk to dad. And isn’t the “butt of jokes” gift-buying-shtick for Father’s Day getting a little old? Mom ends up with meaningful, thoughtful gifts like chocolate and flowers, but dad? So often it’s the tacky tie he’ll never wear, or the mounted talking fish, or some other “let’s poke fun at dad” gift. Those gifts certainly have their place and they may provide a short-lived funny family moment, but so often they ultimately come off as corny, embarrassing, and useless. Companies would do well to promote expressive and sentimental gifts, if not merely worthwhile and important ones. For instance, national retailer Brad’s Deals, who questioned over 700 of its shoppers in 2016, found the number one gift customers wanted to give their dad was simply spending time with him.

The real secret to happiness on Father’s Day is time – give dad plenty of it.

The spectacle of Father’s Day can go beyond just gift shopping, too. It should include targeting dads themselves, who may have been eyeing a product or service, allowing them to lay subtle hints at their loving family.

Dads want to feel special on Father’s Day – and every day – and marketers can play a big hand in that because it will help nurture stronger customer relationships.

Here’s a case for combining Mother’s and Father’s Day into one holiday

family2Last month on Mother’s Day, we overheard a young dad offering well wishes to a fellow friend, an elderly mom.  The mom extended a kind “thanks” in return, and then shared with a smile:

“Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – they’re really the same thing.  We should just have one ‘Parents Day,’ because parents raise kids together these days.  Everyone has the same job.  We’re all celebrating today, and I hope you have a great day, too!”

That’s some seriously wise knowledge from a veteran mother.

This mom was probably born about a decade after women finally gained the right to vote, so she’s seen changing societal roles and struggles for equality – all while being raised during a time when women didn’t typically work outside the home.

If any person has a reason to be set in her ways or subscribe to old-fashioned thinking, it would be her.

Yet instead, she has it all figured out.  She gets it.  She knows parenting isn’t a one-sided affair where one gender takes the lead, the other serves as an assistant or part-time helper.  She knows dads are just as competent, instinctual, effective and equal as moms when it comes to parenting.

Why don’t companies and their marketing employees think the same?

Technically, there is a Parents’ Day in the United States, held on the fourth Sunday of July.  However, that holiday hardly has the traction of its individual counterparts.

The truth is, we need holidays to celebrate each parental unit.  Moms and dads are different, and they parent different – and we say celebrate that.

So, let’s keep things the way they are, but recognize that no holiday is more important than the other.  We all have a father and a mother, whether we know them or not.

They deserve a day to be honored individually.

And they’re equal parents in every way.

Old Navy removes sexist ‘Father’s Day’ shirt from shelves

gap3After more than a week of social media outcry concerning a misguided Father’s Day t-shirt, retailer Old Navy has finally pulled the item from its shelves.  News of the removal was first reported by the National At-Home Dad Network.

Last month, Old Navy unveiled a men’s shirt with bold letters proclaiming “It’s Father’s Day”; creative use of alternate colors and one small, additional word revealed its true message:  “It’s Really Her Day.”

oldnavy2Consumers everywhere have demanded a response from Old Navy, but so far it has remained markedly quiet.  Attempts to reach an Old Navy spokesperson have gone unanswered.

Late last year, Old Navy unveiled a controversial children’s shirt proclaiming “Young Aspiring Artist,” whose last word crossed out in favor of “Astronaut” and “President.”  The shirt sent a strong message to artists that their profession wasn’t respectable, and under pressure from consumers everywhere, the shirt was eventually pulled from shelves.

At that time, Old Navy issued a statement concerning the controversy, but this time around it has remained silent.

Old Navy made a Father’s Day gift no dad will want

oldnavy2Just when you think it’s safe in June – the month when dad gets his deserving due and eventual one day in the sun – retail company Old Navy drums up yet another t-shirt controversy to undermine dads in one cotton-polyester-blend swoop.

Most recently, it unveiled a t-shirt quickly drawing the ire of not only dads, but social media users of all types.

On the shirt, bold letters proclaim “It’s Father’s Day”; creative use of alternate colors and one small, additional word reveal its true message:  “It’s Really Her Day.”

Dads are not pleased.

The shirt has been mildly circulating on social media in days prior, but was brought to the forefront yesterday by well known SAHD advocates At-Home Dad Network (@HomeDadNet) and Chris Bernholdt (@DadNCharge).

At Twitter user @katgordon pointed out, “What does this even mean?”

So far, that’s difficult to answer, as attempts to reach an Old Navy spokesperson went unanswered.

The shirt could mean that the retailer finally discovered the hidden words inside “Father’s Day” and felt the idea was too good to pass up for a shirt – an item that’s located for purchase at oldnavy.com under the incongruous category “Humor-Graphic Tee for Men.”

Perhaps Old Navy is making an insensitive statement that every day really is mom’s day.

It’s also probable that Old Navy created yet another t-shirt simply to stir controversy and draw attention to its brand, a classic move from the school of marketing behavior where “any publicity is good publicity.”

In any case, the timing and attempt at humor was lost on consumers immediately.

It was just six months ago when Old Navy unveiled a shirt possessing the power to both uplift and denigrate, as its children’s t-shirt proclaiming “Young Aspiring Artist,” was crossed out in favor of “Astronaut” and “President.”  The shirt sent a strong message to artists that their profession wasn’t respectable, and under pressure from consumers everywhere, the shirt was eventually pulled from shelves.

Whatever Old Navy’s rationale may be, it’s hardly defensible.  This latest outrage shirtrage isn’t going away anytime soon, and that little communication tool known as the Internet is likely to let Old Navy know it.

 

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Because dads are nurturers, too

armsreach1It’s a nice breath of fresh air when someone isn’t afraid to show a dad in a nurturing, or dare we say, snuggly position.  But that’s exactly the case with Arm’s Reach, who does what’s unfortunately the unthinkable for so many baby product companies – placing a baby carrier on dad.

It’s a sight we’ve all seen before, be it the park, library, or store. But for some reason, companies have a hard time going there.

Alas, the ad is great, where Arm’s Reach takes a small and brief moment to show a dad in a positive fashion, which validates that it must believe – on some level – dads do indeed shop and parent, too.

Last year, a Kansas City television station put the combination of dads and baby wraps in ksn3a less-than-flattering light while simultaneously making a mockery of fathers in other ways.  That station would do well to learn from this undertaking by Arm’s Reach, who isn’t afraid to put dad in an ad that also promotes a bassinet.

Anything placing dad in a position of nurturer is encouraging and needed.  Mother’s and Father’s Day occur in back-to-back months, yet you’ll be hard pressed to find many hearts on cards for dad – it’s more like neckties, easy chairs, power tools and beer mugs.

We say celebrate the love and warmth that comes from a father.

Keep up the good work, Arm’s Reach.  We’ve already heard from a few dads who appreciate the message you’re sending to America!

A picture is worth a thousand hugs

toysrusSure, this featured email promo from Toys”R”Us is a gratuitous Father’s Day message which ran this past June 21, likely the lone time during the year you’ll see a dad-specific message from the giant toy retailer.

Today, however, that’s not of our concern.

Take another look at the ad. The copy is creative. The design is clean. The look is simple.

And, whoa, is that a child is hugging a dad?

That act – the hug – is the kind of thing normally unassociated with the stiff, rigid, unexpressive, stereotypical father, right? So often we typically see hugs and kisses for mom at Mother’s Day, and a lot of tools and neckties for dad on Father’s Day. It’s unfair labeling where we’ve been conditioned by companies to think that only moms are the caring, nurturing ones at home, while dad’s true love must be work since he’s there most of the day, hence the tie.

So when it comes to expressions toward dad, it’s less common to see hugs in advertisements. You might see hand holding or a shoulder ride at best, but a hug for dad is rare in ads.

We applaud the creative team at Toys”R”Us for presenting what others can’t: a deep tenderness and affection toward dad.

This is exactly the kind of move that tells dads, “We know you’re out there, and we value you; we’re talking to you, and we want you as customers.” It presents dads in a caring light as the nurturers they really are, and speaks to them through solid marketing messages that evoke emotion.

Nice work Toys”R”Us, and we look forward to seeing repeat performances not just in June, but throughout the year.

That’s because rumor has it, more than one dad has visited all of your 865 stores before.