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.

Why yes, dads do lunch

Getting food companies – especially, lunch food makers – to accept the realities of today’s modern parenting world has been an uphill climb for our team.

In those companies’ worlds, only the mom shops, cooks and prepares lunches. The dad remains out of the picture, or at best, only a token visual.danimals

Danimals yogurt snacks is the latest brand to exclude fathers from its marketing content, as seen on its website, and regularly in social media.

This act is a risky proposition, to be sure. The first implication is that it makes mom’s place to be in the kitchen. The second is that it implies dads don’t prepare meals or raise children. Either way, both parents look bad because it places an unfair gender bias built on norms from yesteryear.danimals2.jpg

As mentioned, we continue to find this in the lunch world. At the start of last school year, Oscar Mayer introduced a video spot heralding mom for her work in readying kids for school. Babybel has been known to exclude fathers. Juice box makers regularly ignore dads as equal parents. And Jif has its infamous time-worn, out-of-date slogan.

We all know that dads pack lunches, and we’ve even seen those cute stories where dads share noontime love through their talents.danimals3.png

It’s particularly disappointing to see the exclusion perpetuated on the Danimals social media pages, where dads are forgotten on a regular basis.

If Danimals doesn’t want to be forgotten by dads, we’re open to talking sometime. Want to do lunch?

Seahorse of a different color

Every good invention is born out of necessity.

So when Don Hudson created Seahorses – America’s first and only retail store geared toward fathers – nothing surprised him about the process, his concept and its need. What surprised him was that no one had ever thought of it before.seahorses4.JPG

“That’s what blows my mind,” he said. “That no one has done this before. How am I the first? That no one noticed this huge, gaping market before?”

That huge, gaping market – as Hudson knows all too well – belongs to dads.

“When you market to that dad like he’s a mom, you build up a wall,” said Hudson. “He doesn’t want to talk to you.”

Yet every bit an equal parent who nurtures, raises, feeds, shops and provides for his family, dad remains ignored by marketers who either don’t know how to reach him, or purposely avoid his presence based on habit. Old fashioned stereotypes and labels may die hard in the world of marketing and media, but it’s ancient history at Seahorses in Portland, Ore., where Hudson’s progressive shop has skyrocketed to notoriety since opening in June 2015.seahorses1.JPG

His shop celebrates the unique needs and challenges of parenting as a father in a world that traditionally caters to mothers.

What makes men uncomfortable in stores? Not having products with which they can’t relate as fathers. At Seahorses, you’ll find plenty of baby, child and parental items necessary for raising a family – but with an eye on dads.

So while big box baby stores have nursing equipment, Seahorses offers Leatherman multitools and shaving kits. Traditionally diaper bags are frilly and pink; no dads want to carry those, and some moms don’t either. Hudson curated diaper bags that are masculine and stylish enough for fathers to sport. Other baby stores offer organic clothing, but dads don’t care about that; they want things to last. So, Seahorses offers Carhartt kids clothing. No maternity tops here – try matching dad and child shirts.

seahorses6.jpgA lack of those items meaningful to fathers, combined with a prejudice toward dads, is what drove Hudson to bring his idea to fruition. He experiences a bias all too often while together with his wife, raising their four children.

“Dads are (treated like) a sideline parent, and they are not marketed to,” he said. “And let me tell you, I did all the shopping when I was stay-at-home. When you walk in to these baby stores, they’d say, ‘What did mom send you in for? Where’s her list?’ It’s a turn off. Has no one noticed that dads are being alienated? You’re creating a subconscious culture of bias toward dads.”

His store even reaches beyond tangible products and the overall shopping experience by serving as equal part gathering space. There you’ll find an enclosed play space with seating, free Wi-Fi and a community meeting area for classes, workshops and events. And there’s even free coffee.

“It’s a space for anybody,” Hudson said. “The idea is that it’s more of an atmosphere that’s comfortable for dads. I have darker wood and subdued colors. It’s a masculine and man-cavey kind of feel so you’re like, ‘This is a baby store, but it’s for dads.’”seahorses2.JPG

Hudson assures his store is for both moms and dads, and gets plenty of customers of each, along with some hesitancy. Moms sheepishly ask if they can come in, while dads’ tendency leans toward tentative, mostly due in part to other store experiences, but also because of how they’re treated as second-class parents in stores of any kind.

“(Dads) come in and look around and say, ‘This is really cool; this is my place,’” Hudson said. “You can see this weight melt off of them when they walk halfway through the store.”

Hudson gets a lot of dads and moms who come in to hang out, work on their blog or social media, or just want a simple five-minute break. His intimate, personal community has even helped nurture some lifelong friendships, which he loves to see.seahorses7.jpg

As the business grows and soon-to-be e-commerce takes off, Hudson hopes to expand his concept further:  “I think this kind of resource needs to be available for every community and every parent, where moms and dads are both allowed.”

His store’s name is derived from the sea creature who takes care of its offspring entirely. Male seahorses undergo pregnancy and care for the young as they grow.

“In nature, I think the seahorse is probably the world’s most perfect father,” he said. “If you’re a seahorse, you’re a perfect father.”

Unfortunately, society and commerce tend to alienate dads before they even become one. So, Hudson is just happy to be offering a place to help dads become better dads, because he knows that process is shaped well before the actual birth.

“Moms have plenty of places to go, dads don’t,” he said. “Having dads marketed to properly and involved in the marketing process give them that foundation for being involved with kids.”

Is that dad? In a breastfeeding ad? It’s no fad

Although the basic concept of breastfeeding will never change – yes, it’s still exclusive to women – Medela feels the industry is ripe for reinvention. medela1

As one of the global leaders in breastfeeding technology, Medela recently strengthened its industry mettle by spending the past 10 months doing something many firms thoughtlessly overlook:  communicating with customers.

However, Medela didn’t simply monitor various social media sites – it actually conversed, interacted and listened.

The result was a wildly successful “Through It All” campaign that revealed something else companies also fail to notice:  dads matter, even when it comes to breastfeeding.

“We really wanted to make sure our fathers were a part of this,” said Kim Aasen, director of marketing. “Even though (dads) can’t physically breastfeed, (they’re) an important part of that conversion. They’re important to the breastfeeding circle.”

An idea is born

medela-KimAasen_MR

 

Kim Aasen, Medela

 

Last September, Medela started asking moms on its Facebook community one straightfoward question:  when it comes to breastfeeding, what would you share with another new mom? Aasen said the response was overwhelming, as many talked of a network, or community of breastfeeding support that might include a spouse, grandma, or friend.

After those key months of taking valuable customer inventory, Medela revealed its marketing idea complete with a print campaign and series of videos which tell the story of real people and their breastfeeding journey.

“We made sure we featured those people along the way, and you can see those people featured in the (print) ad,” Aasen said, who also noted that Medela overwhelmingly heard from moms who insist dads play an integral role in breastfeeding success. “We listened to make sure we are reflecting who our Medela communities are. (Fathers) are caregivers and part of the breastfeeding experience, so we want to make sure that everyone is represented.”

Let reality dictate strategy

Although society encapsulates the topic via the word breastfeeding, that equally applies to one who is breastpumping – which, of course, allows other people to feed the child.

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Behind-the-scenes at a “Through It All” campaign video shoot. Copyright Medela 2016.

 

“We want to make sure that we don’t think there is one right way to do it,” Aasen said. “We want to make sure moms and dads and families – whatever that family looks like – that there is no one perfect way to do it.”

Medela also let the customer feedback drive the campaign. It wasn’t intent on following societal norms, advertising history, stereotypes, or even demographic models – it simply felt its campaign should reflect reality.

“By listening to our community’s focus groups, dads are a part of the picture,” Aasen said. “For us, we feel like it’s reflecting reality. We’re just sharing their words back. The pictures you see online shows everyday life.”

Dads count too

As for the future, Aasen said its current campaign is squarely in phase one, which was “different than anything Medela had ever done.” Plans moving forward will continue to include a reflection of what real, modern families look like and how they make breastfeeding work for them.

On the flip side of breastfeeding is formula feeding, where some of its makers exclude fathers from its messaging.

Aasen believes companies who don’t include dads in ads should take heed:  (Those) companies are missing out. It’s not cookie cutter; (families) comes in all shapes and sizes, as do responsibilities.”

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Video crews record footage for Medela’s “Through It All” campaign.  Copyright Medela 2016.

 

 

The reports of dad’s death are greatly exaggerated

You won’t believe what a certain parents magazine recently said about dads: they exist!americanbabymag6

After numerous stories where we pointed out American Baby magazine’s inability to consider dads as equal parents, it finally conceded to the inevitable reality that dads are indeed part of its customer base.

It was no easy road to get here.

We’ve written about American Baby magazine and its sexist photo credits.

We’ve written about its general monthly editorial content that ignored fathers.

We’ve written about how it doesn’t believe dads are concerned about child safety.

We’ve written how its baby registry advertisement disregards dads.

We’ve written about how it suggests that dads don’t buy baby products.

We’ve written about how it simply pays no attention to dads as parents.

We’ve also heard absolutely no feedback from ABM, nor any attempt to communicate, or even any acknowledgement of our issues.

But the tide is turning, and if you held the latest American Baby magazine by its spine and emptied out those (sometimes annoying) subscription postcards before reading it, you missed the best part. As you can see above, it clearly mentions dads by name, acknowledging that its magazine is for dads to read, too.

Well done, ABM, and we look forward to your next issue with great interest!

Drefting away

When Similac unveiled its “Welcome to the Sisterhood of Motherhood” campaign this past January, there was a faction of dads and moms who lauded the inclusion of fathers in the commercial. It seems they were so ecstatic over not only actually seeing dads in a TV ad – but dads wearing babies – that they might have even been blinded by that awkward, old-fashioned tagline.

Alas, it’s doubtful there’s even one dad who can relate to “the Sisterhood of Motherhood.”

The video was only part of an exhaustive campaign over which we had even stronger thoughts, but unfortunately, Similac uses the same promo yet today as evidenced by its recent full page ad in the July 2015 American Baby magazine.dreft3

In that same magazine (page 41, to be exact), you’ll also find an ad for Dreft laundry detergent, which uses the slogan #AMAZINGHOOD.

That hashtag is a refreshing antidote to the exclusionary tagline used by Similac.

Imagine how different Similac’s campaign might have been if it – rather than using sister and mother – had simply used amazing, or even parent.

We’re not going to give Dreft a total free pass, as it still wants it both ways. Take a gander at dreft.com and click on “Our Story,” where it continues to believe that dads don’t exist. And its maker, P&G, has a steady practice of ignoring dads elsewhere, too.

But we’ll give credit where it’s due, because #AMAZINGHOOD is a fine word choice that doesn’t exclude dads – dads who care for their children and buy Dreft laundry detergent.

Dreft likes to tout that its product “has been trusted by moms for over 80 years,” but we suspect a dad or two has also placed its trust in Dreft over that time.

So, maybe in the next 80 years ahead, Dreft will finally begin to place trust in dads.

Now that would be #amazing.

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.