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.

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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.

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?

Consistently inconsistent

If every baby company could produce an ad as good as this one from SwaddleMe, think how the parental community would be that much more unified as one.swaddleme.jpg

Here we have both a mom and a dad featured not once, but twice. And it utilizes words like love, hold and swaddle prominently — accurate terms (unfortunately) not often associated with fathers. The multiple use of mom and dad imagery means this is one of the rare instances we’ve seen where an equal numbers of dads featured with moms.

However, SwaddleMe’s keen eye on parental equality seems to end with its print ad. Once you take a visit to its website, you’ll find a site that portrays a different approach:

  • Its About Us page declares its real intent: “At Summer Infant, we strive to delight moms and babies, and walk beside you in your parenting journey…”  It should be noted that this goal seems rather conflicted when considering that the company was founded by a devoted dad.
  • It offers a Mommies Melodies Lamb, which hardly appears to be anything exclusive or reserved solely for moms.
  • Regularly utilizes phrases likeswaddleme2.jpg, “Other products moms love” and “What moms love.”
  • Even its product testing page assumes that everyone visiting its site is a mom! (right)

It won’t take much to achieve greatness, SwaddleMe. Here’s hoping you can match your website with an outstanding print ad. We’ll be cheering for you.

Start spreading the news

Ever since Dad Marketing was founded, we’ve always preached that it’s both the mom and dad who are expecting, not just mom. newyorkbabyshow2.jpg

That might sound strange to some, not just because it’s women who physically carry children, but it’s also because of the way media and marketing shape our thoughts. They’ve conditioned us via advertising imagery and word choice that moms are primary parents:

“More Moms choose the Similac Brand.”
“Thank You Mom by P&G.”
“Moms around the world trust Johnson’s to safely care for their babies.
“See what Moms are saying about the Gerber Grow-Up Plan.”

These words are prominent messages in the public eye telling us that moms are the full-time parents, and dad is merely a part-time helper, at best.

newyorkbabyshow.pngAnd yet, every so often we encounter an organization who Gets It, who realizes that dads matter every bit to the parenting world as moms – and the idea speaks to dads, and markets to them, and listens to them. Suddenly, dads matter and are valued as true parents and customers.

We offer our highest Seal of Approval to the New York Baby Show, who fully acknowledges dads as equal parents. There they exclaim that “parents” are expecting, not just mom.

Keep up the good work New York Baby Show. People notice your inclusion, and someday, everyone will want to be a part of it.

Words matter: why ignoring dads in ads is baloney

Nearly every day, words spoken by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make national headlines.  Of course, some quotes are more shocking than others, and yet the level of scrutiny is often over a few select words.

Why the fuss?

Because words matter.oscarmayer4.png

Oscar Mayer recently introduced an ad about sending young children to school for the first time.  At first glance, it’s touching.  It looks great.

Note we said looks, because if you re-watch the ad with the volume muted, most everything looks good.  It looks like a touching ad involving the entire family, even if dad plays a rather minor role.oscarmayer1.png

But cue back the volume and notice the complete omission of “dad” in speech, and that changes the ad’s marketing breadth entirely.  No longer is dad playing a token cameo at best, but rather, he’s been excluded from the message – a sad, recurring theme among lunch makers who only believe mom’s pack lunches.

Oscar Mayer’s eschewed use of the word dad is an unfortunate practice for a company with dads at its roots.oscarmayer3.jpg

After all, what does this ad say to the late Richard Trentlage, the man who created the venerable Oscar Mayer Wiener song, who died Sept. 21 at age 87?  As a dad, Trentlage used his living room as a recording studio and had his children sing audition tapes.

It’s part of a rich Oscar Mayer legacy, which was founded in 1883 (perhaps Mayer was a dad?).  But 1883 is a whopping 133 years ago.  It’s high time this prominent company gets back to the basics if it wants to be perceived as the leader in lunch meats for the next 133 years.

Even if its marketing research suggests a majority of women purchase its products, there’s no point in senselessly alienating the other part of its customer base, and being perceived as a company who places a greater value in one gender – thus creating a bias, and all over useless, old fashioned stereotypes.

Besides, we all know sexism is wrong.

Oscar Mayer may have a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a, but it also has a regrettable way with excluding dads.  Let’s hope that practice comes to a quick end before the next school year rolls around, because dads do indeed get kids ready for school and pack lunches, too.

And they love their kids every bit as moms.