In the run up to becoming a dad in April, I joined several ‘parenting’ clubs run by big brands that provide special offers for parents. However, I’ve been dismayed to see that some of these clubs could be doing a lot more to engage dads as well as mums. Reading an article that Darell Milton (a.k.a. Modern Dad Online) wrote on his blog back in July of this year made clear to me that I’m not alone in feeling this way.
I’ve written twice to the supermarket Tesco about this issue but have not received a reply. Here’s an extract from one of my e-mails that summarizes the issues that I have with their Baby and Toddler Club:
I recently joined the Tesco Baby & Toddler club as my wife and I are expecting a baby in April. Having just been on to the website link accessible through my Clubcard account, it seems that the Baby & Toddler club is very much focused on mothers and babies and largely ignores fathers. I find this disappointing and believe that it represents an overly stereotypical and outdated attitude towards parenting. I intend to play an active role in bringing up our child along with my wife, but feel somewhat excluded by the limited focus of the Baby & Toddler club. Such an approach both fails to acknowledge that men are increasingly playing a greater role in parenting and does little to encourage men who may feel reluctant about doing so. There needs to be a focus on Parents’ choice and not just Mums’ choice.
I would be most grateful if you could explain why the Tesco Baby & Toddler club fails to focus on fatherhood (or parenthood in general) as well as motherhood. I would also like to hear what steps you intend to take in order to make the Tesco Baby & Toddler club more inclusive and less gender-specific in the future.
To be fair to Tesco’s Baby Club, they do appear to be taking some steps in the right direction when it comes to including more features about or by dads. There is now a brief article entitled ‘How to be a good dad‘ and a longer and more useful looking one entitled ‘Top tips for dads-to-be‘. However, the section of the Tesco Baby Club entitled ‘Your family entitlements and benefits‘ makes no reference to paternity leave. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that paternity leave is a topic about which I feel quite passionate; I’ve given my views on the UK paternity leave system and talked about what I learned when I was on paternity leave.
One of my other main gripes is that the Tesco Baby Club offers section features the slogan ‘Making mums’ lives easier’. Whilst I fully appreciate that childbirth and pregnancy can provide many challenges that are felt most acutely by the mother, I’d have preferred to see a phrase like ‘making families’ lives easier’. Although some of the products on offer at the time of writing included shampoo and shower gel that one would most likely find in the women’s toiletries aisle, it also included different sorts of products in the categories ‘baby’, ‘toddler’ and ‘family life’. The ‘family life’ section included items such as razors and deodorant that would be found in the men’s toiletries aisle.
Recently, I thought that the Boots Parenting Club (Boots is the name of a well-known UK pharmacist) had started to turn over a new leaf when it came to trying to engage dads. The letter to me that accompanied their free magazine, began with the following words before talking up a variety of promotional offers:
What a thrilling time to be a dad.. All those experiences, all those ‘firsts’
However, the focus of the accompanying ‘parenting’ magazine was somewhat disappointing, and not just because it featured the slogan ‘making life easier for mum’ as the main tag line on the front cover. In the 52-page magazine, there was one picture of a dad and a mum with a baby compared to 22 pictures of mums with babies or young children. There was not a single picture of a simply a dad with a baby or child. In addition, there were many features where women talked about their experiences of being mums but none where men talked about their experiences of being dads.
When I see the sort of narrow focus on parenting that I’ve described here, I feel that I – as a dad – am effectively being excluded. I may be working full-time while my wife is taking charge of more of the childcare, but I’m doing my best to achieve a work life balance that allows me to be as committed and involved a dad and a husband as I can be. I just wish that more big companies out there would realise that I am one of a great many dads who are striving to do this.
In addition, I am also aware of quite a few stay at home dads who are taking the lead with childcare whilst their wife or partner is out at work. Their experiences also need to be more prominent within materials about parenting. The same goes for adoptive or foster parenting and same sex couples who are bringing up kids.
To end on a positive note, I am glad to see that some companies are reaching out to dads and demonstrating a decent level of sensitivity and understanding where fatherhood is concerned. Within the last month alone, I’ve read articles from Huffington Post, The National Fatherhood Initiative and Scott Behson’s Fathers, Work and Family blog that discuss companies that have made commercials that provide positive and empowering representations of dads. I hope that it won’t belong before more brands follow suit by also focusing on the role that mums and dads play in parenting.
What did you think of this article? Are there in companies that are particularly good or bad when it comes to reaching out to dads when it comes to either their advertising or materials about parenting that they produce? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.
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I’ve linked this blog post up with the ‘Something for the Weekend’ parent bloggers link-up hosted by The Voice of Sarah Miles and Diary of the Dad, and also the #PoCoLo link-up hosted by Verily Victoria Vocalises.