Enough already with Mom! She’s everywhere, and she’s oppressive.
Mommy and Me yoga. Dr. Mom, selecting the right cough syrup. Choosy Mom, who is just so dang smart she actually knows how to buy the right kind of peanut butter.
It’s 2015, and despite a Superbowl full of refreshing Dad ads, Mom’s still the focus of every major parenting magazine and website, where the content isn’t really for parents, it’s for Mom. Just in case you weren’t clear on that point, Parenting magazine used to spell it out with its tagline: “What Matters to Moms.”
The Mom domination of parenting doesn’t stop with advertisers or the media, though. The government apparently agrees: The U.S. Census Bureau considers Mom the “designated parent.” If Dad takes care of the kids? He’s not parenting, he’s babysitting. And then, at the top of the online-shopping food chain, we have Amazon Mom, where Mom can get discounts, because you know Dad ain’t buying the binkies.
Dad bloggers vs. Amazon Mom
Some dad bloggers, many of whom are primary caretakers and do actually order the diapers, have been fighting back against Amazon, asking it to enter the 21st century and quit using the name “Amazon Mom.” Amazon is quick to point out that it allows any family member to sign for “Mom” service. Dads are welcome…if they’re OK with being Mr. Mom.
One dad blogger shared the type of emails dads get from the discount program: “As a busy mom, your time is precious. That’s why we’re offering you…” What, exactly? Estrogen?
There’s an easy fix: The online giant could call its discount service “Amazon Family,” as it does in other countries.
Here are some of the countries that Amazon thinks are living in the year 2015, in which moms and dads share a bit more equally in the parenting roles: U.K., Canada, Austria, Germany, France, Japan.
Here’s the country Amazon thinks is still living in the 1950s: U.S.A. Yep, that’s us.
Is American culture really stuck in the 1950s?
A petition asking Amazon to change “Mom” to “Family” was started three years ago but failed to get traction. It’s been gaining momentum in the past month, though, since the February 28 death of popular dad blogger Oren Miller, who was a major force behind the effort. Articles have recently appeared online in Adweek, CNN, Huffington Post, Today and on dad blogs. But the takeaway has basically been “Mad Dads Take on Amazon Mom,” as Marketwatch put it.
A couple weeks ago, the Daily Beast published a piece about the petition effort, where the (dad) writer feels the need to defend himself against criticism that he’s being whiny privileged guy fighting an unimportant battle.
Meanwhile, as far as I can see, there’s been near-total silence from moms and other female feminists. And still, despite all the recent publicity, the petition hasn’t reached its anemic goal of only 10,000 signatures.
Maybe Amazon simply knows its customers. Mom at home in the kitchen may not be our reality anymore, but in our heart of hearts, do most Americans aspire to go back to the time of Donna Reed and “Father Knows Best”?
Do we really?
I don’t. Dads have every right to be mad – Ashton Kutcher recently made the news for his popular Facebook post asking why there aren’t diaper-changing tables in men’s bathrooms. But count me in as a mom who’s as mad as the dads.
“Amazon Mom” is not the real enemy.
I’m not just mad at Amazon Mom. The corporate behemoth makes a convenient target, to be sure. But I’m mad about the much larger issue: our Momcentric cultural construct of what it means to be a nurturing parent, and our outdated, unstated rules about who’s able and allowed to really take care of the kids.
I personally know at least three married, heterosexual couples where the mom adores her kids, but is psyched to get back to work on Mondays. And where the dad is clearly the more nurturing one. They may be the exception, but who benefits when we force people into parenting roles that don’t fit them?
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a mom’s mom myself. Kind of stereotypical, really (if you don’t count that I’m a baby-tosser, like to wrestle and may love boogie-boarding and sledding even more than my 8-year-old son does).
I was the mom who went back to work in an office when my son a toddler and hated every minute of it. For me, Mondays were the worst! I loved having a newborn and actually admitted it in public. As a single mom, I had to bring home the bacon. But if I had to choose-or-die between stay-at-home mom or career woman, there would be no contest: I’d stay home.
I like to cook – heck, I even bake cookies! I’ve been active in the PTA and I shower my kid with an embarrassing amount of hugs and kisses. I’ve been known to make pink heart-shape biscuits for Valentine’s Day breakfast and scatter little paper hearts about. I mean, come ON.
But here’s the thing. If “Mom” is the intended reader for most parenting articles, if she’s the only one who should be doing yoga with her infant, if she’s necessarily in charge of buying pullups and arranging playdates, then….
She better get off the fast track at the office. She better not be in the armed forces, or, you know, run for president. (What was that cookie recipe again, Hillary?) She’s got essential Mom Work to do, since clearly she’s the only person for that “nurturing” job. And if Mom is the best at parenting, then why even bother if you’re a dad?
There’s a whole presidential initiative to try to get deadbeat fathers to step up. But why would men step up to a role – hands-on nurturing of children – that has a big ol’ “Moms Only” sign on it?
What’s up with the “Mom” domination anyway?
Fortunately, a few major brands – Nissan, Toyota, Unilever and others – have gotten with the program with dad ads that present men as capable, nurturing parents. But it’s pretty depressing that Superbowl ads seem to be way ahead of the rest of the culture.
What is “Mom” about, really? Is it a construct that’s about gender-based market segmentation, the sales-boosting technique that’s entertainingly and horrifyingly outlined in this video from the Aussie satirical TV show “The Checkout”? And if so, what are the media and advertisers selling us?
They’re hawking reassuring gender stereotypes, from what I can see. The warm fuzzy feeling we get when we think of Mom. At home. Baking cookies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And maybe – probably – it gets moms, who are most commonly the “primary parent,” to buy more kid products. We may be seriously underrepresented in top management and in Congress, we may make a percentage of what a guy would make in the same job, but dammit, we own parenting. We’ve got the power. We’re Mom! Yeah, gimme that product that made me feel so good about my parenting dominance.
But as The Checkout says, “Market segmentation can backfire. Gender contamination is where a product is so strongly associated with one gender, the other gender refuses to buy it.”
If “Mom” is the parent, then Dad may not want any part of that shit. Or he may be made to feel like a freak if he does want to take care of his kids. And if “Mom” is the parent, then corporate and government policy issues like parental leave, affordable daycare, and flextime are relegated to being “women’s issues,” not family issues (or, hey, human issues).
The way I see it, the culture of “Mom” hurts men, but possibly hurts women even worse. And it hurts children most of all, who would love to have Daddy nurture them and who may need to have Mommy provide.
Anyone ready to join me in a little matricide? How about let’s start by signing that petition against “Amazon Mom.”
But let’s not stop there, OK? Let’s fully include dads when we talk and think about parenting. It’s way past time.
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