I’m in the club… apparently

With baby number two on the way, I decided to join the parenting club of a well-known high street chemist recently. Big news, I know; hold the front page and all that. Signing up was a no-brainer; the loyalty points system is easily one of the most generous – especially once you’re in the club, so to speak – stuff is easy to find in their stores and, most importantly, I didn’t want to be the only parent in England without one of the free changing bags. So it’s all good, right? Well not quite. Maybe I’m being too touchy about it, but the email newsletters I have received to date are a little dismissive of dads.

On the face of it – and I speak as an experienced communications professional as well as a punter here – their emails are friendly, well targeted and informative. They are to the expectant mums of this world anyway. Take last week’s effort, for example. After the salutation, it said. “Your partner is 28 weeks pregnant” – fine so far. In fact, I was impressed that it had actually acknowledged my part in the relationship. But that’s where it stopped making an effort. Evidently, the first rule of parenting club is that you don’t talk about… well, the role of dads, actually.

It then went on to tell me that I should be in ‘full bloom’ but that I may experience some Braxton Hicks contractions and need to urinate more often. I’m also apparently supposed to cut back on tea and coffee after 8pm. Still, the update that serendipitously happened to arrive shortly before Christmas and told me not to worry about a rapid spurt of weight gain at this stage was, I confess, comforting.

I’m under no illusions that men represent anything more than a small fraction of the club’s membership or, indeed, that the poor attention to detail is an intentional snub to dads, but this really isn’t good enough. In adding the line telling me how pregnant Kate is, they are acknowledging the existence of us men, so why has the remaining copy not been treated to two minutes of basic editing to finish the job? Whether it’s intentional or not, it suggests that dads don’t matter. In fact, if it is unintentional and we have therefore reached the point where fathers didn’t even spring to mind when these updates were composed, I think it only makes matters worse.

People I’ve whinged to about this have agreed with me, but most have said something to the effect of “well yes, but you accept it as a poor job and get on with it.” But why should we? It enrages me. Despite the fact that attitudes towards parenting have changed considerably over the last two or three decades, the fallacy that dads are second-class parents seems to be alive and well. This retailer is not on its own in neglecting to consider us, however. I have encountered numerous adverts and email communications which are apparently aimed at all parents, but that have literally referred to mums and mums only.

Being a parent is a wonderful thing and I always tell people who haven’t had children yet that it’s the best thing they’ll ever do. I strongly believe that. Clubs like this are great for making expectant mums feel special about their imminent arrivals, it’s just sad that so little has been done to make dads feel special about them too.


  1. The last slayer

    Really thought provoking piece. On one hand, yes I can understand why these “clubs” are targeted at women – i know my husband had no interest in joining parenting clubs and was happy for me to do all that stuff and to then tell him about it all late at night when he was trying to go to sleep!!!! But on the other hand, surely we, as a society, have outgrown the myth that the only role of a dad is to be the “provider”? So we need to speak out more about how dads are affected by pregnancy, labour and parenting and properly recognise that it’s not just all about the mums. That’s surely the responsible thing to do and sends the right message to our children. I have thoughts whirling around my head but can’t quite gather them together properly so I hope you get the sense of what I mean from what I’ve written.

  2. Tom Briggs

    Thank you for your kind words and I get exactly where you’re coming from. Yes, it’s high time that society recognised that dads are just as important as mums. I’m also glad to learn that it’s not just me who gets angry about this kind of thing!

  3. Chez Mummy

    I agree that these various clubs still maintain a view that they should be tailored and marketed to women. Yes, it is predominately women who sign up to these things, but to ignore their partner (whether they be male or female) is a total disservice to that other person and the important role they play in the relationship.

    The fact that they did acknowledge you as the partner of a pregnant woman is a good start but completely cancelled out by the fact they then went on to dismiss your role later in the same email.

    As you say, it seems strange that their newsletter wasn’t tailored more specifically to Dads. Surely you can’t be the only man in the country to have joined that particular club??

    Have you approached them about this? You could offer to help them with their communications, perhaps?!

  4. Sarah

    It would be simple enough to add something to identify the dads so that an edited version of the newsletter could be sent to them.

    Why don’t you contact the place and suggest it?

  5. sarah@sarahhall.co.uk

    Love this article and completely agree. It would also be nice from the other perspective as a mum to not be the only one targetted! It did take two to make it happen, so where is dad’s bounty box when the baby arrives…?

    From my own perspective my hubby would have liked a gas mask and a pair of rubber gloves included in the bounty box when our 3 arrived (it was always his excuse for not changing nappies!)

  6. Tom Briggs

    Thank you very much for your comments and support. I have now written to said club and am looking forward to hearing what they have to say!

  7. Brandon Duncan

    Well spoken, sir. I agree with you. It’s always been bad, but as you state, the roles are changing and we are becoming more involved. These (and many other) groups need to understand and make that little effort to show that you are a part. In this case, it doesn’t sound like it would have been difficult. Maybe a simple wording change… “your significant may be in… and experiencing…” then maybe add a few tips and tricks for you on support of all of it?

    It’s really not rocket science.

    Oh, and good luck with the false labor. It’s hard on a man. ;D

  8. Donna@MummyCentral

    Good for you. I think the clue should be in the title of the club. If it’s called a ‘parenting’ club and not a ‘Mum’s’ or ‘Pregnant women’s’ club, then make it accessible to guys too.

  9. pinkoddy

    You don’t want to be a member of their club anyway – they aren’t “really” informative, they are selling machines. They tell women they need formula, disposable nappies and jars of food.

  10. Nikki

    I must admit I agree with Pink Oddy but it must be difficult as a dad as so much of this stuff is mummy orientated. Still it will be interesting to see what they say; they will probably send you a £5 off if you spend £20 coupon, that’s what I seem to get all the time.

  11. Adventures of a Middle-aged Matron

    Glad I came by this blog. Dads are in a curious position. On the one hand they are ignored by retailers and manufacturers; on the other, SAHDs are demi gods at the school gates for domestic achievements that are taken for granted when women do it. Shunned or hyped, they seem never to be regarded as equals to mothers. Glad you’re in full bloom, tough. Make sure you do plenty of pelvic thrusts before the big day!

  12. mutteringsofafool

    It’s quite ridiculous isn’t it? Dad’s are now recognised as actually having a role in modern society and don’t just go to work yet you have examples like this.
    What I think is most crazy is actually they are missing an opportunity to sell to a new market. I can guarantee that dads will get very easily pulled in by marketing when they are sleep deprived and looking for something!

  13. MuMuGB

    Hi there! I love your perspective! How refreshing! We met at the ActionAid UK blogging event and I finally found some time to read yours. So you don’t feel the need to urinate more often? How disappointing! Anyway, at they just want more business…

  14. Parenting Clubs

    It would be simple abundant to add something to analyze the dads so that an edited adaptation of the newsletter could be beatific to them

  15. Wendy

    Thought provoking piece, as a recipient of many parenting newsletters over the years from various different places, I’d never thought of it from the Dad’s point of view.
    On the one hand, it’s good that they acknowledged your role as the Dad at the beginning of the newsletter, but on the other how ridiculous and shoddy that they couldn’t edit the rest of the letter so that it made more sense!
    Now, I hope you’re doing your pelvic floor exercises and all that…. 🙂

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