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.