Six years ago , several years before Pew Research made headlines by stating the number of dads staying home had doubled since 1989, my husband and I decided he would be the primary caregiver for our newborn baby.
It just made the most financial and emotional sense for our family for him to be a stay-at-home dad, or as the press refers to it, a "SAHD."
Of course, there is literally nothing my husband does that involves just "staying" or even "being at home." In between school drop off and pick up, there’s endless errands to keep our home (and children) firing on all cylinders. After school brings activities, doctors’ appointments, homework, sports, and so much more. Let’s not forget classroom activities that involve parental participation.
Calling my husband a stay-at-home dad is like saying I am an in-office president, which I’m not. Leading Pitch means planes, trains, and automobiles. I’m rarely at my desk, mostly in meetings or crisscrossing the country. None of which I could do with the ease and joy I do without my husband, whose SAHD title does not at all translate to couch sitting and bonbon eating. You know, the attributes long reserved for the now smartly forbidden word "housewife."
As Sept. 16 is Working Parents Day, a day to celebrate parents who work hard all year to provide for their families, I can’t help but channel my inner marketer and think that the SAHD needs a rebrand. This brand of modern men deserves a better moniker. And, today seems like as good a day as any to define the core tenants of what makes them successful. We certainly don’t want to marginalize stay-at-home dads like we have long done to moms, de-emphasizing the importance of the job of caring for the family and home.
Sure, we’ve come a long way in that we are even having this conversation. But, we are still repeating mistakes made in the past when our culture ignored the might of moms at home. As a June 2016 Pew Research study showed, more and more dads see parenting as a critical component of their identity. But we aren’t yet seeing that reflected in our culture or media. Cassandra research recently found that fewer than one in five new dads think ads accurately portray their lives. That’s probably because we’re often seeing a lazy or incompetent image of a dad that has no idea how to parent. Or we’re seeing something even worse—the Hero Dad who gets celebrated for simply making a school lunch or project. Our expectations are so small we celebrate them in the media vs. making it our expectation. A July article in Campaign US highlighted a Huggies spot that ran this year. "We put Huggies wipes to the ultimate test, dads with babies." Wait…what? The "ultimate test"? Seems a bit dramatic, no?
My husband is a hero dad. Not because he can do the basics, but because he is a true Chief Family Officer who partners with me to run our world. We support each other and embrace each other’s work ethic which ensures we are both successful at our jobs. We are a better unit together then we ever would be apart.
In branding terms, it’s true collaboration. Then there’s transparency and accountability.
My husband is the school-yard superhero. I can’t tell you the number of times I was told by other mothers how lucky I am to have Gregg as a husband. My husband isn’t a superhero because he can get our kids to school dressed, clean, and on time with homework and lunch in tow. He rocks because he cares about what he does and appreciates what I do. He knows I’m a hard-working, passionate woman who runs a very successful company that affords us a certain lifestyle. Neither one of us is more special than the other. We both take pride in what we do and are stronger as a unit. We each play a role that makes us successful at our jobs.
So, on Working Parents Day, here’s to those who have jobs that pay the mortgage and those that take care of the family. And, here’s to marketers working to portray parents honestly and accurately. Dads aren’t ditzes, as "Modern Family" and "Married…With Children" before it would have you believe. Here’s to a day in the near future where more brands get real and portray true dad merits, like Cheerios did with #howtodad. Opportunity certainly knocks for marketers and agencies that propel their brands to be honest and bold. Remember, our kids are watching.