For the past few weeks, many in the dad blogging community have united around the cause to get Amazon.com to change the name of their parent-centric shopping site from “Amazon Mom” to “Amazon Family.”
To many, verbiage like “Amazon Mom” seems like a small concern. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it is. However, to me, these words are an indicator of how our society often undervalues fathers and, by implication, places an unfair burden on mothers. After all, if only “moms” are full “parents,” so much of the burden shifts to them. Many others have written about the societal implications of such messaging for both moms and dads, so today, I’d like to focus on how this notion that parenting is woman’s work insidiously makes its way into corporate culture- to the detriment of working dads, working moms, kids and employers themselves.
The juggling act required to balance work and family has for too long been marginalized as a women’s issue and more specifically as a mom’s issue. This perpetuates subtle gender discrimination against women, contributing to gender pay gaps and pregnancy discrimination. Some companies become hesitant to invest fully in their female workforce, assuming women, due to their family commitments, are less committed to work.
The other side of this coin is that many workplaces assume that men do not face work-family conflict, so their concerns are ignored, leading to expectations that men need to be “all-in” for work. Further, many involved dads face double stigma in the workplace, as both less committed to work and less masculine, leading to negative career consequences. In total, employers lose the potential commitment of female employees and risk burning out their male workforce.
In couples, this means that moms often feel pressure to “opt out” and are prevented from “leaning in.” (I told the story of a friend and coworker here). As a result, many men feel pressure to work and earn more after they become dads. They miss out on family time, and consign their spouses to lesser careers and “second shifts” at home.
Finally, societal signals also become internalized by men and women. Among women, this often means increased pressure to be “perfect moms,” leading to unrealistic expectations and “mommy wars.” They may also prevent their husbands from being more involved at home, through what psychologists call “maternal gatekeeping.” With gatekeeping, moms assert themselves as the primary parent and dads are assigned the role of a less-competent “helper parent.” Considering how important involved parenting is for dads and kids, this is very unfortunate.
Finally, traditional notions of gender roles is increasingly out of step with younger generations of parents, who aspire to, and are living in , more egalitarian relationships than ever before. More dads are primary parents. Almost all now co-earn and co-parent in dual-earner, shared care couples. Research from Boston College and Wharton show that those in their twenties and thirties are far closer to gender parity at work and at home.
From a marketing perspective, using exclusionary language makes little sense. Dads, grandparents and others also buy diapers in bulk on the Internet. So, not only does “Amazon Mom” send the wrong signal, it is also out of step with reality.
Count me in with the over 11,000 moms and dads who have lent their voice in support of a changing Amazon Mom to Amazon Family (join us!).
What do you think about this issue? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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(How do you like the new look of the site? Also, check out the new site for my forthcoming book, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide, available this June)