Why Amazon Family Matters

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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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9 thoughts on “Why Amazon Family Matters

  1. Well-written and right on target. This “mommy-centric” view of parenting is pervasive in society. When reading my kids books before bed, I find myself having to add father’s into the stories…because the father is almost always absent from the story. Maybe Amazon simply assumed that dads don’t care about reading to their children.

    • Thanks for your comment. There is this pervasive blind spot so many have about the importance of involved fatherhood. Most men I knew care deeply about being good [parents, but get little reinforcement from society.

  2. Right on the money Scott! I remember the “Amazon Mom” term bothering me a while ago and then promptly forgot about it. I agree it has meaning in our society and should be changed to “Amazon Family” or perhaps “Amazon Parents.”. One of my favorite kids books is called Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too, which is wonderful because the dad is front and center — playing with his daughter, going to the store with her, and even cooking dinner! My younger daughter keeps asking me to read it to her and I think it’s because of the central role that the dad plays.

    • Little things add up to a big problem. neither Amazon or any individual kid’s book is causing a problem, but collectively, it leaves a mark. Thanks for your comment!

    • Mark – I don’t want to be a jerk, but I really struggle with reading my daughter Nelly Gnu – I don’t know if you’re read the other books by the same author, but her typical narrative structure consists of a conflict between the parent and child (the kid doesn’t want to go shopping, or doesn’t want to wait while mommy is doing something) – and the point of the story is the two of them resolving it (while showing that they love each other). Where as with Nelly Gnu, daddy’s perfect, and the only conflict is a dropped stuffy and missing daddy for a moment in the store. I find that stories like this further create confusion in the expectations between how Moms and Dads parent, and how they are perceived. You’re absolutely right that it should be celebrated for showing an active parent, but the dad in the story is a little “too perfect”. Personally I read what ever my daughter asks, because I don’t want to politicize her, but I would love to see stories that show an active dad, but who also has to deal with the challenges of every day life like doing the shopping with an angry impatient toddler, or trying to cook while your child is yanking on your pant leg too impatient to wait five minutes until you can give her the attention she’s asking for.

      Scott – I certainly agree that “Amazon Mom” is a belittling term – and thank you for speaking out.

      • I never read these books, so I cannot comment on their emphasis. But this debate does illustrate that the definition of “being a good dad” is kinda all over the map. It seems as if you are objecting to a lower bar being placed for dad, as compared to mom, while Mark is just happy dads are on the radar at all.

        Thanks for reading and your comment!

  3. I agree with you about the importance of Amazon Mom becoming Amazon Family (…like it is here in the UK). By equating motherhood and parenting, advertisers risk alienating dads and sending out a message that being an involved parent isn’t a thing for men to do.Here in the UK, I’m in one or two ‘parenting club’ schemes run by retailers where the focus in mailings is almost exclusively on parenting as a relationship between mothers and children. I find it very frustrating to see such an outdated mentality.

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