Where Are the Dads? How Dads Get Left Out of Everyday Life

Imagine you’re at a party with a partner.

Together you’ve encountered many friends and met new people, but they’ve only talked to your partner, not you. No one has even bothered to look at you or acknowledge your existence. It’s like you aren’t even there.

At some point, you’ll feel left out, perhaps humiliated, and then probably hurt. You might even resent some of those people and avoid them in the future. Undoubtedly this pleasant experience will keep you from attending this kind of party again.

This is a little bit how dads feel as parents. They’re often forgotten and ignored in favor of the mom who, by way of stereotypes and old fashioned attitudes, is habitually considered the lead parent. Whether the dad exclusion is at the PTA meeting or doctor’s office, the world seems to speak to the mom and ignore the dad as a fully competent, equal parent.

I’ll contend much of this begins in marketing and the media, which disregard dads as potential consumers.

Think about the product slogans around us. They’re an effective means to express the importance of the product or to promote something in order to sell. Some of them are known by heart and some are never noticed. But there are plenty that ignore dads as equal and competent parents.

Consider these slogans:

  • Applegate Natural and Organic Meats: “Mom’s dream team for lunch.”
  • Aveeno Baby: “Trusted sun protection for baby and mom.”
  • Babies”R”Us: “Expect the best from mom’s #1 baby registry.”
  • Desitin: “Trusted by more pediatricians and moms than any other brand.”
  • Jif: “Choosy moms choose Jif.”
  • Johnson’s: “Moms around the world trust Johnson’s to safely care for their babies.”
  • Kix: “Kid-tested, mother-approved.”
  • Luvs: “Goodbye wetness, good night mom!”
  • MyGerber: “Moms and babies, let’s get growing.”
  • Similac: “More moms choose the Similac brand.”

Too often it is only one word, but words matter. And even more often it’s more than just a slogan – it’s an ad campaign, website narrative, new promo, or social media post.

Look at the slogan examples above and swap out the word “mom” for “dad.” How might moms respond to this exclusion? 

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Well-intentioned marketing practices like these may seem innocent, but the downside is they affect both sides of the parenting equation.  It puts undue social pressure on the mother to be Super Mom. It also excludes dad from messages and greatly devalues fathers as parents and competent shoppers.

When fatherhood is forgotten enough to ignore it in marketing endeavors, such scripted dialogue carries readily into everyday conversation.

Another shortcoming of excluding dads from marketing is how it diminishes his ability as a capable consumer. Of course, moms possess no more instinctual ability to purchase items than dads, who are fully fit shoppers. The current message and stigma about dads, however, has trained us to think otherwise.

The subjective conception of such marketing means that women pay a price beyond labels and undesirable pressure. Humanity will never achieve overall equality for women, particularly at work, until the same equality for men is achieved as parents. The two are intertwined.

When gender stereotypes unfairly discount men as true parents and view women as instinctual caretakers of children, it conveys a message that it’s a man’s world everywhere but inside the home. 

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How do you help make sure the dad in your life is not forgotten?

What do you think?

Where Are the Dads? How Dads Get Left Out of Everyday Life

Tom Konecny is a dad of four children and husband to wife, Erika. Tom currently serves as a private consultant in writing, communications and marketing. In 2013, Tom founded Dad Marketing, a site dedicated to exploring the world of marketing to dads. He previously worked in sports marketing, served as an associate editor and writer for several publications, and directed an award-winning corporate marketing department. His first book, "DADLY Dollar$" will be published this summer, and he is c ... More

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