The Mom Timeline

by , Mar 25, 2009, 12:30 PM
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New moms, single moms, soccer moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, urban moms, hybrid moms. From the moment the home pregnancy test shows positive, women officially enter the world of motherhood, and the marketing world tries to categorize them.

It's with good reason anyone would try to get a handle on the estimated 82.5 million women in the U.S. with children. According to the independent industry organization The Marketing to Moms Coalition, Moms represent the most powerful consumer group in the U.S., controlling 85% of household spending and estimated to be worth $2.1 trillion. The more marketers can understand these buyers and influencers, the better they can build and nurture a long-lasting (read: profitable) relationship with them.

However, it's not so easy to put a label on this group. There are at least 100 ways to carve up the Mom market. You could do it by location (D.C. or Silicon Valley), by their age or by their lifestyle. But what all Moms have in common is kids. What better way to slice up a multi-faceted, wide-ranging demographic than to create a Mom Timeline tracking the course of motherhood through the ages of their children?

Most Web sites and research groups focus on the early stages of a Mom's experience. Babycentersolutions.com identifies the Moms in their various age groups ("Millennial Moms," "Boomer Moms," etc.) but focuses on the first eight years of their children's lives, noting that it's during this period that Moms make more purchasing decisions.

I'd argue that, like the old adage, "a woman's work is never done," so is the timeline of a Mom. Once a Mom, always a Mom - you don't stop being a Mom when your kids turn 18. Instead, your relationships morph until the grandchildren come and the Mom Timeline cycles around again in various degrees.

Like Mamasource, an online community of Moms that advise each other, I'd prefer to dissect the Mom Timeline into small time periods based on age ranges. While Mamasource begins its timeline with the pre-birth stages of trying to conceive and pregnancy, as well as a special nod to adoption, I propose starting here:

  • • Infant (0-12 months): That first year of life with a baby can be tough, whether it's the first (I started with twins) or fifth. These mothers are dealing with a whole new world and are just trying to get some sleep. They've had nine months of baby product research and now have little time to really put them to any test but trial and error.
  • Toddler (1-2 years): Moms at this stage have some experience behind them and have usually bonded with several groups of similar-stage Moms. Many are still grappling with sleep issues, starting potty training, toys, and the possibilities of more siblings.
  • Preschooler (3-4 years): Several studies indicate that this is when mothers begin to consider the education options for their children. By the time their child is four, Moms have pretty much chosen private versus public and are often dealing with little brother or sister(s).
  • Child (5-6 years): Kindergarten looms large over the early part of this phase; this is also when life shifts to a September-to-June calendar year.
  • Older child (6-10 years): By now, most Moms are in the groove of raising their children. These are the good years! It's pre-hormone, pre-scary teenage years. Moms in this phase are concerned with homework, nutrition, extracurricular activities and starting to see that maybe, just maybe, they can start regaining a life of their own.
  • Tween (11-14 years): Thus begins the hormonal, scary years, including junior high, high school and the expenses that entails. I ask you, how much technology does a 14-year-old need?
  • Teen (15-19 years): While we tend to categorize the baby years as the most physically challenging, the teen years are the most emotionally challenging. Teens are taking those first steps into adulthood, trying to push away from parents. College (and the stressful process of choosing and applying) looms large for families now, as well as the painful evolution of an emptying nest.
  • Adult Child: Yes, a Mom's role is never done, it just changes. Today's Moms remain in close contact with their adult children, offering support in ways the previous generation didn't.
  • Grandchildren: Here, the timeline recycles starting with infants all over again. Many grandmoms participate in the raising of their grandchildren directly and indirectly. Some might not babysit, but many provide input.

Of course, Moms can be at multiple stages simultaneously. What is important for marketers to understand with the Mom Timeline are the needs of Moms at each stage of their children's lives. The days are long and the years are short, but the Mom Timeline is evergreen - it just keeps spinning around.

0 comments on "The Mom Timeline ".

  1. Rufus Dogg from DogWalkBlog
    commented on: March 25, 2009 at 12:50 p.m.

    The mommy timeline never ends! When do women get to be people again after having kids?

    http://www.dogwalkblog.com/2009/01/28/bart-simpson-will-always-be-10-years-old/

  2. Cooper Munroe from TheMotherhood
    commented on: March 25, 2009 at 12:59 p.m.

    Great points, Mary Lee. A mom is a mom, no matter what. And moms, like everyone, don't like to be swept up into stereotypes or "buckets." Women with kids are often dealing with multiple stages and ages (simultaneously) and are juggling a tremendous amount of balls - with their families, their work, their interests and their life. You can't put all that in one category, right? And if there is one thing we see consistently with moms, the more marketers try to lump moms in a distinct category, or crunch them into numbers or types, the less likely they are to trust or be open to their messages - which usually feel processed and unreal. (Moms have a sixth sense, you know, they sniff out inauthenticity in 3 seconds flat.) Yes a mom is a mom no matter what, she also responds the best to marketing messages that are authentic, real and listen to her, regardless of what "category" she might be in that day.

  3. Maria Bailey from BSM Media
    commented on: March 25, 2009 at 1:05 p.m.

    Mary Lee you'd done a great job breaking out the timeline of mom. It illustrates what I wrote in Trillion Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Moms, that it is important to market to the mom based on the age of her child rather than the age of the mother. A boomer with a toddler will act more like a Gen Xer with a toddler than a boomer with a teen. Toddler moms become consumer peers to each other and thus forming a strong consumer group.
    Thanks for mentioning the Marketing to Moms Coalition, www.marketingtomomscoalition.org. It's a great resource for marketing professionals in this field. The $2.1 trillion figure however was calculated by BSM Media and Maria Bailey. We actually re-calculated it ever January 1st. It's amazing that it has grown from $1.7 in 2001. www.marketingtomoms.com

  4. Stacey Kaser from Bluestone Productions
    commented on: March 25, 2009 at 6:15 p.m.

    Wow! This is so true. I created a website called rantingparent.com. It features comedic blogs, podcasts and videos. We've discovered that parents of newborns are still far too much in love with their babies to start laughing at the inanity of parenting. The majority of our users have children school age or higher. (Grandparents count too.) As for the rest of us, it takes a while for the reality to dawn -- our kids aren't going to be any more perfect than we are -- and everyone begins to relax and enjoy themselves.

  5. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs
    commented on: March 26, 2009 at 8:51 a.m.

    Great points!

    It's interesting what is pointed out in your article as well as what is coming out in the comments is that there are definite segments to the Mom market that slice it thinner than just by child's age- though I think that is the first broad cut.

    The finer cut is:Mom age/child age

    For example,a Boomer mom with a toddler is likely to have 1 or max 2 kids and is probably at a higher income and likely to buy a different set of products - that's just an example of the thin slice...

    Or..looking at it another way, as behavioral marketing becomes more important, Moms by psychographic profile- green moms, aspirational (Celebrity followers) moms, etc.

    Again, the psychographics profile may play a bigger role than either the age of the child or the age of the mom.

    I think these fine slices will become even more important as we hoard our marketing dollars and find Web2.0 allows us to more finely target our end consumer.

  6. Kevin Burke from WholesomeOne
    commented on: March 26, 2009 at 9:31 a.m.

    Sorry, but these categorizations are just too broad & basic to be useful for effective marketing programs. A marketer needs to understand moms' (consumers) needs and wants at much deeper level than "...these mothers are dealing with a whole new world and are just trying to get some sleep..."

    Maryanne Conlin's comments below are on target.

  7. Betsy Westhoff from MomWise
    commented on: March 29, 2009 at 6:18 p.m.

    I really like the thinking in this article as well as many of the comments. Clearly, we all know that there is no one way to segment a target audience. Now, more than ever, it is important to consider a variety of perspectives. That being said, at MomWise we believe that taking a look at the "stage of parenting" that a Mom is in has significant implications (though not being, of course, the only implications) on her perception of Price, Value, and Brand... among others.
    As marketers decide how to both get her attention and keep it a close look at the stage of parenting is a great idea.

  8. Mary lee Shalvoy from I28
    commented on: March 31, 2009 at 7:55 p.m.

    Thanks for all the comments!

    These are absolutely not the only ways to slice the Mom market (covering that would require a much, much longer piece), but having a timeline helps to break down the stages of life as a Mom. My interests and experiences as a Mom change as my children grow older; it doesn't matter what my age is for many of these situations. My friends, who may be older or younger than I am, who have kids the same ages as mine, have similar experiences, especially when it comes to the Mom stuff.

    Moms who are not first-time Moms might have different attitudes and approaches to raising their subsequent children, but many of the experiences are still the same at each stage along the way. For example, the need for sleep and diapers do not change whether you are dealing with infant #1 or #5.

  9. Mary lee Shalvoy from I28
    commented on: March 31, 2009 at 7:56 p.m.

    Thanks for all the comments!

    These are absolutely not the only ways to slice the Mom market (covering that would require a much, much longer piece), but having a timeline helps to break down the stages of life as a Mom. My interests and experiences as a Mom change as my children grow older; it doesn't matter what my age is for many of these situations. My friends, who may be older or younger than I am, who have kids the same ages as mine, have similar experiences, especially when it comes to the Mom stuff.

    Moms who are not first-time Moms might have different attitudes and approaches to raising their subsequent children, but many of the experiences are still the same at each stage along the way. For example, the need for sleep and diapers do not change whether you are dealing with infant #1 or #5.

  10. Jennifer Satterwhite from Mommy Needs Coffee
    commented on: April 8, 2009 at 9:36 p.m.

    For what it is worth, thank you so much for actually acknowledging that moms do not stop blogging when their kids reach 8 years old. Many, many marketers look to the young mom with the young kids. The truth is, many of us with teens have been blogging since our teens were younger. We know the market, the blogs and the products. Moms of teens and school age kids are a great market. We are used to having to spend money on the big items and therefore are usually more willing to promote the higher dollar things *as well as* the smaller items. The main point, YES, moms who have teens do blog and actually, contrary to belief, still know how to blog it like a rock star!

    But you are absolutely correct in there are so many ways to dissect moms/motherhood/mom bloggers!

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