I celebrated my first Mother’s Day as a mom this month – I’m a 32-year-old Millennial and had my first child last fall. It spurred me to think about how motherhood has really changed over the years, but particularly how that change has accelerated.
Myriad research studies and cultural trend reports have shown that as Millennials come to key life stages, their sheer number and unique attitudes tend to result in significant adjustments to traditional paradigms...and as marketers, we must recognize entering motherhood is no different. As “Mom” tends to be a key audience target for many business categories, it’s crucial that we identify some of the catalysts and embrace how Millennials are tackling their newfound motherhood and making it their own.
I’ve noted three key things that are the impetus for change: 1) technology and connectivity, which offer customized experiences and enable trust; 2) the idea of crowdsourcing and the power of the collective mindset; and 3) the involvement of dad and shifting gender roles.
Technology & Connectivity
Technology has ushered in not only new levels of connectivity and convenience, but also customization. Customized experiences are important to Millennials and, for these moms, begin when baby is still in utero. No longer is this generation just reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but it’s getting customized weekly emails from BabyCenter, automatically deployed with content relevant to their calculated due date. During labor, apps like Contraction Timer have an easy start/stop button...and then graph the frequency and intensity based on your input with a simple user interface. You can even email the data to your physician before you arrive at the hospital. As Millennial moms return to work, tracking shared with childcare providers is powered by apps such as Baby Connect. Our daycare uses it – they keep an iPad in the classroom, logging activity throughout the day, even snapping photos and uploading them into my child’s newsfeed. In real time (from my desk at the office), I can glance at my smartphone and see that my daughter “has been napping since 3 p.m.” or smile at the photo of her playing in the exer-saucer. I feel connected and involved. It’s no surprise that the average Millennial mom’s phone bill and data usage is higher than most Americans’ – $104 monthly, according to MRI 2012.
Online resources now also facilitate finding childcare while simultaneously adding a layer of trust. I’m sure previous generations would initially scoff at the idea of finding a babysitter on the Internet (gasp!), but today’s Millennials love the idea of applicants who have already passed criminal background checks and who have verified identities. Large sites like Care.com dominate the space, but up-and-comers like UrbanSitter.com are taking it to a new level of convenience, allowing you to book online or through an app (viewing a potential sitter’s calendar beforehand to see if they’re free), and even pay online with a saved credit card. Most sites also allow parents to review the sitters (much like Yelp, with a five-star system), adding yet another layer of trust and validation from mom peers.
Peer connections and the collective mindset of this generation has also been a catalyst for change. More specifically, Millennial moms are crowdsourcing parenting advice via their social networks. Many search for answers on Pinterest boards or ask “how to” questions in online forums or private Facebook groups. This is not surprising, since 54% of Millennial moms are on Facebook twice a day (the most of any generation), and mobile contributes to the real-time nature of response. There’s no shortage of people available and willing to provide tips either: 88% of moms globally say when they hear good advice they want to share it, and 81% regard themselves as an expert in at least one subject according to the Trust About Smart Moms study from McCann. Millennial moms are also leveraging their digital support system for brick-and-mortar needs too; one recent example of this is the Clarendon Hills Chicago Yahoo Group where moms can email out a request for a cup of sugar (for those last minute classroom cookies) and a fellow mom near you will drop it off on your door in mere minutes.
Involvement of Dads
Finally, it’s not just mom anymore that is bearing the brunt of the parenthood responsibilities; the third driver differentiating Millennial moms from their predecessors is the greater involvement and contribution of Dads. The Work and Families Institute reports that today’s Millennial dad spends four-plus hours per work day with kids under 13, versus just two hours for their same-age counterparts in 1977. Dads today share actively in the routine, splitting responsibilities. For example, my own husband does the daycare morning drop-off and I handle the afternoon pick-up. It’s not just carpool though – today’s Millennial dad shares domestic chores, too (especially if mom is a working outside the home). Fifty-two percent of dads say they are the primary grocery shopper, according to Cone Communication. Perhaps this is part of the larger trend in the shifting gender roles; 41% of men spend four-plus hours per week cleaning, and 45% men spend four-plus hours per week cooking! Perhaps most telling of all is the fact that there are 176,000 stay-at-home dads in the U.S., according to the 2011 census, which is a population that has doubled in the last decade. In fact, one major brand manifests this recognition of the dual parent consumer quite plainly in their tagline, reminding them that “Choosy moms – and dads – choose Jif.”
It’s clear that Millennial moms are putting their own stamp on parenting, which has left many marketers struggling to catch up. So, here are two key things I recommend you consider when targeting this group with communications or designing products for them. 1) Don’t forget new communication channels like digital and mobile, where today’s mom can be reached and easily activated. 2) Don’t speak to mom at the exclusion of dad, because he is a trusted parenting partner who is likely sharing some of the burden. I predict the ways that Millennials are changing parenting are here to stay, and I’m eager to see how the drivers identified here will continue to evolve as these moms mature and their kids grow older.