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Breadwinner Moms

By Drew Guiteras

The “traditional” American family is no longer the norm. Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that only one in five American households is a married, heterosexual couple with their own biological children. Replacing that structure is a plethora of family types: single parents, unmarried couples with kids, couples with kids from previous relationships, married gay parents, and so on.


These changes to family structure and makeup all contribute to a shift in roles and responsibilities within the family. And one big trend stands out: mom as the breadwinner. According to a Pew Research study, the share of mothers employed full or part time has quadrupled since the 1950’s, and 70% of moms with children under 18 work either full or part time. That study also showed that for 40% of families, mothers earned a majority of the household income.


So the financial well-being of many families depends on Breadwinner Moms, as the Pew Research study calls them. There are several implications for brands trying to reach these mothers:


Time Poor: For many families with two working parents, money may actually be easier to find than time. Empathize with the time crunch, offer to take one thing off the to-do list, and provide shortcuts to the things she wants. Some families will gladly pay more to get time back. Photo book service Chatbooks hits the mark here.


Multi-identity Mom: There may be a work persona, and a different mom persona. That hard-charging executive, for example, may show a completely different side of her personality when it comes to her children. Brands would be smart to explore that split and help moms embrace both roles in their lives.


Investor Mom: With more control over household income, what will her investing priorities be? How will she balance 529 college savings vs. 401(k) retirement savings vs. a mortgage payment vs. life insurance vs. the grocery bills? Which brand imagery will speak to her? Are the Roman pillars of a Northwestern Mutual really the most relevant brand iconography? State Street’s Fearless Girl statue brilliantly challenged conventional Wall Street imagery (though a company that takes a stand had better walk the walk when it comes to equal pay).


Permission To Be Imperfect: Here on Earth, we only have 24 hours in a day, which means work/life balance is impossible. And it’s also true that moms feel both internal pressure and external scrutiny to be perfect. Brands can strike a chord by calling out the insanity of this standard and offer judgment-free compromises. This is where Kraft hit the mark with this year’s “Swear Like a Mother” video.


Career Advocate: As a recent McKinsey study notes, “Men are more likely to say they get [raises and promotions] without having to ask.” Audi’s 2017 commercial, “Daughter,” called this issue out, but is there a way to go a step further? How can employment and career resources companies help women (not just moms) prepare for the raise/promotion conversation with employers?


Want to know more about how your brand can reach modern families and moms? Contact us at Frank About Women to learn more.



Drew Guiteras About the Author
Drew Guiteras Former Associate Planning Director, MullenLowe Winston-Salem

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