Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marketing to Moms: Observations from an Aging Gen X Mom of Tween Boys

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People are coming to Chicago from near and far this week for the Marketing to Moms Conference. I've noticed tidbits and factoids about Mom and her critical life stages come through the tweetstream of this event. This year, I thought I'd share a few observations of my own.

Life gets hairy in mid-life. Literally and figuratively.

Mothering young children is tiring and physically exhausting, but parenting teens and tweens is busy and draining in an entirely different way. Granted, it's easier to find time for work and self-care like exercise, retail therapy or whatnot when the kids are at school, but the "second shift" from after school until bedtime is a crush of activities, snacks, carpools, homework, chores, and more carpools. The greater the number of kids in the house, the larger the challenge of a true sit-down family dinner each night...or at all.

In the late elementary school years, the homework kicks up a notch, which, let's be honest, means a lot of battles on the home front. One psychologist I know believes homework is the single largest cause of family violence, as defined by shouting, screaming, tantrums, not physical abuse.

And speaking of psychologists, OMG, do you remember how you acted as a teen? Adolescence is no treat the second time around, either.

As academic pressures and involvement in school sports and other activities increases, a family's vacation schedule truly becomes a hostage to the school schedule. So much for squeezing an extra day out of a long weekend.

Today's tweens are increasingly connected.

Many have cell phones (and Facebook pages!?) by the time they are 10 years old. As parents add another cell phone or two to the family plan, some are wise enough to pay for an unlimited text plan before they get that first outrageous texting bill.

If the kids don't have their own computer, they will soon. Parents get fed up sharing their computer as the children increasingly need it for school or want it for social activities. And as with phones, hopefully the parent brings another computer into the family before the tweens have introduced malware and the latest virus to the computer their parents use for personal banking activities and online shopping.

But this stage of life isn't all about the kids.

It's about marriages. Broken marriages, that is. Affairs, separations and divorces, not necessarily in that order.

And it's not about dad setting out to find a trophy wife. Increasingly, mom is calling it quits for her own reasons.

When it comes to health, well, a wise older women (WOW) friend warned me about what to expect in my 40s. Every time I turn around, someone I know is being diagnosed with {whispers} cancer. Case in point, know not one, but two(!) women in their 40s whose husbands are having brain tumors removed next month.

And then there's the friend with thyroid cancer, the gal pal who had breast cancer last year and another one currently undergoing chemo, the dad who was recently treated for a tumor.... and that's not even counting my online friends and their health issues.

And as long as things are getting glum, the other thing my WOW friend warned me is that death becomes a fact of life in middle age.

Fortunately, my friends are doing okay, but they are losing their grandparents and parents. Some of them are sandwiched in between caring for elderly relatives and younger ones who need to be driven everywhere and by the way are supposed to bring a new box of 100 sharpened pencils to school this morning.

Oh, and I probably should have mentioned this before death, but wrinkles? Gah! An unstoppable and depressing phenomenon. Women who joke about the affect of gravity on their bodies before age 40 have no idea what they are in for.

{smacks well-lined forehead}

I've made this 40-something gig sound worse than it is. By this point in life, we've learned to adapt, we've learned that change also means growth and we know we can make it through whatever life hands us. (Which is to say, it's a shame that wrinkles and gray hair cannot be acknowledged as badges of pride and survival that they are.)

We 40-somethings are watching our children grow and (in theory) mature; we might also be watching our careers flourish or getting ready to finally return to work in earnest. We might be able to jog farther or lift more weights than we ever thought possible than at any other time in our life. We might even be having better sex.

We are on our way to becoming wise older women.

My career is no longer in the toilet!

There are many opportunities for brands to help us along on our sometimes rocky journey to WOW. Want to know more? Drop me a note at kim(at)momimpact(dot)com.


Melisa with one S said...

Great post!!

Stephanie Schwab said...

I'll speak for the group that only started having kids after 40 (my son was born a couple of months after I turned 41). Our bodies are not programmed for sleepless nights at this point and as for sitting on the floor to play cars? Ouch. My knees and back are too old for that (though I do it anyway)! But having more time with my son (even amidst starting a new business), being sure of myself as an adult and parent, and feeling more comfortable about our financial future - these are all critical parts of my parenting experience and well worth waiting for. My gray hair is a testament to my age, yes, but also to my confidence as a parent, wife and businessperson.

MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner said...

Brilliant testimony to our WOW factor... it's like you're taking snapshots of my life. THANK YOU for this!

Busy Mom said...

I must be brilliant by now, then.

Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

And what is with that "100 sharpened pencils" thing? How many can one child possibly go through in a week? Don't they realize that 100 sharpened sticks isn't stationery, it's an armory?

Darryle said...

Kim this is wonderful. No surprise that you were able to put into words articulating so much of what mid-life is about---although I agree with Stephanie that among the challenges,there are benefits-- and for many, it's the best time of life.

Anne-Marie @ This Mama Cooks! said...

The divorces and the cancer? You are spot on Kim.

Asha {Parent Hacks} said...

Reading your post reminds me of how I used to feel when my kids were younger. That it was hard, and I couldn't wait for it to get easier as they got older. Which it has...and hasn't. Such is the paradox of parenting older children, and nurturing a marriage/partnership and a job at this stage.

I find that post-40 is all about self-awareness...most of it in the form of coming to terms with my limitations and weak points. As we deal with more complex problems, our tools for addressing them need to be sophisticated as well. Turns out a number of my tools need sharpening.

Also, the importance of finding time for oneself, and listening to one's inner voice! So, so important in the face of all the demands in our lives!

Mavis Hayes said...

That was informative. I am raising a 10 year old son and in a few years, he will be in that tween stage. I learned a lot about your blog post. Thanks for the information. Keep writing! :)

Meowmie said...

Great post! For a moment I thought I was going to see a photo of you cleverly writing on the toilet paper (but then again, that's the sort of desperate thing I'd do LOL, maybe I'm not a WOW at all).

Yes, there are benefits. I'm smarter in some ways, I put up with less BS and I call people on it, and yet I'm kinder in other situations. Sometimes I've been there and done that and I feel for that person.

A bit peeved about my grey hair, though. Why can't I have the wisdom of a near-crone without having grey roots showing? :-) Off to the hairdresser on Saturday - yippee!

Funkidivagirl said...

Thanks for this post. Wow...you hit the nail on the head for me. I am "in the thick of it"--all of it--and it's fraying my nerves.

Deb said...

I'm in my 40s, with 16 and 20 y old boys. I agree that we are keenly aware of health, economic and social issues during this time, as our kids start to launch themselves and as our peers begin to struggle more with problems of all types. As far as marketing implications, cause marketing skyrockets in impact, and meaningful messages matter. We no longer define ourselves in cute ways--no babywearing or soccer mom labels, etc. We ask for more sophistication from the companies we engage in and the products we buy to match our own development. I'm really interested in mid-life crises from the female point of view, lots of rich material there!

Donna said...

I'm another woman who did not become a mom until 40. Having a baby and raising her softened the blow of middle age. Yeah, I experienced all the passage symptoms you describe here -- but I think my 40's were my best decade yet.

Unfortunately, I'm now in my 50's and my kid is a teen (you think it all intensifies in middle school? Wait until they get to high school!) I am nostalgic for my 40's.

The thing is, most of the time, I don't feel any different than I did when I was 30... until I hear some great song from the 80's and realize I first heard it 25 years ago. I don't think I ever pictured myself being THIS OLD. And I have to say, I don't like it.

Kristina said...

Great post, Kim. I hope the marketers to moms read this, because there is so much focus on moms with young kids. Also, I'll be 40 next year so thanks for the prepping, although many of those things I'm already experiencing.