When I started Forty Weeks in 1999, there immediately came to life a category of emerging products that I called “the nasties.” At the time, marketing to new and expectant parents was still a relatively new venture, and these brands had deep pockets and were going after new and expectant parents with fear at the very core of their messaging.
Perhaps they didn’t intend to be fear mongering. Many launched their brands or products simply to address an unmet need. By simply tying their products to a parent’s fear — is my baby eating enough, is she sleeping enough, is he crying too much? — there was a sudden wave of nasties flooding trade-show floors and retailers. A fear-based product category that assured a parent could “get it right” was born. These products promised a child’s safety and well being, and played directly into the narrative that a child needed a perfect upbringing to be a satisfied adult. I believed that “the nasties” were predators, they were making it harder for a parent to feel successful, and creating unnecessary stress and fear.
But now, a few years older and wiser, the lens I am looking through has changed (perhaps now more of a prism than a crisp, inflexible view). I understand that new parents will have fears and concerns regardless, it’s common to question how to meet your baby’s needs, and babies aren’t always the easiest to communicate with nor is parental confidence easy to access. There are still some extreme products that I feel are unnecessarily fear-mongering, but most speak to meeting need — that of freeing parents from their own personal stressors by addressing their deepest concerns head on.
So now, years later, I say, whatever gets you out the door. What does it take for you go back to work, to engage, to access your “self” to get you at your peak level? Finding what you need is the opposite of fear mongering. It’s empowering.
At the It’s Working Project, we understand that success is different for every person. Products that you could construe as fear-mongering do wonders to liberate a different person. Not everyone needs those things, but if having access lowers anxiety, then that creates success.
In our Portrait Project, where men and women have shared their back-to-work after baby stories, we can see anxiety coming up over and again. “I was scared to leave my baby at daycare”, was what Peter S. of Brooklyn told us. “ I was still a mess and trying to get a firm grasp on this whole parenting thing” Melissa D. from Boston told us. The anxiety is there, it’s real and palpable. And anxiety gets in the way of getting out the door, on your feet or to a place of confidence.
So when I see a product out there… be it a highly sophisticated line of nursery monitors such as Project Nursery’s new system for VOXX which according to their press materials:
“The system also serves as a digital clock, timer and room thermometer, things mom and dad need to see at-a-glance. Extra benefits allow parents to send lullabies, voice communicate with their baby and capture digital images of special moments”.
Or perhaps a look at the new line Hatch which offers a monitoring changing pad and highly sophisticated app which promises to “keep track of the information that you and your pediatrician care about” — leaves me encouraged by the possibilities.
I am optimistic that these highly evolved products will move parents to a place of strength. And from strength we hope will come a very personal victory — be it small gesture or a game-changing moment. Whatever that success it, we applaud it. Because really, success looks different for each one of us. And part of understanding what is it to be back to work after baby in this country is understanding and accepting that.
Will you share your back to work after baby story with us? We would love to hear from you!