Going deeper on the struggles moms are facing

6Degrees' Adrianne Gaffney Wotherspoon looks at impacts that will stretch far beyond Mother's Day, for both brands and employers.


By Adrianne Gaffney Wotherspoon

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has brought challenge and suffering to all Canadians in a host of different ways. As a working mom to two young boys, I fall into a group that feels affected—and in transparency, a group who just wants a little peace as my “gift” for Mother’s Day.

Over the past few months, I’ve watched my friends and colleagues with kids at home (both moms and dads) struggle and seen the headlines and social posts talking about how moms are not okay. The statistics of women leaving the workforce because of unsustainable demands was, and is, exceptionally distressing.

As a planner, I wanted to get strategic: getting into the issue beyond my own echo-chamber to bring deeper understanding of what’s happening – for myself and for our clients.

With a group of 600 Canadian moms, we used the same research-based strategic approach and insight tools that we apply to our conversion-focused programs and found something that was tough to hear: not only are they not okay, many see themselves living the impact of this pandemic for years to come.

And as key decision makers when it comes to household spending, it’s something we should all be paying attention to professionally, personally and culturally – as employers, friends, colleagues, partners and family members.

For those who are thinking that the pandemic is going to end with big hugs and a quick return to normalcy (and a spend to accompany it), think again. Nearly three quarters of moms are holding onto anxieties about the lasting impact of the pandemic on their kids, and are also worried about their own mental health. Sixty-two percent are worried about the longer-term impact of the pandemic on their household finances.

These aren’t empty concerns. From a financial perspective, decreases in household income affected many, particularly those in lower income brackets: 49% of moms in low income groups reported at least some decrease in household income, compared to 39% in higher brackets. What’s more, in terms of emotional support, 21% of all moms say they’re “going it alone”, with no real help from anywhere. This number increases to one third for single moms.

The knock- on effect of this stress is making itself known on other aspects of their lives: half of all moms say they’re spending less on themselves today versus the “before times.” This is partially because of a need to re-prioritize dollars in some cases, but also because of a self-reported decline in their mental and physical health: 61% say they are more concerned about their mental and emotional well being right now than they were pre-pandemic, with 59% are unhappy with their physical appearance. These aren’t things that get solved with vaccinations alone.

These are a lot of stats that ladder up to a few uncomfortable truths: anxieties are not going to be quelled overnight, many moms feel very alone and the road to recovery is long both financially and emotionally.

Given that, what are the things we can do? It depends on the lens, in some ways, as the imperatives as an employer brand are different than what we might consider for marketing. As employers, moms need more flexibility in the workplace as they juggle multiple priorities, as a start. That’s difficult in a service business like agencies, but critical in creating a workplace they may not need to reluctantly leave.

As marketed brands, it’s an important time to not only have a voice, but to take real, impactful action in big and small ways – and even though speaking to their finances is important, there are other ways to address moms with relevance and value.

Many moms have spent the last year not spending on themselves: help her restock herself in a way that reflects her value-conscious mindset and takes into account that she may not feel really great about herself right now.

Offer EASY moments of normalcy for herself, or for her to provide to her family. Help her bring them experiences that might easily make a memory. A micro-thrill that she didn’t need to think about will go a long way.

Be the brand that is taking action, advocating for the things she cares about. Know your audience and pick up the mantle to be her champion. Also make it easy for her to help: not all people experienced the pandemic in the same way. CSR programs that make it accessible for her to feel a sense of progress and altruism are important now.

While we may all want to think about that ‘grand reopening’ moment to give us and our stakeholders hope, meeting her on her level, helping her with the hard work is where brands – and workplaces – need to be now.

image002Adrianne Gaffney Wotherspoon is managing partner and chief strategist at 6Degrees.