All the single parents

As a strategist, I am continually mining cultural, category and consumer trends shaping the business landscape. I recently ended up spending time exploring the definition of the American family and how much it has changed over the past 30 years. Eventually, I came across a study conducted by The Pew Research Center in 2015 entitled, “The American Family Today.” According to this pretty comprehensive report, there is no longer one dominant form of family structure in the U.S. today. In fact, our traditional definition of a nuclear family (two married adults living together with their children) “is at the lowest point in more than half a century: 69% are in this type of family arrangement today, compared with 73% in 2000 and 87% in 1960.”

Additionally, one-fourth (26%) of children under 18 are now living with a single parent and 16% live in a “blended family” (a household with a stepparent, stepsibling or half-sibling). And we haven’t even started talking about unmarried parents who live with their kids, the increasing dynamic of two parents who work full time, same sex parents or the small yet significant perecentage of kids being raised by family members other than their parents.

As a bonified mom and now step-mom myself, my initial reaction when reading all of this data was, “wow, as lonely as this weird role can feel sometimes, I’m really not alone!” Which was quite the relief. Terms like ex-wife, single parent and step-mom can too often feel uncomfortable and strangely negative to describe oneself as and yet, as this data points out, there’s so many of us out there. Why is that?

Suddenly, my mind flashed to that powerful spot Ikea launched this past September called “Every Other Week.” AdWeek actually wrote about it, recognizing Ikea as one of a very small number of brands willing to address this new (and quite large) family dynamic of being atypical.

The fact is, I’ve spent nearly 15 years in this business and have focused on Moms as a key target on several accounts and yet, this has never come up. No client has ever said, “We’d like to hear more about the single Mom. What does she need?”

I’ll tell you what she needs.

Brands that will help her save time (you wouldn’t believe how much more I’d pay in the moments like this).

Brands that will help her save money.

Brands that will give her a break.

Brands that will take her seriously.

Brands that will make her feel accepted.

Brands that will try and understand.

The American family has evolved yet all of the work our industry creates depicts the past. What would happen if we embraced this new normal and had some fun with it? Who knows. Maybe even the idea of being a “Step-Mom” could become a good thing.

Melissa Clark

Strategic Planning Director

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