For every person who is struggling with COVID-19 lockdown, there is another who is LOVING quarantine. Who posts pictures of every new sweater knitted, every remote hiking or camping journey, every slow-cooked, elaborate meal, every organized room in their new-and-improved house and waxes poetic about how wonderful it has been to “go slow,” “stare at flowers” and “just be.” Less romantic childless demographics might complain of boredom and post images of Animal Crossing adventures they are using to kill time and tallies of the 1,147 masks they have sewn.
Most working parents, however, cannot relate to this content AT ALL. Like everyone else, they have to cook more, work from home, navigate retail and groceries in all-new ways, deal with a struggling economy, exercise at home, do everything else at home and maintain the home itself. But on TOP of that, they have to plan social meetings for their kids on Zoom, homeschool, be emotionally available for kids who do not know how to cope with the circumstances, attend birthday parades, bandage the knees, spend quality time (somehow?) and serve as sanity event coordinator for the entire household. And the kicker: they have to do it all WITHOUT LOOKING STRESSED for their kids’ sake.
There are a lot of heroes in this crisis. Working parents are some of them.
Not surprisingly, working parents, who make up 1/3 of the US workforce, are struggling wildly with each and every hat they are trying to wear at once. Productivity is waning, and while many businesses are understanding, the economy cannot suffer this hit for as long as the pandemic will last. There is plenty that employers can do to help their working parent employees manage amid the chaos, and that has been well documented: flexible work schedules, childcare help, leave, etc. But as it stands, the situation is completely unsustainable, and burnout is looming.
Barring finding a million dollars to hand out to each family, what parents could really use is a break. One that isn’t laced with guilt and that refuels them for all that hat wearing. Brands have an opportunity to help a desperate population find some peace, and they should take it. Here are some ways we think content or products could be packaged to meet this need:
- Products that help create spaces. Parents need spaces dedicated to grown-up time, and right now many don’t have anywhere to go to find them. If they can’t leave, either because they don’t have childcare or because businesses around them are still closed. they must carve out “alone” space within the spaces they are sharing.
Enter the Mancave. Or Womancave. Home gym. Writing desk. Home office. If your product or service can help parents find this space within their homes, now is the time to let them know and inspire the idea. Whether they use it for self-care or productivity, the point is that parents are currently desperate for some “alone time” to recharge and regroup. Help make the space for them to do so.
- Bite-sized mindful, energizing or uplifting content. There has been a lot of talk about the failure of Quibi and whether they overestimated the demand for bite-sized content. But at least for the parent demographic, short, meaningful content is likely the most they have time for. And like their kids, who need “brain breaks” and have plenty of content available to that effect, adults need “life breaks.”
Meditations, seven-minute workouts or dance lessons, inspiring stories and any other content that will leave parents feeling a little refreshed and refueled without taking too much precious time could be just the magic they need to finish the day. Better if it can be easy to find and consistent from a single source, a treasure trove of content they don’t have to spend time searching for again once found.
- Plans or subscriptions that “free” time or improve it. Meal kits seem like a great idea for parents under normal circumstances. It’s a chance for the adults to cook a nice little meal without a special grocery run, and the kids can just eat mac and cheese. Win-win. However, in the times of COVID-19, even having to sit down and think through groceries and meal kit orders is difficult. Plus, a meal kit is single-use. And expensive. And then you have to worry about the next meal and the next. This suddenly doesn’t seem like a convenience, but a luxury.
Subscriptions and kits SHOULD be an excellent idea for parents right now, but the strategy behind them needs to shift slightly to fit these circumstances. Creating a kit or a package that truly saves time ideally either lasts more than a single use or is easy to set and/or alter on a more long-term basis. For example, if your family likes spaghetti and meatballs, parents can set that package to come once a week on Thursdays. That is spaghetti night. The end.
- Packaged activities. When adults do find a free moment to themselves, in one of their caves or home offices or gyms or desks, they might have a whole list of ideas of things they would like to do in that time. That list is likely so overwhelming that they spend the entirety of their stolen moment trying to decide which thing to do. OR they have no list and no idea what to do.
If your brand or product can help them fill that time with little effort and supplies they can easily grab from a drawer in the moment, that might be just the unwinding they were looking for. They could be crafty, boozy, mindful, as long as they are accessible activities that keep adults from spiraling into debt and pandemic worry, they’ve done the job.
- Relatable humor. There is something to be said for the brand that just consistently makes you laugh. Working parents, now more than ever, need a laugh. There are several comic artists posting empathetic cartoons, Reddit threads, Twitter hashtags, support groups; parents don’t have to look far, but there never seems to be enough of this content.
Brands have the opportunity here to open the window and let some fresh laughs blow into their messaging aimed at working parents.
- Social connections and communities. Parents need support and community, and right now they are almost completely cut off. When they are finished running the gamut of their duties as cooks, housekeepers, event planners, teachers, etc., it’s often too late for those Zoom happy hours their coworkers have been having or they are too exhausted to join the 6-foot-spaced lawn chair circles of drinking neighbors.
If brands or products can offer a platform for working parents to connect with one another in a meaningful and supportive way, those parents would be all too happy for some connection on their schedules and terms.
Right now, working parents are battling on so many different fronts that it can feel like they are losing ground everywhere. Many things need to change to help them keep up with the world, even as it slows down in the face of a pandemic. Safe and consistent childcare is the number one priority. Barring that, they need employers to be flexible and as understanding as possible as they navigate all their other “jobs.” But for now, as that “new normal” is shaking out and uncertainty is taking hold, parents need products, services and messaging that keep them fighting through another day.