Saturday, 26 February 2011

Campaign for real mothers

One aspect of German society that never fails to surprise visitors is just how mother-and-child-unfriendly the country is. As well has having the lowest birth rate in Europe, Germany must be one of the few countries in the world with its own insulting phrase for a mother that doesn't spend 24 hours a day tending to her little ones - Rabenmutter - or "raven mother". Quite what ravens have done or not done to deserve this expression remains an ornithological puzzle.

There have been a couple of surveys reported on recently from German brands targeted at young mothers. Eltern magazine, for example, reports that the reasons that people believe the birth rate is so low include worry about financial stability, the belief that German society values performance in job more highly than starting a family, the difficulty in combining career and family, the lack of childcare and the generally child-unfriendly climate.

The baby food brand Milupa has got together with the market research agency Rheingold to understand the feelings of mothers from the psychological perspective and their study shows that there is tremendous pressure - real and perceived - for young mums to live up to some sort of ideal imposed by society - and, interestingly, that mums have more trust in brands like Milupa or Pampers than in German politics!

Milupa has developed a campaign from these findings: "Milupa Mama Coaching." The idea here is to coach and encourage mums to be more relaxed and listen to their instincts. This seems a reasonable idea but I do wonder whether they could have taken a bolder approach.

The thing is, however well-intentioned "Mama Coaching" may be, it still leaves the finger pointing back at the mother to change. The campaign is confined to places where only mothers will see it and will have little impact on the world outside. In the spirit of the Dove campaign, wouldn't it be great for Milupa to tackle perceptions of non-mothers - of employers, of public authorities? And maybe to spend some of the budget on actions that would help mothers in a concrete way? Maybe this is planned for the future...

Talking of the future, there seemed to be signs at the end of last year that the birth rate might pick up, although the official figures for 2010 will first be released in May. And the current Family Minister, Kristina Schröder, announced her own first pregnancy in January. Who knows? Maybe Frau Schröder will follow her predecessor's example by having seven children in her own contribution to raising the birth rate.

No comments: