3.25.2008

Johnson & Johnson BabyGate: You Knew I Couldn't Stay Quiet For Long

I have been following the J&J Camp "Baby" fallout with great interest. Sort of the way you watch a car wreck with great interest. Or more accurately, reports of a minor fender bender that, by the time it gets to you, is suddenly OH MY GOD 62 PEOPLE AND A WHOLE SLEW OF CIRCUS ANIMALS WERE RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL. Because it's really not a car wreck. It just seems that way. And I bet that it will be a whole lot of fun and the hair braiding will go swimmingly and the pillow fights will last well past 10 (!!)

(And in case you're wondering: Yes, I was invited, but no, I'm not going, because I'm speaking at BlogHer Business the very same days. But hey - if any of you campers want to sneak away from raiding the fridge and making out with your pillows to road trip it up to NYC Friday afternoon for margaritas, I'm all over that.)

Bloggers like Susan Getgood and today, Heather at BlogHer, have already assessed the issues far better than I from an PR standpoint, and of course I'm saddened reading the accounts of friends whose feelings were hurt and schedules upended after being disinvited (or not invited at all).

But the women like Julie and Kate who were not allowed to bring nursing infants in slings particularly bummed me out. And I've finally put my finger on it, in part after reading Alyssa Royce's comment on Heather's thread in defense of J&J.

I've been interviewing lately, pursuing freelance advertising opportunities around NY. I haven't had to sit across a desk answering rapid-fire questions for a while - most of my jobs have been through people who already know me or at least my work - and I find one thing has changed in the last five years (besides the fact that the economy has wreaked havoc on day rates): I have kids.

I've already had a few (male) eyebrows raise just a bit too high for my liking when I mentioned that I have young children. And so I do my best not to mention it.

Which sucks.

Are there any men who feel they can't go on a job interview, point at a framed Sears portrait on the desk and say "Well hey there, I'm a family man myself!"

Are there any men who are scared that that when they mention their kids, a recruiter will think they aren't the best person to write a beer ad or a car campaign? Are there any men who worry that while the guy across the table is smiling and pumping his hand, that in his head, he's thinking "Hm, he'd probably be happier if he were home with the kids."

But here on my blog it's different. Here I can be both a professional and a mom. Both a person and a mom.

Sometimes even...just a person.

And you get it.

So when a mom blogger is not welcome at an event - hardly a professional one, although the sponsor company may see it that way - she is not "overreacting" when she can't arrive with her nursing infant in a sling. It's not "just business." She doesn't need to be told that with a sleeping infant in tow she will not be able to "focus" properly. And yeah, it's okay to be a little angry about it. Because even with all the progress we've made, all the talk we do about candidates supporting women's issues, fist-in-the-air and amen sister, we're still beholden to the patriarchal model of business. And we continue to feel guilty for having to choose between our family and everything else.

I know. I've been in that situation, with a sleeping newborn in a car seat ten feet from my home office workspace, inviting my boss in, and having him stare at her as if she were a live grenade.

Parents come here, to the world o' blog, in part because here we don't feel marginalized the way we sometimes do in other aspects of our lives (as Kristen has put it). Here we are a community of kindred spirits. We surround ourselves with other parents who get the juggle.

Here, we don't have to deny that mommy side of ourselves. We don't have to hide the pacifier quickly as it falls out of a jacket pocket at work, or pretend that we're not stressed out worrying about a sick kid at home while sitting in a meeting. We can even look at that other picture on the proverbial desk and shout ME TOOOOOO!

Basically, it's okay to behave like a woman here. It's okay to behave like a mom.

So if you're a marketer and you want to come here, into our world to work with parents, I think you need to play by our rules.


51 Comments:

Blogger allysha said...

amen.

3/25/08, 1:52 PM  
Blogger caramama said...

OMG, YES YES and YES!!!

That is exactly why this situation has been bugging me when I read what other people are going through. It also bugs me about the working world in most cases. Thanks for voicing this.

3/25/08, 2:23 PM  
Blogger Susan Getgood said...

Great perspective Liz. Love the car wreck image. Lions and tigers and bears oh my.

I think every mom in the workforce, whether working from home or in an office, has faced this dynamic. I wouldn't quite call it discrimination, but sometimes it feels like it. Which is why we enjoy our blogging communities, hanging around with folks who "get it." Who get us. Whether it be other moms, or other people in your profession, or who share your hobbies. And once you start hanging with your pals, norms develop -- for online and in-person behavior. In the momosphere, one of the norms, or rules as you called them, is that nursing infants are welcome, even at things to which none of us would bring our older children. That was one of the principal disconnects in the J&J situation.

As you point out, other companies who want to play in the mommy blogger sandbox are well advised to take that lesson to heart.

3/25/08, 2:41 PM  
Blogger Liz@thisfullhouse.com said...

Brilliant! Now, if only we can get this post put on a button, or have a standard set of rules we all can post and, therefore, blog by.

Some of us...cough, cough...are finding it difficult to balance career and family...let alone, be compensated, fairly.

I, for one, commend companies (like J&J) who try to reach out to women (namely, blogging moms) regardless of the fact that they may get burned by what's been said and done, already.

It's people like you, Ms. Mom-101, that can really get the ball rolling.

Now, when are we going to hear about starting your own marketing company and...um...will you be looking for any help?

I do good posts about laundry.

3/25/08, 2:45 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I don't know if it makes anyone feel better, buy my husband has certainly been penalized at work because of his family commitments.

The culture on his team at work is that if you're not putting in 60+ hours, you're not committed to the team and The Project. With two small children at home, he feels that he isn't able to consistently put in so many work hours and still bank time with his kids. He got "docked" on his last review because of his reluctance to put in as many hours as his co-workers. I should note that we live in the midwest were a 45 hour work week is considered pretty standard.

I think it's hard for any one to be considered a "player" if they have any commitments outside of their professional life. I just don't think most businesses consider an employee with a happy, healthy family life to be of any particular benefit to The Corporation.

3/25/08, 3:20 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

EXCELLENT point Sarah - There's is definitely a corporate culture in the US that values work above all else. It's not healthy and it's not normal.

It's parents in general that often deal with discrimination in the workplace as you say. But I think it happens more after the fact with men than during the interview process. I do believe that in front of certain recruiters, a mom is a mom but a dad is a guy.

3/25/08, 3:30 PM  
Blogger Feeder of the hungry beans said...

I don't have a dog in this blogging fight (note my last post nearly a year ago), but I do have a uterus that's gotten a good workout twice now.

So I've got to laugh that a PR professional thinks the way to reach mothers of young children is to schedule a midweek, no-nursing-babies, hurry-up-and-register event.

Now I fully understand that they really have no idea how our lives work.

You put it exactly right: Make them play by our rules.

3/25/08, 3:51 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

"So if you're a marketer and you want to come here, into our world to work with parents, I think you need to play by our rules."

Perfect. And exactly why I love you, and am so dying to see you immediately after I get my hair braided.

3/25/08, 4:03 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

It is so supremely ironic that companies who want you BECAUSE you are moms DON'T want you to BE moms when it comes down to it.

3/25/08, 4:34 PM  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

I'm returning to work in June from my mat leave and am concerned about how people will treat me. I hate that I have this concern. Great post.

3/25/08, 4:39 PM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

Liz, thank you. I'm sick and tired of this topic myself, but I think you made some excellent points that needed to be said.

It's difficult to see my personal judgment questioned by other mothers, women whom I count on to "get it". Thanks for being one who does get it.

3/25/08, 5:04 PM  
Blogger MamaChristy said...

Susan Getgood said "I wouldn't quite call it discrimination..."

Well, I totally would. I can understand that you try not to mention it in interviews. It doesn't matter if the interviewer is a man or a woman, a parent or not: You as a woman aren't as much of an asset if you have kids, particularly young ones. At least it's illegal in the U.S. for them to ask you if you have kids, even if you are eight months pregnant and it's the elephant in the room...

I guess I don't read enough mommy bloggers these days. This is the first I've heard of this. Certainly, a company ought to know it's target and a little something about the people they are inviting. Hello - they are paying for the airfare and hotels! Make sure that you understand the needs of the people you are inviting and be prepared that these are people with young children - who they want to attend and blog about the conference - and therefore might ask that some allowances be made. See, these people have an advantage over someone interviewing you - they can read a blog before they invited anyone. Yeash. What a mess.

3/25/08, 6:02 PM  
Anonymous chris said...

Just name the place on Friday :-)

3/25/08, 6:43 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

What I don't get is that they could have avoided all of this fuss by simply providing nursing facilities and even daycare for infants under a certain age, you know?

Maybe it's the fact that it's aimed at Moms and that it's sponsored by JOHNSON & JOHNSON, for crying out loud is what is a bit disturbing...

Ah well. I wasn't invited either (sob)...

3/25/08, 6:46 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

I was told by my faculty that phd students who are married, without kids, have the highest completion rate; married, with kids, have the lowest completion rate.

So I was forced to have an internal discussion with myself about whether or not I could be a successful PhD candidate if I chose to have children during the program, or if I could put off having kids until after the program.

We have a baby girl now, and I'm staying home. And there are too many faculty members who became disinterested as soon as I had a kid. But if every one of them was as great as the professor who gave me a 12 month paper extension so I could stay home without worrying about it, then I think more parents would chose to have kids, be entirely comfortable in their programs, and finish at a fantastic rate.

I think a parent with good professional support is the most efficient, effective worker any company could want; and they make the best teachers. The problem is that when parents don't have that support in their professional lives they might be less willing to participate, and so they contribute to their own professional marginalization.

3/25/08, 7:28 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Backpacking Dad:

Marry me?

Oh wait, you're already married. Dammit.

3/25/08, 7:32 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

Aw.

Garsh.

It was "professional marginalization" wasn't it? That always worked on the girls at the bar too.

3/25/08, 7:37 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Heck, I'd call it discrimination.

Maternal Profiling

3/25/08, 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Glennia said...

Excellent points. I have to fly back on Friday or I'd totally be there at the bar with you. I have to say, J&J has been completely professional and friendly to me, but the no-nursing-babies really irritated me. I used to run a mothers club, and even on Moms Night Out there was an unwritten rule that nursing babies were welcome, otherwise moms would not likely get a night out. Seems like they would know that.

3/25/08, 9:41 PM  
Blogger the mama bird diaries said...

You just have such a way of saying things that hits the nail on the head. Do you know how brilliant you are?

YES. YES. YES.

And I agree with SUEB0B too.

3/25/08, 10:20 PM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

I like you, Liz. You tell it like it is, or ought to be. Straight out, to the point, just right.

3/25/08, 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

Well said.

I'd wade into the argument but I still have my panties in a twist about not being invited.

Wink, wink.

3/25/08, 10:27 PM  
Anonymous QueenofSpain, Erin Kotecki Vest said...

I'm with ya redneck mommy. I thought twice about weighing in because I was not invited, but then I saw other bruhahah over at parentopia and frankly just got fed up.

Liz you say it perfectly.

3/26/08, 12:11 AM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

A to the men, woman. Preach.

3/26/08, 1:02 AM  
Blogger jen said...

i never get invited to anything so that can't really get me all worked up but hell yes, this was brilliant, Liz.

3/26/08, 1:15 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

I think the thing that has bothered me the most about this entire brouhaha is that the Mommybloggers insist that the only mommys are mommys with infants and preschoolers. Au contraire, there are so many moms out there with older kids who can and would be thrilled to leave their older, school aged kids, mid-week for a day or two. But they weren't asked. They never are asked. Because the corporations have bought into the whole "the only mommy is a nursing mommy" nonsense. And it is constantly perpetuated by mommybloggers who just forget that there are tons of us older moms with kids that are perfectly capable of being left for a couple of days.

Of course, we don't use baby oil and baby shampoo, but I'm sure that other corporations could learn to appreciate us if they were ever pointed in that direction.

3/26/08, 1:51 AM  
Blogger Heather B. said...

A few points

1) The not allowing a nursing mom to attend is effed and they should have said that from the beginning. Which would have saved a lot of trouble.

2) J&J could only invite 50 people and then they raised it to 56. They wanted it to be small and intimate. It's like a dinner party not a kegger.

3) There is a much larger problem with PR companies and corporations as a whole. People are often feeling uninvited, etc. and though I do feel that it is strictly business to a point, have any of you all tried being a black, single blogger? Yeah. No one cares what I think. So it's a total blogging issue not just limited to mothers.

4) Liz, I will actually be with Chrs on Friday in the City so seriously name a place and we will be there.

3/26/08, 7:11 AM  
Blogger Dutch said...

I can't wait for the job interviews in three years when I get to explain the five year gap in my resume! that is, if I get any interviews at all.

I was invited to the J&J baby camp. I received all kinds of e-mails saying "Dutch! Call right away to make your travel arrangements!"

Unfortunately I was disinvited when I called and the organizers realized I had a penis. I have a nursing child, too, but mostly it was the penis, even though I explained to the organizers it wasn't a bad penis.

and to think I was really looking forward to that thursday afternoon Girl Talk! session.

At least we can rest assured they are actually READING the bloggers they invite, and not just going on stats.

3/26/08, 8:45 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Dutch, wait, you have a penis? WTF, I thought you and Wood were a lesbian couple. Preop situation?

3/26/08, 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Deep Fried Yankee said...

I don't even know about this Disney thing that is going on. Should I be offended? Eh, not so much.

It sucks to not be invited, but considering they courted Dutch only to realize he was, in fact, a dude, I wouldn't be too too offended. It's obvious they weren't really sure who they were inviting. Same goes for bloggers of color. I'm not sure how they found their list, but it wasn't extremely well thought out.

And I've said this all around the interwebs, but I'll say it again. I personally do not expect PR people to read my blog on a regular basis (although, I sort of like it, and hell, it's funny sometimes) unless they really want to work together with me.

But don't think that sending me mass emails and press releases is going to work. Sure, maybe we're journalists, but not in the traditional sense. We're not writing for a newspaper, these are OUR STORIES. OUR BABIES.

It's just a way different ball game.

3/26/08, 9:24 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

It's amazing how this all blew up. But I agree with you, Liz. As soon as the PR firms start playing by our rules then I'll start inviting them to my playgroup.

With that said, i am attending Camp Clusterf*ck and I'll be taking notes while getting my hair braided. Wish I could hop over to NYC to visit with you all.

3/26/08, 9:39 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

This is one of the best posts I've read about all this J&J stuff so far.

Steph

3/26/08, 10:29 AM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

re: backpacking dad,

my (former) dissertation advisor referred to my pregnancy in an email as a "hindrance". it paralyzed me for months. and then it resulted in more motivation and a new female/mom dissertation director for me, one less graduate committee for his CV.

i'm not a blogger, and i'm just finding out about this J&J thing from your post, but it's appalling. i like what you propose here: a sort of ground-up attack waged by parent bloggers against the tired old patriarchal model of business proposed by J&J. viva la revoluciĆ³n!

3/26/08, 10:54 AM  
Blogger Feeder of the hungry beans said...

Margalit, I get that you're feeling excluded, but I don't think that's what's going on here.

A company that makes baby products invited some mothers who have young babies and write about having young babies to an event about young babies. That's marketing, not discrimination.

Excluding men, however, well, it would bother me except that it's just so damn predictable.

3/26/08, 12:07 PM  
Anonymous jonniker said...

The work thing is really interesting, and oh so true.

I think it's horrible that women feel that they can't mention their children in the workplace/interviews/professional environment because they will be misjudged. It's ridiculous, and I agree, it happens to women more than men.

Interestingly, my experience as a childless person in the workforce has been that the allowances for your personal life are in a hierarchy as follows:

Single and childless: The company owns your ass. No personal allowances made, ever, and this includes funerals.

Married: If spouse is deathly ill, fine, you can be at his side. But goddammit, we need proof of his illness, or you're fucked, sister.

Married with kids: If you're male, you can come and go as you please to help the old lady out - you know those women! They need to be coddled and relieved from time to time of their wifely duties! This, naturally is done in a condescending way that indicates that the woman can't even handle being home alone, ever. I

f you're a woman, HAHAHAHAHA, no. You have to pretend that your kids don't exist.

I'd also like to say that I worked for a man who was *very* devoted to his family and took a large number of personal hours/allowances to tend to them. And honestly, this was largely fine with me, except that I fell into the second category and was therefore not allowed a SINGLE allowance for my personal life, and instead, was forced to pick up the slack for the endless times he took off early for his family. I worked, in many cases, double time to account for his early departure, work-from-home days, etc. But God forbid I had to leave early for any reason at all and/or work from home, even when I was sick? Denied, and they were mystified that I would even ask, because I didn't have kids, did I? Oh, then I couldn't POSSIBLY understand.

I remember once being surprised with a client evening event on the day of (Surprise! Didn't I tell you there was a dinner tonight?) -- an evening that I had a prior commitment with my in-laws who were visiting -- and when my boss begged off, citing the presence of small children in his house, and I tried to do the same, citing real-live family obligations, he announced that I didn't have any excuse, as I didn't have small children to see off to bed and therefore I would be there, family obligation or not. And then he said I'd understand when I had kids.

I might add that had I never missed a client dinner and/or event in my ten-year career.

Last I heard, he was still exhibiting this sort of behavior on the younger women who work for him. And it was ridiculous, yes -- entirely ridiculous, because in the workplace, it IS assumed that if you're childless that you will handily offer your life up to them for consumption.

But honestly, as I think about it in retrospect is that the MOST ridiculous part about it was that had my boss been a woman and pulled that shit EVEN ONCE, he'd have been called out on the carpet and very likely fired. But since he was a man, it was more than okay.

Hell, women who have to leave at 5 on the dot to get their kids at daycare are edged out of their jobs EVERY DAY -- it's happened to two of my close friends. It's very, very real and very vomitous. And yet this asshole lives on while young, hungry employees cover for his ass every day.

Oh, the double standard. Sickening, it is.

3/26/08, 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Erika Jurney said...

Ding ding ding. You got it spot-on.

3/26/08, 1:34 PM  
Anonymous dorothy said...

Oh, woman, you just set me off in the BlogHer comments for Heather's post...

3/26/08, 2:06 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Excellent post. I am planning to post on this soon as well. (I was also invited, and am going to attend, but I have already emailed to express my displeasure regarding the nursing mothers incident, and I plan to make it clear while I am there that I think if they ever want to throw another event like this, they need to make accommodations for nursing mothers part of the plan.)

3/26/08, 3:37 PM  
Blogger tracey said...

that's what i'm talkin' about sister.

3/26/08, 7:29 PM  
Blogger zellmer said...

I'm sickened by this, too. I was recently laid off from my job. It was a mass lay off. And it seems that every single person who was let go had small children at home.

I'm also a freelance advertising writer, and I recently updated my website. I wanted to end my bio with "she lives in Austin with her husband and two children," but I left that sentence off because I didn't want people to judge me for having a lazy work ethic because I have family commitments.

Which is sad, now that I think about it. Thanks for a very enlightening post.

3/26/08, 9:35 PM  
Blogger Jozet at Halushki said...

Dang. My computer goes quiet for two weeks and I miss EVERYTHING.

I'm not sure what the J&J thing is about - I'll go read the other posts you've referred to - but you get my feminist fist up like no one else.

Pass the baby...I'll bounce for a while.

3/26/08, 10:14 PM  
Anonymous selfmademom said...

I like this post and the link to the Blog Her analysis. Thanks for that. I think it is near impossible for anyone to plan an event for a mother unless they ARE a mother. So who knows who was planning this event? I got three emails for it from J&J's PR firm, probably some young acct exec who still goes out for happy hour every night after work. In their head, planning the event during the week, not considering nursing mothers makes sense. They haven't lived it. So at some point, there's going to be some disconnect. The interview thing is a whole other can of worms, because I agree - it's legitmate discrimination and profiling, which is hello, illegal? Not considering the needs of your audience before you plan an event? Dumb.

3/26/08, 10:31 PM  
Blogger Stefania said...

My feelings weren't hurt, really! they weren't! I don't want the take away from this whole this to be a "poor me" scenario. And while not allowing nursing moms to attend camp baby is just plain...weird, the point I wanted to make with my post(s) is that you don't treat people you are trying to build a relationship with in such an unprofessional manner. (That is step 2 after step 1: know your audience.) You don't disinvite people, full stop, esp. when you then allow others to go for part of the time. I know there are people whose feelings were hurt over this for a whole host of reasons. I'm not one of them. And now I think I'm officially 100% done talking about this. :-)

3/27/08, 1:23 AM  
Blogger ~Kat~ said...

that's right.. we need to turn those tables and start with the attitude of, "you want me? well... here's what I need YOU to do to get me".

3/27/08, 7:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It truly was poor planning to expect a group of moms with small children, many of whom are nursing, to leave those kids behind in the middle of the week for a three day event.

I'm going, only because my husband has way too much comp time built up at work and wants me to get away for a few days. If he couldn't stay home with the girls, there's no way I could have found anyone else for a weekday event.

Wouldn't it be nice if all PR firms had a mom advisory board on staff? Just a few moms who could tell them when they're being dumb and suggest effective alternatives.

3/27/08, 8:54 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

DH recently had this conversation at work.

BOSS: I'm concerned about something you said the other day about this being "just a job."

DH: I challenge anyone to question whether I take this job seriously. But what I LIVE for? Is at home.

The end.

I expect a pink slip any day now ...

3/27/08, 9:48 AM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

BRAVO!

I am adding this to my link love list of "battle of the sexes" post right now...

3/27/08, 12:41 PM  
Blogger Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Amen and pass the gravy.

3/27/08, 3:13 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

Totally.

3/28/08, 11:58 AM  
Anonymous RookieMom Heather said...

"Blogger outreach" sounds like a dangerous business. One day, my friend invited me to a focus group because she knew I was on maternity leave and would be home during the day. I showed up with my baby because I was on maternity leave (duh!).

They turned me away because I wouldn't be able to concentrate. Oops.

At least they gave me a gift card for my time and trouble. Win win.

This Camp Baby fiasco is especially ridiculous because it is a BABY company (owner of both babycenter and baby.com) selling BABY products to a bunch of BABY-having moms.

Bummer all around.

3/28/08, 4:56 PM  
Blogger Mutha Mae said...

I'm on the other side of this Camp Baby as a blogger so unknown, I'm not even D List, I'm E list. I'd love to be invited to things like Camp Baby. That has to be incredibly flattering. Sometimes I get frustrated because I'm a mommy vlogger and I produce a video show for moms on my blog. HELLO! Video! I'm the ideal person to send to these things. Yet I get passed by. Oh, maybe due to a lack of an audience, huh! HAH!

I take my babies with me on every video shoot. I balance the camera in one hand and a baby on one hip. People tell me to leave the babies at home and I'll make better videos. No way. Until I get paid to do this, the babies come with me. And even then, they won't be far from me. Oh, look at me dreaming about getting paid to do this for a living one day! Nice!! I'm a dreamer!

3/28/08, 11:40 PM  

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