Moms respond to humor, balance between reality and idealism

You know those “Swagger Wagon” ads for Toyota? Or those commercials for Volkswagen with the little kid in Darth Vader gear? Both are considered marketing hits – largely because they strike the right tone with a certain segment of the American population that has a lot of buying clout: moms.

I’m fascinated by marketing that tries to convince me to buy stuff, perhaps because I’m such a tightwad with my money (and by “my” money, I mean the money that my husband earns too). Or perhaps it’s because ad agency’s attempts to capture “a portion of the market representing $2.3 trillion in spending power” are so often so off-base.

That’s a problem tackled earlier this week at the first-ever Advertising Week event reported in this MediaPostNews Marketing Daily article. According to those who spoke at the event, one of the main reasons these agencies struggle to reach moms is because so few moms work in ad agencies.

Another reason: moms are increasingly moving away from traditional advertising vehicles (think TV) and toward other forms of communication (think blogs, Facebook and Twitter).

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Children’s Defense Fund calls poverty rates ‘a national disgrace’

So today the Census Bureau released some pretty awful statistics on poverty in America and poverty among the youngest Americans in particular, and the Children’s Defense Fund released a statement calling the numbers “grim and shameful.”

The U.S. Census Bureau says that, at last count, more than 46 million people in this country could be considered poor. This is the highest percentage in more than 50 years. Even worse, more than 16 million children – or one in three kids – are poor. Worse still, 5.5 million of these are children under the age of 5.

“Children are the poorest age group in the country and getting poorer,” says the CDF.

“This is a national disgrace,” says CDF President Marian Wright Edelman. “Parents alone cannot protect children. Parents have no control over the massive joblessness and foreclosures and misguided tax cuts for the wealthy that have ravished our economy. Congress needs to wake up and change course to protect our children and their families. We must stop this devastation in our communities and protect children from all budget cuts. We need to invest in the health and education of our children and create jobs for their parents today.”

What, exactly, does it mean to be “poor.” According to the Census Bureau, poverty for a family of four means an annual income of less than $22,314.  Break it down: That’s $1,860 a month, $429 a week, or $60 a day. And “extreme poverty” means an annual income of less than half that amount of money: $11,157 a year, $930 a month, $215 a week, or $30 a day for a family of four.

Here’s another kicker: More than half of these poor families – 65 percent, in fact – with children under the age of 18 include at least one working family member.

And how are Montana’s children faring in all this? Unfortunately, the latest Kids Count report ranked us in 33rd place for the overall well-being of children. Read the Missoulian’s editorial decrying this sad state of affairs here.

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Blackbird Kid Shop going out at half-off

The Missoula Independent and Mamalode (via Facebook) are reporting that Missoula’s Blackbird Kids Shop is selling off everything – down to the hangers and shelves – at a deep 50 percent discount before closing its doors for good.

There’s no word yet on what the expected closure date is, but the retail store has been in business for about three years, offering the cutest locally made kids’ clothes you ever did see among its array of child-friendly items.

According to the Independent blog, store owners cite the ongoing economic slump as the No. 1 reason for the closure.

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Nearly 500 Missoula kids losing access to Flagship programs

The Missoulian’s education reporter, Jamie Kelly, reports today that due to a drop in federal funding, Flagship is pulling out of two schools in Missoula County.

The decision to end Flagship programs – including after-school options – at Sentinel High School and Seeley-Swan High School was necessary after the program’s funding lost $200,000 in federal money, according to Flagship’s Missoula director, Rosie Buzzas.

That $200,000 represented more than a quarter of the program’s $700,000 annual budget. So it goes without saying that Flagship won’t be filling two open full-time positions at the schools.

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More on the secondhand underwear controversy

Last week Connie Schultz, in her syndicated column, brought to my attention a proposal from a Michigan state senator to require foster parents to use their children’s clothing allowance in thrift stores only.

Sen. Bruce Caswell has since dropped the proposal, but his idea got a lot of folks thinking about the value of new versus used clothing. Me, my mind went straight to underwear. As in, used underwear is not something I would buy; would the proposal have applied to children’s underpants as well? And shoes and socks and other hard-to-find-in-good-condition-and-in-the-right-season-and-in-the-right-size items?

This week Connie Schultz wrote a second column on the subject after speaking with a woman who has very definite ideas – rooted in personal experience – about used clothing.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. Her column appears each Friday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page, but since she writes more than one column in a week, this one won’t be in the paper.

But you can read it here:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Survey says moms will get pampered this Mother’s Day

The countdown to Mother’s Day 2011 has begun! We now have less than a week to go, and according to some recent reports, we moms can look forward to an extra spending – er – extra-special day.

A National Retail Federation survey completed in late April predicts that Americans are poised to spend more on Mother’s Day this year than they have in recent years. The chart included with the article shows a very short timeline, but it does have 2011 spending returning to roughly 2007-2008 levels.

And that, mamas, means spending is expected to top $16 billion. That’s a lot of flowers and greeting cards.

Then again, BizReport has an article up about how online shoppers are expected to spend 10 percent more than other retail shoppers. The article notes one-third of shoppers “intend to spend $219.40 on their moms, 10% more than last year.”

Then there’s this: “A new survey from the Mom Complex, the marketing-to-mothers division of the Martin Agency, reports that 30% of moms say they typically get honored for no more than 5 to 10 minutes on Mother’s Day. In fact, 40% feel their husband and children come first on Mother’s Day, and 12% feel they don’t even make the list.”

How’s that for a mixed message?

Personally, the best Mother’s Day gifts I’ve gotten didn’t cost a dime. My first Mother’s Day, my 7-month-old surprised me by sleeping for a full six uninterrupted hours. The next year, she gave me a near-perfect circle she had cut out of construction paper, all by herself. I carried it around with me for weeks and showed it to all my coworkers. It still fills me with pride whenever I look at it.

And last year, my daughter sang this song, to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”: On Mother’s Day, on Mother’s Day/ O how I love you mom/ On Mother’s Day, on Mother’s Day/ O how I love you mom/ You give me joy and happiness/ I give you love, a hug and kiss/ On Mother’s Day, on Mother’s Day/ O how I love you mom.

What’s been your favorite Mother’s Day gift, either given or received?

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Online survey of moms shows shopping trends in a recession

This MediaPost article published last week gives a quick overview of the results a recent online survey of nearly 2,000 moms who were asked about their shopping habits. It is aimed at industry folk, but I think it contains little tidbits of interest to moms in general as well.

Tidbits such as: “the lessons learned from the recent economic climate are lasting ones” and, “The recession’s impact on Moms and their shopping habits is reflected with the emergence of the Frugalista Mom, a discerning shopper who clips coupons, shops sales and prices and is proud of the money she saves at the cash register.”

Ha. I’ve been a Frugalista Mom for years.

How about you, reader? Have you changed the way you buy, what you buy or how often you buy in response to the recession?

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NRF says new credit rules will be hard on stay-at-home moms

I’ve been pondering this opinion piece I read last week from the National Retail Federation. It posits that the new Federal Reserve regulations that require specific income information for credit applicants could make it harder for stay-at-home spouses to get credit cards – because the new regs require businesses to ask for “income” rather than “household income.”

And as we all know, stay-at-home moms and dads don’t get a paycheck.

“The prohibition on asking for ‘household income’ was originally intended to keep individuals under 21 from claiming their parents’ income in order to obtain cards they could not afford on their own,” according to the article.

It goes on to explain that the NRF is worried that a lot of these folks will interpret this particular question narrowly, and answer by providing their individual income, which would be zero dollars. The Fed thinks otherwise.

What say you?

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Wishing fountain money is used to help local children

Ever given your child a couple of pennies to toss into the fountain inside Southgate Mall and wondered just where all those coins wound up?

Southgate provided the answer in a news release sent out yesterday announcing the grand reopening of the fountain that has been undergoing some renovation for the past few months.

Here’s the news:

We’ve all been there – you step up to a fountain as you rifle through your pockets for change to toss in.  Especially for children, it is a magical moment where you can wish for anything in the world as you send your coin into the sparkling water.  For over a decade the Southgate Mall Wish Fountain has been such a place for visitors young and old to cast their wishes.  Built in early 1998, it has served as a meeting place, a hangout spot, and a point of reference for mall goers, as well as a home for hundreds of thousands of coins.

Stop by it these days and you’ll notice something’s different.  The project began this past December to put a new face on the iconic water feature.  Southgate Mall’s maintenance team and tile professionals spent several hundred hours sanding, tiling and grouting to give the fountain a fresh and clean new style.

In one year, the fountain contents typically yield anywhere between $2,000 to $5,000, which is donated to local nonprofit organizations.  Past recipients of Wish Fountain Funds include Montana Natural Resources Youth Camp, Montana Food Bank, Flagship Program, and Mountain Home Montana, to name a few.  This year Southgate Mall’s Board of Directors has selected the Jadyn Fred Foundation, a Missoula-based organization that assists families who have children battling cancer or other major medical issues, as the recipient of the Wish Fountain Fund amounting to $5,000.

The public is invited to join in celebration of the grand reopening of the Wish Fountain and a check presentation to the Jadyn Fred Foundation on Thursday, March 10 at 3:00pm.

The Jadyn Fred Foundation, for those unfamiliar with the organization, is dedicated to providing financial help to families with children receiving extensive – and expensive – medical care.

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The poetry of poverty-stricken working moms

A haiku is born
Created between cries of
Mommy, I need you

Last night a colleague forwarded to me a link on the Poetry Foundation‘s website that continues a discussion about mothers who live in poverty while struggling to write poetry.

The original post by Sandra Simonds, titled “Poor Poetry Mothers,” was written with academia in mind but applies to moms outside that world, as well as to other creative outlets – especially those considered “frivolous” by certain critics.

Simonds writes of her own experiences as a pregnant woman and of other moms she knows who work as adjuncts, struggling to pay the high costs of child care on a low salary while also struggling to write poetry. These women are, she says, all but ignored by the wider world – or worse, blamed for their situation and their struggles.

There are so many people who feel this way—why are mothers blamed for being mothers? Then, when the mothers move on from graduate school to being adjuncts people say that it’s “their choice” to have become mothers while working as adjuncts and then it is their fault that they became mothers while being professors. There is simply no room for mothers.

A follow-up piece on the Poetry Foundation’s website notes that Simonds seems to have “struck a nerve” with her post, and is worth a read as well:

Being confronted with the notion of poverty makes people uncomfortable, and poets are not exempt from this, despite the fact that they would probably feel even more uncomfortable if they knew that by repeating tropes about “personal responsibility,” they were perpetuating age-old stereotypes designed to keep women and the cycles of poverty firmly in their place.

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