Dana Macke
Dana is the Associate Director of the Lifestyles & Leisure team at Mintel, with a focus on family research. Her background in marketing strategy helps her generate insights based on market developments, consumer data, and cultural trends.

While kids are prepared for the new school year with fresh backpacks and school supplies, moms are diving into packing lunches, helping with homework and meeting with teachers. According to Mintel research on marketing to moms, more than three in five moms with school-aged kids say they are very involved in managing their child’s education, and dads agree at a similar rate. This shows that hands-off parenting isn’t happening in most family households, at least not when it comes to school.

It’s not about grades, it’s about everything else

Part of the reason moms are so involved is that only about half are satisfied with the education their kids are receiving. Moms may feel like they need to keep a close eye on their kids’ progress at school, but this isn’t necessarily about monitoring grades – only two in five moms think it’s important to raise high achievers. However, they have a multitude of other concerns: bullying, interpersonal conflict, homework stress, school safety, etc.

While watching over children is part of the emotional labor that moms manage, they are also in charge of the manual labor. A strong majority of moms say they are the person in the household responsible for making lunches, keeping track of schedules, helping kids with school work, meeting with teachers, and choosing after-school activities. Summer has its own host of parenting challenges, but wading back into the school year is likely a daunting prospect for moms.

Helicopter parenting is evolving into drone parenting

Modern moms may be captivated by the concept of “free-range parenting” which espouses the benefits of less parental supervision for kids, but it may lose its luster in practice. While nearly nine in 10 moms say they want to give their kids room to make mistakes, only three in 10 agree that kids thrive when they have less supervision. Moms want their kids to explore the world on their own, but aren’t comfortable letting them do that without some kind of parental safety net in place. Today’s moms may not be the hovering helicopter parents Millennials grew up with, but quiet drone parents are monitoring their kids from afar.

What we think

Marketers can help to assuage moms’ fears in back-to-school campaigns by touting “preparedness.” Moms want to send their kids back to school prepared and ready to take on challenges. Walmart delivers on this idea with its 2019 back-to-school campaign, “Go Back BIG” in which parents send invincible, Godzilla sized children back to school with confidence (and new shoes).

Plagued by their “what ifs” and worries, moms may want to send their kids back to school rolled in bubble wrap. Without that option, they will continue to keep an eye on their kids’ school life and stay as plugged-in as possible.