If you were to ask me if I was a stay-at-home Mom or a full-time professional, I would not hesitate to say "both." Unfortunately, most marketing companies disagree with my ability to do both.
I've answered hundreds of surveys over the years. Most come standard with some of the consulting that I do for major brands, while others are simply my bit of generosity to small businesses who ask for feedback on the products and services that I buy. One thing that has really gotten stuck in my craw recently, is the lack of understanding for the roles that I (and many other women and men in the U.S.) play on a daily basis... the roles of worker, parent, and homebody.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about..... Most surveys offer multiple choices for the "career" category. The answers are usually some variation of:
A) Part time student
B) Full time student
C) Employed part time
D) Employed full time
E) Stay-at-home parent (*Note: this usually reads "Mom/mother", but I'm giving stay-at-home Dads the props they deserve.)
Notice anything missing? There is no option for the stay-at-home AND working full or part time parent. Yes, it can be done (I do it, in fact.) What's worse, is that some surveys even go so far as to include an option that reads "Not employed/stay at home parent." Whoa! Talk about a painful response!
The bitter irony of these types of surveys is that marketing companies are the ones with all the stats that show the trend to stay home AND earn a living is a growing one. The fact that they haven't updated their survey templates is a bit hard to believe, in fact. (Just take a look at this USAToday article from 2005 that acknowledges the merits of having the best of both worlds.)
So why, 5 years later, are marketing companies still not providing an adequate response option for the blogging moms, the telecommuters, the work-at-home Dads, and the homeschoolers with a side business? Do they not realize that people like me either check the wrong response (skewing their data because I'm forced to appear either unemployed OR to be shipping my kids off to daycare) OR just leave the question blank? How valuable can their survey data be when I'm not even given the opportunity to tell the truth?
Thankfully, some companies ARE getting it right. MyBlogSpark, a blogger outreach program from General Mills and Coyne PR, just sent me a survey this week including the option for "I have a full-time job working from home." At least someone is joining the new age of marketing reality.