Whatever happened to Dr. Spock?

Le Futiloscope likes it when a confluence of random coincidences put us on the scent of a phenomenon that until now -- nobody’s perfect -- has escaped us. An article in Les Echos in mid-November, another in Le Monde last week and suddenly the term “Parennials” becomes everyday. Is this another prefabricated word to describe a more or less bogus trend? Not exactly, which is why we’re telling you about it. The term showed up a year or so ago in the New York Times to describe this new category of parents represented by our dear friends the Millennials. Yes indeed, they have arrived at an age where they are no longer content just to raise green plants or little kitties (and to Instagram them on the famous eponymous pink background), now they want to make babies. Up to this point, nothing particularly untoward.

Except that, of course, once the millennials are parents (i.e. Parennials) they don’t do anything like anybody else (at least not like anybody who came before). They’re used to being super connected and super collaborative and they don’t see why they shouldn’t apply the same techniques to parenting, the same that they would use to chose a restaurant or find a sex friend. They are probably the first generation of parents in history to totally blow off their friends and elder’s oral or even written advice. As an American expert said, “Google is the new grandparent, the new neighbor, the new nanny.” What exactly does that mean? A young “Parennial” in her lovely Milky Bar T-shirt has a problem nursing? She doesn’t ask her mother or her older sister. She looks for a forum or even an app to resolve the problem…and if there’s no app out there, she invents one, like Anna Halsall, techie engineer who created Baby’s Days, the digital gadget that makes the old-fashioned post it “10:45 pm right breast” completely obsolete.

Looking for girlfriends with whom to share those little anxieties and major joys? You don’t have to freeze yourself to death on a park bench in a sordid park…the French app WeMoms and its community of 1.2 million new moms will do it for you. It’s fun to talk on line while you give the nighttime bottle; after all, you have two hands don’t you? There’s also Peanut, often called the Maternity Tinder, which allows you to geo-localize nearby women who have lots in common with you, besides just having a new baby. We could go on forever listing the tools of “virtual” help available to these dear Parennials isolated in large cities: Gouzi, Magic Maman, Baby Connect  in France ...  we especially like The Wonder Weeks that alerts you when baby will turn the corner of a significant life event. That’s a little scary – especially if nothing much really happens! But not to the Parennials, who tend to see these first steps with a baby like the launch of a new start-up! They prefer to have a strong business plan; it’s more reassuring. There’s even something called Baby Manager or Bsit, the Trip Advisor of babysitters, all noted and classed by users, it’s not bad either if you’re a control freak! It’s no longer “done” to read through the ads posted at the local supermarket, or to try to recruit the neighbor’s au pair. The Parennials would never do anything as irresponsible or spontaneous.

Clearly Le Futiloscope is very concerned for these young co-parents (that’s what they call themselves). It imagines them at 2 am after having read 622 contradictory commentaries about the baby that having just thrown up a yogurt like something straight out of The Exorcist! It would make even Dr. Spock a little nervous. You can only imagine their confusion and dismay in face of this uncontrolled mass of alarmist information…Another menace lurks just below the surface…there are now seminars to help brands take advantage of the Parennials and the juicy market that they represent. Some apps, when quizzed by the financial press, admit that they have every intention of exploiting the precious data collected from these new moms to help potential clients better target their communications. Others, like Gouzi, launched by Evian, are direct emanations of businesses linked to early childhood. Besides all the rest, Parennials will now be the new big game to be hunted. Too bad for them!