Dear Toys ‘R’ Us,
The first time I visited your store was such a thrill. Passing through the whoosh of the sliding doors, I remember the feeling that being inside your store was just like you had advertised; a place where I could be a kid forever. I could see my childhood hopes and dreams on your shelves. I could see my children in your stores one day, picking out their favorite toys with me. They would be Toys ‘R’ Us kids too. Inside your store, I just felt – happy.
So never would I have imagined the seething anger I feel towards you today.
How dare you imply that women have failed your company by not having enough babies? As if it’s our “womanly duty” to provide you with tiny consumers and because we haven’t – apparently we have failed ourselves and the economy. Are you serious? It is irresponsible for you to send the message that even if you had tried harder to save Toys ‘R’ Us, women aren’t having enough babies so you would have failed anyway.
In addition to considering the implications that your message is sending to women at large, I want you to consider how your scapegoating feels to women who have struggled to have babies.
Have you ever stopped to think that some of us would love nothing more than to have a reason to shop at your stores?
It would fill us with such joy to buy clothes and toys that will be used, instead of desperately stored away for a baby that might not come home. Do you think about those of us who, instead of visiting our child’s headstones, would instead rather be visiting your store with our living child? The one extra child who, apparently, could have kept your store open? Unfortunately, you didn’t consider the impact of your words because if you had, I would like to think you would have been more sensitive to the population you so desperately wished would visit your stores.
You might think I sound bitter and angry. Well, you’re right. Every day I see a community of women and men who stand on guard, never knowing what is going to further their heartbreak. Statements of blame, like the one from your company, hurt so much. We are under enormous amounts of pressure to have the reality of our families match the ones in our dreams.
Your message implies that maybe we’re not trying hard enough and that makes me angry.
I’m bitter that you’ve dared to imply it’s our job to produce customers for your stores – while struggling with the grief and heartbreak of infertility and child loss. You might be quick to tell anyone who feels the same that we’re overreacting to your statement. Tough. To hearts that have endured so much pain, your words matter. Whatever your intentions, the impact is harmful.
For you, this is about business. But, consider this; your business needs people. I know this because your statement that I so fervently disagree with said as much. According to you, your stores are closing because people aren’t shopping there.
Have you considered why people are staying away?
Maybe it’s not that there’s less of us, perhaps it’s because we would rather buy from businesses that thank us for our patronage. Instead, you chose to blame your customers. We don’t owe you our business. It was up to you to earn it.
And you didn’t.
As for other companies that pride themselves on being family oriented; take note. Everything said above applies to businesses who find it convenient to blame women and their fertility for their decreased success. Your companies exist in a world where reduced fertility and lower birthrates are making all retailers rethink their future. We can relate; it’s a complicated reality to face. But, unlike you, we do not place blame or our burdens on a vulnerable population and walk away from our struggles.
Take a page from the book of loss parents and learn to adapt to unexpected outcomes. Reach out to those who surround and have loved you – who helped you get to where you were and are.
Rachel Whalen is a mother, wife, and Kindergarten teacher from Barre, Vermont. Her life’s work is to keep the memory of her daughter, Dorothy, alive through words both spoken and written. Rachel shares her family’s journey through loss and all that has come after on her blog: An Unexpected Family Outing.