Over at STFU, Parents, I regularly hear from mothers who share a common gripe. They’re sick of being pandered to. They’ve heard enough about how hard and unforgiving their “jobs” are as parents. And yet everywhere they turn, advertisers are throwing roses at their feet in the hopes of scoring all that precious Mom Money that executives talk about during brainstorms in conference rooms. “Who’s the number one target?” Moms. (A lot.) “How do we reach moms?” Well, first you exalt them and tell them that they have the hardest, most thankless job in the entire world, and then you sit back and watch the magic happen on social media! Sadly, not only is this tired model of advertising (aka momvertising) played out — but it’s also quite effective and not going away anytime soon. The reason for that is simple: For every mother who feels condescended to and insulted by big brands that clearly view them as dollar signs, there are two or three or five mothers who fall for the sentimental marketing strategies time and time again. When assclowns like me (I used to work in marketing) chuckle, looking oh-so-satisfied after coming up with a viral ploy like say, the “World’s Toughest Job” campaign we saw this week, the words that come out of their mouths are essentially (if not verbatim), “Moms LOVE that shit.” And for the most part, they’re right.
However, not everyone loves these ads. Not everyone watches the P&G commercials during the Olympics and weeps into her hands. At least, not after the first go ’round. There was a time in which this saccharine version of appealing to moms worked well across the board, but now it’s just an outlandish display of brands tugging at mothers’ heartstrings with the obvious assumption that they’re directly tied to their pursestrings. It’s a little silly that so many women still fall hook, line, and sinker for opportunistic stunts like the “Rehtom” campaign (which currently has nearly 11 million clicks, accrued since Monday), especially because it presents the facade that ALL women and mothers want to be marketed to in this way. It also reinforces the idea that dads don’t have the “world’s toughest job,” even though both parents often share the load of childrearing duties. Fittingly, the types of moms who like the Rehtom ads are usually the same women who think their husbands don’t appreciate them or do enough at home with the kids. By tapping into that targeted sweet spot, brands like American Greetings can expect this type of woman to zealously share viral videos on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, and with every share comes an emotional caption. No doubt about it, the Rehtom campaign has been a massive pre-Mother’s Day success.
For parents who don’t like feeling patronized to while being “revered,” enough is enough. Back in November, Catherine Deveny wrote the Guardian opinion piece ‘Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world’ and said, “For any woman who uses that line, consider this: If this is meant to exalt motherhood, then why is the line always used to sell toilet cleaner?
Enabling this dogma devalues the unpaid labor of rearing children as much as it strategically devalues women’s worth at work.” And this week, some of the response to the “World’s Toughest Job” has been anything but favorable. On Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote, “The fact that I have had and am raising children is not a résumé item. It’s not something I “gave up” my life for.
And I don’t appreciate messages that seem to build women up while essentially telling them that nothing they can achieve in life matters more than having babies.” On Jezebel, Lindy West declared the “World’s Toughest Job” video “obvious, manipulative, and stupid,” and here on Mommyish, Eve added that “being a mom can be exhausting and lonely and heartbreaking and sleep-depriving but it’s just not as horrible as this ad makes it out to be.” Some people tweeted me about the video, too:
I’ve dedicated previous columns to the notion that moms never get a break, should get paid salaries, and yes, have the hardest job in the world (it’s called being a stay-at-home mom!!!), but in light of the ridiculousness of the Rehtom Mother’s Day campaign, let’s take another look at some examples of parents taking their “job” a littttttle too seriously.
Okay, parents, we know you don’t have long, lazy brunches or leisurely strolls through the farmer’s market now that you have kids — but you’re sending those of us without kids a bunch of mixed signals. One minute you’re telling us that having children is the only path to understanding true, unconditional love and blissed-out joy, and the next you’re complaining about never getting to have a weekend because you’re “a mom now.” Give the back-and-forth a break, would you? Go to the park with your migraines and your diaper bags and try to relax. Or at least take a break from Facebook.
2. Rainbow Sightings Are Especially Rare When You’re A Mom
Ugh, Kimi, you sound nice enough, but do you honestly think that everyone in town with the exception of diaper-changing, vacuum-wielding moms caught the afternoon rainbow? No. The reason you missed the rainbow is because rainbows come and go and sometimes you see one and sometimes you don’t. “Watching the sunrise/sunset/rainbow/shooting star/snow flurries/blood moon” and “being a mom” are not mutually exclusive.
3. Peace Corps < Being A Parent
The submitter who sent this in said: “Several Facebook friends are in the US Peace Corps, living in a rural part of a foreign country with no electricity or running water, learning a new language, working for 2+ years with the world’s poorest populations…it’s tough! But certainly rewarding, and “toughest job you’ll ever love” has been the unofficial Peace Corps tagline for years. Ah, silly volunteers, thinking they have anything on parents!”
While I don’t think Shiloh is being particularly rude in this Peace Corps-jacking, it’s still a comment that comes pretty much out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the types of sacrifices one makes in the Peace Corps. This is along the same lines as people who compare parenthood to being in a war zone. Note to people who say this: Please stop.
4. Teddy Roosevelt Said It, Bitches
When a woman posts a quote like this on Facebook, she either takes her “womanly duties” far too seriously (and views the world far too narrowly — this quote is from 1905, when women couldn’t even vote, much less run for political office, hold CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies, or really choose whether or not to stay home with small children), OR her kids’ dad is a douchebag who doesn’t do anything around the house because he considers it “women’s work,” at which point it might be time to rethink the marriage balance. It’s 2014 — should we still be using Teddy Roosevelt quotes from the early 20th century to compare men and women and their respective heteronormative roles? Yikes.
5. Moms Need Gift Cards, Too
Well, Valarie, fortunately for you, there’s this day called “Mother’s Day” and it’s just around the corner. Teachers have an appreciation day, too (this year it’s Tuesday, May 6th!), but don’t you worry, it’s typically the moms who get the multi-million dollar ad campaigns and shopping discounts and entire sections of Hallmark cards. Rightly so, of course, as we SHOULD all celebrate our mothers — as well as our fathers, and grandparents and siblings and cousins, and hey, even teachers, too. It’s not a competition. No one’s job is the “toughest.” The ad executives just want you to think that yours is.