It has begun, the memes, videos, and heartwarming copy and paste statuses that you “share” if you love your mom. Mother’s Day is around the corner. Marketing teams for brands have been racking their brains for that perfect combination of feel good and tear-jerker to inspire viewers to fall for a one-two-sucker punch that gets them to believe that brand loves moms more and is therefor deserving of their expendable income to get something for dear ol’ mom this Mother’s Day and to need to show the world how much they personally love moms too by sharing the marketing that’s been served up as inspiration. Mother’s Day, giving marketers an annual olympic level opportunity of P&G style of sap.
There are probably awards for these.
This year, the early lead has been claimed by American Greetings with this video:
If you haven’t seen it and don’t care about it being spoiled for you, the basic premise is an advertising company placed an ad for a “Director of Operations” and interviewed 24 candidates on camera. The candidates all balk at the job requirements, visibly reacting to the requirements of being on their feet all day, available 24/7, interrupted sleep, demanding holidays, missing meals, and more, all with no pay. Then the interviewer reveals that even those these interviewees won’t take such a job, millions do it every day. Millions called mom.
Also, cue giving mom a nice card this Mother’s Day.
And it better be an American Greetings card, because they love moms most.
The video has gone viral. Published Monday, April 14, 2014, by Tuesday evening it had reached over 4 million views and countless shares on social media. Every one was talking about it, both positive and negative reactions. Either way, high fives and big bonuses for the marketing team that came up with this beauty. It worked.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t want to watch it Monday when the video started popping up in my Facebook newsfeed. Whether from the lead in intros to the video my friends and pages I follow wrote or from the brief description included with the link, I suspected the world’s hardest jobs was going to be motherhood. Something I personally consider a bit of an overstatement. Just last month I saw workers in rock quarries and brick factories in India, some of those workers were young children and I’m pretty confident that their job is harder than I find mothering to be. But ok, in the privileged setting these marketing teams are trying to reach, parenting has a pretty daunting job description.
I caved and watched the video and then caved further and shared it on The Leaky Boob. Even though I rolled my eyes at it. Even though I find it manipulative in it’s sentimentality. Even though it strikes me as minimizing the millions working truly tough jobs with truly horrific settings and demands. Even though it perpetuates the idea that “good” moms don’t have a life outside of their children. Even though I have concerns that it feeds motherhood martyrdom. Even though it was predictable. Even though it blatantly is sexist in excluding fathers as involved and sacrificing parents. Even though it was really just advertising.
Even though it struck me as all those things I also saw why it went viral. Though I’m a bit of a cynic , I recognize that if there wasn’t a brand represented at the end and I would have still found it obvious and flawed and a bit manipulative but nothing is perfect, it struck a chord. The ad is touching so many for one simple reason: the sentiment is speaking to many. Those who struggle daily with feeling invisible, overwhelmed, under appreciated, and constantly failing to measure up see themselves recognized if but for a moment. If but to sell cards. Others find themselves face to face with their own lack of appreciation for the mothers in their lives, overwhelmed with how much they haven’t noticed. I recognized that tug in myself.
And as yucky as it felt to leave out the male parent population, I also understand why. Traditionally, the majority of parenting fell on the shoulders of women, AKA moms. Today, even as the gap in home responsibilities narrows between the sexes, mothers are still more likely to be shouldering the majority of parenting and home responsibilities. The reality is that women, in general, are under appreciated and under valued for the work they do even when it is exactly the same work as men. We still have disparity in pay for women in the work force. Do you know that people say things about how incredible my husband is because he does the very same things I do? How I get told I’m so lucky because my husband changes diapers, makes dinner, cleans house, wears our baby, and takes care of them yet nobody tells him he’s lucky that I do those exact same responsibilities. He does them and is mocked, pitied, or applauded. I do them and I’m ignored. Neither response is really what we need. Things are getting better but for all the facets of parenting to be appreciated and celebrated, there is going to be a period of time where acknowledging the work of women as mothers that has been ignored for… well, pretty much forever, gradually improves the perception of the responsibilities. And then maybe dads can be treated as the equally involved parents they deserve to be with greeting card ads floating around as viral videos all about them, moving people to tears and saying “thanks dad.” Let’s get dads a spot at the changing table of parenting.
And for all those saying that being a parent isn’t a job, well for me, sometimes it is a job. I do what I have to do because I have to do it. Sometimes that stuff sucks and I can’t stand it. But I do it because I agreed to all aspects of this job. Rearing children is a job, a full time, demanding, rewarding job. And not one that is forever, it ends when they become competent self-sustaining adults. Being a mother/father is, however, forever and that’s not a job, it’s a position which holds the opportunity to love and be loved unlike any other and it lasts a lifetime. Raising children, being a “director of operations” is the job of parenting. Being a parent becomes a part of our identity, something we never complete but is integrated in who we are, a part of the definition of ourselves without defining us entirely. And sometimes, it really is as overwhelmingly demanding as that video makes it seem. To assume that parenting is automatically a relationship is to forget that relationships are something we have to work at for them to be meaningful. Parenting is a tough (and rewarding, important, amazing) job with amazing perks that can lead to the most beautiful relationships.
No, not every mother or father is going to identify with the demands described in this video. Our experiences are unique, vary from person to person, even from child to child, and stage to stage. But just because one can’t relate doesn’t make it fake. Even if I felt it was a bit over the top. While I don’t particularly like this video, I understand why it speaks to many. And I have to tip my hat at the advertisers that creatively found a way to capitalize on these emotions that speak to many while making it feel almost legit and “real”. It’s brilliant, really. Add that it makes for an easy social media share, they win.
Personally, there won’t be an American Greetings or other store bought Mother’s Day card in my future, I’ll be enjoying the handmade cards I’ll be getting this year, like every year, from my family secure in knowing they filled pieces of paper with a rainbow of colors not because a commercial told them to but because they genuinely love to make me pretty things. That’s what you do when you’re a little kid for the people you love and they didn’t have to see a viral video to know that.