Like many women I know and have grown with in advertising, I am a mom. I am also a mom who is over 40, pushing 50. A mom with teenage kids, a frail father and my own agency.
But this is not about my stress level (even though it is definitely high), the lack of support for working mothers (even though there isn’t much) or work-life balance (even though we just cannot stop trying to get there). It is about not working. It is about the time when we are just like anyone else, living just like anyone else: watching tv, listening to podcasts, scrolling Instagram, going to the movies, taking a walk, etc. The time when advertising is just a part of life and not of work. The time when we are exposed to the 5,000 messages per day that we did not make.
Here is the kind of advertising I hope to encounter in my social feed on Sunday when someone brings me a cappuccino and an almond croissant in bed (hint, hint!), what I’d like to see when I treat myself to a pedicure and get 45 minutes to myself to flip through fashion magazines, what I wish would grab my attention from those cool video triptychs that are popping up all over the subway.
Sure, put in someone with cuter shoes (as long as they are clogs) and that actually knows how to wear eyeshadow, but make sure she looks like she has a real life and not one that she hates.
Do I yell at my kids sometimes? Yes, when they are particularly annoying and I have had an impossible day, and it is 100% not their fault I am at the end of my rope. Do I want to be reminded of it in an ad for cereal or soap or whatever? No. Do not make me feel bad when you want me to feel good about your product.
Furthermore, there are millions of kinds of moms. Make the work that shows all the interesting ways that people become, relate to and are mothers.
Show me the awkward teens
My kids did not vanish when they turned 11, so why does motherhood in advertising only refer to parents of children under 10? The teenage years are when it gets real, ladies and gentlemen. Honestly, this is when we need to be even more present, more focused and more attuned to them. And sweeping an entire life-stage—one that’s sometimes aggravating, but often amazing—out of sight promotes the false idea that this is a time in a parent/child’s life that is so terrible that we can’t even think about it.
Show me the good, the bad, the stuff I didn’t even know was a thing. Plus, I want to see someone else working through the complicated hormonal freak outs so I know it’s not just me.
For the benefit of the awkward teens
I want the advertising my kids see to show them a slice of reality, too. And not just the Instagram-worthy perfection they are bombarded with every second. They are forming their personalities, wrestling with their identities, trying to figure who they are as much as who they will become. They have access to a world of information we couldn’t even imagine when we were their age. Be a part of messaging that helps them understand how awesome it is to be them.
Tell and show me the truth
Take a stand. Believe in your message. Do everything you can to run your business—not just your creative—like you mean it. It is brave. And it will make me trust you.
Have no shame
How about we finally get rid of the stigmas that surround women’s health? Here are the facts: We have periods. We have sex. We’ll go through menopause, and then we’ll still have sex. Don’t ignore our basic biology and perpetuate antiquated views when you have the opportunity—and, dare I say, the obligation—to move the cultural needle forward for all of us.
Understand that my busy, complicated life can be great
Not because I can have it all or do it all (I do not, and by the way, who does?), but because I am keeping the plates spinning, and if a couple fall, it does not matter because they are disposable.
So this year what I want for Mother’s Day is to be seen, recognized, understood and celebrated along with the millions of women leading rich, multifaceted, individual, unique lives that come together in a beautiful, haphazard, crazy quilt called motherhood.
Oh, and I want it the next day, too. And the one after that. A mom can dream, right?