The Martyrdom of Mothers Must End
Did you buy your mom a Mothers’ Day card yet? It’s probably been on your mind since Monday when American Greeting dropped this heavy-handed reminder right into your Facebook Newsfeed.
The ad, created by Boston agency Mullen, features real-life job applicants interviewing via Skype for “the world’s toughest job.” They’re reminded of a series of bonkers-sounding requirements, like having to be able to stand for 135 hours a week with no breaks and holding a degree in medicine, finance and the culinary arts.
Of course, the big reveal is that the world’s toughest job is — wait for it — being a mom. Cue the groans from cynics everywhere and the squeals of delight from the easily impressed.
Although positioned as a feel-good message in anticipation of Mother’s Day, this grotesquely manipulative advertisement for greeting cards is actually quite harmful to our culture’s rhetoric about motherhood.
When the job of being a mom is described, the applicants react by using the words “sick,” “twisted,” “insane” and “inhumane.” The interviewer says, “If you had a life, we’d kinda ask you to give that life up.” This advertisement positions motherhood as the worst thing that could ever happen to a woman. (In fact, it sounds so abysmal that the job doesn’t even seem appealing to people who are so desperate for employment that they actually applied for a position that paid nothing and required 135+ hours per week.)
To wit: Not only is motherhood a non-stop suckfest — according to this video, anyway — it’s also cause for us to specifically laud mothers for putting up with all the normal things that come along with raising children.
And that’s fine. Moms should get flowers and brunch on Mother’s Day, just as office workers should be praised on Administrative Professionals’ Day and nurses should get an extra pat on the back on National Nurses Day. If a woman is both a nurse and a mother, she should feel special on both days.
But that’s not really the implication of this advertisement. Its condescending tone suggests that mothers are more noble than nurses or office workers. They are certainly superior to dads and childless women. In fact, they are martyrs who should be glorified.
Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, a mother of two daughters, points out, “The cult of motherhood as martyrdom is senseless and destructive to all of us.” And she’s correct.
In America, motherhood is always a choice, despite the efforts of many pro-lifers. And it is certainly a choice that is selfless and noble. Hopefully it is a choice that comes with reward and fulfillment in addition to the strife described in this advertisement.
But that doesn’t take away from the myriad other selfless and noble decisions human beings — specifically female human beings — make every single day that have nothing to do with parenthood. By positioning mothers as greater than the rest of the population, American Greetings is only underscoring the already divisive culture of moms versus everyone else. And at the end of the day, that’s just not something to celebrate with a greeting card.
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