The Martyrdom of Mothers Must End

American Greetings would have you believe that motherhood is a nonstop suckfest. But despite the efforts of many pro-lifers, becoming a mom is still a choice.

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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  • Michele G Rogers

    I agree wholeheartedly. As a pregnant woman of 35 about to be a first time mother, it’s this mentality that played a part in my waiting so long to be ready to “give up my life.” Now that I’ve lived a bit and seen enough mothers in action, I no longer dread the prospect of motherhood, and in fact, hope never to complain about it either, as en vogue as such complaining has become to many women in our society. Yes, it’s a hard job, and yes, your life changes, but yes, it was also a choice and so are all the little things you may do that make your life harder (or easier) every single day.

  • matthew brandley

    MY wife Is not a mom yet works 12 hour days at her offfice since shes dedicated to her job and takes her job respobably and to heart . Yet to say thats not making her the toughest wman? I respect as should every woman for whatever they do besides sitting at home being welfare queens.

  • dagbat

    To the author – how can you completely miss the point of this great Mother’s Day commercial which is lauding the job of being a mother by going through a mock job interview for a paying job that secretly lists all the many things that a mother does each day as its job requirements? The comments and expressions of the mock interviewees is hilarious when they hear how much work and sacrifice is involved and all for a no pay! Anyone who would twist such a real life and humorous commercial into an ideological gripe and charge of pro-lifer conspiracy is either delusional or a hard core pro choice ideological wacko. You would think the we could all find common ground and enjoy a beautiful theme like mothers and Mother’s Day. Unfortunately your are just like the hate mongers who are in control everywhere it seems. America is better than that.