Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Cha-Ching!
The hands down winner of the most successful Mother’s Day marketing campaign so far goes to greeting card company American Greetings for it’s #WorldsToughestJob video.
The video – which has so far infected 8.5 million viewers – has been declared by many on social media to be the best video they’ve ever seen. It’s guaranteed to reduce you to a puddle of tears.
It made me want to cry too – but probably for completely different reasons to those who are gushing over it. Put politely, it’s one of the most manipulative, and guilt-inducing representations of motherhood I’ve seen in a long time.
The video starts out as a series of job interviews for candidates applying for the position of Director of Operations.
The interviewer relays the job description to the horror and disbelief of the candidates.
‘This job requires that you will be able to work standing up most or all of the time.’ says the interviewer. ‘Constantly on your feet, constantly bending over, constantly exerting yourself. A high level of stamina.’
He tells the candidates that they’ll be required to work between 135 hours to unlimited hours a week with no breaks and for no pay.
As you can imagine the job candidates, who reportedly believed they were responding to a legitimate job advertisement, go from interested to incredulous.
‘Is that even legal?’ says one candidate.
Another candidate: ‘That’s almost cruel. That’s almost a very, very sick twisted joke.’
Another candidate: ‘That’s inhumane.
Cue tear-jerking music.
‘What if I told you that there is currently someone who holds this position now? Billions of people actually,’ said the interviewer. ‘And they meet every requirement.’
When the candidates discover that the job description is for a mother they all declare their love for their mums and it’s suggested that ‘This Mother’s Day you might want to make her a card.’
Well, that’s that sorted then. If only a card could solve the hole in the ozone layer or global poverty as well.
It’s great to see people appreciating their mothers. And there’s no doubt that most mothers do a fantastic job and are deserving of gratitude and recognition.
What they don’t need is images of motherhood that romantisise perfection and reinforce the idea that all this un-paid, and often under-valued, work is fine so long as someone throws a cheap piece of folded cardboard your way once a year.
The video reinforces the stereotype that all mothers – well one’s deserving of a Mother’s Day card anyway – must be absolutely self-sacrificing.
‘If you had a life we’d ask you to give that life up,’ says the interviewer, implying that this is a necessary part of motherhood.
The logical extension of this kind of thinking is that any mother who wants to work outside the home, or even have any sort of hobby or social life unrelated to her kids is not doing motherhood right.
According to the ad, mothers also need to be experts in every area of life.
‘We’re really looking for someone who might have a degree in Medicine, in Finance and the Culinary Arts,’ says the interviewer.
Why? I managed multi-million dollar budgets in the corporate world without a finance degree but I need one to decide what brand of nappies to buy? And I can tell you from experience, you don’t need a culinary degree to mash vegetables or make a ham and cheese toasty.
Not only must mothers to be complete martyrs, they’re also not allowed to express any other emotion about their predicament other than totals bliss and fulfillment. ‘And we demand...a happy disposition,’ says the interviewer.
But hey, it’s worth it. Just think about the tacky cliché on the card you’re going get.
Motherhood is hard, there’s no denying it. Many are the times I’ve sobbed in despair at my loss of independence, my loneliness and isolation and my feelings of inadequacy. The suggestion that I should be doing even more – and with a smile – is not helpful.
In fact, it’s patronising, oppressive, and just reinforces the status quo where childcare labour and responsibility is presented as the natural lot of women.
Rather than an annual pat on the back for my sacrifice, I’d prefer a serious conversation about how I, and many of my mother friends got retrenched while we were pregnant or on maternity leave.
I’d like greater workplace flexibility, where meaningful part-time work and career progression is something other than a fantasy.
Or how about good quality, affordable and flexible childcare?
Perhaps the job wouldn’t be so tough for many women if the split of domestic work and childcare wasn’t so unequal between men and women.
So, American Greetings, you can stick your #WorldsToughestJob hastag up your twitter.
Some mothers choose to and enjoy devoting their entire lives and beings to their role of motherhood. All the power to them. But for the rest of us, how about cutting us a little slack this Mother’s Day.
We can do without the #ImpossibleExpectations and #GuiltTrip.
Kasey Edwards is the author of Thirty-Something and The Clock is Ticking: What happens when you can no longer ignore the baby question. www.kaseyedwards.com