Connecting to Moms: Strengthening the Ties that Bind

Is Compromise Failure?

I was recently up around 5:30 in the morning with my infant daughter who had once again managed to be wide-awake before the sun was up. Sipping coffee in a haze, I pick up the remote to put Sprout on to distract her so I could get a few sips in while it was still hot.  And my mind starts doing what it does innumerable times each day: TV = BAD/Sprout = Maybe-Not-So-Much? And the tally begins.  Can I start compromising The Mom I Should Be (and The Mom I Wish I Were) as early as 5:30? On the other hand, maybe I’ll compromise less as the day goes on?

And then a commercial came on for Infant Tylenol and I found myself glued to the screen.  If you’re a mom of a child of a certain age, you know it.  So I’m sobbing uncontrollably.  They made and directed that commercial just for me. They must have filmed it in our nursery last week, those nights when she had a nasty cold and we were up all night together.  I cried because they knew what it feels like to lay on the nursery floor half the night. How hard it is to do this thing called mom.

Mom Fantasy vs. Mom Reality

It is from spending so much time talking to moms and their daughters that we have learned about the fantasy world of girls, and how that shifts and changes over time. Unlike for boys, from a very early age, fantasies for little girls are heavily rooted in the world they see around them – they have pretend credit cards used for a pretend shopping spree, dress-up clothes to emulate a TV character or music celebrity. Girls’ play centers on home, school, friends, or a boyfriend who takes you out for ice cream.   Which explains why so many years later, those little girls grow up to be moms that play out their fantasies of who they wish they could be on so many social networks. It is the grown-up version of pretend play for girls, now that they have children of their own.

The Social Network Playground 

On Facebook and Instagram moms play with notions of The Mom I Should Be and The Mom I Wish I Were.  They have figured out how to filter and curate, to show themselves and their children to be prettier, their lives more in control, and above all, that they are Happy All the Time. On Pinterest, that play is the most concrete.  The space between The Mom I Wish I Were and The Mom I Really Am gets wider and wider with every board dedicated to having six pack abs, a self-made, designer home or a healthy snack in the shape of an underwater seascape.  They leave the reality of their lives behind for snatched moments during naptime, or lunch at the office, or sleepy minutes before turning out the lights at night.

The Mom I Really Am

But in the moments when moms are really in touch with what it is like for her today and everyday, she asks herself ‘Where and with whom can I share The Mom I Really Am? ‘  Moms tell us that keeping up appearances is exhausting and isolating.  That there is shame and guilt virtually everyday: in what I feed my kids, in my lack of patience and creativity, in my expectations of help that don’t materialize, in feeling that it’s all on me, in the wretched state of the home we live in.

Enter the Pintester, bless her heart. (  She tries (and fails!) all those Pin Challenges that set the standard all us moms can never meet.  She is singing the anthem of the Real Mom. She’s courageous, she’s hilarious, and she’s just like me.  And blogs like Ugly Volvo, and Scary Mommy, and Bad Mommy and Baby Sideburns.  And so many more.  Loads of moms out there, and I invite them all into my lifeboat, and not just when I’m sinking.

Where are the Brands?

Liminal has been interviewing lots of moms this year – in facility, via webcam, in retail aisles and in home.  And in virtually every project we have been privileged to see mom’s central dilemma: I am not enough. 

So as marketers as well as moms, we have to ask ourselves, what about brands? Which are brave enough to join the ranks of all those moms in my lifeboat?

We are Over It

What we have heard over and over is that moms are tired of hearing about the “right” way, or the mom who has figured it all out.  We admit to wistfully imagining what it would be like to have time to be a “better mom” like that mom. But, generally, we are over it. Tired of the “mommy wars” over who does it “right”: the formula feeder or the breast feeding mom, the stay at home mom or the mom who juggles work and motherhood, the single mom, the adoptive mom, the organic mom who saves pennies to buy hormone-free meat, or the one who spends the extra cash she saves on groceries for a family trip to the bowling alley. Moms are caring less and less about the “right thing” and more and more about being understood and accepted… however we decide to parent.   ( Sure, there are choices that make moms different. But more than our differences we are seeing that there are bold commonalities that tie us together.

Getting It Right vs. We Are Enough

As resilient and tireless as we are, we are afraid we are not enough. How did that Tylenol commercial earn trust in that singular moment? They found the commonality in all moms.  We are exhausted, we are unsung, and we are more alike than we are different.  And we heard that we are enough.

It’s Not Only How, It’s However

Every day, moms tell us to tell our clients that that is the space that is authentic, that makes a deep emotional connection.   Don’t get stuck on how to mother, but support us however…because we have all been up at 3 am exhausted, feeding the beloved baby in a dark room somewhere, rocking them back to sleep.  And don’t assume all our worry is figuring out how to make our kids’ bodies healthier; rather, help us figure out how to make their hearts kinder, their souls wiser, their minds more curious.   Because those resources are few and far between, and we feel only too often that our own resources are not enough.

And now, as a treat…here is a heartwarming commercial from Coca-Cola about just how hard and satisfying it is to be a parent.

One Comment

  1. Kelly

    August 28, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Makes me consider which brands tap into the “warts and all” or even a confessional approach instead of an aspirational approach – Coke, Tylenol, Mirena, Cheerios, etc. They seem to all be less directly related to parenting than a diapers company or a baby food company, and those seem to be a lot more fuzzy light and roses…it’s an interesting phenomenon and I wonder what lessons can be drawn from it.

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