I was decluttering the other day, and found a folder full of pages I’d clipped from women’s magazines years ago. Among the articles promising ‘Buns of Steel in 21 Days’ and ‘The Perfect Chocolate Souffle’ I found the ad for Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bars pictured below. As far as I can remember, it’s torn from a Good Housekeeping circa 1999 or 2000.
Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized ad:
Some ads are successful because they strike just the right chord. This ad was one I saved because it managed to strike just the wrong one.
I see this ad as playing to, and idealizing, the ‘Perfect Mother’ stereotype described so well in the books Perfect Madness and The Mommy Myth, except those books hadn’t come out at the time I harvested this ad. The message is subtle, but it’s unmistakably there (and I say this having shown the ad, sans comment, to some other moms I know).
My thoughts upon seeing this ad – and I remember reacting quite viscerally to it – went something like this:
1. The woman pictured is a conscientious SAHM (stay-at-home mom) to her 3 little ones. Daddy is nowhere to be seen; presumably he’s already left by this hour to his full-time professional job, the one which allows Mom to stay home with the kiddos. You can see she really cares; note the cloth prefold diaper (complete with pins; no chance we’ll mistake it for a nasty disposable!) on the little boy to the right. The eco-PC theme is repeated in Mom’s natural-fiber, clean and light-colored clothes…organic unbleached cotton, perhaps?
2. Mom is taking the offspring to a 9AM playgroup – not (heaven forfend!) daycare. Awwww, how sweet – augmenting all the laughs and tickles at home with some Mommy-supervised peer-group play!
3. The children, of course, have eaten a proper breakfast earlier – no “breakfast on the go” for them! Even though this is a Kellogg’s ad, they probably weren’t having Frosted Flakes…only the best for the kiddos, and no sugar, of course. Maybe EnviroKidz Organic Gorilla Munch Mom picked up at Whole Foods (it only has “organic raw cane juice” in its ingredients)?
4. Mom is the very epitome of patience when, having stolen a minute to get dressed, brush her hair and go to the bathroom, she finds the kidlets have dressed themselves in the most garish (yet oddly artistic) ensembles in their closets. Not only doesn’t she cuss under her breath at the prospect of both having to undress and re-dress 3 children and put away all the clothes they’d pulled out of their closets while choosing said ensembles (because you just know that the shirt they wanted was at the very bottom of neatly-folded pile of shirts on the shelf, the pants at the very back of the neatly-arranged drawer). She calls it “my time to just sit back and laugh”.
I dunno, maybe I’m humor-challenged. But when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere in the morning, having to clean up messes like that doesn’t strike me as awfully funny.
5. And of course, getting through “the tickles and squeals that go along with matching six socks and six shoes” takes precedence over Mom sitting down and having a proper meal for breakfast. Lots of time for tickling and squealing and the like, but Mommy eating? Not so important. Not when the kiddos have a 9AM playgroup to make!
Seriously, it’s a playgroup, fer cryin’ out loud. Would the Parent Police swoop down on Mommy if she had a decent breakfast and arrived there with the kids at 9:15?!
Back in 1999, I thought I was the only one feeling this kind of pressure to be a Certain Kind of Mommy. Having read the books listed above and finally hearing other women talk about their feelings (in real life and online) regarding these messages the media and other parents have been sending us, I now know I wasn’t just feeling paranoid.
Thank God for that!
P.S.: I thought up the title for this post while thinking about how very Stepford/1950s the scene depicted in the ad was. I was thinking I’d find plenty of old ads with similar scenes, but having searched Google Images high and low for old ads, I can’t. Even June Cleaver would have been ashamed at being quite this child-centered, ‘twould seem.
Filed under: Mommy wars |