What women want on Mother's Day


Penny Flanagan thinks it's high time the realities of motherhood are reflected in the advertising.

Looking after kids in a white shirt and pressed taupe trousers is asking for trouble.


Why Penny Flanagan wants advertisers to swap the Stepford wives-esque imagery for something more realistic this Mother's Day.


Every time Mother's Day rolls around I find myself bemused again by the barrage of motherhood images blasted at us by the advertising industry. 

In the advertising world, Mother's Day takes place in floodlit white-washed houses with no clutter, where clean-faced children with big smiles bounce on sumptuously soft-furnished beds of pure white linen. There's also a lot of pink stuff, because … women like pink, right?

And in this candy-striped world women only want one thing: to be pampered.

Slippers, flowers, lounging robes, spa treatments, breakfast in bed ... this is what women crave all year round apparently, according to the advertising industry.

Forget equal pay, affordable childcare and partners who do an equal share of the domestic work.

Because in the world of consumerism, motherhood is still a glossy, airbrushed place where docile Stepford wives are happy to be held captive in perfect homes as long as they're pampered with flowers and slippers once a year. 

Mothers themselves have frizz-free blow-dried hair and favour a crisp white shirt with pressed taupe trousers as their go-to 'around-the-house' outfit.

In this world, things also happen in slow motion: hugs from children, a dog lumbering through the house with floppy ears and clean paws, husbands delivering breakfast in bed on a tray. Smiles are wide and dentally perfect and pets are groomed to camera-ready perfection.

In the world of consumerism … docile Stepford wives are happy to be held captive in perfect homes as long as they're pampered with flowers and slippers once a year

The reality of motherhood, however, is quite different. And just once, I'd like to see it reflected in the onslaught of Mother's Day advertising.

I'd like to see ads where houses are crammed with the flotsam and jetsam of busy family life; living rooms are cluttered with shoes, homework, Lego and toys; and there's not a single white couch in sight.

There's no time to put up the blinds in the morning and let the daylight flood in, because Mum's too busy trying to get everyone breakfast without spilling jam on her work outfit for the day. And anyway, living in half-darkness helps the toddler see the television screen or iPad, which Mum is hoping stultifies the child long enough for her to make school lunches.

Kids have grubby faces and their hair smells like sweaty ham. And when they bounce on beds, Mum doesn’t smile benignly; she shouts: "NO JUMPING ON BEDS SOMEONE WILL GET HURT!"

Because in the real world, when kids jump on beds, the toddler gets ricocheted onto the floor and conks his head. Cue the dreaded 'thump-WAH!', the unfortunate occasional soundtrack of real-life parenting.

Just once, I'd like to see the reality of motherhood reflected in the onslaught of Mother's Day advertising

Taupe trousers are a no-go zone. Mums get around in tracksuit pants. Why? Because they don't cut into her mummy tummy and she can wipe her hands on them as she makes the dinner. And forget the crisp white shirt, she's much more likely to be wearing her favourite oversized T-shirt from 10 years ago, the one that's been worn into softness and is covered in stains but it feels like home every time she shrugs it on.

Her hair is yanked into a frizzy top knot to keep it out of her face while she does all the things she does to make the family's life run smoothly: laundry, cooking, cleaning, wiping up spilled drinks and soothing the two-year-old who's just fallen off the bed and clunked his head on the floor ('thump-WAH!'). Believe me, this stuff cannot be done with a blow dry in a white shirt and pressed taupe trousers.

So what do we want for Mother's Day? A more realistic version of motherhood reflected back to us by the media. Anything else just makes us feel like we must be doing it wrong.

Oh, and the day off. You can keep the pink slippers and bathrobes.

Penny Flanagan
Expert consumer


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