The Instagram Ad that Made Me Want to Scream

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One evening, I waited for pasta water to boil while my kids wrestled loudly on the couch. I scrolled on my phone to drown out the noise and kill time, and I came across an Instagram ad that made me want to scream.

It was the kind of advertisement made to look like any other post from one of my many mom friends, so I paused to watch. In the video, a woman stood in front of a sink full of dirty pots and pans. Suddenly, the sink was empty and sparkling, and the text on the screen said: “How I went from ADHD Mom to Mom of the Year in 7 Days.” I’m sorry–what?

I don’t have much of a potty mouth, but I may have uttered a few choice words at my phone screen. I noticed the tiny “sponsored” label only after the disgust hit me. I rolled my eyes and tapped the three dots near the post. I wanted the algorithm to know not to show me that nonsense again. 

I looked at the options Instagram gave me for hiding the ad and thought for a moment. I wouldn’t call it spam. It wasn’t sexually inappropriate, and there was no violence, nudity, or misinformation. It wasn’t a scam–at least not in the way Instagram defines it.

Where was the option for “perpetuates harmful ideas about motherhood”? What about “patriarchal BS”? What I needed was an option that said, “Goes against everything I stand for when it comes to motherhood and identity.” 

I closed Instagram and went back to making dinner, but I thought about that advertisement for days, growing more and more angry and wondering why it bothered me so much. 

This particular ad was selling some kind of app for focus and productivity, which I have nothing against. I am using one of those apps right now as I write this! But in just that brief message–the video plus its caption– I saw so many harmful ideas about motherhood. I thought about all the women who were probably seeing it, and I thought about all the things I’d want them to know instead of what that Instagram ad was trying to convince them of.

Motherhood is not a competition.

There are no awards being handed out, and not just because society doesn’t value mothers like it should. We are not competing with each other, and we aren’t competing against ourselves, either. There are no trophies, gold stars, or award shows because all of that entirely misses the point.

We are not defined by our struggles, our special needs, our eccentricities, or even our strengths.

I am not Anxiety Mom, PPD Mom, Introvert Mom, TMJ Mom, Tired Mom, or Writer Mom. You are not Chronic Illness Mom or Recovery Mom or Depression Mom. You are not Doctor Mom or Teacher Mom or Corporate Mom or Influencer Mom. Any of these things might be something you have, experience, or do, and it might even significantly influence your life. These characteristics and roles might describe us, but they do not define us. None of us is just one thing.

Housework is not synonymous with motherhood.

I know that whoever created this advertisement chose a sink full of dishes as the visual because it is a chore almost all of us have experienced and felt overwhelmed by at some point (if not always). I get it. I would also love a hack to deal with my full sink effortlessly. But doing dishes has literally nothing to do with being a mom. I also really struggle with separating these categories in my mind because patriarchy has taught us that housework is part of what it means to be a woman and a mother. But those two things are not synonymous. Motherhood is about how you relate to your kids. The dishes might be your responsibility, but it is a responsibility entirely separate from your responsibility to mother.

We will never reach a finish line.

Despite what this “7-day turnaround” might want us to believe, no magic app, calendar, or online purchase will guarantee us perfect productivity, complete to-do lists, and a sense of accomplishment. We might solve one problem (like piled-up dishes) with a good routine or system, but other challenges will still exist. Our circumstances will change, and a system that worked in one season may not work anymore. Not to mention, sometimes we just get tired. Sometimes, we need to not worry or care about tasks we once prioritized. All of that is normal and how life works–and it doesn’t diminish us as moms!

When I really dig deep, I have to be honest and say that I am tempted by all this messaging, too. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t wish I was different in some way–more productive, focused, accomplished, and “together.” I, too, tie up my worth and value in the way my house looks and how well my kids behave. 

But I also know better now, and I’m grateful that when an ad like that one pops up, I don’t immediately click to learn more. It didn’t sit well with me then and still doesn’t today. Let’s remember what is true about who we are and where our value as moms comes from. The next time an Instagram ad like that pops up, we might scream or curse a bit, but we don’t have to believe the message for a second.

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