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American Greetings Wants You to Know That Dads Suck… Until Father’s Day

Parenting is hard. You are responsible for another human being, 24/7. There are no sick days, no vacation days. (Unless you have child care, though even when you’re not there, you’re still technically responsible for this other person’s life.) When you sign on to parent, you have to parent regardless of whatever else is happening in your life. So I get it. It’s hard.

American Greetings, the card company, put out a “viral” video* showing hapless people applying for a job with no pay or breaks. The people are dumbfounded. How can this be? And then — gotcha! — the job turns out to be motherhood. Yes, motherhood is the toughest job in the world. I know that because the video is called “World’s Toughest Job” so you know that it has to be 100% factually true in order to be on the Internet.

I watched this video with Josh, bouncing up and down on the sofa as the punchline unfolded, and I started shouting out the other half of that message, the one given to men on a daily basis in the country. DADS SUCK. Just bring home the bacon and then go back to being remote and out-of-touch with your feelings in your little man cave while we women do the REAL work of raising children. Maaaaaaaaaaybe, if you’re lucky, we’ll let you babysit your own kids. But other than that, suck it, Dads, because even American Greetings doesn’t think you do jack shit.

Oh… wait… until June when it’s Father’s Day and they want us to buy cards for that holiday. Then I’m sure we’ll have another viral video to thank dads for all they do.

So Dads, you only suck and are worthless for another 2 months. Then we’ll acknowledge you.

But until then, American Greetings just wants you to know that you do not hold the position of toughest job. That goes to mothers. Until May 12th.

A side note to my dad: Thank you for the amazing job you do — STILL — in raising me. I am, in a large part, who I am thanks to you.

A side note to Josh: The fact that you would contemplate a V.F.D. tattoo shows just how far you would go to say in no uncertain terms to your kids that anything they love is loved by you too because you want to see the world through their eyes. There is no one I would want to parent with more than you. You are an amazing partner in all of this craziness.

A side note to American Greetings: I get it. It’s easy to market to certain niches — such as mothers — and much harder to market to an amorphous one such as “women.” But there are a shit-ton of us who are not mothers or who are mothers and do not want to be marketed to like this every May. We don’t need to create a hierarchy, we don’t need to label things the “toughest,” and we certainly don’t need to be walked through emotional hoops like a dog doing tricks in order to be sold cards. Diversifying would help you to sell more cards rather than alienating a base. So… please… stop. By which I mean, stop the endless Mother’s Day ads and try thinking through the myriad situations that people find themselves in where a card would be gratefully appreciated.

* I love it when news sites describe a video on YouTube as a “viral” video. How, pray tell, does one go about creating a “viral” video? Do they mean a video that unintentionally went viral? They do know that you can’t choose whether or not a video spreads from eyes to eyes. Though making people angry or making people cry are two very good ways to get your message out there to a lot of people in a very manipulative manner.

24 comments

1 Lo @ crazy ever after { 04.16.14 at 9:29 pm }

Fuck. Yeah.

But seriously, you’re spot on.

2 Sara { 04.17.14 at 6:21 am }

Completely agree, when I saw this video I thought what about dads? I am only the mom I am because I have a supportive husband who is an amazing dad.

3 fifi { 04.17.14 at 6:37 am }

Mother’s Day in America was set up by Anna Jarvis, who never had children of her own. Towards the end of her life, she grew bitter about the commercialization of the holiday.

Also, I feel that this “mommy martyrdom” and this expectation that mothering will be SO HARD is not doing mothers or their children any favors. I saw my sister-in-law fall into post-natal depression, which was probably exacerbated by her belief that she had to do everything for herself and that feeling overwhelmed was just normal. My brother was a bit clueless as well; he helped with the kids when he got home from work, but didn’t appreciate how stressed she was feeling. She felt guilty about asking my mother (her mother-in-law) for help (her own parents live much further away), even though my mother was thrilled to spend more time with her grandson. I’m of the “it takes a village” mindset. If you have parents, siblings, in-laws, friends, who are prepared to help, even if it’s just to spend an hour with your kid or to bring you out for lunch while your partner minds your kid, TAKE THAT OFFER. Your kid will benefit from having other loving adults and you certainly need the space sometimes.

If you want to get all anthropological about it, it’s actually the norm for humans to be “cooperative breeders” with the whole tribe helping to raise the children.

4 Tiara { 04.17.14 at 7:25 am }

Couldn’t they have said “Parenting is the toughest job”? I guess that’s not marketable.

5 Pepper { 04.17.14 at 8:04 am }

YES! I haven’t watched the video because… I don’t know why… it gives me a weird feeling (I already knew what it was about). And though I am so proud to be a mom to my daughter, I agree that I am also a person. And Mother’s Day always makes me think of all those Mother’s Days before my daughter when I desperately wanted to be a mom and was not. Specifically I think of the one I celebrated just a few days after finding out that our first IVF cycle which did result in a pregnancy was in fact ending in a miscarriage. And it just makes me sad for all the other want to be moms out there. Or the non-want to be moms who are made to feel like they are less than on this day.

6 Katherine A { 04.17.14 at 8:42 am }

Yes, yes, YES! Thank you for this. Thank you for pointing out the important role fathers play and how demeaning this commercial is.

It seems to be a thing in advertising, though. I remember how irritated both my husband and I were all throughout the Olympics with the P&G campaign “Proud Sponsor of Moms”. Because only mothers sacrifice for their Olympic-caliber athlete children?

And, as you say, it’s probably only going to get worse in the lead up to Mother’s Day. *Sigh*

7 Heather { 04.17.14 at 9:05 am }

I watched this video. I didn’t like it for the same reasons you stated. Parenthood is hard. Mom, dad, it’s hard. My husband is a SAHD, he does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to child care and their schedules, meals, etc. Yet still, there is this perception that I’m “doing it all” working mom of two and everything is great. When I get the opportunity I am always quick to point out that I ‘have it all’ because my husband is so awesome. HE makes it possible for me to be at work even when the kids are sick, HE makes it possible for me to work until 10pm on the deadline nights, HE makes it possible for the kids to do their homework and eat dinner before practice. I tell him all the time that he’s not allowed to take a sick day, the three of us (me and our two girls) wouldn’t function without him. That’s why I hate this video. It completely discards how much so many dads really do for our children.

8 A. { 04.17.14 at 9:17 am }

My only reaction to that post was a visceral weeping (on a tropical beach, mind) for that old familiar feeling of desperately longed for but denied membership to this celebrated club, nose against the glass, perennially snubbed. Thanks for redefining it some. Now at least I know I can sit with the dads until June.

9 loribeth { 04.17.14 at 10:01 am }

I haven’t watched it either, for obvious reasons. I’m not a mom. I appreciate that being a mom is hard work. But please understand that, some days, my childless/free life can be tough in its own way too — and I get tired of having it constantly drummed into my head that my life must be a responsibility-free bed of roses, simply because I don’t have kids.

I don’t think anyone is doing anyone any favours by constantly trumpeting that being a mom/dad/parent is the toughest job in the world. Especially if you really want to promote parenthood as a good thing for whatever reasons (political — sanctity of the family, we need population growth to keep the economy ticking, etc/I want grandchildren, etc. etc.) We all know it’s hard.

But I agree with Fifi above — I honestly think all the constant talk about how hard parenting is, how hard it is to juggle work & family, etc., is not doing parents or parenting any favours. It might even be scaring some fencesitters away. There have been recent surveys showing that the numbers of young women who plan to have children are dropping dramatically. And those that do are having fewer children than they expected to. They know it’s tough, and it’s being reflected in the decisons they are making.

Certainly, I procrastinated on procreating because I had thought long & hard about whether I was really ready to take on the job (financially, careerwise, emotionally, etc.) — particularly since I didn’t have much of a personal support network close by. I thought that was the responsible thing to do. But when I finally felt I was more or less ready, my body wasn’t.

If parenting really is as tough as we make it out to be, then we need to do something to help lighten the load — whether that’s more political and workplace support for working parents (including maternity leaves & quality daycare that doesn’t cost an arm & a leg) or simply offering the parents/other parents around us a helping hand more often. Use the the power of the village, as people have mentioned above. Less talk, more action, please. :p

10 Hope { 04.17.14 at 10:23 am }

Maintaining a separate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day serves the same purpose as the trend toward more gender-coded (pink and blue) toys: It sells more products. And I hate it, because in the process of making a buck, it creates false divisions between people.

“Stop the endless Mother’s Day ads and try thinking through the myriad situations that people find themselves in where a card would be gratefully appreciated.” Yes, exactly.

11 Ana { 04.17.14 at 10:52 am }

Yeah, I unwittingly watched the ad, I had no idea what it was about, and the person who posted it on FB wasn’t the type to post sentimental mom-martyr trash. my first thought:oh COME ON, its not that bad is it? I can certainly think of tougher jobs out there and the second: what about the dads. Then I realized that the ad was for greeting cards and Mother’s day is coming up and the whole manipulation tactic became clear.

12 Mel { 04.17.14 at 11:03 am }

I would argue that NOT talking about how hard parenting is would contribute more to post-partum depression in both men and women. I think a lot of people are taken off-guard. It’s one thing to tell someone that sleep deprivation is difficult. It’s another to be in the throes of sleep deprivation. I was speaking with a cousin this weekend whose wife is expecting their first, and he astutely pointed out that there is only so much mental prepping you can do before you’re in the middle of parenting.

It’s sort of like war in that regard. They can prep soldiers at a base camp in the US, but that is very different from dropping them on the ground in a foreign country in the middle of battle. You can gather tools before the child comes, but until the child is here, you can’t really know how you will feel or what sort of child you will get.

It’s a position that has NO EXIT. And there’s no true way to take it for a test run because one of the most difficult parts of parenting is knowing you are fully responsible for another human being. Keeping a child alive is something you can try out with babysitting. Raising a moral, intelligent human being and knowing there is no one else in charge except you is something very different.

So I think the ads painting parenthood as kisses and cooes do more to set up parents for a fall than the ones that tell them that it’s hard. Frankly, if someone is on the fence, I’d say don’t do it. Because it’s not something you can do half-assed. And there is no going back. You can’t undo parenthood. So if you get there and realize it’s not for you, well, you’re still going to be someone’s parent for the rest of their life.

There are a lot of things in life that I would tell a person to try because if they end up disliking it, they’re the only one miserable. Whereas with parenting, you have another human being you are taking down with you.

There are a billion things that are hard in life; a billion ways to live your life that contribute to the world. Parenting is only one of them. Saying it’s hard doesn’t diminish the toughness of any other life choice. Saying it’s the “hardest” does. Nothing is the “hardest” since different people have different coping mechanisms and are handed different situations. What feels impossible to one person will roll off the back of another, and vice versa. So, yeah, parenting is hard. Not parenting when you want to parent is hard too. As is being in the military, being a teacher, being the president, being a CEO, working in the mail room, etc.

13 nicoleandmaggie { 04.17.14 at 12:13 pm }

Interesting comparing the comments on this post to the comments on Mom 101 (I get both off the ana-begins.blogspot.com blogroll).

As for me, I heard some of the commercial on the radio’s local top 40 station, but got to work and turned the car off before I could hear what the morning hosts had to say about. My thoughts were all on the order of, “But people answering those questions are probably thinking, but then I’d have to go home and take care of my family, and you can’t do that if you’re working and on your feet 24-7″… “Gosh, I spend a lot of time sitting down and lying down (often with small children on top of me) when I’m parenting. Isn’t that normal?” … so I guess my early morning sleep-deprived response is too literal to get into the deep meta aspects of the video. I was too caught up in factual details.

14 Mel { 04.17.14 at 12:39 pm }

Those were interesting comments. Though I have to say that the author of the post misses the point. The ad is exclusionary because it places a terminal label on the job of motherhood. It’s the “toughest.” Therefore, they created a comparison. By comparison, all other things you could do in life are not as tough since they are declaring this one the “toughest.” So no, they’re not actually saying dads suck, but they are saying quite plainly that however much dads do, it’s not as much as mums.

This is why people should be careful with superlatives.

15 Jillian { 04.17.14 at 1:27 pm }

I liked the video. I think it’s ok to thank moms without having to thank dads. I think it’s ok to make someone feel special without having to make everyone else in your life feel special at the same time.

16 Kellie { 04.17.14 at 2:53 pm }

I liked the video too. Not everything has to be incusionary just so someone can say that it wasn’t exclusionary. Give me a break.

17 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.17.14 at 3:25 pm }

I started seeing this in people’s Facebook updates last week, and I didn’t even click over because I had deja vu.

I’m just sure that something similar went “viral” a few years ago. Saw it coming from a mile away. Yawn.

Back to the toughest job anyone has ever had.

18 Serenity { 04.17.14 at 4:35 pm }

I watched the video, and frankly I thought it was a little stupid: cynic I am, it felt staged to me, and so I didn’t buy it. I didn’t think “what about dads?” but I did roll my eyes when he gave the punchline, because really, being a mom is what I do, and it seems WAYYYYYYYY too dramatic to say it’s the hardest job ever.

19 fifi { 04.18.14 at 9:08 am }

People who probably have tougher jobs than the average mother: sewage workers, Alaskan fishermen, African diamond miners, drug addiction counselors, carers for people with dementia. I guess that’s not really fair, but if you say that one job is toughEST in the WORLD, you invite those kind of comparisons, where just saying “motherhood is tough” wouldn’t.

Plus, “a degree in medicine, finance, and culinary arts”. No, no, no! I know plenty of mothers with minor medical knowledge, poor mathematical ability, and terrible cooking. And you know what, most of them are good mothers and their kids are just fine. And as for those people who think that “mommy instinct” is a substitute for years of medical training and research….

20 fifi { 04.18.14 at 9:22 am }
21 deathstar { 04.18.14 at 9:41 am }

Well, dammit, I cried. But only cause I think of my own mum, who is sitting in a care facility with dementia and I haven’t had time to see in her in 2 weeks and I feel guilty. But you notice no one blinks when the man says billions of people do the job – moms. No one says oh, yeah, let’s give them a pay raise or help them or give them affordable day care or something useful. It’s just oh, yeah, them. Makes sense.

22 torthuil { 04.18.14 at 6:09 pm }

Thank you. That “viral video” came up on my Facebook feed and I knew I didn’t want to watch it, but I didn’t think about why exactly until I read your post.

“Niche” cards drive me crazy. It drives me nuts that it takes so long to find a card that simply says “Thank you” or “happy birthday” in a drugstore or grocery store. I mostly buy blank cards from crafty stores now, rather than Hallmark cards. I can write my own message to my friend or relative, thankyouverymuch.

23 Geochick { 04.19.14 at 9:10 am }

Not watching the video. I have all kinds of icky feelings about Mothers Day and don’t even like celebrating it now that I AM a mother. My own shit I guess. Mel, my DH read this post and I think you have a new fan. 🙂

24 loribeth { 04.27.14 at 1:01 pm }

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