Ads, Please Stop Hating on Mothers of Onlies

The message that parents get "real" after having multiple children is condescending to parents of onlies and sad for children who are not firstborns.
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I'm so proud of the recent advertisers who have latched on to the idea that we need to value dad's contribution to child-rearing a bit more. But, this post isn't about that. It's about a recent diaper commercial in which two stories are told: a mother of one child and that same mother after the birth of her second child.

In the first segment, the mother has everyone basically bathe in hand sanitizer before touching her baby. In the second segment, she hands her new baby to a dirty car mechanic while she gets her money out of her purse. The moral of the story: Moms get "real" when they have their second children.

I understand the reasoning behind marketing in this way. There isn't a party or social function I attend where I don't hear the words, "Oh, life is so easy when you just have one child. You have no idea how hard it is having more." I get it. Life is a freakin' vacation for me, and I should relish in the ease of rearing my one child in the 21st century. But it's so much more complicated than that.

Seeing this sentiment in a commercial is not a surprise. But, I do wonder if it's a healthy approach. The message that parents get "real" after having multiple children is condescending to parents of onlies and sad for children who are not firstborns. As a middle child myself, being bombarded with messages that first children are somehow more valuable or deserving of a parents' time is hurtful (and, to be honest, untrue most of the time). My mother valued me just as much. She took just as much care with me as she did my older sister and my younger brother. She may have learned lessons from the head start she had with my sister, but those lessons were simply how to do things better this time around, not how to show less love and compassion.

And as a mother of one beautiful gem of a child who totally grounds me to the universe in a way that can only be explained in our limited human terms as transcendental, I am tired of being viewed as living on easy street because I only have one human life to care for. Whether you have one child or 14, mothers still spend most waking moments trying to figure out how to do the best for their children. They spend most waking moments playing dolls, feeding meals, checking temperatures, sending extra Valentines to school for class, reading teachers' notes, helping with homework, giving baths, reading books, disciplining, laughing with and loving their child or children. Mothers of onlies are expending the same amount of physical, emotional and mental energy on their children, and criticizing a mother for caring too much about that one child is infuriating. Isn't that what mothers are supposed to do? Care for their child(ren)?

As advertisers move toward being more inclusive (promoting different types of families, lauding the efforts of dads), let's give moms of onlies a break too. We don't need another child to "get real." We're real enough with just one.

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