Welcome, summer. For moms, this can be the worst of times. But this year, when the days have blurred together and the 9 a.m. toast to the first day of a new school year remains far in the future, some distraction will arrive, thanks to Mila Kunis.
In Bad Moms, Kunis and her pals will offer our sick-of-it-all target audience an invitation to rebel against the increasing pressures of a society that praises “perfect” motherhood, by shouting, “I may be a mom, but tonight, I ain’t no effin’ mother!”
As its trailer and TheHangover creators suggest, the overworked, overcommitted, exhausted moms will liberate themselves from responsibility in the most extreme scenarios. Moms are already employing the hashtag #badmommoment, and uniting over real-life stories — from shots of tequila for Mother’s Day brunch to middle-finger-giving lessons for their toddlers.
Who can blame them for going off the mommy script?
I recently attended a presentation of findings from a CPG brand-sponsored study on moms. The panel of moms in the study had used a mobile app to record when they were experiencing pain or pleasure in real-time. The results: except for the hour before their heads hit the pillow each night, pain was the button they pressed. Every moment. Day after day. Pain. Pain. And more pain.
Last summer, the journal Demography reported on a study that showed having a child causes a significant drop in happiness among new mothers and fathers — a drop in happiness greater than that triggered by a divorce, unemployment, or even the death of a partner.
Marketing has gotten closer but is still skirting the edge in acknowledging this truth about moms. We still see Kelly Ripa vacuuming in heels from time to time, but by and large, the Judys, Carols and Claires on screen today are delighting in imperfect mom shtick. But imperfection is different than unhappiness. Both are real. But only one means sad. And that is still an untold story.
Even sadder is that a Bad Moms break from inhibitions, real or cinematic, is only a distraction. Is there a larger role for marketers and the media in acknowledging and alleviating mom unhappiness?
I take heart in two lessons I found in a study reported in Science Daily, "Who mothers mommy? Factors that contribute to mothers' well-being.” I believe these can be applied by brands, storytellers and employers.
First, acknowledge that a reality of motherhood is the ongoing effort to maintain spirit and keep distress at bay. While the brand-sponsored study had moms recording pain at all points every day, it’s important to note it showed women identifying it and enduring.
Second, acknowledge that moms can’t do it alone. Moms who are unconditionally loved can say two things: "I feel seen and loved for the person I am at my core," and "When I am deeply distressed, I feel comforted in the way I need it." When these two things are true, moms are well-equipped to wage a campaign against unhappiness.
The study is clear this unconditional love need not be sourced only from a spouse. It can be from family and friends. And I say we can offer it when we tell and support these stories. Brands can be the catalysts and bonding agents for authentic friendships and support sources.
I’m hopeful for an underwhelming box office performance by Bad Moms because it will tell me real moms don’t find it resonates. But truthfully, I fear a blockbuster.