The Supermom Spiral: Modern Mothers Anxiety

Over the years I’ve been involved in a number of studies exploring the behavior and motivations of mothers. An emotional and physical ‘hub’ for family activity, mothers are often expected to deliver perfectly on a mind-boggling array of demands.

To quote a mother we recently researched:

"You're pulled in many directions. Your kids want things from you, they need things from you, your house needs attention, you need to do shopping errands, [give] attention to your husband, all your chores, activites and work. There are things you want to do for yourself, but you feel pulled in many directions." - Female (2009) 

To make things worse, not only are mothers experiencing 21st Century scope creep, they’re also attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Here's a quote from another mother we researched:

"My life is absolutely a fiasco. You don't know what to do first; work, play with your children, provide everything perfectly like a super-mum. And these days people are judging [you] so much." - Female (2009) 

It seems that modern mothers often feel trapped between Supermom expectations, responsibilities and compromises; all of which feed off each other. Unrealistic expectations increase responsibilities. Too many responsibilities lead to compromise. Compromise affects the ability to meet expectations.

Below is a diagram illustrating what I've termed the Supermom Spiral:
Helping to break or alleviate this Supermom Spiral is a big opportunity for organizations willing to embrace reality - so on that note I thought I’d share two tips for marketing to modern mothers:

1. There’s no such thing as perfect. Mothers place enough unrealistic expectations on themselves; they don’t need any additional help from brands and marketers. Give them a break from perfection and try embracing reality.

2. More information, data and facts aren't necessarily a good thing – often they just increase the burden of responsibility on mothers. Wherever possible cut through the ‘data smog’ and explore more emotional motivations.


Anonymous said...

I read a book that also talked about this idea...

Niketa said...

Well it will be quite interesting to observe if brands stop harping on being a supermom,especially more interesting while carrying forward the idea of a realistic mom in its execution.... as its not just the external pressures but the desired self-perception of every mother motivates her to buy the idea or aptly the myth of a supermum. Women are quite OK not being a perfect woman and it worked beautifully for Dove in its real women campaign but are women OK with not being a perfect mother ?

Nick Black said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Black said...

Hmm. Neat question Niketa.

My opinion…There’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to family. Flaws, conflict, tension and change are an inherent part of a family. They give it character and personality.

Ultimately, trying to be perfect can often get in the way of being great.