Why Advertising Needs Mothering

Moms add value to the creative process, but not the way you think

I had been a mother for four months, and a working mother for all of 48 hours when I realized that we come with a reputation. There's something about having a baby that makes people assume you're brimming with empathy and patience. The truth is, I've never felt more ruthless or more impatient in my life. 

There's a special kind of focus that comes from handing off more than half your paycheck to someone else, just so you can work. All so you can attend status meetings, listen to feedback, explain to people why the word you chose is the word you chose. You're on the clock. You hear a ticking sound at the back of your head all day long—asking if what you're doing is worth it.

The pandemic has shone a new light on the struggle of working parents, sparking off conversations about how companies can be more flexible and understanding about a mother's need to balance roles. And while those conversations are incredibly important, they are all spoken with an undertone of pity. A plea for support. A request for help and accommodation as we work hard to raise the next generation of consumers. 

But the truth is, advertising needs mothers. 

It's not for the fact that we are now part of a demographic that hastily swipes their cards for $2 trillion a year. It's not just for the raw, life-changing experiences, the playground observations, the delirious 3 a.m. thoughts that will make their way to scripts as sharp dialogue and insights.

It's because parents get shit done. 

There's a quote somewhere that says, "Choose a lazy person to do a difficult job, they will find an easy way to do it." The same holds true for a parent with no time at all. When you're stuck between a to-do list and a New York daycare that charges you by the minute for late pickups, you get superpowers.

You can sift the important stuff from the insignificant details (it's the reason I didn't look up who the quote is from), you can make decisions on instinct and then not have the time to doubt them, you can dust yourself off faster after an idea meets its end. You're unruffled by creative problems—once you've managed to fashion a pair of pants out of thin air after a child's bathroom accident (stick their legs into a hoodie, tie at waist), every other creative challenge seems easy. 

What's an unreasonable client request when you've already looked unreasonable in the eye at 4 a.m. and pleaded with it to go back to sleep. When you have nine hours of childcare a day—you manage to squeeze 12 hours of work into it—and on days that creativity needs time to meander and experiment, you sign back in after bedtime.

A few weeks after my return from maternity leave, a fellow creative director remarked: "Do you realize that when the conversation starts to meander on work calls, you jump in and start summarizing what everyone has agreed to? It's a new thing you've been doing. But don't stop. It keeps things moving."

And that's what parents do. We keep things moving. In a way that's surprising, creative, drama free—and gets everyone home by dinner time. 

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Vidhi Shah
Vidhi Shah is group creative director at Huge.

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