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The mother of all celebrations, Mother’s Day has once more witnessed a huge wave of content initiatives from brands. The yearly ritual celebrated usually on the second Sunday of May is marked by all sorts of tributes to mothers all over the world. A typical Mother’s Day communication foregrounds motherly virtues of sacrifice, love and care. It is the day to express love towards mothers with dollops of nostalgia and gratitude. The globalised world order has necessitated that the Indian brands partake in this display of gratitude, enthusiastically too.

In this article, we explore the question of why it is difficult to find new angles of expression in Mothers’ Day communication and what contemporary best practice in Mother’s Day branded content looks like.

Let’s start by identifying the core representations that build up the symbolism of the mother in culture.

  1. The Mother in almost all cultures is a figure of reverence, India included:

In our culture, we can note that Mothers are revered when we see that Goddesses and great Queens have all been called mothers. Early on in the Freedom Struggle, the very nation was imagined as ‘Bharat Mata’ (translation- Mother India) by the likes of Abanindranath Tagore. All things that sustain, nurture or simply need to be respected and revered are at some level equated with mothers - The Earth is our mother, the cow is our mother too. Hence, motherhood confers upon women the highest status possible in society, where she is placed on a pedestal and worshipped too.

  1. Motherhood is primal, natural and the purest form of love:

It is presumed that motherhood is an inherently natural process that upon becoming a mother evokes uniform feelings in everyone. Every woman when she becomes a mother feels the ultimate fulfillment, she is now a Mother!!!  

  1. Being a good mother is a natural phenomenon, there isn’t much to learn.  It’s not that complicated or nuanced:

So long as all children depend upon their mothers, and love and cherish them, that is ample proof that she has been a good mother. All mothers automatically develop skills of nurturing their children and solving all their problems.

This elevation of the mother figure to the level of a goddess and the feelings of motherhood to the highest plane of purity of sentiment and ultimate fulfillment makes it difficult to write storylines that are grounded in reality where emotions can be more ambivalent and women are just ordinary people.  There is a very real fear as to whether the public will accept the questioning of the elevated status of the mother.  Hence, brands tend to shy away from such storylines.

However, some brands are bravely treading new ground about mothers, that brings them down to earth, from the Goddess status to real people.  Let’s take a look at how they are doing it.

Since the majority of women in India are home makers and mothers, the work that they do is mostly taken for granted by the family.  Brand communication that speaks on behalf of mothers, intends to make family members more conscious of the work that mothers do. And that requires the framing of motherhood as a Job that women do.

A Job means it is work. You are supposed to do it even on days you don’t wish to, even when it isn’t fun. Motherhood as a job means there are skill sets to be acquired, learning to be had and experience to be gained. Most importantly, the experience thus gained is to be then counted as such. Case in point: 

The Interview | Tanishq Jewellery 

Radhika, the interviewee has experience worth fourteen months at a certain “Life Bootcamp Corp” which is then explained further as a leadership role to train a “complete newbie”. Basically, the new mother back in the workforce makes it a point to let the industry know of the experiences she has gained during the maternity break while bringing up her child. 

Another short film by Mylo foregrounds motherhood as a tedious full-time job: 

Motherhood is a Full-time Job! Mylo

Reimagining the mother as ‘worker’ brings them down from the pedestal of reverence. As a worker, mothers are no more goddess-like creatures, instead, they are humans, real people, everyday folks. And humans can also make mistakes. 

Consider, the Mother’s Day film by Prega News: 

 She is imperfectly perfect | Prega News

The film reinforces yet again that motherhood is not the natural process so far imagined. It is marked by trial and error. Showing a working mother who forgets to order food for her baby also subverts the image of the mother as an ideal nurturer.

Out of these three storylines, Prega News pushes the cultural code of Idealised Motherhood furthest by showing a mother who is nurturing of course, but just not perfect.  Given how sacred the feeding of her children is and that it is something that we share with all animals (hence a natural instinct), it is rather radical for the brand to suggest that among contemporary young mothers, there are those who can forget to feed their child and is still a good mother. The intent is to reduce the guilt that women put themselves through in trying to fit the mould of the idealised mother that society/culture has placed on them.

Another frame for storytelling is self-care, to nudge mothers from self-sacrifice to self-care. Due to the idealisation of motherhood as a sacrifice, women automatically feel guilty when they put themselves ahead of their children. These ads in effect give permission for women to do so, by showing how, with self-care, they are able to be better nurturers.

One illustration of the sacrifice that is very true is the loss of sleep.  Numerous popular narratives show the hullabaloo that surrounds a baby’s sleep; that a significant chunk of the mother’s energy goes into getting the child to sleep. Panasonic tilts the camera a bit to focus on the mother’s sleep.

Ma Neendein Bharna | Panasonic 

Self-care for a mother extends from a seemingly simple act of getting full sleep to staying healthy mentally. The latter would encompass staying guilt-free, following one’s hobbies, taking breaks, etc. SBI Life gets together some real mothers to deliver the message: 

My Motherhood Story | SBI Life 

In the above storylines, motherhood has charted the journey from self-sacrifice to self-care. And identified the mother as a real woman, a real human being with needs of her own, that should be addressed too, without guilt or shame.

These brands and their Mother’s day content have begun to showcase how women can be supported by brands and their products in their lived experience of motherhood. They have chosen not to continue the well-established cultural code of pedestalisation of motherhood, setting impossible standards that leave young mothers in a perpetual state of guilt.  These brands show how bringing motherhood down to earth is an act of support to all the real mothers out there. And that is a greater service to the cause of motherhood than elevating mothers to the status of ‘Devi-Maa’.