An ode to the Busy Mom™
and the money she spends
When I google the phrase “busy mom,” the first website to appear is one called, appropriately enough, Busy-mom.com. The tagline of the website is “connect with other busy moms just like you!” It’s a pretty lo-fi website with bad graphics and articles entitled things like “Announcing the Busy Mom Fashion and Home Decor Line” and “Healthier Fettuccine Alfredo” and “The Costs of Saying I do: A Mature Woman’s Point of View.”
The first image to pop up when I google “busy mom” is this one, which seems about right.
In America, the Busy Mom™ is a harried mess. She is eternally bedraggled, her coffee is always cold, and she appears ever in search of a wine glass emblazoned with the words Mommy Juice. She is trying to do it all because she lives in a country that insists she do it all.
Regardless of whether or not we, as mothers, work both inside the home and outside the home; regardless of whether or not we have one child or six; regardless of whether or not we can afford to pay for help with childcare, house work, and meal prep; we are all the same according to marketers and advertisers. We are all Busy Moms™ in need of products to compliment our Busy Mom™ lifestyles.
When a Busy Mom™ shops for a multivitamin, a lint-roller, or a car, the Algorithms That Be will distinguish between a lint-roller meant for all people and a lint-roller meant specifically for Busy Moms™, and while I’m but a lowly culture writer and not a business or market expert, more often than not, Busy Moms™ pay for the privilege of buying shit marketed specifically to them.
Here is a bag marketed to moms. It costs $162.00
Here is a bag marketed to no one in particular. It costs $11.29.
Here is sampling of things you might consider buying to aid and abet your Busy Mom™ endeavors.
Are you a Busy Mom™ whose doctor has suggested yoga for stiff hamstrings? Do you lack the privilege of time and/or money to invest in weekly yoga classes? Maybe you need a book about “micro-yoga for busy moms” instead. You’ll know it’s the right book for you because it specifically promises to address your busy motherhood in its title.
Are you a Busy Mom™ who simply can’t find time for meals and is worried about getting enough “nutrients critical in supporting cognition, heart health, and radiant hair, skin & nails?” Maybe you need to spend $62.99 on a box of granola bars.
Are you a Busy Mom™ who needs an ironic yet luxurious $380 dollar sweater?
Are you a Busy Mom™ who wants to display baby photos in a $99.00 linen-covered binder?
Are you a Busy Mom™ tired of meal planning? Maybe you should pay Hello Fresh $47.88 per meal kit box to do it for you.
Are you a Busy Mom™ struggling to advance in her career? Maybe you need to pay $397.00 for the “Getting Ahead without Staying Late” e-course perfect for, you guessed it, BUSY MOMS.
Are you a Busy Mom™ who knows your appearance will impact how you’re treated in the world? Maybe you should spend $65.00 a month on a beauty and skincare “holy grail” subscription box perfect for busy moms. Because, according to Beauty by Earth, “If you're a mom, you are all too aware that being a mom = being busy 24/7.” (Are you even a mother if you’re not a Busy Mom™?)
While most of the brands marketing to Busy Moms™ utilize a mother’s identity (as a Busy Mom™) as a way to signal that their products will be a wise investment, they rarely suggest their products will make a Busy Mom’s™ life less busy.
Sure, sometimes a brand will promise that their product will make a Busy Mom’s™ life less stressful or more manageable, but it would never be in a brand’s best interest to sell something promising to eradicate the busyness itself because brands rely on mothers being perpetually burnt out and overextended in order to sell them various lifestyle band-aids, panaceas, and coping mechanisms.
When brands evoke a mother’s busyness, they’re doing so for a few reasons:
To create a false sense of understanding and empathy (“Hey mama - we know you’re busy and that’s why we created this microfiber hair towel JUST FOR YOU”)
To tacitly endorse their busyness-as-goodness in a country which prioritizes capitalist productivity over pretty much all else (“A busy mom’s work is never done and that’s why we created this toothpick specifically for her. Because moms are too busy doing the most important job in the world to slow down for a piece of spinach stuck in their teeth.”)
To remind mothers of their completely disenfranchised and untenable role in American society (“It’s been a hard year for moms. That’s why we created the only laundry detergent guaranteed to give busy moms the sense of calm and order we believe they truly deserve.”)
Even when brands don’t specifically employ the phrase “busy mom,” they let Busy Moms™ know their products are for them by promoting attributes like “vitality,” “energy,” “productivity,” “stress relief,” “balance,” “relaxation,” “efficiency,” and “focus.”
The Busy Mom™ as imagined by capitalist marketing will always need to buy something because her most basic needs (bodily autonomy, healthcare, childcare, equality in the workplace) are simply not met in America. And as a Busy Mom™ myself, I observe myself in real time as I willfully suspend disbelief and deliberately choose to believe in this product’s ability to quell my maternal rage or this product’s ability to serve as a “calming ritual” in my typically not very calm days. Companies sell Busy Moms™ mostly empty promises, but when mothers have been screaming for things like paid leave for years only to be met with silence, empty promises feel better than no promises at all.
So appreciate the calling out of these empty promises! Buying more is not the solution for overworked moms, but we’re sold that answer over and over again.
I try really hard not to say I’m busy because I hate hearing how busy other people are. What does it even mean anymore?