That Supermom in Your Ad? Real Moms Can't Stand Her

Parents Now Compete to See Who's the Most Easygoing

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"This car wants to jump OFF Mount Washington."

That's the bumper sticker Patty Konjoian came up with as she and her sister were penning their book and website, "Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid Already." While they were inspired by their own children's challenges -- one has Asperger's, one has bipolar disorder -- they were surprised by the grateful response they've been getting across the board.

"What we didn't realize was that a lot of people with quote unquote 'average' kids would say, 'You know, I can relate to this because my kid is not a Rhodes scholar,'" Konjoian says.

The truth hit them like a ton of underachievers: Most of us are sick of perfect kids and perfect parents and, worst of all, those paragons of perfection -- supermoms (if anyone could ever stand them in the first place. Wasn't unspoken anti-perfectionism what really sent Martha Stewart to the slammer?). In any event, we are now in the midst of a major Anti-Perfect-Mothering Moment.

For marketers, this means real moms are sick of seeing TV moms in clean cars and tight jeans with every hair -- and kid -- in place. If an advertiser really wants to win friends, it should show a wild-eyed mother wallowing in burger wrappers. (But it shouldn't be Britney.)

Former Letterman writer Jill Besnoy is at the front of the anti-perfection brigade. She created the website Honest Baby, where she sells baby products designed to put perfection in its place.

"Not sleeping through the night," reads one of the tiny T-shirts she created. "10th percentile," announces yet another tee, as radical as the old "Black is Beautiful." By proudly embracing the wee one's smallness compared with 90% of other babies, it crushes any comparisons crazed supermoms are aching to make.

Plenty of parenting books are attempting to restore that same sanity: "Good Is Good Enough"; "Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most and Raise Happier Kids"; and, for dads, "Daddy Needs a Drink."

"Who Needs Perfect?" demanded the cover of a recent Hallmark Magazine. The article's author, Karen Houpport, confessed to living in a rundown house she lacked the oomph to remodel. All she was looking for, she wrote, was "the courage to tackle the chaos, and the wisdom to accept the bathroom tiles I cannot change."

To find these, she went to a lifestyle guru -- the new kind, who teaches acceptance and meditation rather than shopping and makeovers -- and there she had a revelation: Just as she had never judged any friend by the neatness of her home, no one worth knowing would judge her that way, either!

It's a realization more and more people are coming to.

"I think years ago there was much more of a sense among young mothers that there was a need to do everything and be perfect," says Hallmark Magazine's editor, Lisa Benenson. Having formerly edited Working Woman, Benenson remembers when women were new to the workplace and felt they had to give 150% on all fronts. "Personally," she says, "I spent years hand-making my children's Halloween costumes until they were old enough to say, 'You know, we'd prefer the store-bought ones.'"

Today's moms look at that hyper-intensity and cringe. That's not what parenting is about for them (unless they love sewing). While parents will always compare and compete, now it's a race to see who's the most easygoing about their imperfect house, so-so parenting skills and average kids.

Of course, secretly they will still consider those average kids exceptionally lovable. The world hasn't changed that much.
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