The Best Moms Let Mess Happen - Pacific Standard

The Best Moms Let Mess Happen

That's the message of a Bounty commercial that reminds this sociologist of Sharon Hays' work on "the ideology of intensive motherhood."
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(Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Way back in 1996, sociologist Sharon Hays coined the phrase “the ideology of intensive motherhood.” She intended to draw attention to a new norm for mothering that involved, among other things, making children the center of one’s life and subordinating your own needs and wants to theirs.

I can’t help but think of Hays and her beleaguered mothers every time I see this commercial:

“When we’re having this much fun,” the voiceover says, “why quit?”

And I think, “No, seriously, quit it.”

But the mother in the ad doesn’t tell the kid to quit it. She beams. And then she gives the younger child his own glass of chocolate milk and claps as he learns how to blow bubbles in it.

Bounty glamorizes the clean-up work the mother has to do after her child blows his chocolate milk all over the kitchen table and floor. As if letting a child make an unnecessary mess is the most unselfish sign of love. It’s an excellent example of the ideology of intensive motherhood: Everyone knows that this is going to be additional work for the mother, but the kids are having a good time and that’s what’s important.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “Bounty Commercial Says: The Best Moms Let Mess Happen.”

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