Think Parenting Is Tough? SickKids Shows How Much Tougher It Can Sometimes Be

When caring for critically ill children

For Mother’s Day this year, Cossette created a heart-wrenching piece of work that illustrates how tough it is not just to be a mom, but to be one with a child who is critically ill.

You won’t find a cheery “Baby Love”-type song here to temper the difficulty. “SickKids VS: MomStrong,” created for Canada’s SickKids Foundation, depicts five real SickKids mothers in lonely, emotionally intense scenarios that are based on their experiences, and the music—at once soft-moving but anxiously taut—doesn’t yield a moment’s repose.

SickKids is a Toronto-based organization that supports the treatment of critically ill children by raising donations for the Hospital for Sick Children. In a promotion for the campaign, its website reads, “Some of the strongest women you’ll meet are SickKids moms. They don’t give in, and they don’t give up. No matter the battle, they put on their game face to stay strong for their kids. #SickKidsMomStrong.”

Cossette’s previous work for the client portrayed sick children as the ultimate warriors. The new work is inspired by the notion that mothers act as pillars of strength for their children … but it reinforces that by focusing on their humanity. Moments of fear, doubt, depression and despair come to light as mothers sit in lone contemplation, patiently endure training for critical infant care, or simply cry.

There is something striking about the difference between this ad, geared toward supporting the mothers of sick children, and the AARP’s latest hyper-masculine piece, meant to support and raise visibility for male caregivers of aging loved ones. Both are meant to spotlight the incredible strength and dedication required to care for a family member in need, but the approaches are dramatically varied (bearing in mind that the latter is meant to be funny).

The message seems to be that while men still need to feel like men so they can both ask for and expect help, the expectation that women bear their burdens is so ingrained in our cultures that they actually need to be shown breaking down in private for the same kind of support.

“SickKids VS: MomStrong” also promotes a larger campaign called “Get Better Gifts,” where people who know these kinds of enduring mothers are encouraged to offer them the gift of donating to the foundation. The gift includes a greeting card, and funding goes to health and scientific research.

The SickKids Foundation launched in 1972 and is driven by the mission to improve communities by improving the health and well-being of children. By the end of fiscal year March 31, 2015, it reportedly invested $108.4 million in child health research, learning and care.