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A Non-Mom’s Take on Motherhood

What our mothers taught us about life and advertising
  • May 11 2012

When I was asked to write something for The New America about mothers, my first reaction was uncertainty. Despite adoring kids, and making a concerted effort to spoil the children of my friends and neighbors, I’m not a mom. And the moms of today seem virtually invincible. Fifty-five percent of the mothers who gave birth in 2010 also stayed in the labor force. In 2011, there were more than 10 million single mothers with children under 18.

What was my perspective on motherhood? What insight could I possibly offer on the remarkable honor, responsibility and joy shared by the estimated 85.4 million mothers in the United States today, and how could it relate to what we do in advertising? It seemed a question for an expert, someone who knows almost everything and isn’t afraid to hold back their opinion. It seemed like the perfect question to ask my Mum.

Our mothers are our very first data resource center. They are our introduction to demanding clients, but they’re also our first supportive mentors. They work long hours as our project managers, our proof-readers, our planners and our craft services coordinators, and they are key influencers in shaping the most significant product any of us will ever launch – ourselves.

If we think back, our mothers taught us nearly everything. Daily things, like how to tie our shoes and make our beds. Monumental things, like how to lead by example and always take the higher road. Fun things, like how to catch a firefly and how to frost a cupcake. Monotonous things like how to load the dishwasher, and then unload the dishwasher. And how to take pride in that humble task.

And somewhere in all their little lessons, the bigger ones shined through. Consider this a short list of the things our mothers taught us…about life, and about advertising.


  1. Finish your broccoli. See a project through to completion. And do the best you can with it. It will be good for you.
  2. Clean up your room. Clear ideas aren’t found in chaos. And you’ll be less likely to spill cold coffee on your keyboard if it’s not there to begin with.
  3. Use your common sense. The best ideas aren’t complicated. In fact, they are usually pretty simple.
  4. If you don’t know a word, look it up. Despite spell check, this one still applies, maybe in our business more than elsewhere.
  5. No use crying over spilt milk. Goldfish will die. So will campaigns. Thankfully, there will be others.
  6. Are you going out dressed like that? Yes. Because this just might be the one industry where I can get away with it.
  7. Because I said so. An exasperating phrase of childhood entirely intended to prepare us for the exasperating phrase of advertising: “Make the logo bigger.”
  8. Money doesn’t grow on trees. It doesn’t grow on clients’ trees either. Be mindful of it.
  9. You can be anything you want to be. Be brave enough to believe your work can be anything you want it to be, too. And go after it.
  10. Be good. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more valuable than integrity and talent. And honoring your mother.
  11. Say thank you. It’s only right to show your gratitude for the opportunities you’ve been given, and things you’ve gained along the way. 

A big thanks this week to the Moms with little kids and grown-up ones, to single Moms, and working Moms, and this year’s 4 million new Moms. To the Moms of advertising kids, and to those Moms-to-be one day. But the biggest thanks goes to Motherhood for the lessons it’s taught us all.


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