Maternity Leave Is No Vacation, So One Agency Created Hilarious Resort-Themed Products for New Moms

The brand is fake, but the struggle is real

72andSunny's 'Mommy Bahama' makes light of a serious subject. 72andSunny
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Maternity leave is no laughing matter for millions of professional women around the world.

But in honor of Mother’s Day 2018, 72andSunny New York decided to simultaneously eviscerate and make light of the myth that the paid time a new mother spends away from the office is somehow equivalent to a dream vacation.

“Mommy Bahama” is the agency’s satirical way of bringing attention to a fact that every working parent knows all too well: this would-be getaway is anything but.

Agency creative director Tara Lawall—who is also, coincidentally, a working mother—spearheaded an effort that includes a fake ecommerce site and a full “look book” promoting products that are both ridiculous and hilarious.

The copy defines Mommy Bahama as “A resort wear collection for the vacation people think you’re going on.”

“Before I had a kid, I would be like, ‘You get a couple of months off work? Amazing!’ I was so stressed that I would have loved to take a sabbatical,” Lawall said. “People almost think you should be looking forward to this time. But for the women on that ‘vacation,’ it’s a shock once it happens.”

She added, “Take any stressful day I’ve had at work and I would say being on leave is three times harder.” We have no doubt that any new parent will agree.

The fictional products in this line came from a very personal place. Lawall described them as “the very worst objects you take from the hospital when you leave” after giving birth, and they range from breast pumps to the infamous “mesh underwear.”

“It’s kind of sad and you’re kind of scared,” she said in describing the moment when a new mom returns home with both her child and an assortment of less-than-glamorous objects to help guide her through those first weeks of motherhood.

The 72andSunny team moved to “take it in the complete opposite direction to a tropical resort line” by pairing these utilitarian props with high-fashion imagery, said Lawall. “It’s that juxtaposition that made this idea so fun.”

Well … that and the butt donut.

Lawall said her team created the project over a period of approximately two months in 72andSunny’s Brooklyn office, shooting the imagery and videos in-house and building the website themselves.

All laughs aside, every industry—and every professional woman—knows that maternity leave can quickly become a sore point. In many ways, it serves as a reminder that advertising, like most businesses, was designed by and for men.

As Adweek reported in a 2017 feature on maternity leave, agencies are slowly growing more accommodating of working mothers.

But there’s quite a bit of work to be done, and sources involved in that story spoke of multiple occasions in which their status as mothers led to them being passed over for certain major projects or promotions.

When asked what agencies need to do to in order to take better care of employees with children, Lawall said “more conversations and listening from people who might not understand what it’s like.”

While the Droga5 veteran called herself “incredibly lucky” to have worked in “supportive environments” and argued that advertising is “pretty good on the whole compared to other industries that are doing the minimum,” she also said that existing policies have led many mothers with young children to go freelance, leave the business entirely or take “a two-year break because they’re not adequately supported.”

That support is all about the small things that mean a lot—things like having breast milk available for employees on commercial shoots.

Regarding the Mommy Bahama line itself, she said, “If there seems to be a ton of interest for these … our big dream would be to figure out how we could actually manufacture them [to be sold] at Targets across America. They’d be something to give a fellow working mom as a shower gift.”

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.