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Monday, Mar. 17, 2008 at 11:29 am

“Secret Life of a Soccer Mom” TV Show Creates Backlash

By Holly Buchanan
March 17th, 2008

Wow, there are some seriously perturbed moms out there! What’s got them so upset? A new TV show on TLC called The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom. The show’s premise: Stay-at-home mom (Tracey Gold) is given a chance to go back in time and discover what her life would have been had she not given up her dream career.

Sounds like something almost every mom would love, right? Apparently not.

Newsweek reported on the ugly response from miffed moms:

If the initial reaction to the “Secret Life of a Soccer Mom,” (Mondays at 10 p.m. ET) is any indication, TLC has struck one of the rawest nerves of parenting.

TLC’s online message boards were jammed with comments from women outraged that Adrian (one of the featured Soccer Moms) would choose a career over being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM in parent lingo). The posts said the premise of the show is “sick” and Adrian is “selfish.” One mom wrote, “Let’s show the other side of the story … how the kids’ world is going to be turned upside down by having to go to day care.” Another woman goes even further: “Unless you’re about to starve there is no reason for you to be at work. If you didn’t want to raise your children, you should not have had them. It’s child abandonment.”

Hmm… How do you really feel?

Women have been in the workforce for decades now, but the tension between moms who stay at home and those who, by choice, have jobs outside the home continues to brew. When in mixed company, mothers on both sides of the fence tend to tiptoe around the subject. Totally unvarnished confessions of either boredom or guilt are usually left to gatherings of moms of one’s own kind.

This is one of the many reasons why marketing to “Soccer Moms” is tricky. These women have so many conflicting views, habits, motivations, and needs. Promote a successful woman who has it all in her career and you risk alienating the stay-at-home moms. Focus only on a mother’s life at home with her kids and you risk alienating moms who don’t want that to define who they are.

These are some dangerous waters. Here are some comments from the show’s message board:

• “Horrible show. Don’t have children if you are not prepared to raise them, plain and simple. Someone mentioned how many school shooting were there is the 1950′s? Go ask your grandmothers how much crime was around when she was a young women, how many children walked around with anger and “issues.” Nothing like today because of the feminist movement, women began working and thinking they could have it all, but when you work and have children, you are sacrificing them for your work.”

• “I cannot believe this debate is still such an issue. Everyone needs to grow up and get over it! Some moms work, some moms don’t, other choose to, others have to. I commend the show for bringing this to light, not all moms want to be at home 24/7. We do not assume a dad should stay home? I am working mom, my kids are well mannered, happy, content, intelligent kids who love life and love their parents. I know a lot of great working moms, teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, laborers, and more, without them our work force would be male dominated, should they stop having kids because of this?”

• “I have read most of these post on here, the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I will agree with you that most of them on here are full of whining women, trying to put themselves on pedestals, that’s the only point I can agree with you on. I am a stay at home mother of three great kids, but I by no means think that I am any more important or any higher caliber of a mother any of my friends who have kids and work out of the home.”

And those were some of the nicer posts! The point is, these women have hugely differing opinions, motivations, needs, self images, and positions on motherhood. It’s why I just have to laugh when marketers target “Soccer Moms” and think they can speak to them all the same way.

One final point. The very wording use to describe the premise of the show is offending these women:

I just had to share this. I was looking around TLC’s website and found this on the page where you can apply to be on one of their shows. According to them this show is celebrating stay-at-home moms. Celebrating? Yeah, right. Read below.quote:

Celebrating Stay-at-Home Moms!
Are you or is someone you know a stay-at-home mom? Is your life filled with driving the kids from soccer practice, piano lessons, dance classes and back home with barely enough time to get food on the table? Do you feel like everyday is for someone else with no time left for you? If your answer is yes, TLC is looking for you to be a part of a wonderful new show celebrating “soccer moms”.
If you’ve put your needs on the backburner to run a world of diapers, dishes and laundry, we want you! E-mail us your information at: soccermomcasting9@gmail.com

Welcome to how the world views “Soccer Moms”.

Is this how you view a Soccer Mom? If it is, you may be hurting your efforts to market to this widely diverse group. If you want to market to these moms, you’ll have to do your homework. You’ll have to dig deep to see what’s going on in their minds and in their hearts.

If she’s feeling resentful of having to always stay home and take care of the kids, is she really going to share that openly?

. .

[Editor's Note: Holly Buchanan is co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth — Today's Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys, and co-instructor of our Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar on March 28th in San Francisco.]

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Comments (14)

  1. This is indeed dangerous territory. I do market to moms, as well as write about parenting and motherhood issues, and have found that we have to appeal to mothers on the issues that apply to all of them, regardless of whether they work or not. Complete neutrality on any SAHM v. Working Mom issues is the way to go. No one wants to feel judgment in a sales pitch!

  2. What matters is that you are “intentional” about raising your children to be Godly, well-loved, well-educated, and emotionally sound children who can someday be fully functioning, responsible, and effective adults. It doesn’t matter if you are a working mother or a stay-at-home mom. You can be a great mother to your children, as long as you take the time to listen to them, support their efforts, love them unconditionally, and are willing to sacrifice for their sake. Whether you work inside or outside the home (Make no mistake…BOTH are hard work!), you can still be a great mother!

  3. This argument really isn’t about whether a mom should work or shouldn’t work. Underneath the pros and cons, the debates, the stances, the strong opinions, lie our very beliefs about the role of motherhood itself.

    When a woman becomes a mom, does that mean she has to give up other areas of her life in order to best serve her children? I think in some circles, women answer that question with a resounding yes. That motherhood is about sacrificing: putting your children’s needs above your own.

    Things like a career, hobbies, a healthy sex life, and relationships: they all are secondary to motherhood. Implicit in this argument is that you shouldn’t take time away from your children to nurture your marriage, your friendships, or your hobbies: to fulfill the other parts of you that aren’t a mom. It’s as if being a mom should be your only fulfillment.

    I don’t buy this argument. I’m a mother of four children, from ages 1 to 11, and I know this much is true: that if I mother my children to the point that I lose myself, that I lose touch with the person underneath the mom, I become resentful, depressed, lonely, and stifled. This doesn’t serve either my children or myself.

    I’m a mom, and I take my role seriously: I nurture my children to the best of my ability. But I also find ways to nurture myself. This means working part time, making time for my daily runs, having regular dates with my husband, and going out with my girlfriends.

    But I also take my children on dates, and read them bedtime stories, and ride bikes with them, and snuggle with them on the couch.

    In other words, I don’t look at motherhood as either-or: either I care for my children or care for myself. I find ways to do both.

    This means, on a practical level, that I sometimes say no to my children. This means that I set limits. This means that my children help with the running of the household in regular chores. This means—gasp—that sometimes I choose to do something for myself over something for my children.

    But this lesson—that parents can’t do everything; that we don’t always get what we want; that relationships are a give and take process—is something crucial for my children to learn. If they are the center of my universe, if their needs always come first, how does this serve them? It doesn’t.

    I write a blog, First Ourselves, where I encourage women to put themselves first, for the highest good of all. When a woman puts herself first, and takes care of herself, everyone benefits: her children, husband, family and community.

    I wrote about how being a more selfish mom can benefit your family here:
    http://www.firstourselves.com/first_ourselves/2008/03/positive-parent.html

    Best,
    Karly

  4. As you note, Holly – these are dangerous waters. “Child abandonment?” Wow. Some SAHMs are just a wee bit defensive about their own choice. And, that’s what it is – a choice – at least for most of us. The best mother I know has a full-time, very responsible job, is working on her MBA and works very hard in raising a wonderful little person. (She makes his b’day party invites by hand with him…me I’d be curled in the bathroom floor with a martini…) That said, I’ve also known people who have said, “I love my children, but if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have them.”

    So, yes, why don’t we (as noted above) all grow up.
    (I’d bet the show does appeal to some women – but they’re not going to come out and say they hate laundry, are going to scream if they hear “Mommy” one more time, etc.)

    Betty Friedan is sighing and spinning somewhere…

  5. There’s a third element in the marketing to women discussion, and that’s women who don’t want/can’t have children. I fall into the latter of those two, and you wouldn’t believe how many times – and in how many different forms (from old high school acquaintances to mass marketing campaigns) – I’ve been told how selfish/lazy/unfulfilled I am for not reproducing. It’s not just moms who run from pillar to post every day, have home/family issues to deal with, or have to get dinner on the table. Let’s face it, women are busy.

  6. Thankfulness (along with forgiveness)is the key to happiness.
    When we focus on the blessings we have, instead of what we don’t have, we experience profound peace. When we eliminate the turmoil in our lives, a whole new world of possibilities is opened up to us. We must all stop victimizing ourselves with self-torture, wishing and hoping for ??? everything we don’t have. “I’d be happy if only,” must be replaced with “What exciting opportunities are all around me, in the present circumstances I now find myself?” “What can I learn from this and how can I prosper from this experience?”
    Understanding that all problems are really “just opportunities in disguise,” changes our perspectives. Remember that all fortunes are built by solving problems. When we embrace our problems as positives, it allows us to look for solutions that that could prosper us. “Maybe I can invent something that will solve this problem and maybe others will buy my solution!” “If nothing else, my solution may lead to a book that helps others in the same situation.” Solving “My Problem” could make me wealthy!
    The Bible says, “In everything give thanks!” When we learn to do this, with integrity, life becomes a whole lot better. (Admittedly, in the beginning this is a lot easier said than done, but as we mature in our spiritual journey, it becomes much easier to do.) Life is exciting when we can see and measure our growth as we become people of wisdom! We even embrace our aging and are glad that “we aren’t where we used to be.”
    LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE… ENJOY!!!

  7. Thank you, Tracy, for your comment: as a fellow woman, it makes me sad that you, and other childless women, are criticized for not having children, whether by choice, or not.

    I think of a simple solution to this debate: for every woman to follow her own path, and let other women follow theirs.

    It saddens me when women engage in such negative, destructive, hurtful dialogue, such as the comments about the moms in the soccer mom show. But, there is another side of the picture: there are lots and lots and lots of moms who do support one another. I have awesome friends, some who work, some who don’t, some who work full time, some who work part time, and they’ve always supported each other. I’ve heard from other women who say the same thing. And yet I do have friends who’ve been criticized for their choices: I think of a friend, who, upon going back to work part time from home, with school aged children, was told by one of her children’s teachers: “How sad that you need to do this.”

    I want to encourage women to be their best selves. I think women have more untapped potential than any other natural resource in the world. And I think women can unleash their potential…if they stop tearing one another down, or tearing themselves down.

    I imagine a world where women love their bodies, love themselves, where they easily ask for help, where they are supported, where they nurture themselves. Imagine, if every woman did this. Why, it could truly change the world.

    That’s my save the world manifesto for today…smile.

    In sisterhood,
    Karly Pitman

  8. All I have to say is how dare you judge another mom? It’s great for you if you are fufilled by being a mother alone and I commend you. There is no doubt in my mind that your children will turn out wonderfully however what if something happened to your husband tomorrow? Why don’t you try to put mom down on a job application and see how far it gets you. With so many children being abused, molested, and abondened every year why should you rant about a mother working to help support her family? I have 3 children under 5 I volunteer at my son’s preshool, I bake cookies, I drive to birthday parties, I clean house, cook, have assembled and repaired thousands of toys, and am a full time college student with a 4.0 G.P.A. I know millions of kids songs by heart and have happy well behaved children one of which does karate and another that does gymnastics. I don’t remember the last time I slept but I love every minute of it and My children are loved by everyone. So if your a stay at home mom congrats! Get off the computer and mother your children.

  9. I agree w/ #3. This isn’t about what’s best for the kids, it’s about how motherhood is regarded in our culture. My contention is that it is another area for oneupmanship by means of competitive parenting. It’s about women projecting their perceived “worth” onto the so-called success of their kids. It also smacks of classism with regards to the ability to stay home with kids and still be not only financially secure but flourishing. A well educated stay at home wife with several small children is a big marker of a man’s success. Of course at this level many of them have full time nannies. So much for one on one time there. The less wealthy suburbanites who get to emulate all this without benefit of hired help are setting themselves up for martyrdom unless it is something that really gratifies them in a healthy way.

  10. Hi Holly,

    Ah He**!!!

    We’re all Individuals. Period.
    (I think you hit that nail on the head.)

    Different Lives. Different Experiences. Different Ideologies.
    We are Women, but we are Ourselves.

    What did Blake say: “To generalize is to be an idiot.”

    I’ll take four from one and deliver.

    All My Best,

    Jene’ Michele

    P.S. Buying the ebook now!

  11. Clearly, not one size fits all.

    p.s. Just found you over here, Holly. Nice to read you again.

  12. Clearly a nerve has been touched!

  13. Wow– I must be the only one who liked the show! What the show proved was that women remain as sharp as tacks no matter how many children, or how many years, go by.

    The question is . . . who’s surprised by this? Better yet, why is anyone surprised by this?!

    I only heard one person say he was amazed at the way a mom picked the game up again, after being away from it for so long—
    But he was a GUY!! And guys think one set of skills can’t be used in other ways!

    It seems like there’s an assumption that, when you become a SAHM, you’ve dropped out of the “workforce” when, in fact, you’re working harder than ever with your kids!

    But the dilemma pops up when you can’t put it on your resume! Wow! What a splash of cold water. No new news here but why haven’t times changed?

    This show helped widen the narrow-minded, derogatory attitude that many people have towards moms “re-entering” the workforce.

    This show helped change the perception of that old-fashioned, limited point of view which is that women lose their job skills, not if they’ve changed jobs but, only, if they become “stay-at-home” moms.

    I loved that the show found such classy, caring, dignified, smart women who clearly were superstars, both pre-baby and post. They showed the best that women can be.

    I’m still a SAHM and wasn’t sure anyone sympathized, or understood, or, heck, even cared what it’s like, what happens to you, when one becomes a SAHM.

    Missing your old life, something you were good at, had fun with, felt good about, those were memories of long ago.

    This show made me feel that someone made an effort to understand what it felt like to be me. I felt I had been given a gift – someone ‘heard’ me, ‘heard’ my story.

    There were no misunderstandings— they “got it”. That, at one time, you had Life A and now you have Life B. Good job, Soccer Mom producers!

    The darker side of women the show didn’t portray – the one that’s seen behind the scenes on these message boards – is freakin’ me out.

    I was looking up Soccer Mom shows cuz I missed the tv producer one and wanted to see it. Next thing I know, I’ve stumbled across some major hostility against the show.

    Wha-?

    I saw the same thing, on Phil Donahue in the ’80′s. The same level of hostility, between SAHMs and working moms, was brewing in the audience and was the topic of the day.

    We’re in 2008 now but you could’ve swapped out that show, aired it, and it would have been current today.

    I guess the more things change, the more things stay the same.
    Making that choice to be with your kids is a big one.

    If you can’t afford it, well, obviously that’s where the hostility’s coming from.

    I felt the hostility when I decided to stay home with my kids. All of a sudden, to working women, ones who knew me or didn’t know me, I became a bourgeois, pampered queen. Wow. What a black eye for women.

    Even now, when I have only one at home, a teenager, I still get wild card comments from “my friends”. along the lines of ‘if I had all day to ….’, or (to my husband) ‘you spoil her’. This within the last month.

    The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom was the show that showed people what I had done, what I did. Some people get paid for it as housekeeper/babysitter but they get something extra – respect

  14. Perhaps one way to describe all of us SAHM’s are “unsung heroes”. Truly, i don’t think anybody would object to that title since after all, it takes hard work to become a SAHM. People may not see it on paper like a resumé, but the amount of work and effort that goes into it simply is too great for people not to appreciate.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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