Why Guilty Pleasure Should Be Banned From Moms’ Vocabulary

Why Guilty Pleasure Should Be Banned From Moms’ Vocabulary

AUTHOR Allison Arling-Giorgi DATE 05-09-2024

As I write this, I’m 8-months pregnant with my second child. I also have a four-year-old, a full-time career, and a full plate of adult responsibilities. As a soon-to-be mom of two, I’m just one of approximately 24.2 million mothers in the US labor force with children younger than 18. In my short tenure as a mom, I’ve learned that balance is critical — and by balance, I mean how I define it, not how a textbook might.

Personally, I subscribe to the idea that a happy and fulfilled mom is ultimately a better mom. With some hefty self-reflection, I’ve learned that what works for me to feel fulfilled is taking time to put in an audiobook — preferably a novel — to literally tune-out the world for at least a few hours each weekend. It also looks like making the time to get lunch or dinner with a group of friends. And it’s swinging by my local bakery during the week and grabbing something sweet just because.

Ask any mom what they do to ‘fill their cup’ and you will probably get a range of answers. Some might have a candy stash that they don’t share with their kids, others a weekly manicure, or probably most commonly, watching something that’s not animated for an hour after their kids go to bed.

Now, how many of you would describe the above as a ‘guilty pleasure’? You might have automatically filled in the blank because it’s been repeated so many times by other moms, parents, or culture in general. Those are all pleasures, I agree, but can we also agree that guilt should be the absolute last adjective used as a qualifier?

I will go one step further and suggest we ban ‘guilty pleasure’ from our vocabulary altogether and say instead that we all deserve a bit of indulgence — which, broadly speaking, boils down to something that you allow yourself to enjoy or treat yourself to. It provides joy or pleasure. It is desired or wanted, but isn’t typically a necessity for living (I’d venture most parents might disagree on the last point…).

Indulgence most certainly shouldn't be reserved for mothers of a certain socioeconomic class, but rather enjoyed universally. But it's hard. We have been fed a steady diet of guilty pleasure this, and mom guilt that. Fortunately, there are clues that this is changing. I’m one of the millions of parents who watch Big Little Feelings and Dr. Becky discuss why taking time away for yourself isn’t selfish, but rather self-sustaining.

Indulgence is something I know particularly well in my career, using my background in research and insights to develop strategies for brands. At Method1, we leverage behavioral science to create emotional connections between people & brands centered on human behavior and supercharged by creativity in the world of indulgence. It’s with this expertise that I advocate taking a different communications approach for mothers and brands that speak to mothers (hello, they make up to 83% of purchasing decisions in households across the U.S.) by embracing a key behavioral science bias — Price Relativity, which focuses on our perception of value being relative to that which it is being compared. It’s about changing the context. Flipping the script.

What if instead of talking about missing time with your kids to have dinner with girlfriends, that dinner is reframed as two hours of recharging your adult battery so you can spend two hours the next morning crawling around on the floor pretending to be a beetle? What if the story was not about a weekly manicure that costs $30 and keeps you away for 90 minutes, it’s instead about refilling your cup to be a present, more patient parent when you get home?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of this thinking out in the world, and it is ripe territory for the indulgence brands we work with at Method1. Orange Theory’s Mother’s Other Day Campaign last year started down the path, but I want to see a chocolate brand, an ice cream maker, or even a wine company really speak to this mindset shift.

With Mother’s Day this weekend, what if your brand was to reframe your story and speak to a massive cohort of moms who feel like brands are telling them an outdated narrative? I know I would appreciate it.

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