Monday, August 10, 2009

My life is nothing like those commercials

If I drop anything consistently in my constant work-life juggle, it's cleaning. I hate to vacuum. I tend to clutter. I can ignore stuff that I think is temporary, like plastic toys and board books. My husband goes into "cleaning tantrums" and I feel like he's cleaning at me. So it should come as no surprise that commercials for cleaning products manage to be both eye-catching and irritating, to me. One reader at The 36-Hour Day pointed out that she doesn't have self-esteem issues because of the models in magazines, but because of those wildly unrealistic images of moms in cleaning commercials, and that's exactly how I feel, too!
I try to watch what my kids watch, which means that the commercials I sit through are geared mostly either to kids (Toys! Games! Candy!) or to moms (Body wash! Convenience foods! Cleaning products!). Or, I should say, "moms," because really, a commercial pitched to directly me, and most of the working moms I know, would involve wine and sleep.

The commercials for cleaning products bug me the most, because they just seem completely unrealistic. I mean, really -- who takes time away from their work-life juggle to wipe down an already pristine living room? I'm looking at you, makers of a
certain multi-surface cleaner, the commercial for which caught my eye this morning. A woman, in a glass cage filled with already-clean kitchen appliances and cabinets, quips that she doesn't have time to clean because she has to go pick up her kids, but is able to wipe up a few smudges and smears without having to use several different cleaners. After she's done, the place looks exactly the same, but she looks tired and relieved.

I don't know about you, but my housework workload would not be significantly reduced by not having to switch cleaning products while dusting my bookshelves. For one thing, my bookshelves are too cluttered for me to see the actual shelving and, for another, who's going to scrutinize my bookshelves besides my mom, who gave up on my cleaning decades ago?

I guess I just don't relate to these commercials. Who are these women? I do not have snow-white carpets throughout my home and, if I did, I would not smile and sigh ruefully when my child spills a glass of grape juice upon it, because who lets their preschoolers wander through the house with open, breakable glasses of anything, let alone something that stains?

I do not vacuum a perfect pattern into my carpets -- I vacuum to stop dog-hair
tumbleweeds from forming, and to pick up crumbs that are so big my toddler would
try to snack on them if I didn't get to them first. My bathroom is not bigger than my living room; it is not filled with matching accessories. I do not gracefully traipse down the stairs, in a cute little dress with matching purse and jewelry, to go walk the dog. I never stop on my way out the door to inhale the perfumed air of my home. Here's my reality: My dog gets pushed out the partway open door so that my neighbors don't catch a glimpse of me looking the way I do in the morning, while I sniff the air to make sure I've gotten him out into the yard on time.

If you want me to buy your products, you're going to need to come up with a commercial that shows me how they really work. Take a harried mom -- I'd prefer you use a dad, but I'm not completely unrealistic; with certain wonderful exceptions, women still do the bulk of the housework. So take a busy working mom who can't afford a cleaning service, and show me how your amazing product will make the kitchen full of dirty dishes, the mountain of laundry, the crunchy carpeting, the pile of mismatched shoes in the entry way, and the smudged windows all be magically clean by the time she gets home in the evening.

That's a commercial I'd be happy to watch.

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