“For the vacation people think you’re going on”: an ad agency’s response to maternity leave misconceptions

“So far from a pool toy, you have no idea.”
“So far from a pool toy, you have no idea.”
Image: YouTube/72andSunny
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A media executive friend still shakes her head when she remembers the story: as she was preparing to leave for a 12-week maternity leave with her first son, a younger colleague stopped by her desk and pouted, “I wish could go on a paid vacation.”

Most people know this, but for the few professionals out there thinking of asking an expectant mother about her upcoming “vacation plans,” maternity leave is not a company-sanctioned bonus for producing a child. Maternity leave is leave from work to care for an extremely small dependent who requires 24-hour access to a responsible adult. It is not a vacation, unless your vacations tend to start with stitches in uncomfortable places and include erratic sleep and the handling of others’ bodily wastes.

Yet the myth persists. In response, as AdWeek first reported, the ad agency 72andSunny New York has created a pitch-perfect parody of an e-commerce site that skewers misperceptions and acknowledges the messy realities of post-partum leave.

The agency created a fake product line called “Mommy Bahama,” with the tagline: “A resort wear collection for the vacation people think you’re going on.” Against a millennial-pink backdrop, a glossy-skinned model shows off summery-print products instantly recognizable to anyone whose been in the post-partum trenches.

There are the mesh underpants.

The pumping bra.

The peri bottle.

The butt donut.

“On this vacation you really can have it all, even if it all kinda hurts,” the lookbook copy reads.

Any time off from work to care for a child is, in fact, a privilege in the US, the only major industrialized country without national paid maternity leave. Federal law entitles new parents to 12 unpaid weeks of leave, which many new mothers don’t take for fear of losing wages or their job. Only about 14% of US private sector employees have access to paid family leave, and an Ohio State University study last year found that less than half of US women who took time off from work to care for children were paid during the time.

For those with the relative good fortune to be able to recover from childbirth without fear of losing their job, the Mommy Bahama products are only jokes—for now.

“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,” 72and Sunny’s creative director Tara Lawall told Adweek. “They’d be something to give a fellow working mom as a shower gift.”