By Janice Lindegard
Maybe you’ve seen them. The Proctor and Gamble “Thank you, Mom” commercials showing moms around the world getting their little athletes out of bed, shuttling them to lessons, washing out their work out gear, biting their nails at meets—all so the tykes can grow into Olympic athletes? Another shows athletes arriving and competing at the Olympics and each athlete is portrayed by a child ‘cause “in their moms’ eyes,” the ad states, they are all still kids. The spots have gone viral on the Internet primarily because they’re real tearjerkers.
They make me cry, too, but not only because of their sentimental portrayal of the sacrifices moms make for their kids. I’m saddened the whole campaign focuses on moms as if they are the sole reason athletes are able to rise to the pinnacle of their sports.
Tell that to Apolo Ohno, raised by a single dad who juggled 12-hour shifts at his hair salon and caring for his infant son. Dad got Apolo into competitive swimming and inline skating to keep his son from becoming a latch-key kid. When Apolo switched to speed skating at 12 years old, his father drove him to competitions throughout the US and Canada and got him into the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center at 13. Apolo is the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete in history.
Gymnast Nastia Liukin and tennis player Serena Williams are coached by their fathers. Ireland’s Katie Taylor, also coached by her father, is following in his footsteps; she’s the world women’s boxing champion.
Virtually assured of a slot on TeamUSA in 2016 is 13-year-old diver Jordan Windle, who nearly won a spot on the 2012 team. Jordan, adopted from Cambodia at age two, will have two dads to thank should he achieve his dream.
I have nothing against giving mom a pat on the back but the P&G spots make me queasy reinforcing, as they do, the idea that raising children is a woman’s job. One in three children is currently living in a home absent their biological father and 24 percent of children are being raised by a single mother.
Abundant research shows the presence of responsible, involved fathers reduces poverty, prevents child neglect and abuse, increases child health and academic performance and decreases discipline problems, among many other benefits. In that light, leaving dad out of the picture in an advertisement seems irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst. P&G claims it is the “proud sponsor of moms.” How hard would it have been to be proud sponsor of parents?
The P&G commercials are fictional dramatizations of idealized moms. If you’re still looking for an Olympic moment that will bring tears to your eyes, look back to 1992 when British runner Derek Redmond tore a hamstring muscle in the 400 meters. In pain, he hobbled to the finish supported by a man who ran onto the track from the stands—his father.