It has finally happened. I’ve hit that inevitable age, where despite all logic, the biological clock has gone from a lingering whisper to an audible scream. Although I will not be putting any buns in my oven any time soon, I have become acutely aware of just how many times in a day I am bombarded with all things baby. I recently conducted a formal study to see if it was just me, seeing babies everywhere because it is on my mind, or if the media really was trying to shove them down my throat, figuratively, of course.
For two weeks I kept a journal, tracking every time any medium used a baby to sell a product. I included tactics like showing a baby item, even though an entire baby was not present. For example, a commercial for laundry detergent depicted a woman folding a baby onesie, but there was no sight or sound, or even a mention of a baby. The study excluded toddlers and children, as they do not have quite the same kick-in-the-ovaries effect that a fresh baby does.
Prior to implementing this study, I hypothesized that the majority of television commercials for baby products would air during the day and that the majority of commercials not necessarily for baby products but depicting a baby would air during the evening. To my surprise, the bulk of both types of television commercials aired on the weekends, at all times of the day, during all types of shows. I sacrificed afternoons watching shows like Dr. Phil and Oprah, journal in hand, ready to document the onslaught of baby commercials I was most certainly about to encounter, to no avail. Some television shows would air up to three commercials featuring baby things in half an hour while others would go a full hour with nothing, but on average, every half hour block of television contained 1.3 commercials that met the criteria. These commercials don’t seem to have a simple formula to determine when and where they will air, I’m sure it’s not random, but it sure seemed that way.
When I first began, I was excited to see what kinds of products would use a baby to market their product. The obvious offenders included: baby lotion, home pregnancy tests, home ovulation prediction tests, baby formula, diapers, diaper rash cream, baby toys, and Walmart. The more interesting and shameless, less obvious offenders were: laundry detergent, blueberry plants, magazines (six out of eleven had a baby or the words “pregnant”, “baby” or “twins” on the cover), an internet shopping website (that was not exclusively selling baby products), a community news hour, a car, mascara, several cameras, Sears carpet, upholstery and air duct cleaning services mail coupons and a community newspaper. A particularly ovary-wrenching television commercial that could not be included in this study because it did not show anything associated with a baby, still stands out in my memory. It was for a website support community for new mothers; the spokeswoman was listed as being my age. She was droning on and on about the joys of motherhood while all I could think was, why did they have to pick an actress who looks even younger than her supposed age?
I believe I am not the only one who has been affected by this ploy; it seems these days everyone is pushing a double stroller. I can’t log on to my Facebook account without being bombarded with pictures of babies that I have never met. (It reminds me of a certain scene from a certain television show.) I also have to contend with the multitude of baby Facebook advertisements targeted towards some sort of setting I have chosen in my profile. Based on my gender, my age or possibly my relationship status, these advertisers assume I simply must have a baby, stretch marks and baby weight to lose.
It’s getting to the point where I’m not sure if I should have obtained a baby by now, because seemingly everyone else in my peer group has, that’s just what they want me to think, or perhaps, they think I’ll see a cuddly, giggling baby and say to myself, ‘I don’t own enough blueberry plants.’