Fierce Mama founders find hope in tough times

Despite this year's chaos, the community of working moms formed around the project see long-term change on the horizon.

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The minds behind Fierce Mama Cards didn’t think the pandemic would still be raging on Mother’s Day 2021.

The crisis and its consequences have been difficult for working moms who have juggled the need to work from home with increased demands and expectations from their families. And while the Fierce Mama team tried to capture the chaos of the situation in their efforts last year, “we realized things are so much darker now than a year ago,” says Rica Eckersley, ECD at Union.

Eckersley is one of the five working moms behind the project, along with Taxi CCO Alexis Bronstorph, freelance designer Kimberley Pereira, The&Partnership design director Kammy Ahuja and The&Partnership account director Lindsay Di Tolla. The focal point of their work is an annual set of Mother’s Day cards they have created every year since 2018, each one based around a different theme that highlight the realities moms face when it comes to balancing their careers with parenting.

FierceMama_crylikenobodyswatchingThe darkness Eckersley refers to permeates this year’s Fierce Mama Cards, which are blunt about the chaos of the last year, from issuing “primal screams into the abyss” to crying “like nobody’s watching.”

“Having worlds collide has been very difficult. It’s a challenge mothers have never encountered on this level before,” says Ahuja. “Our cards don’t sugar coat it. There is no achieving a work-life balance because obviously, it doesn’t work. It’s non-existent right now.”

But the past year has also inspired hope in the Fierce Mama team, who have found strength in the community they are building with the project. That includes a new initiative this year called Real Mama Talk, which has seen the team feature the voices of other women in the advertising industry on their Instagram account.

“That’s been a new part of the narrative this year, bringing those other voices in to give their honest take on how they’re surviving this craziness,” explains Eckersley.

“We found a really nice, diverse range of women working in the industry – and not just at the agencies,” adds Bronstorph. “The more we hear from real moms, the more we know we’re not alone.”

Even before the pandemic, moms working in advertising and marketing had to navigate an industry culture that often demanded working long hours and glorified those that put in extra “hussle.” The goal of the new initiative is not only to showcase the toughness and resilience of working mothers in the industry, but also to “get a conversation going” between them, says Ahuja. In doing so, the hope is not only to give them relief from the stresses of working from home, but also to find a collective voice that can advocate for greater flexibility and better working conditions for mothers in the industry.

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As companies across industries begin to look towards the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many of their plans involve more flexible working models that will make working from home at least some of the time a reality of working life. But instead of seeing that as a sign that the lines between work and parenting will be permanently blurred, the Fierce Mama team is optimistic that the experience everyone in the industry has gleaned over the past year will lead to meaningful change.

“There’s so much we can do to our regular working day to make it more positive for everybody,” explains Ahuja. “This idea that there’s a 9-to-5 box that we all have to live in, I think we all need to let go of that.”

That shift seems likelier than ever before because men have now been given new perspectives on the chaos of working while trying to raise a family, and that “male experience” will help drive more empathetic decision-making in the future, Ahuja says.

“Some male leaders have a difficult time experiencing empathy until they have experienced something themselves,” echoes Eckersley. “I think this time has been very eye-opening for men in the industry.”