Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom may have been the flavor of the month but advertisers and the culture didn’t warm to the pushy Mother figure Chua described in her bestseller. A closer look at the Animal/Mom images people are buying reveals a different kind of Mom who works hard for the brood and has expectations – Eagle Mom
What happened to Tiger Mom, the popular best-seller and parenting ideal created by Amy Chua that resembled a particularly unforgiving Drill Sergeant? In advertising, and in Image Source photo sales, distributed worldwide through more than 200 partners, there was little evidence of Tiger Mom, no Tigers berating their 5-year old offspring for missing out on a Distinction in their Graduate Astrophysics paper.
We wondered whether any of the other metaphors for Motherhood suggested in the aftermath of the Tiger Mom debate had taken root, such as author Meg Rosoff’s immensely attractive idea of Lemur Mom. While Tiger Mom is relentlessly driven Lemur Mom has a more subtle strategy:
“Infant lemurs are stashed in a hidden location while the mother lemur gets on with lounging, reading books and drinking gin and tonic. If inappropriate television, Facebook or Topshop vouchers are required to pacify the infant lemur, this is not rejected as a strategy.” But though Lemur Mom’s philosophy has its attractions, we didn’t see too many Lemurs among our best-sellers.
And while it would have been satisfying to discover an uptick in sales of Llamas (“Llama Mama”) we have seen other animals raise their head in Animals/Moms searches. Such as the Otter, which should be no surprise because the Otter is a powerfully symbolic animal archetype, and is apparently JK Rowling’s favourite animal. No surprise that the figure of the Otter was Hermione’s “Patronus” in Harry Potter (the Patronus is a protector, a material manifestation of inner feeling).
The Otter as a cultural symbol is playful, intelligent and unconventional, which makes Otter Mom the exact opposite of Tiger Mom, and indeed more reflective of Modern Mom’s most precious quality – the need to adapt and improvise. Modern Mom isn’t about “balancing” or “multi-tasking” she’s a wizard in the art of improvisation (though Moms are required to pretend to bosses and everyone else that the work/family schedule is seamlessly faultless). And while the Tiger might be dynamic, the Otter is graceful.
Then there is Turtle Mom. The sales of Turtle images are like Moms, always there, consistent, dependable and reliable. The Turtle has a rich set of deep-rooted meanings, often linked to creation myths. Don’t Moms sometimes feel like they carry the world on their back? The Turtle is resolute, but compared to Tiger Mom is less likely to get shouty and on their kids backs. In Native American culture the Turtle is a signifier of fertility and perseverance. Turtle Mom is the perfect image of a Mom who gets on with it, no fuss, no heroics, no complaints. Turtle Mom just gets the job done.
But perhaps the most consistently attractive animal archetype and image seller is that of the Eagle. Eagles are a steady and strong seller combining concepts of strength, leadership, and vision, with an underlying work ethic. Eagles mate for life, work their talons off to raise the brood, but then have very high expectations of them. But that doesn’t mean the talons are brought out by a child’s knockback at school, sport, or music. Achievement, as every Eagle Mom knows, isn’t defined by winning, but by the courage and strength to learn from mistakes.
Got a new mom archetype? Use the comment box below to send us your suggestions
Image Source/Gordon Bramham