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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

My house does not look like that

Categories: Making Time, The Juggle


I try to watch what my kids watch, which means that the commercials I sit through are geared mostly either to kids (Toys! Games! Candy!) or to moms (Body wash! Convenience foods! Cleaning products!). Or, I should say, “moms,” because really, a commercial pitched to directly me, and most of the working moms I know, would involve wine and sleep.

The commercials for cleaning products bug me the most, because they just seem completely unrealistic. I mean, really — who takes time away from their work-life juggle to wipe down an already pristine living room? I’m looking at you, makers of a certain multi-surface cleaner, the commercial for which caught my eye this morning. A woman, in a glass cage filled with already-clean kitchen appliances and cabinets, quips that she doesn’t have time to clean because she has to go pick up her kids, but is able to wipe up a few smudges and smears without having to use several different cleaners. After she’s done, the place looks exactly the same, but she looks tired and relieved.

I don’t know about you, but my housework workload would not be significantly reduced by not having to switch cleaning products while dusting my bookshelves. For one thing, my bookshelves are too cluttered for me to see the actual shelving and, for another, who’s going to scrutinize my bookshelves besides my mom, who gave up on my cleaning decades ago?

I guess I just don’t relate to these commercials. Who are these women? I do not have snow-white carpets throughout my home and, if I did, I would not smile and sigh ruefully when my child spills a glass of grape juice upon it, because who lets their preschoolers wander through the house with open, breakable glasses of anything, let alone something that stains?

I do not vacuum a perfect pattern into my carpets — I vacuum to stop dog-hair tumbleweeds from forming, and to pick up crumbs that are so big my toddler would try to snack on them if I didn’t get to them first. My bathroom is not bigger than my living room; it is not filled with matching accessories. I do not gracefully traipse down the stairs, in a cute little dress with matching accessories, to go walk the dog. I never stop on my way out the door to inhale the perfumed air of my home. Here’s my reality: My dog gets pushed out the partway open door so that my neighbors don’t catch a glimpse of me looking the way I do in the morning, while I sniff the air to make sure I’ve gotten him out into the yard on time.

If you want me to buy your products, you’re going to need to come up with a commercial that shows me how they really work. Take a harried mom — I’d prefer you use a dad, but I’m not completely unrealistic; with certain wonderful exceptions, women still do the bulk of the housework. So take a busy working mom who can’t afford a cleaning service, and show me how your amazing product will make the kitchen full of dirty dishes, the mountain of laundry, the crunchy carpeting, the pile of mismatched shoes in the entry way, and the smudged windows all be magically clean by the time she gets home in the evening.

That’s a commercial I’d be happy to watch.

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6 comments so far...

  • I cringe at the one where the woman says her life is SOOOO much easier because the product is laundry detergent, softening agent, and a dryer sheet all in one. As if throwing separate products into the washer and dryer was what made laundry so never-ending and time-consuming. Obviously some advertising exec just DOES NOT GET IT!

    Forget the roomba, what I want is a robot that gathers, sorts, transfers, folds, and puts away the clothes!

    SoftwareMom  |  August 3rd, 2009 at 4:21 pm

  • Amen! I think that all the time…

    Petra aka The Wise (Young) Mommy  |  August 3rd, 2009 at 4:30 pm

  • My thought are always:

    1) Germs are healthy, lady! Let your kids be around a little dirt.

    2) That kid would be shaking in his boots if I was his mother and he made that kind of mess. Not looking at me like, “gosh, how did those muddy tracks get there?”

    SKL  |  August 3rd, 2009 at 9:47 pm

  • Those commercials really annoy me, like we’re some brainless cleaning slaves, blindly following the call of Proctor & Gamble to rush to the store and buy their cleaning products. If it was up to me they could gladly shove their mr Fresh up there where the sun don’t shine! Excuse pour les mots.

    12 Weeks Pregnant  |  August 4th, 2009 at 8:55 am

  • Great post. I totally agree. I don’t have self-esteem issues because of the models in magazine, I have self-esteem issues because of those commercials!

    Kristen  |  August 4th, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  • This is also something that’s surprised me. I figured it was because most ads were made by men. But there was an exception to this in an ad that played on Indian tv when I was a kid. An ad for detergent showed a man doing the washing up to help his wife and also because it was so easy with this detergent etc. A different version of the same ad had a bitchy neighbour talking about modern women for which the guy had witty retorts. It helped that the guy was a real hunk :) Effective ad since I remember it a good decade later.

    Uma  |  August 4th, 2009 at 11:49 pm

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