The Road to Motherhood
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

From “12 Lessons to learn if you want to be a mother”:

Lesson 3: To discover how the nights will feel …

  1. 1. Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8–12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.

  2. 2. At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.

  3. 3. Get up at midnight and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1am.

  4. 4. Set the alarm for 3am.

  5. 5. As you can’t get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a drink.

  6. 6. Go to bed at 2:45am.

  7. 7. Get up at 3am when the alarm goes off.

  8. 8. Sing songs in the dark until 4am.

  9. 9. Put the alarm on for 5am.

  10. 10. Get up. Make breakfast.

Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

— So you want to be a mother …?1

Introduction

Life is a journey—and if you are a woman, the journey may take you to the land of motherhood. Most women—and in particular mothers-to-be—have fantasies about what it is going to be like after their arrival in the land of motherhood, as well as having concerns about ways they do not want it to be. Their fantasies and their concerns are fueled by society-at-large, as well as by marketers in ads aimed towards mothers-to-be.

In this essay we will explore the meanings salient in pram ads and the accounts of mothers-to-be about pram acquisition. In this exploration we seek to sift out the different illuminations of motherhood in pram advertisements and illustrate how mothers (-to-be) negotiate and struggle with fantasies of motherhood.

Fourteen women shared their roads to motherhood and motherhood experiences with us throughout our studies on motherhood and consumption, and we would like to thank them. We interviewed these women before turning our attention to pram ads.2 The citations in this paper are not direct reactions towards the ads, but rather accounts of the general struggle with motherhood ideologies and pressures. The fourteen interviewees were middle- and upper-middle class Danish women. While we believe that some of the themes that we shared are universal motherhood experiences, we recognize that other important themes may unfortunately be neglected due to our selection of subjects.

Why prams?

The use and meaning of baby carriages vary in different cultures. However, in Denmark, prams are considered important to most families in the making.3 We have noticed that many foreigners express surprise about the large number of prams on the street, as well their large size and their solid and practical character. Their surprise just as often develops into disbelief when they learn that, normally, Danish children, up to the age of two or three, will frequently sleep during the day outdoors in their prams, all year-long, including winter time. According to the Danish Health Authorities, children from early infancy up may sleep outside during the day, and if the mattress, the cover, and the child’s clothing are appropriate, it is considered secure to let them sleep outside at temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius.4 By many parents it is assumed that sleeping outside will improve the immune system of the child. However, the pram is not only considered the child’s “second bed,” but it is also used as a means of transportation. The pram enables the caretaker to go for walks even during the child is sleep. Currently, Danish law guarantees a partially funded, nearly one-year maternity leave for new mothers and fathers. The local health authorities also establish play-groups and mother’s groups to share their free time and experiences. Therefore, being able to take the infant (and its second bed) along is a priority for many, if not most, parents.

In terms of expense, the pram often represents the most expensive single item acquired before birth. It is likely that the vehicle will stay with the family for at least five...