It starts with Kelly strolling into an immaculate and palatial laundry room in high heels and putting in a load of laundry while her voiceover chirps, "Now that I have my Electrolux washer and perfect steam dryer, I can juggle more things in my day!" Then the theme from Bewitched starts playing, and we see Kelly putting away folded clothes as if she were a Stepford Wife on speed. (Her eyes are glazed, and she has a dumb grin on her face.) She proceeds to feed the dog from afar via a flick of her heel, then puts shirts on three equally robotic little girls without touching them. (The girls, who are sitting stiffly on a couch in a suspiciously adult-looking den, barely acknowledge her presence.) Then Kelly (in voiceover again) exults, "With the Electrolux washer and perfect steam dryer, you can remove wrinkles and wash and dry clothes in just 36 minutes! So you can be [dramatic pause] even more amazing." And with that, she tosses three cookies in the air, which the girls catch without looking--the implication being that Kelly made the cookies from scratch in the time she'd saved doing laundry.
Sigh. Haven't we gotten long past the view that "amazing" mothers must keep themselves and their homes looking perfect at all times, bake everything from scratch, and do laundry in their heels--all without thanks or appreciation of any kind? I'd thought so, but apparently I was wrong. To the Electrolux people, at least, "being more amazing" still means fitting as much housework as you possibly can into every single day. If you're a woman, that is. If you're a man, you evidently have other options. At one point in the commercial, Kelly takes a man's white shirt out of the dryer and regards it fondly; the absent husband, apparently, is out in the world somewhere doing "man's work."
At best, the ad (with its '60s music and equally '60s Susie-Homemaker theme) is a flash to the not-so-great past. At worst, it's an attempt to resurrect the harmful stereotype that a woman's place is in the home. But it's not just the antiquated view of women here that ticks me off. It's also the fact that the ad reinforces the cult of busy-ness that, in my view, is ruining lots of women's lives. The ad's clear message is, "Any time saved on chores should be spent doing other chores." Important bulletin: The more time you spend every day cooking and cleaning and running errands, the more of your life will be spent cooking and cleaning and running errands. Do you really want to look back from your death bed and think, "Well, I didn't hug my kids enough, but at least their clothes weren't wrinkled"? Of course not. But if you consistently prioritize never-ending chores over human relationships, that's exactly what could happen. I find it significant that none of the players in this ad interact with each other in any meaningful way. "Mom" Kelly and the three girls are detached and unaffectionate; they hardly look at--let alone touch--each other. No one even pets the dog. To me, the commercial is an allegory of the isolation that results from too much technology and the belief that busy-ness equals value.
Hey, go ahead and buy the Electrolux washer and dryer if you want to. But if they save you any time at all, please don't fill those precious found minutes with yet more busy work. Instead, take the kids (and the dog) out in the fresh air and do something that feeds your souls, such as cloud-watching or kite-flying. Enjoy the moment and each other. Share your love. Because in the end, that's truly time well spent.
Brooklyn-based writer and humorist Elizabeth Kuster is the author of the popular self-help/humor book Exorcising Your Ex and has held editor positions at Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and CosmoGIRL! magazines.