On Instagram, the private work of mothering is turned into a public performance, generating billions of dollars. The message is simple: we're all just a couple of clicks away from a better, more beautiful experience of motherhood.
Linen-clad momfluencers hawking essential oils, parenting manuals, baby slings, and sponsored content for Away suitcases make us want to forget that the reality of mothering in America is an isolating, exhausting, almost wholly unsupported endeavor. In a culture which denies mothers basic human rights, it feels good to click “purchase now” on whatever a momfluencer might be selling. It feels good to hope.
Momfluencers are just like us, except they aren’t. They are mothers, yes. They are also marketing strategists, content creators, lighting experts, advertising executives, and artists. They are businesswomen. The most successful momfluencers offer content that differs very little from what we used to find in glossy women’s magazines like Glamour and Real Simple, only they’re churning it out daily and that content is their lives.
We flock to momfluencers to learn about fashion, wellness, parenting, politics, and to find Brooklyn-designed crib sheets printed with radishes. Chances are, if you’re a mother reading this (and maybe even if you’re not!), you are an arm’s length away from something you’ve purchased because a momfluencer made it look good.
Drawing on her own fraught relationship to momfluencer culture, Sara Petersen incorporates pop culture analysis and interviews with prominent momfluencers and experts (psychologists, academics, technologists) to explore the glorification of the ideal mama online with both humor and empathy. At home on a bookshelf with Lyz Lenz's Belabored and Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror, Momfluenced argues that momfluencers don’t simply sell mothers on the benefits of bamboo diapers, they sell us the dream of motherhood itself, a dream tangled up in whiteness, capitalism, and the heteronormative nuclear family.
Momfluenced considers what it means to define motherhood for ourselves when society is determined to define motherhood for us.
Sara Petersen is a writer based in New Hampshire. Her essays about feminism, domesticity, and motherhood have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, The Washington Post, InStyle, Glamour, and elsewhere. She also writes a newsletter about the myth of the ideal mother, In Pursuit of Clean Countertops. You can find her at sara-petersen.com, and on Twitter and Instagram @slouisepetersen.
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