In the first days of motherhood, I was looking for something, anything, to help me wrap my head around how my world had changed.
Even six years ago, the Instagram algorithm was working “for” me, and I landed in the rabbit hole of lots of mom bloggers and influencers. You know the accounts – the ones with the pristine countertops and perfect outfits for their children. Part of me loved the entertainment during the 3 am nursing sessions, the other half hated how much I drank the Kool-Aid. I wanted their home aesthetics, their baby products, their “effortless” makeup and hair routines that wouldn’t leave me looking like the sleep-deprived bedraggled mess I was.
It’s that both/and that Sara Petersen dives into the deep end with Momfluenced. With her humor, wit, and deep research, Petersen explores the intersections of mom influencer culture, capitalism and identity. She explores how mom influencers are not just the simple, easy-breezy moms they portray, but are also content creators, marketers, and savvy businesspersons with products, #ads, and #sponsoredcontent. She details the mominfluencer archetypes and they have on their audience based on expert interviews, and And she doesn’t stop there – she digs deep into the ways that racism and white supremacy play into our ideals of “good mothering” and domesticity, and how that has ebbed and flowed over time.
My main takeaway (among many): Be very intentional about what you consume and where you’re giving power with your attention and your wallet.
“I’m always fascinated with performances of domesticity, feminist rage as it relates to mothers. I’m fascinated by mom influencer culture is the intersection of class, race, ethnicity, economics, and more,” said Petersen. She went into this research centering her own struggles with momfluencer culture, thinking that the central issue was just that we’re absorbing the messages that we need to have perfect homes and kids. As she interviewed the psychologists, parenting experts, journalists and pop culture analysts, it became clear that the central issue is much bigger. For Petersen, the central issue of the book is that we’re seeing a certain type of mom distracted by a white influencer mom who is commodifying a false life, and to quote Petersen, “it’s not the biggest issue facing moms in our country by a long shot.”
What I greatly appreciated was that Petersen spent a significant part of the book addressing the elephant in the room: whiteness and how the representation of white mothers isolates and shoves out mothers of color. Watching mom influencers online can be entertaining, but it also can distract us from where we should be paying attention: maternal health rate and disparity by race, maternal mental health, rising childcare costs and more.
Beyond inequities and challenges in motherhood, the biggest question from her work has rolled around my brain for weeks. What, of our daily responsibilities and identity, is performing motherhood and what part is actually mothering? Mominfluenced makes me wonder what part of my daily actions and the content I consume is performative versus actually beneficial. I wonder the same for those around me as well.
In Petersen’s estimation, “We perform motherhood for ourselves. We mother for others.”