In Momfluenced: Inside the Maddening, Picture-Perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture, journalist Sara Petersen dives into the world of Instagram’s professional moms. These women make a living—or at least some side cash—showcasing their personal brand of life with their “littles,” hawking both consumer goods and an idealized version of modern motherhood.
Petersen deftly dissects the aesthetics of good motherhood, skewers popular momfluencer tropes, and pokes fun at her own tendency to buy both the goods and the fantasy they’re selling. The book refuses to trivialize the work that goes into creating and monetizing a successful online brand. It shows how momfluencers have adapted to shifting digital landscapes, explores the diversity of creators and audiences that run and read momfluencer accounts, and examines the peculiar intersections between momfluencer culture and conspiracy theories such as QAnon.
But the book is marred by condescension, shallow theorizing, and too much trendy hand-wringing. Constant references to progressive bugaboos feel at times perfunctory—as if Petersen had a quota to meet of complaints about “whiteness,” “patriarchy,” and “capitalism”—and at times nonsensical. For instance, she suggests that idealized imagery of “the perfect white mom” makes it “harder for queer moms to create families” and for “fat moms [to access] fertility treatments.”
Her analysis is also cluttered with pervasive complaints about momfluencers appearing unconcerned with things Petersen and her friends care about—masking up, climate change, opposing Donald Trump—despite little evidence the author and her peers are doing anything about these issues other than caring. And worrying. And feeling smug that they’re doing so while some Instagram moms care more about clean countertops.
In a book that often bemoans the unrealistic expectations put on American mothers, Petersen herself sets up one more largely irrelevant litmus test for what makes a good mom.
Author: Elizabeth Nolan Brown