Law in the Internet Society

Modern Motherhood: the tale of the mommy influencer

-- By JulieLi - 1 Feb 2020


Through a series of perfectly imperfect causes and effects, the existence of the internet has provided a small but significant group of mothers with the opportunity to ‘have it all’. The modern woman, beholden to the ticking of the biological clock, is presented with a decision for which there is no right choice – a working mother is criticised for failing to fulfil the time intensive duties of mothering while a mother who does not work is beholden economically to another person. The internet however, by providing women with opportunities to monetise their daily mommy life, has created working conditions that empower women to be breadwinners and primary caretakers at the same time. This essay is an exploration of the socioeconomic forces behind the birth of the mommy influencer and seeks to outline areas for further exploration in this emerging demographic of female workers.

The birth of the mommy influencer

The mommy influencer, born of social media, is a blogger who curates their online identity around their experience of life as a mother. Many mommy bloggers were already influencers before they became mothers, while others became mommy bloggers as they settled into motherhood. A smaller number of mommy bloggers manage social media accounts for their children, becoming the orchestrators of an online identity for which their child is the model. Mommy bloggers use a variety of interfaces including blog websites, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook and post in a wide variety of time frames ranging from daily to sporadic. Children are the main subject of mommy blog content, with Crystal Aibidin categorising the children’s ‘domestic filler’ activities into five categories: (1) developmental milestones (2) family occasions (3) errands (4) confessions and personal reflections and (5) responses to daily happenings. Mommy influencers will also often produce a host of other content ranging from motherhood advice, to product reviews, lifestyle content, fashion features and so on.

The mommy influencer is a product of the internet. As our own Professor Moglen writes in The dotCommunist Manifesto, digital technology “transformed the bourgeois economy” as “the dominant goods in the system of production – the articles of cultural consumption that are both commodities sold and instructions to the worker on what and how to buy – along with all other forms of culture and knowledge now… (had) zero marginal cost.” This change created a fertile environment in which the influencer, at almost no marginal cost, could gather an online following by curating an online identity, consolidating their web of influence through likes, shares and comments on various social media platforms, and monetise this ability to connect with a mass audience. Unlike the previous generation of celebrity influencers whose identities were predicated on a life of status and glamour, the social media influencer’s charm lay in their ordinariness, which, combined with low start-up costs meant that anyone could be an influencer. Thus the internet became a place where mothers, most of whom realised soon after giving birth that it would be impossible for them to continue working as they did before pregnancy, could occupy themselves by sharing information about their daily lives and hopefully, make some money. The mommy influencer has indeed proven herself to be a financially viable occupation. A number of mommy influencers such as Chiara Ferragni, Lauren Conrad and Judy Travis, have been highly successful at monetising their lives both actively – earning a sponsorship fee by posting images of herself or her child with sponsored products, and passively – producing income merely from content engagement.

What can we learn from the mommy influencer?

The mommy influencer, being a relatively new phenomenon has attracted only a small amount of scholarly attention. That is not to say however, that the mommy influencer is not a fascinating and informative topic of study. Indeed, the very existence of the mommy influencer herself begs the question: If the internet has effectively minimised the trade-off between motherhood and work, do mommy influencers report more satisfaction with their performance in both roles?

Today’s working mothers widely report experiences of guilt and pressure both at home and at work, being overwhelmed, overtired, stressed and ultimately feeling ‘like failures’ in their attempt to juggle motherhood with career. One idea that has gained significant traction in response is a notion well put by Mary Matalin (as she left her white house role to spend more time with her daughters): “having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.” This idea of giving mothers more choice over when and where they work has been taken up by many workplaces, as evinced by the popularity of flexible work arrangements.

One of the greatest points of significance about the mommy influencer is that by virtue of the internet, she is a woman who has successfully combined work and motherhood. Indeed, this minimalisation of the distinction between work and motherhood necessarily removes the inherent trade-off between these two roles, instead making them mutually inclusive and mutually beneficial. Scheduling conflicts are thus also removed, as mothers are simultaneously capable of producing motherhood value and economic value, thus minimising the cost of time spent on work. Although more research needs to be carried out, anecdotal evidence suggests that mommy influencers suffer the same feelings of guilt, pressure, stress and exhaustion as other working mothers. Were it possible to collect data about the mommy influencers themselves, we may be able to draw the conclusion that even when work and motherhood are mutually inclusive, mothers remain subject to myriad pressures that negatively impact their emotional wellbeing. This would pose big questions for all working arrangements, in that they might be rendered fundamentally ineffective without widespread societal change in attitudes towards mothers and mothering. Ultimately, the mommy influencer is a site on which numerous forces converge and collide, making her a topic ripe for exploration.

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r3 - 02 Feb 2021 - 05:02:32 - JulieLi
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