Sunday Times

Editor’s Note

- Andrea Nagel For comment, criticism or praise, write to nagela@sundaytime­

Afew years ago, for an article in our Mother’s Day edition of Lifestyle, some of our regular contributo­rs wrote a series of stories about what kind of mother they’d label themselves. To help me correctly discern which motherhood tribe I belonged to, I asked my family to describe me. I went back to look at that article this week to remind myself what they said. “You’re nice,” said my son. “You’re loving,” said my daughter. ‘‘You’re disorganis­ed,” said their father, projecting as usual. “You’re perfect,” said my own mother. Thanks, Ma.

Perfect, ha! I wish. Nobody’s perfect. Except maybe the “momfluence­rs”, whose content on Instagram is so obviously manicured and yet intriguing.

An article by Sara Peterson in Harpers Bizarre profiles a few US momfluence­rs, particular­ly Hannah of @ballarinaf­arm — a cross between a pioneer cosplay model with corn-coloured plaits and hipster aesthetic and a Mia Farrow-like waif, all wholesome, natural beauty. She profiles herself as “Married to my soulmate / Mothering six littles / Juilliard ballerina / Mountain farm / City folk turned ranchers etc …” I was mesmerised.

We all know that accounts like these are just a performanc­e of motherhood — a Utopia of gorgeous women, always smiling, playing, cooking hot meals for their men, endlessly entertaini­ng their kids in the great outdoors instead of letting them hypnotise themselves with a screen, adoring their household duties. Hannah announced her sixth pregnancy with a pirouette. She cleans her children’s bedrooms like a fairy godmother waving a duster to wish away the dirt. She has 199k followers, and counting.

Author and journalist Jo Piazza spent a year researchin­g momfluence­r culture for her podcast Under the Influence. She praises momfluence­rs for “figuring out how to monetise the unpaid labour of motherhood” but notes that there are issues.

Piazza says, “Many of these momfluence­rs are delivering exactly what we’d have consumed in Good Housekeepi­ng, Parenting, or even Vogue. They give us recipes and product recommenda­tions and parenting tips with beautiful photos and short captions. That’s a magazine.” Peterson says mothers exist in a capitalist system that sells the idea of motherhood to sell us the props that go with the job. “It’s a system that tangles motherhood and performanc­e and beauty and consumptio­n into a mess of knots impossible to untie.”

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