Welcome (!) to my cozy corner of the internet, where I unpack my obsession with momfluencer culture to reveal what's behind all the neutral walls, linen rompers, beachy waves, and perfect mamas. This is your your safe space to join me as I try to unravel all the tangled up knots of shopping for, performing, and consuming the institution of Motherhood (with a capital M) online.
In Pursuit of Clean Countertops isn’t about countertops. Not really. This newsletter is about my obsession with momfluencer culture and how that obsession reveals what so many of us pursue by way of mommy influencers. Maybe it’s clean countertops (something all of the top momfluencers boast in perfectly lit photos). Maybe it’s a face balm that will make you throw away all your other beauty products (something momfluencers AND the Instagram algorithm try to sell me on a regular basis). Maybe it’s a more blissful, joyful, “nice and slow” experience of motherhood by way of macrame wall hangings or simply by being born Gwyneth Paltrow. Maybe it’s a nostalgic version of motherhood that never existed. Maybe it’s a $20,000 oven.
Most of all, I’m interested in why we follow momfluencers, what momfluencers are trying to sell us, and why the answers to these questions can reveal the grim reality of mothering in America, a country that claims to revere mothers while simultaneously denying them respect or remuneration for their labor. I want to understand why our culture idealizes motherhood (online and off) but fails again and again to give moms what they need to thrive (like universal preschool, paid family leave, subsidized childcare).
I also wrote a book about momfluencers, MOMFLUENCED: Inside the Maddening, Picture-perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture (which you can read excerpts of here, here, and here), so sometimes I share interviews with momfluencer experts, sometimes I share behind-the-scenes publishing anecdotes, and sometimes I provide media round-ups of the books, podcasts, and movies I’ve discovered in my research.
I write about motherhood and feminism, and my work has been featured in outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Glamour, Refinery29, and elsewhere. I’m a frequent contributor to InStyle, where I recently wrote about the misogyny inherent in terms like “mommy brain,” and Romper, where I recently wrote about performing motherhood online. For Harper’s Bazaar, I wrote a piece about the cultishness of wellness momfluencers, and another about my own love/hate relationship with momfluencers. Momfluenced has been written about in Glamour, Elle, Salon, Romper, and elsewhere.
I’ve been low-key thinking about how the idealization of motherhood makes most moms’ lives shittier basically since day #1 of motherhood because it was immediately clear to me that diaper changing, bottle nipple washing, cheerio vacuuming, and playdate arranging was not the golden ticket to transcendence and whole-sale fulfillment I’d been promised. I experienced postpartum depression, an existential crisis of identity, and as each year of motherhood ticked by, I became more and more convinced that, as Rachel Yoder writes in Nightbitch (maybe my favorite “motherhood book” ever), motherhood in America is a scam, and momfluencer culture is a big part of that scam.
I live in New Hampshire with my family, where I listen to podcasts obsessively while knitting. Feel free to check out my website to find more of my work, follow me on Instagram, where I like to rant about the ads.
And Twitter, where I rant about everything.
Who reads In Pursuit of Clean Countertops? 👀
Intersectional feminists sick of being fed the message that the only way to be a “good woman” is to be a “good mother.”
People who love to hate and hate to love momfluencer culture.
People who enjoy a little wholesome snark targeted at shitty Instagram ads.
Moms sick of Hallmark’s insistence on Mother’s Day that theirs is the “most important job in the world” even if they live in America, a country that provides no universal parental leave, no subsidized quality childcare, no bodily autonomy or reproductive freedom, and no cultural respect or financial recompense for care work 🙃
What your paid subscription gets you (it’s fun, easy, and costs less than a decent draft IPA 🍻 🍻 🍻)
An extra 5 Pretty/Ugly Things newsletter every Tuesday. Sometimes this is a thread about Mother’s Day fails, sometimes, this is a roundup in which I share my favorite frozen pizza brands along with what I’m reading, watching, and listening to that week. Sometimes it’s little life updates and sometimes photos of baby House Finches who once lived in a nest on my front door. Sometimes it’s an excellent conversations about Bath and Body Works scents. Sometimes it’s the Ugliest Shit I Love.
The ability to comment on posts and engage with other In Pursuit community members .
My eternal gratitude and the the knowledge that you’re spending $5 a month to help dismantle the myth of the Ideal Mother.
Writing is my full-time job. And it’s no secret that the publishing industry and the wider media landscape is a mess. Media outlets are constantly folding. Freelancer payment is unpredictable and sporadic and dependent on news cycles. I typically earn anywhere between $250 - $900 per freelance piece. Some of these take months to research and report. Some of them take weeks. And I love writing these pieces! I love participating in conversations about motherhood, feminism, and influencer culture on large platforms that reach diverse audiences.
But I write this newsletter because sometimes, something happens in the news (or on Instagram) that I know lots of people have feelings about and I want to respond immediately. This newsletter allows me to write fun, sometimes polarizing, timely cultural critiques in the moment. As a reader, I LOVE reading essays by my favorite writers responding to current events happening right this very minute. When sometime strange or curious happens in the news, whether it be related to entertainment, health, or literature, I seek out experts in those fields to better understand and process my own reactions. My goal with this newsletter is to provide my expertise as a momfluencer-obsessive to my fellow momfluencer consumers. In real time. In a loose, irreverent way that’s fun to read.
And while this newsletter is meant to be a bright spot in your inbox, I also write this newsletter because I’m furious about the motherhood narratives undergirding most of momfluencer culture. Narratives that uphold the ideal mother as white, wealthy, cis-het, non-disabled, thin, and wholly devoted to the mythology of the nuclear family. It’s fun to interrogate momfluencer culture, but it’s also necessary to unpack what’s going on underneath the surface so we are better equipped to demand structural supports for caregiving. And so we can create our own narratives of mothering, narratives that center mothers’ individuality. Whether or not our countertops are ever clean.
If you know someone who has EVER had thoughts about Ballerina Farm, or feels little spurts of rage when a brand tries to sell her something based on her “busy mom” lifestyle, or is generally seeing crimson fucking red over the state of motherhood in America, please share In Pursuit of Clean Countertops with them and spread the word. I appreciate it! And shares really, really, really help get more eyes on this newsletter, which means more people banning together to say “fuck this” re: the idolization of Perfect Mamas at the expense of meaningful structural support that will make all mothers’ lives better.
If my work resonates with you, of if you find the interrogation of the “ideal mother” narrative valuable, I hope you’ll consider subscribing for $5 per month or $50 per year. Your subscription will help pay for childcare, without which I would be unable to research, write, edit, and do the administrative labor that’s necessary for keeping this newsletter up and running.
Smash that button to support the work that goes into my efforts to banish the myth of the ideal mother to the dustbins of history! 💃💃💃