How Ballerinafarm's husband made me start a newsletter.
Because not all of us live lives lit up by buckets of light courtesy of an apparently callous window.
Taking a deep breath before I begin. Because guys. There’s so much here.
I highly recommend you stroll over to Instagram before continuing. Here’s the inciting post.
So I’ve been obsessed with Hannah Neeleman (@ballerinafarm) for a few years now. And my obsession may or may not have been the seed that led to me writing a piece for Harper’s Bazaar interrogating my fraught relationship with momfluencer culture, and that Harper’s piece may or may not have led to me writing a book proposal unpacking my obsession further. MOMFLUENCED is due April 1st to my editor, but I’m feeling decent about where I’m at and also I couldn’t not write about this so here we are.
Way back in January, 2021, I wrote this about Hannah for Harper’s:
She is a new face to the momfluencer stratosphere, but one of many conventionally beautiful, straight, white women who perform a version of motherhood that feels like pioneer cosplay hit with a dash of Brooklyn hipster aesthetics. Hannah presents her life as a utopia of yesteryear when women cooked hot lunches for their hardworking men and smiled whilst serving them. She announced her sixth pregnancy with an actual pirouette.
I just rewatched that pregnancy announcement video and I was wrong about the pirouette. I apologize. It’s more of a jaunty knee-lift (surely an actual ballet term).
In the video, Hannah is surrounded by kids. She is beaming as if she knows a juicy secret and is a little smug about no one else knowing it. Most of all, though, in the video, she makes motherhood and pregnancy look like a lark. Upon first watching the video (IN APRIL 2020), Hannah’s throw-away smile crept into me and still lives somewhere inside me, sitting heavily between my ribs.
But this essay is not about Hannah. Not really. If you want more Hannah musings, you can read my Harper’s piece (and buy my book when it comes out! She’s all up in there!) And definitely check out this excellent conversation between Meg Conley and Anne Helen Petersen published in Anne Helen’s newsletter (Meg also has a brilliant newsletter but I’m sure you already know that), which delves into Mormonism, the performance of femininity, the realities of farming (versus the Instagram version of farming), and the mythology of the nuclear white family. If you want more momfluencer content in general, Kathryn Jezer-Morton’s newsletter is a delight and a joy (she wrote a legendary essay about @rudyjude which I will treasure forever), and Jo Piazza’s must-listen podcast, Under the Influence, will lay bare the truths of how momfluencer culture became a multi-billion industry, and what that industry can reveal about motherhood, social media, and all the things.
But this essay is not about Hannah. This essay is about Daniel. Or, as he can be found on Instagram, @hogfathering.