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Taking things Nice and Slow with Hayley DeRoche
How "slow down" momfluencer content reframes domestic labor as self-care
My ideal version of a “nice and slow” day goes a little something like this. I wake up whenever I want. I make myself tea. It’s quiet. I drink the tea while fucking around online. Maybe I throw some linen jumpsuits into a virtual cart but never buy them. Maybe I try to finish the Sunday crossword. Maybe I text an old high school friend about having a bizarre sex dream about another high school friend last night. Who knows? Who cares? The world [day] is my oyster because it’s my ideal “nice and slow” day!
Then I make some peanut butter and jam toast and drink another cup of tea. It’s still quiet. Then I go for a jog or a walk whilst listening to the dulcet tones of Sarah Marshall as she tells me the true story about a maligned woman from the 1990s via her podcast You’re Wrong About.
I get home. It’s still quiet. I shower. It’s still quiet. I put on loose, cotton clothing and either:
A combo of all four
The day winds down and I meet a friend for ice cold IPAs at some glorious outdoor place where the light is golden. I go home to eat buttery, parmesan-y pasta on the couch while watching an Agatha Christie TV movie. It’s still quiet.
Then I climb into bed with some Sleepy Time tea and read. It’s very quiet. And then I fall asleep.
You might notice that in my ideal “nice and slow” day there’s none of the following:
Children needing to be fed
Children wanting to eat my peanut butter and jam toast.
Children trying to talk to me or touch me while I’m chewing a mouthful of peanut butter and jam toast.
Children asking me when Covid will “go away” before I’m fully caffeinated.
A child saying “watch me!”
A child who wants me to play trains
A child requesting I tell another child that child #1 didn’t like the way child #2 said something or did something because it “wasn’t fair.”
Children that are bored and want to tell me about how they’re bored
Children whose hair needs brushing
Children who need diapers changed
Children who “don’t like” what I made for lunch.
Children who need to be reminded to put their plates in the dishwasher
Children who eat crackers whilst pirouetting, liberally sprinkling crumbs hither and thither
Children who “don’t like” what I made for dinner.
Children who fight about who gets to sit where at dinner.
Children who want to watch All I Want for Christmas Is You (which is an animated movie about a puppy loosely based on Mariah Carey’s song of the same name) before bed instead of an Agatha Christie TV movie.
Children who fight about who gets to sit next to me while watching All I Want for Christmas Is You.
A child who wants to snuggle but only in a way that causes my arm to fall asleep and go numb.
Children who want to read books about Peppa Pig or Thomas the Tank Engine instead of the book I want to read, which is about “tacky” pop cultural ephemera.
Children who need a “fresh” glass of water on their nightstands.
Children whose bedtime becomes so protracted that by the time they’re finally “down,” I’ve lost the will to live and am too exhausted to watch an Agatha Christie TV movie and can only get through a few pages of my book about tacky pop culture before I fall asleep, so utterly defeated am I by a “nice and slow” day at home with children.
Are you noticing a theme? The “nice and slow” day of my dreams does not involve children because children are not “nice and slow.” But many momfluencers would have you believe otherwise according to a smorgasbord of reels, posts, and stories waxing poetic about the “simple joys” of making a big pot of bone broth that involves 17 ingredients while 4 children play with wooden toys nearby (and somehow don’t throw those wooden toys at each other or fight about who has more wooden toys). Or the “coziness” of a rainy day spent inside with three kids under the age of 3 “all snuggled up together in a blanket fort.”
I tweeted about this type of content because I couldn’t quite figure out why it irked me. What was wrong with people who aren’t me enjoying taking it “nice and slow” with their kids? People are different! People have various thresholds for noise and movies about puppies and yuletide cheer.
I got so many great responses to the tweet.
Evie Ebert said: “The only way to justify lack of productivity or grind is if you're being soft and available for your kids.” Um YUP.
Joanna Schroeder noted that this trend (like so many momfluencer trends) likely started out as an earnest way to highlight a specific facet of motherhood and turned into a Good Motherhood mandate: “It's another iteration of Craft Mom and Homemade Baby Food Mom. This is some sort of Gentle Parenting Mom performative bullshit.”
Kyla Tompkins replied with a thread highlighting the privilege required to take things “nice and slow” while also spurning momfluencer content that makes motherhood look like a beautiful dream instead of what it is: unpaid, unsupported labor.
to start: time is an unequally distributed resource and like seriously when people "move slow" because they are "healing" or "being anti-capitalist" or "anti-work" or raising their artisanal children it is fundamentally irritating to those of us who are barely freaking making it. because these people are NOT ALONE IN THE WORLD. second of all instagram parenting fetishists: stop elevating motherhood to a bespoke picturesque practice, as though it was not gritty awful smelly sticky usually loving but nonetheless boring labor unsupported by any state or cultural infrastructure
Writer and advocate Hayley DeRoche also some thoughts about why content glorifying childcare and housekeeping as “nice and slow” moments to be cherished is annoying, yes, but also communicating quite a bit about what we value in “good” moms. Hayley has an incredible (and extremely funny) TikTok as @sadbeige and a must-follow Instagram account of the same name, and I was so psyched to talk to them about the slow-down trend and of course, all things beige.
Hayley! Talk to me about what inspired you to make your "slow down" TikTok and Insta reel. And talk to me about your TikTok in general! What inspired you to create it and which audiences do you think you're serving?
I scroll through Instagram's discover page a lot, and the "slow down" Billy Joel cover was trending, and because it's a lullaby-type song, naturally momfluencers were all over it. Which is fine, trend-setters gonna trend. But! I thought it was really fascinating that this particular message was being used that way particularly by momfluencers because the idea of slowing down is antithetical to content creation; I don't believe it's possible to be fully mindfully present while being "on" for the 'tok/'gram, and so the idea that these perfectly curated ads (and many were ads with sponsors tagged) for slowing down were made expressly by hustling, not slowing down, just tickled me.
As far as my Sad Beige content in general goes, it truly happened on a whim. European marketing is overall very somber and beige from what I've seen (and I've seen a lot now!) and it made me laugh to see something that can be so joyful (childhood!) photographed in such a frowny-faced serious way (I swear some of these kids just got told a puppy died!). Marketing is so funny to me, especially as it relates to parenting, and influencers. You might say I'm a tad obsessed since I wrote a whole book about mommy bloggers and their kidfluencers which came out in 2019 (HELLO LOVELIES! available via Audible Originals)
Can you cite any specific momfluencer feeds that perpetuate the "slow down" messaging? What sort of content are they posting?
I don't like to call anyone specific out!! I also think it's absolutely rampant, I don't think one can click through mom content without being reminded to be mindfully present and slow and gentle and respectful and HERE and not taking every moment for granted and and and and and and and...
The following type of content makes me think of slow down culture: moms making sourdough or meal prepping while kids play underfoot, moms snuggling kids on couches, moms talking about how the rain encourages them to be cozy and slow down, moms staying home with sick kids. And here's the thing: almost all of these examples make me sort of itchy because if a kid has to stay home sick or whatever, it's AN INCONVENIENCE. It's barf. It's snot. It's work. It's not a photo op. PLUS moms (vs dads) are disproportionately forced to take the day off of work to attend to the sick kid.
Turning something that's really just a pain in the ass into aspirational content feels like the very definition of gaslighting. I'm sure some people would be like, "just reframe your narrative" but 1. I think those are the same assholes who encouraged moms to savor extra quality time with their kids when we were all in hell during school closures, and 2. I kinda think, fuck that? Like, we've been “reframing” the narrative of motherhood as a selfless labor of love for centuries and it's harming most moms. I know this is a bit of a rant as opposed to a question, but would love you to respond with a rant of your own!
I am here for this rant! Women bear the brunt of domestic labor, and domestic labor is just that: LABOR. Staying home with a sick kid is labor, making sourdough (fast or slow) is labor no matter how fast or slow you make it. I think the message of reframing the narrative makes it easier for society to dismiss the demand for respect for the amount of labor that stuff really is. It keeps women from being given the respect they are owed for doing the hard job that is parenting, especially if you're doing it all day. @thatdarnchat on TikTok is a Fair Play advocate and trainer and she talks a lot about the worth of work done in the home, and I think when we reframe the work as cuddlier slow mindful rainy day sourdough love, we have a harder time advocating for things we need, both broadly in society (paid parental leave, because it's not just snuggle-vacay!!) and things we need at home (a partner who sees the work done in the home as intrinsically as valuable as the work they do outside it, in terms of hours, breaks, etc)
Talk to me about capitalism and slow down culture.
hahahahahahah oh I love you, I can keep going??? It's in capitalism's best interest to get us to see slowing down as a luxury, not a right. When we turn "slow down" into mindfulness jargon, we are saying it's something we should do for ourselves, it's self-care, but it's not something society should make readily available for us. It's not something everyone should effortlessly be able to do, if we turn it into some mystical magical special thing. Just turn off your phone, walk away from it! It should be easy, but of course, our jobs want us connected 24/7 to it, tethered to them, so of course they want us to see slowing down as a treat, not a right.
I feel like there are similarities between "empowered mamas" "bravely" showing their "tiger stripes" in bikini photos, essentially saying: it's ok for me to embrace and accept my body changes BECAUSE it was for a noble, selfless cause (motherhood). But someone who dares to embrace body changes outside of motherhood? They're not granted the same moral latitude, you know? Slow down culture feels similar in that only a certain type of mother is praised and celebrated for "taking things nice and slow," whereas a mom accessing financial assistance or a mom who is "taking things nice and slow" but not using that "slow down time" to clean, cook, or attend to kids' needs is not celebrated. Or even given grace. Thoughts?
As long as mothers play by the rules -- be easy on the eyes, love your body but not TOO much, make it look effortless but laugh and say of course it's not effortless motherhood is SO HARD MAMA, make sure you have all the right Olli Ella rattan prams and mushroom totes and that you're Letting Them Be Little (but also sponcon hee hee) -- then you can be loved on the internet and in society as a mother. But god forbid you, say, support your child's pronoun requests, or refuse to show your child unboxing a present you talked about to your followers (who somehow feel a RIGHT to see your child at all!) or be fat and not talk about your body at all (hi hello! I am fat, and it didn't come from childbirth and I'm not trying to Get My Body Back) -- well you just aren't going to be as popular, as far as I can tell.
Anything else you want to add?
I think it's absurd the level to which influencers' kids have so few legal protections. The Coogan Law exists for Jackie Coogan, a child actor whose parents basically stole his hard-earned wealth. I think we're seeing the same with influencers' kids now. Just like domestic labor is labor, child labor and influencer work is labor. It's work to do shoots with your mom, even if you're having fun. I have fun at work sometimes too, but I still get paid. I also think it's absurd to say children can consent to having an online presence period, because children by virtue of *being children* cannot knowingly consent. They can say sure mama post the photo, but that's not educated consent. They're children. Every time I see influencer kids doing ads with their parents (mostly moms, let's be real), I wonder how much if anything they'll ever see of the profits. On one post I made about a slow down ad for mattresses, the influencer (J.Vangaalen) commented to clap back, "they won't be sad when they see how much money they have in their bank account by the time they're 18 trust me on that sis" but then they immediately deleted it. Maybe they were worried the kid would find it someday and ask, "What money?"
Thank you Hayley!
What do you guys think? Are you inspired by slow-down culture to try and stay present in the moment with your kids? Are there ways of highlighting the joyful and beautiful “slow” moments of motherhood that don’t perpetuate unrealistic (and inherently gendered) ideals of motherhood? Let me know what you think! And as always, if you know someone you think might enjoy In Pursuit of Clean Countertops, please share!