Why the rise of Instamums monetising their 'perfect' family life makes me uneasy
Before the link popped up in my newsfeed, I had never heard of Amber Fillerup Clark.
But reading Bianca Bosker's profile piece in the Atlantic confirmed everything I can't stand about the plasticky performance of motherhood and happy families that social media has elevated into a legitimate line of business these days.
Let's backtrack a little. Amber Fillerup Clark is a young woman currently living in Hawaii with her husband and two small children.
From the endless photographs featured on her professional Instagram account, you can see that the family is impossibly good looking.
The pictures are casual, but in the heavily stylised way most "influencers" on social media (and particularly in the motherhood blogging world) seem to have mastered.
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Warm hues and bright smiles leap out from the page, alongside "spontaneous" moments of affection captured between Fillerup Clark and her husband or children.
Dotted among the various image descriptions are links back to Fillerup Clark's blog, The Barefoot Blonde.
Her posts are written in the chatty tone of a friend; just another mom on the circuit, with some great tips about nappies, juicing and how to add tones of messy chic to your hairdo.
A photo from our all white family dinner last night ❤️ we have been MIA because we are in Arizona and Utah the next couple weeks doing some soul searching deciding where we will end up! We always knew New York City was temporary but have lately been wanting to settle down in a home our kids can grow up in and trying to decide where is best for us to build 💛 (we still are in NYC until our home is built - aka a while longer!)
But Fillerup Clark's website isn't a conversation with friends, no matter how much it and others of its ilk rely on that impression.
The content is saturated with native advertising – intimate photos of her children paint a picture of candid happiness while linking back to companies like Seventh Generation nappies, Sincerely Scout and Gerber.
In one post, she directs readers to her blog for a more detailed look at the Joss & Main (a boutique home decor business) redesign of her daughter's "New York nursery".
In fact, the blog is not only where it all happens, but where it all started. As Bosker writes, when it first started Fillerup Clarke was a 20-year-old Mormon from Utah volunteering at an orphanage in Fiji.
When she and her husband David married, they lived in his parents' basement and sold blood to make extra cash.
Six years later, they're pulling a potential seven-figure yearly income and building a dream home in Arizona – one whose design is intrinsically informed by thoughts about what light, backgrounds and decor will look best in the photographs that are the family's bread and butter.
I don't generally read or follow accounts like Fillerup Clark's, because they don't really interest me. But even I'm struck by how seductive her Instagram page is.
If nothing else, she and her family are exceptionally photogenic. Like all clever marketing, the carefully chosen aesthetic stimulates feelings of aspiration in me.
I find myself clicking on some of the product links in a vain attempt to inject my life with some of the casual beauty that effortlessly surrounds them. For a brief moment, I consider buying a tropical print cotton bralette top with matching shorts because it looks so great on this thin, conventionally beautiful blonde woman with salt water waves in her hair and a thigh gap.
It's not hard to understand why careers in this arena are so coveted. Motherhood in general is denigrated, and the capacity to re-enter the workforce decreases each year a woman stays out of it to care for her children. So why not take advantage of the lucrative opportunities presented by the online world?
It isn't so much about whether or not an all-too-perfect vision of parenting is being presented. Honestly, if you believe people are that happy all the time then you're not thinking with all of your noggin.
But the consent of those whose lives are on display is an issue. Children can't consent to their faces and antics being shared with millions of people, nor can they consent to being made public property.
There's a lot of sensible discussion had these days about teaching children how to say no and enforce their limits when it comes to people invading their space – but what about the space their parents invite strangers into to salivate over and admire?
And then I remember that this is precisely why I hate this kind of content, and why I'm also deeply suspicious of anyone who buses their life to the market like this.
Fillerup Clark has been either very fortunate or very clever (and probably a combination of both) in being able to parlay her "snapshots of a perfect life" into a multimillion-dollar business, but there's a blandness to it as well.
Like many "influencers" on social media, she ticks a checklist of supposedly desirable qualities. She's blonde, young, thin, churchy and – crucially – white.
And while I don't begrudge her taking advantage of the way capitalism melds so seamlessly with curated reality (seriously, who wouldn't want to be given nice clothes to wear and money enough to design a dream house all on the back of some photographs and cutesy wordsmithery?) I sit in deep opposition with the way she and others do this through the use of their children.
Particularly when those kids can't consent to having their lives put on display for weirdly enthusiastic strangers all over the world to imitate.
- Sydney Morning Herald