They all look different. Some are blonde, some have black hair. Some are 20 and some are 24 and some of their boyfriends/partners/husbands are great and some aren’t. The main thing they have in common is that their children are their lives. I don’t mean that in the standard sense of parents saying their children are their lives. These kids are literally their parents bread and butter. The children are always extremely cute, probably because these people have the power to edit their vlogs so that the normal ups and downs of raising a child (or two, or three) become one gentle wave, captured in videos with titles like ‘Baby learns to Walk!’ or ‘Baby’s First Word! and always exclamation marked. There always has to be a new baby, or speculation of a new baby, because an 11 year old isn’t ever going to capture the masses like an infant.
They also have another thing in common: they pretend they aren’t running an empire. One particular Youtube Mommy is just about to hit one million subscribers. At thousands of dollars a video, make no mistake: these people have built businesses, only their ’employees’ are their own family members. The golden rule is that these women- and it also applies to Food Bloggers like SmittenKitchen, who posts cosy photos of family dinners even though she’s as rich as any CEO- can never treat their channels like a business, because authenticity is praised despite the entire medium being founded upon the principle of editing.
On their own, of course, the channels are perfectly harmless, but within a wider social context they mark the return of something akin to a domestic goddess. Not that people watch for their cooking skills, but rather that each and every channel features a stay at home Mom, regardless of their actual age.
Even if they aren’t actually stay at home Mothers, their vlogs would never show them going out to work, because it would interfere with the primary objective: being a mother people can like. I’m not bashing stay at home Mothers at all, but running a youtube channel that brings in thousands of dollars, then pretending you’re not a businesswoman for the sake of the perfect Mommy aesthetic seems a bit off. Further, when real life commitments invariably get in the way of that next upload- a sixteen year old with a 2 year old, for instance, might not have a video high on the list of her priorities- cries of abandonment are sure to follow.
Young girls praise the families in the comment section, some of whom are hardly older than them, although so many of them are married or engaged. If they are not constantly on the verge of something, then that means less views, less money and less subscribers. I should point out that not all of them Mommy Vloggers are heterosexual; the partner doesn’t need to be male to follow the same formula.
You could argue that these videos are simply fulfilling a need, but the question of course is then, what need. What is the appeal here? of course regular viewers are emotionally entangled, but what draws in that first click? it can’t simply be cute children, because there are other outlets for that, like the park, or family members, or babysitting. Why do people want to watch young women and girls clean (even when their male partners also stay at home, it is extremely rare for them to clean, and most don’t at all.) make food and burp babies?
It isn’t an accident that the West is going through a phase of conservatism concurrent with an explosion of these types of channels. Mommy Vloggers (and Bloggers) never discuss feminism. Unless it can be used for more clicks, don’t ever expect to see politics in a Mommy video, not even when one or both partners are POC. Mommy Videos are a guaranteed safe haven, and those who run these channels must surely have considered that a channel entirely focused on a beautiful, blonde 20 year old stay at home Mother and her (beautiful) children and (jokester, not cleaner) Fiancee might attract a certain kind of person. One particular channel (also featuring a breathtakingly beautiful 22 year old stay at home mother with 2 children and a jokester Fiancee) never discusses the fact that both parents obviously work, despite all the hallmarks of two succesfull, professional young people.
Betty Friedan was wrong in so many ways; she refused to include WOC in her research and she focused too much on the Middle Class, but nonetheless she was correct in that this kind of Housewifery is a performance, not for the self (for the self is put last) but for others; for the husband and children, and the perfect house, and the perfect appliances, and all the while
As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?
Well, they’ll all say they’re so busy in the Vlogs, and of course they are because their children are babies and toddlers and need constant supervision and attendance. But what happens when their children are 8, 9, 10?
Some of these women (or girls) will only be 30. Will they close their channel, their main source of income, to go out and fulfill themselves via education or work? how could they, after a decade off?
What I am asking is, what does the success of these channels suggest? surely not every Mommy Vlogger has a plan for doing this the rest of their lives. Great, except now they have an audience who keeps them captive with income who would hate for videos to be uploaded less often.
I don’t think these women and girls think they’re being anti-feminist, or supporting the Patriarchy (which when crossed with Capitalism wants women to slave themselves to death in a shitty job for which they are paid less than Male employees until they are 30, at which point they should stay at home because a woman over 30 would be competition in the workplace.) It’s just impossible for me to believe they don’t question their own status as consumable parent object on occasion. Betty Friedan probably would have had a lot to say about their meteoric success.