Washington - A grinning toddler is bundled in a creamy quilted blanket and bear-eared hat. Next to him, an iPhone atop a wicker basket displays a Winnie-the-Pooh audiobook.
The caption accompanying the Instagram shot explains, "i am quite excited to have partnered with @audible_com.... i'm not sure who loves it more, this little bear or his mama!?"
More than 260 000 people follow Amanda Watters, a stay-at-home mom in Kansas City, Missouri, who describes herself on Instagram as "making a home for five, living in the rhythm of the seasons." Her feed is filled with pretty objects like cooling pies and evergreen sprigs tucked into apothecary vases, with hardly any chaos in sight.
This is the "mommy Internet" now. It's beautiful. It's aspirational. It's also miles from what motherhood looks like for many of us - and miles from what the mommy Internet looked like a decade ago.
When Heather Armstrong launched Dooce.com in 2001, the emerging mommy Internet was dominated by blogs, and those blogs were raw and authentic. Some writers focused on parenting, but many used a wider lens to chronicle the ups and downs of their lives.
Armstrong wrote about her depression, her time in a psychiatric hospital, her divorce and her experiences growing up in the Mormon Church. In a 2008 post about getting her daughter to stop eating treats, she sarcastically described herself as a "monster." "This is about teaching her to eat when she's hungry and stopping when she's full," she wrote. "This is also very much about making her suffer."
Armstrong quickly found an audience. In her heyday, around 2009, she averaged 4 million page views a month, appeared on Oprah, signed an HGTV contract and published a book, It Sucked And Then I Cried: How I Had A Baby, A Breakdown, And A Much Needed Margarita. The New York Times Magazine dubbed her "queen of the mommy bloggers."
She was joined by the likes of "The Bloggess" Jenny Lawson, Ree Drummond of "Pioneer Woman," Kristen Howerton of "Rage Against the Minivan" and Glennon Doyle of "Momastery," who write about issues of mental health, race, marriage, education and politics alongside the mundane matters of diapers and minivans. Reading their blogs gives you the feeling that you are peeking into their diaries. This is what everyday life - real life - looks like.
But the biggest stars of the mommy Internet now are no longer confessional bloggers. They're curators of life. They're influencers. They're pitchwomen. And with all the photos of minimalist kitchens and the explosion of affiliate links, we've lost a source of support and community, a place to share vulnerability and find like-minded women, and a forum for female expertise and wisdom. "It's just so sad," says Armstrong. "It's all these staged, curated photos that don't show the messier part of life."