New Criticals

In our ethnographic work with mothers of young children, we discovered that contemporary mothers’ lives are both bombarded with abundant online resources for presenting and bettering family life and burdened offline by shrinking material resources for maintaining that life. Carly, for example, is a mother of three daughters who left her dream job and its long, inconvenient hours for a regular desk job that she subsequently lost within months to corporate buyout. In the meantime, Carly’s husband weathered two separate layoffs, and Carly took on several babysitting charges just to keep her precariously middle-class family afloat. Amidst seemingly constant economic crisis, Carly produced a series of Facebook albums titled “Promise of a Fun Summer.” She captioned the albums, “I have made a promise to myself to make it a memorable summer for my little ones (without breaking the budget). Here is a pictorial of our summer!” Everyday, Carly posted at least one picture of her children doing something fun, ranging from the mundane (eating popsicles) to the special (trips to amusement parks). Even as moms like Carly labor to keep their families together in tough times, they constantly scroll through and upload family photos to Facebook albums, pin ideas on Pinterest for family time, and collect recordings of life with little ones on family archiving apps like Togethera and Notabli.