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, Mo., 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.
Yet beneath all of the advice, recipes, and techniques runs a subtle, political message about the power of domestic happiness to affect social change. Colwin’s focus on domesticity is about reclaiming the home as a locus of connection with family and with the outside world. Home is both a place to recuperate from the outside world and a place to let the outside in. Home is a safe haven for experimentation in the kitchen and in conversation with others. Colwin’s essays present the case that domestic happiness is not a luxury, but is instead vital to both the personal and the political. For those who might not be comfortable protesting for social change in the streets, Colwin suggests beginning in the kitchen.
The poetics of witnessing give the text a voyeuristic look, like readers are watching the story unfold from the outside looking into an isolated, atemporal, eerie space: “[F]or a strange moment it did feel like we were alone together on the edge of the world, and that I was somehow both vulnerable and entirely safe,” says the narrator. Winnette’s book is in fact somewhere on the edge of the world, away from what is familiarly human. As the children hang out on this edge, alone, haunted, and threatened, the events that punctuate their lives — however unlikely or long-winded some of them might be — puncture the reader at her core. It’s the unheimlich, the uncanny nature of Winnette’s story that makes each narrative occurrence visceral and creepily familiar. Against all odds, we end up believing the child, and we might be the only ones. “I felt I could see all of humanity in that progression of faces. I wept too, and for all to see.”