If Instagram feels like home and Facebook like a weird old college friend; if Napster and Myspace bring to mind cherished memories of newfound freedom of expression; if you can still call to mind the adorable sound of an incoming ICQ message (and the dopamine hit that accompanied it), then you were probably born between 1980 and 1990.
We elder millennials (and our Gen X friends) came of age in the golden era of the Internet. Amazon landed on the scene in ‘95 (remember when they just sold books?). Google Search went live in 1997. The dot com bubble burst at the turn of the millennium. And we lived through it all.
Like it or not, the Internet is in our DNA. So it comes as no surprise that as women from our generation(s) have had kids, we’ve found a way to integrate the experience with the technology we grew up with.
In any conversation about motherhood and the internet, the first nod must go to Gen X. The minute they established a dial-up internet connection in the early 2000s, those moms figured out a way to find each other. They formed chat room communities. They started blogs and created a space where they could go to say all the quiet things out loud.
Up until that point, motherhood as an experience had been shrouded in secrecy and all but erased from the media landscape - the ultimate taboo. There were some TV moms who pushed back on the status quo, but for the most part, moms were depicted as playing supporting roles only. They smiled, loved and sacrificed without letting on that the entire exercise was mental, physical and emotional torture.
The OG mom bloggers of the early 2000s were having none of that. They were filter-free to the max. The pioneers of this era were writers like Heather Armstrong who started her irreverent blog dooce1 back in 2001, Jill Smokler who launched Scary Mommy2 in 2008 and (our personal favourite) Amy Morrison who started The Pregnant Chicken3 in 2010.
But little did the bloggers know, a new era was on the horizon. Right around 2010, people’s attention spans went to shit and things went visual. It started with Vlogs - long form, short form, it didn’t even matter. Moms wanted content and they wanted it fast. Concise, unstaged, and FUNNY were the requirements (think Toronto-based legends, Cat & Nat4). This content was born on YouTube but primed for Facebook virality. If you could speak directly to the parenting experience, every woman who originally joined Facebook with a college email and now, 15 years later, was starting a family would share it and BOOM! You’ve gone viral.
Facebook, however, would soon be overtaken by a slicker, sexier, more aesthetically driven platform: Instagram. Instagram created the perfect conditions in which upper-middle class, interior design savvy, stay at home moms (often with very blonde hair and very white teeth) could rise to the top of the digital zeitgeist. This is exactly the time I came on the scene. What I didn’t realize at the time (but has made a hell of a lot of sense in hindsight) was that I had procreated during the heyday of Mormon Moms online. No wonder I couldn’t relate! According to Kathryn Jezer-Morton in her 2020 New York Times article, Did Moms Exist Before the Internet?:
Mormon mothers were among blogging’s earliest and most enthusiastic adopters. And unlike the confessional early mommy blogs, Mormon mothers’ blogs broadcast a clean and chipper vision of motherhood, replete with D.I.Y. crafting projects and coordinated family photo shoots.5
These photos would eventually end up parlaying into the monetization of aspirational lifestyles online: Influencer Culture. And did the mom bloggers ever cash in! Names like Amber Fillerup6 come to mind. She’s been rumored to have made up to $6million a year7 off her social media empire during her heyday - all while promoting the most heteronormative, white, conservative narratives around family life one could imagine.
And with that, I had something to rebel against. I was 25 - a young, newly pregnant, woman of colour, noticing nothing but holes begging to be filled throughout the mom section of the internet. Where were the people telling honest, nuanced stories? Where were the interesting / edgy visuals? Where was the smart, subversive content? Where were the moms building real communities and actually supporting one another? Where were Black moms? The working moms? The single moms? The multi-hyphenates? Where were the cool moms?
And with that, The Rebel Mama was born. The cool moms, of course, had always existed… but they tended to do so quietly, flying under the radar so as to not get hit by the judgemental slings and arrows of the patriarchy’s loyal keyboard warriors in the comment sections. That’s what set The Rebel Mama apart when we officially launched it (and its accompanying social channels) in 2015. Aleks and I didn’t give a shit about the keyboard warriors. We didn’t care what people had to say about us. All we cared about was adding a voice to the parenting conversation that we didn’t see represented enough.
With 4.4 million mom blogs in 20148 (the year we had our first kids), we knew we’d need a niche and we found it simply by being as true to ourselves as possible so that other parents would see us and know they too are free to do the same.
Since our 2015 inception, we have capitalized on the influencer economy (though not straight away), but we’ve always been dedicated to being “influential” in constructive ways. We influence people to be non-judgemental, to have a laugh, to dismantle taboos, and to hold on to their identities during the transition into and through early parenthood. We influence moms to be financially independent (our second book “Get Your $hit Together” is all about financial literacy and making smart money decisions) and we encourage people to vote for the world they want to see, both at the ballots and with the dollars they work so hard for. We work only with brands whose products and services we believe our audience will genuinely benefit from (we now do this through our RMx Directory, on which you’ll find oxio, of course!). We make sure their offering is aligned and their morals are intact.
Motherhood and the internet have always been in a complicated relationship. The World Wide Web is a place where moms have met lifelong friends and vicious critics. It brings inspiration and insecurity, information and overwhelm. But Gen X and Millennials have proven to be uniquely equipped to use it in a way that reaps sizable benefits (monetarily and otherwise). We can’t wait to see what happens next when Gen Z moms take the torch and run with it.