Every mom has been there: You're scrolling Instagram late at night and before you know it, you've spent hours absorbed in your feed, looking at posts about other moms' beautifully painted nurseries or most recent beach vacation, where their kids all wore perfectly matching swimsuits and smiled for the camera.
But if you've wondered exactly who the mom influencers in your feed are and how they're making money off your likes and comments, you're not alone.
Jo Piazza is journalist and mom of two who, after her second child was born, found herself not only comparing her own mothering to what she saw depicted on Instagram but also spending money on the products her mom influencers of choice were advertising.
"I could buy everything on their feed," Piazza told TODAY Parents. "They had it right there for me, and I subconsciously started emulating their lives in a way."
But as a journalist, Piazza began to question the effect mom influencers had on her. In her new iHeartRadio original podcast, "Under the Influence," Piazza takes listeners along with her on a deep dive into the behind-the-scenes world of what she calls "mom internet."
"These moms caught my eye because as a woman and as a mother, you're just freaking hungry to see how other women are doing this," said Piazza. "I was desperate for it, but I also became very skeptical of this world. Who are these women and how do they afford to live this life? How are they supporting themselves? Do they all just have rich husbands?"
In her eight-episode podcast, which debuts on Feb. 4, Piazza explores the ins and outs of the mom influencer world. Episodes look at issues such as the anxiety and feelings of inadequacy the influencer world can cause for mothers, the pay gap between what Piazza describes as "heteronormative white women" and influencers of color, and the perception that mom influencers are using their children as "workers" by including them in sponsored content.
Still, Piazza says she was surprised by the thriving business empires mom influencers are building for themselves.
"It's a multi-billion dollar industry that gets ignored because women are doing it and it's a 'mom thing,' said Piazza. "But they're building these huge platforms and I say it all the time: If they were men, they'd be on the cover of Forbes because they're building mini media empires, basically their own mini magazines."
Piazza says one of her biggest takeaways from her research was that mom influencers are moguls who have figured out a way to get paid for the unpaid, and often thankless, job of motherhood.
"It was very important for me not to completely take these women down or say I hate these women because I'm sick of women attacking other women," said Piazza. "It's a complicated world ... and they're really smart."
Throughout the podcast, Piazza also tries her hand at becoming a mom influencer herself.
"I wanted to get into the nitty gritty and try to do what they do," said Piazza. "I don't want to ruin the podcast for anyone, but I am a terrible mom influencer."
Piazza says she found everything about being an influencer difficult, from writing captions for her posts to staging beautiful photos.
"It drove my husband crazy, it drove my friends crazy and my kids completely lost their minds," Piazza joked. "One of the tricks I discovered is that their content is shot by a professional photographer, so I hired one to take a month of content for me and my family. My kids broke down on day two. At the end of it, everyone was crying."
While she went into the project with some skepticism, Piazza says she finished her research with a new respect for mom influencers.
"It's work," said Piazza. "When I came into this I thought, 'Oh, I want to be an influencer. I'd love to just take a picture and have someone pay me, that would be so much easier than researching and reporting all of the articles I write.' But it's work, and it should be valued as work. They should be paid for what they are doing."