One of the best things about being a mum in 2017 is the ability to be completely candid and share our experiences of motherhood. This is also one of the worst things. Never before has mum life been so under the microscope or so laid bare for all to see.
Instagram, YouTube, blogs and Facebook mean many of us – bloggers or not – put little elements of our life out there all the time for everyone to see. Sharing all these details of our lives lays us all open to criticism. Whether you’re a cupcake baking mum or a fish finger serving mum, you can’t please everyone and there’s a high chance someone somewhere will silently (or not so silently) judge you. They’ll either assume you don’t love your kids because you moan about them, or think you need to get a life and stop being so sentimental because you love your kids too much. As I said, you can’t please everyone. This is just life as a parent in 2017.
There was an article published in the Daily Mail today which slated a few mum bloggers, one of whom is a good mate of mine. This post isn’t about that article specifically (which was pretty vile even for Daily Mail standards), but it’s a catalyst to something I was going to write anyway about the idea of “keeping it real” as a mum.
This phrase of “keeping it real” is bandied around all the time online. I hate it. I use it often myself, because I’m too lax to think of a better term, but I still hate it. I know, I’m a bad, bad person.
Anyway, the reason I hate the term “keeping it real” is because it suggests the alternative is a pack of lies. For example, I might vlog about a family day out and include the toddler throwing food in the air and getting naked. This doesn’t mean another vlogger’s family picnic without a naked food-throwing toddler is any less real though. Maybe their kids simply don’t like getting naked and throwing food around. Lucky them.
My Instagram feed is full of nice photos, because I like taking photos. The captions often tell the story behind the photo, which is pretty much what this blog does too. I always try to include the good bits and the bad bits of life. It’s my life, uncut. If there are no bad bits then you can assume there really were no bad things to say, whether that’s about a brand collaboration, a post about a successful school run or a family day out. (Which leads me to another bugbear – this assumption that bloggers who write only good things about a brand are “selling out” and lying. This is SO often NOT the case.)
I’ve always been an original Inbetweener. I wasn’t in any particular gang at school, college or uni and don’t easily fall into a clique of mums in the school playground (although our school is so small you could argue we’re all just one big clique anyway!). And just like at school, in blogging I count bloggers on both sides of the invisible “realness” fence my buddies.
The article in the Mail is one of so many that seems to want to pit one type of mum against another. It suggests you either love your kids or you don’t, you’re either a good mum who wears an apron and sings lovingly through every tantrum, or you’re a gin-swigging lush who swears at your kids and hates every moment of being a mum. The truth is, none of the mums I know fall into either of those brackets. Some days are good days, some days are bad days. This idea that we need to label all mums doesn’t do anyone any favours. (Read my friend Alison’s post about this – it’s really good.)
Anyway, the phrase “keeping it real” suggests, to me, that if you don’t blog or vlog about the bad bits of life then you’re basically a fake. This simply isn’t the case. Of course we all choose what we put out there when we share bits of our life online, but even the edited bits are real. There’s only so much you can fake, after all.
Take my videos over on YouTube, for example. They couldn’t be any more different to my pal Katie’s. That doesn’t mean I dislike Katie or think her videos are fake. Of COURSE they’re not. Katie’s videos – just like mine – show HER experiences as a mum.
Obviously this isn’t to say there aren’t some people out there faking it. Whether it’s mums pretending to have had a bad day for likes on Facebook or mums pretending to be the next Stepford Wife for views on YouTube, obviously there are some people out there who do this. I mean, come on, there are so many of us online these days it’s an inevitability isn’t it? But I’d like to think these mums are in the minority – and, anyway, faking it is pointless because you can sniff it from a mile off. Most of us are just sharing our days in all their perfect or imperfect glory.
So, in short, if you’re a mum and you pop up in my Facebook feed venting about a difficult bedtime with the kids, or sharing some photos of a brilliant family day out, I won’t judge you. I know you’re “keeping it real”, because all our versions of reality are different on any given day.
(And, finally, to the journalist slash promoter of your own personal brand of parenting book who wrote that piece in the Daily Mail, here’s proof that one of the women you slated is not a bad mum. Any mother who can crouch under a big rock with their two year old while singing nursery rhymes with a patient smile is a flipping brilliant mum in my book. NOTE: I would share one of Sarah’s own videos here rather than my own, but in Sarah’s words she is #notavlogger):