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):
It’s an intriguing debate for sure (and that article was certainly unpleasant and quoted things way out of context) as every person’s line will be drawn in a different place. I am not sure myself that the intention of the article was to question what is “real” – I don’t think the writer was actually accusing any one of making up things was she? – just that she had a different definition of what was ‘appropriate’ to share online…
One thing I think is interesting to consider is how we present ourselves on line, and in person – we are all going to ‘edit’ what we write and what we say. There is a thought process of what we say and reveal – and the effects of this on others is a fascinating topic for thought. For example, I often describe myself as a working mum – but then I think (a) no man who is a dad describes himself as a working dad and (b) am I somehow implying this is a ‘better’ choice? or maybe I am just overthinking…
My other thought regarding what I choose to share about my child is not really about how I want to come across as a person but is always whether I will be comfortable showing my children what I shared of their lives – whilst in person I might describe an action as being taken by “that little sh*t” I personally probably wouldn’t share that where it could come back to haunt me at a later date… sharing in person with context, gestures and so forth is one thing, but things seem much more deliberate and callous when they are written down I think – I personally think the best humorous writers manage to elude things without spelling them out!
Really interesting comment, thank you Rachel! I agree, it’s a fascinating debate. For me, I think there’s huge value in being really candid about the difficult sides of parenting as it helps other parents who might be having a tough time. I agree it’s important to think about the future ramifications of what we write. I’m always aware of this but I think, ultimately, if our kids know they are loved and adored (which they do) then they’ll understand that sometimes we had tough days. I think the Mail article failed to realise how much value there is in sharing these hard parts of being a parent and how many mums have been personally really helped by blogs like The Unmumsy Mum and Hurrah for Gin. The whole thing of writing about lives online is a huge and fascinating subject though isn’t it?