"Insta-mums are slammed by ordinary mothers", shouts the headline from our old favourite, the Daily Mail, describing a pretty un-headline worthy conversation on a Mumsnet forum. Don't bother looking it up, it's really not worth your time. Yes, there are some potentially unhelpful comments. Yes, I am in total agreement that as women and mothers we need to stick together and just be a bit nicer sometimes and yes, I admit that I don't really relate to some of the glossy images I scroll through on my phone. But there's panic behind the headline. For the second time in a year this same newspaper has tried to destroy the confidence and power of this new wave of strong mothers. Luckily, I don't think it's working.
(Image author's own)
Because whether you like the images that you see or not, these mums are doing something different. They are running businesses, they are working in new, more flexible ways around their family, they are clearly (in those that I follow anyway) passionate about their work and as a result their work is good - they are challenging conventional ways of living and working and carving out new paths for other mums to follow. No surprises then that the Daily Mail isn't keen. They threaten the norm, these women need to quieten down, get back to running a household because god forbid we have opinionated, influential women, and not just women, but mothers, creating change.
We know social media can be problematic when it comes to how it makes us feel (not to mention how much of our time it takes up) and from working with mums I know that this needs consideration. But on the Instagram accounts I follow (and don't get me wrong I am just talking about personal experience here, there are no doubt other accounts where this might not be the case) there IS a sharing of the realities. In fact, when I think back to five years ago when I had my first baby I think there are far more examples of 'real' motherhood available. To have someone like Mother Pukka showing her leaking boobs and sharing her experiences of trying to return to work part-time is a really positive thing. And from what I can tell Clemmie (aka Mother of Daughters) is a midwife trying to help other women have positive pregnancy and birth experiences. When you genuinely believe someone's reason for posting and enjoy hearing of their experiences then it's absolutely fair game if they want to earn some money out of it, there's nothing wrong with that.
But if an Instagram account you follow makes you feel inadequate, frustrated or actually anything negative at all then UNFOLLOW. Surround yourself with the people and the media that inspire and support you. Comparison really is the thief of joy and if you doubt someone's motives then move on. There probably is another debate to be had around this and how/what impact these perfect squares have on our mental health all round. And because as mothers we feel judged, a lot, these feelings are no doubt intensified.
Let's not take the fight to the 'Insta-mums' who are in exactly the same position. And let's not pretend this is all the fault of social media either. I've been guilty of rugby tackling a 2yo who just will not hold my hand en route to the park and seeing another parent and their beautifully behaved children trotting along calmly only to judge myself harshly. I can't get angry at the parent who happens to be having a good half hour (I just secretly tell myself that their children probably lack personality. This is not true of course but sometimes you do what you have to do.)
If we want to get cross with someone about feeling 'sold to' or 'made to feel we must be perfect' then let's start with the billion pound beauty industry or the media corporations or the other big businesses, largely led by men (fact) who market to us every single day. Harder to take on perhaps but far more worthy of the fight.
So, I say high five to all those Insta-mums (aka business women providing for their families and sharing stories and making themselves heard) keep going. I imagine that it really stings when those you feel are your tribe are the first to criticise but take the Daily Mail headline as yet another example that you are leading the way. I always think about the saying "if you're not dividing opinion, you're not pushing hard enough". And to anyone who doesn't relate - just be kind and importantly constructive with your words, we are all on the same side here, if we want to win this battle of gender equality and make it easier to be a mum in future then the only way forward is together. It might be a flippant comment on a screen but words still hurt and divides weaken our power.
And to the Daily Mail and any others who feel it's ok to belittle our world with the headlines of "mummy wars" or the like and set us up against one another - it won't work. You are right to feel threatened, what you are feeling is the growing power of strong mothers who will not take any sh*t.