Like a beloved Goldfish, my career has been swimming in circles for the last 3 years since I returned to work part-time following the arrival of The Eldest. The BSCB then sounded the death knell and it’s officially now floating belly up, ready to be wrapped in a tissue and unceremoniously dumped down the bog. So, like any other modern mum suffering an existential crisis of “Who am I? What am I going to do?” not to mention, “How am I going to pay for my tea and cake now that’s all I will be doing?” (right? Because that’s what stay-at-home mums do all day) I decided to start a blog and set up an Instagram account because clearly that would help. They will both be one month old on Tuesday and just like the first month of parenting it has been a steep learning curve that I’ve crashed off the edge of once or twice.
The similarity to parenting is startling, actually. Just like in the first flush of rose-tinted love for a newborn, I felt excited to get to know, albeit through the lens of an iPhone, a new Girl Gang who make me feel proud to be a woman (to be fair this is a bit disingenuous as my experience of the early days of parenting was dominated less by a rosy glow and more by seven-shades-of-shit how do we do this and stay alive?) The wit, determination, business acumen, creativity and general ballsiness of these women has excited and inspired me. But then the baby started to grow, and sucked me dry of time, and generally made me feel a bit crappy because everyone else seemed to be doing it better that I was.
Within days of setting up my account I found myself carrying my phone with a dedication that has hitherto alluded me. It has been an eternal source of frustration for the “husband” that I am often so far away from my phone that I might as well step back to the 80s. On one occasion, when I was heavily pregnant with the BSCB and he couldn’t get hold of me, he actually called our neighbour (who was also heavily pregnant) and got her to come and check I wasn’t in labour (one thing, dear “husband” – if I was in labour I’m pretty sure calling you would be fairly top of the agenda). Anyway, it transpired that small fingers had put my phone onto airplane mode which was why all calls were going straight to answer phone. There is no danger of that happening these days. In fact, over the weekend, I was asking my daughter some random questions, one of which was “What does mummy like to do?” Her answer? “Play with her phone.” I was mortified. Safe to say that the “husband” can now reach me whenever he likes but I’m not sure I like the trade-off.
Despite these early signs of addictive behaviour let’s not ignore the positives of joining the 21st Century and doing something internet-y. Thanks to IG I have developed some #mumcrushes on women like @dresslikeamum who walk the gridded streets of Instagram with style and accomplishment. This one-woman-band is determined to change the image of what it means to dress like a mum and not only does she have her very own wall, but she also manages to find the time to take a picture of herself standing in front of it wearing a different outfit every day. With a camera. And a tripod. Also with “a wall” is @mother_pukka who blogs and vlogs with considerable aplomb about #parentingtheshitoutoflife . My tiny mind boggles. How do these women manage to dress, apply makeup, care for small people, work, set up what can only be called equipment AND take photos/videos of themselves every day? The only thing I can commit to doing daily is going for a wee, and even then I’ve cut down on how much I drink in order to remove trips to the toilet out of the list of obstacles I have to face.
Another Instagram woman who I love to follow is @midwifeyhooper. Now, I’m pretty confident that she doesn’t know this but I actually know @midwifeyhooper, (from a distance anyway) as she was part of the team of midwives whose care I was under for the birth of the BSCB. While she didn’t actually deliver him, I feel the fact that there was a very real chance that she might have seen my foof means that we are connected, sort of. Currently on maternity leave with twin baby girls, as well as being mum to two older girls, @midwifeyhooper sports an immaculate bob on a par with Anna Wintour’s that leads me to believe only one of two things can be true – it’s a wig, or she’s a superhero.
The list of cool, intelligent, empathetic and most of all supportive, women goes on and on – @theyesmummum, @steph_don’tbuyherflowers, @survivingmotherhood_ @peckham_mamma – they are all redefining what it means to be a working mum, and some of them have actually completely redefined what they do since becoming a mum. I could write an entire post about just how cool they are (and that there seems to be a freakish concentration of them around South London – weird). But my point is actually about how cool I am not.
Like the new girl wearing the wrong clothes and listening to the wrong music, I’ve found myself trying way too hard, and spending too much time wondering how I can impress my new Sisterhood heroes. Wandering around in the belly of Instagram, I have been getting steadily grumpier because like a small child in ToysRUs I want it all and other people seem to have it, so why can’t I? Over the last few weeks there have been countless incidents of Instagram induced rage when I have wondered why my life doesn’t match up to the lives of others. Part of the problem was that I didn’t know the rules of the game and the early days of my feed has several Insta-ugly pics which I quickly was realising were not going to cut the mustard. I needed to step up, but how? This was just what my life looked like: a bit messy, a bit blurred and just not cool.
Then I had a revelation. One of my new mum heroes admitted that at times she moves the crap cluttering up her home out of shot when taking an Insta-pretty photo. It just hadn’t occurred to me that the stunning pictures that people post are staged, or at the very least tidied up. And filters! Those things are magic – go ahead, transform a distinctly average photograph into a diamond-sharp, rainbow-hued work of art! Alternatively, a judiciously applied filter will turn your feed into a gorgeous tonal revery by using the same one for every single picture. Aha! I thought, feeling better for a moment – I can do that!
So, the next time the occasion arose where the BSCB was doing something amusing that I wanted to capture, I readied the camera but then reached to move out of shot the towels and dirty washing that were in the background (we were in the bathroom btw – as messy as life admittedly gets I don’t just leave knickers sunnyside up scattered around the living room). The problem was that by the time I had set the scene to Insta-ready the BSCB and The Eldest had descended into full-scale barny about who got to stand inside the base to the potty. Yeah…This was not going to work for me.
Another barrier to my ever becoming Insta-cool is my uncanny knack of getting the tone ever so slightly wrong. I have entered the @notonthehighstreet #maverickmum competition (who couldn’t do with £500 worth of NOTHS vouchers, afterall?) but what I didn’t do (which admittedly would have been rather cynical) was check the tone of the competition. If I had have done I would have seen pretty pictures of paint smeared tables bearing captions such as “A messy home is a creative home.” which had received the NOTHS seal of approval of being requested for their online gallery. If I’d have checked I probably wouldn’t have posted this:
This poo marked the start of a habit of alfresco pooing that lasted the whole of last summer. My daughter decided that she would not poo in a toilet, or in the potette when out and about. I resorted to letting her squat in the street and then I’d scoop it up afterwards with one of the baby’s nappies. Oh the shame. #maverickmum #pooperscooper #disgustingbuttrue I photographed many of them. I will wreak my revenge. #18thbirthdayparty
I still think this is pretty maverick, but it is a fairly typical example of how I’ve lived my life quite often just ever so slightly misjudging the tone of an occasion.
So, all in all, I’ve decided that I’m probably just not Insta-cool. I will admit that this has played on my mind over the last few weeks but I’m now coming to terms with it. It doesn’t mean I can’t paddle on the edge of the cool gang’s puddle by liking their images and posting the odd comment, but it does mean that every now and again I have to have a strong word with myself about the fact that they are probably not that Insta-cool either – it’s just that they are better at moving shit out of shot 😉