Never have I ever read a self-help book. The combination of the innate confidence of being a Beyoncé-loving grammar school girl and having a large circle of ever-chatty friends meant that I never looked far for advice. And like most of us, if we’re totally honest – by the time I’d explained a dilemma to my friends, I’d probably made up my mind about what I was going to do.
Then, two weeks late, three days of sleepless labour and an emergency C-section later with seemingly endless wires weaving in and out of my body, my first son arrived. Two (still sleepless) days later, still barely able to stand or – importantly – really feed him, I was dispatched from an over-crowded hospital ward, with a tiny, helpless human in the back of our car.
And I cannot in any way explain the bewildering helplessness, confusion and total lack of confidence that suddenly fell over me.
The search for some kind of lighthouse, or just a bobbing buoy, to grab onto, led me, ravenously, to my phone – and Instagram. It became as vital as nipple cream. It’s something I’d not really assessed too deeply until this week it was revealed one of the app’s biggest stars, Clemmie Hooper, aka @mother_of_daughters had been using a fake profile on the Tattle Life website to slag off her fellow mumbloggers.
There was a lot of fallout in the mumstagram world. But, outside of it, snideness and eye-rolling began. Whhhhhy would you care about these women?
This is why I cared.
I’d NCT-ed and I'd skimmed a book that got me as far as getting the baby out. In the end, that bit was done for me. I ‘knew’ the sleep would be brutal, the feeding probably problematic, the hormones rollercoaster-like. And ironically, I was also armed with a million pieces of home-spun advice that essentially boiled down to a weird mix of voodoo mother-nature-instinct and ‘you do what’s right for you!’
I wonder if the next time you have a life-changing medical procedure, you’ll be dispatched with a cheery ‘follow your instincts! It’s natural!’
My phone – rough with dried breast milk patches, marked with tear stains and endlessly charged because I was rarely out of the house – became my constant companion.
Stripped naked of opinion, direction, or any clue about what the fuck I was doing for the first time in my life (I was apparently a very wilful toddler), my phone – rough with dried breast milk patches, marked with tear stains and endlessly charged because I was rarely out of the house – became my constant companion. I WhatsApped my NCT group at 2am hoping someone was up, messaged friends with older kids begging for a light at the end of the tunnel, dispatched pictures to family, tried six-hour-long white noise apps in search of rest (nope, that didn’t work) and googled, jeez I googled every question or passing worry that flitted through my brain. And more often than not, I found myself on Instagram.
Why? There are so many reasons. Trying to stay awake for the eighth time that night so you don’t drop your feeding baby. Wondering what your friends are up to. Stuck under a baby in your bedroom without a telly. Wanting to feel like there is a world outside of your four walls. But most importantly, you’ve texted your friends, you’ve asked your mum, you’ve read 85 different opinions on Mumsnet and you just want someone, someone who gets it, someone whose actual livelihood is to relate to you, to tell you WHAT THE HELL TO DO. Did they always have the answer? No, but like a salve on a burn, they helped.
Mummybloggers appear regularly on my feed. It’s something I’d never have anticipated. Accounts focused on sleep, weaning (like Joe Wicks' Wean In 15 account) and one day maybe possibly losing some baby weight are prevalent. It’s not just straight-forward ‘mumpreneurs’ – I love following interesting people who mention their kids, seeing how they do it, hard-relating to their stories.
On Twitter where, back at work, my feed is populated with football, politics – and apparently, people who laugh at mumbloggers. Yesterday was a LOLathon at these mumstagrammers: People who turn to Instagram for fashion, beauty, make-up, decorating or career inspiration – that’s normal. It’s OK that that’s big business. But wanting your feed to reflect and help you during one of life’s biggest changes? Ridiculous! Apparently.
‘Mumstagrammers are important,’ says Lara. ‘Not as important as your network and mum friends, real ones. But they’re there during the long feeds and days you can’t make it out of the house. I prefer the ones that show more reality and offer advice on specific things. It’s nice to have people at the same stage as you. And also, the mummy influencers are a great topic of conversation in all our mummy groups – Stacey Solomon, we all love Stacey Solomon.’
Yes, can I echo that? We all love you Stacey Solomon.
Jo tells me, ‘I felt quite isolated at first - posting and having people respond to me helped me feel like I was still connected to my friends. And I found things like The Mumologists collective Q&As so helpful.’
‘It makes it easy to connect to other mums and offers a platform to find information,’ says Susanne. ‘It’s easily accessible from my phone, even during night feeds when the rest of the world seems to be asleep!’
Celebrities are often praised for ‘raising awareness’ and helping people to not feel alone. How many times have you heard this: ‘If I can just help one person, this will have all been worth it.’ Well, say what you like about all of these women, but I promise you, in the real and metaphorical darkness, they’ve helped a lot more than one person.
So, lay off the mumstagrammers – you might need them one day. And even if you don’t, someone else does