I’d be fibbing if I said The Mumsnet thread hadn’t rocked my somewhat rainbow hued boat; or, at least temporarily punctured my Instagram-bubble of confidence in people’s kindness. I’d managed to learn from its well-hidden teaching with regards to a layperson’s understanding of all the garb surrounding #ad or #gifted and adjust my posts to ensure no one was left unclear as to whether money had changed hands, I’d been sent a freebie or if it required #Ipayforshittoo! I’d taken the constructive feedback and managed to move on to a more positive place, until the subtext of that thread was thrust back in my path amongst the comments on my instagram, similar to a mouthful-of-Weetabix sneeze coming your way – it was unexpected, a bit grainy and not wholly welcome.
It was a well-meaning comment on an average Instagram post; the image is irrelevant to this tome, but the comment, in part, tickled my goat again. It’s the perception that ALL “insta-mums” are “well-off/middle-class” and occasionally flouted as “elitist” that irks my tits.
I’ve reworded and rewritten this post to ensure I don’t sound like a complete privileged twat in trying to convey, what is to me, very important to me.
It keeps cropping up, particularly among the Instagram naysayers and those with a dim-view on the “insta-mum” phenomena. Perhaps it’s a sensitive point due to the pigeon holing and judgement of a whole swathe of women. White mothers showcasing their lives via social media in a bid to “out” motherhood as a bit of a hard slog to unite the masses and hashtag the arse out of #authenticmotherhood, may all “look the same” – but just like life in general, we’re not all the same – and within that swathe there’s a wealth of diversity to tap into.
But just because a few wankers happen to hold this view point, it doesn’t mean there’s not some truth to it – but is it the whole truth?! I’m advocate seeing even more diversity on those little pixelated squares, particularly in the parenting arena, but that doesn’t mean flagrant misjudgements can be banded around about the current selection.
I suppose this misjudgement (or is it a miscommunication on my part?) grinds my norks as it diminishes the struggle; my family’s financial struggles.
I’m hardly stepping into revelatory territory when I disclose that that square image (on Instagram) is only a highlight (or cherry-picked low-light) of someone’s day, it doesn’t inform you of the many other minutia of the 24 hours preceding that moment, or in fact, the carnage (be it physical or emotional) that lay out of shot. In the very same way depression, PND and grief don’t always look like what many expect – neither do financial struggles. Struggling doesn’t have greasy hair, snotty nosed kids, pallid skin, an ankle tag, discarded appliances in the garden and a staffie tugging on a chain; it lives in London suburbs, terraced houses and, in our case, a newly extended (thanks to a loan from my parents-in-law) ex-council house in Sussex.
To give it some perspective, we’re far from the 21% living in poverty within the UK1; similarly, we are not what is considered comfortable – in fact, some months can become quite uncomfortable. I guess, we’re what Tessa May might label the “just about managing” or the hip-titled “JAMs”; we have jobs, live month to month, struggling to save for that new patio, along six million other UK households2.
From the outside I can see why I may be pigeon-holed –
- 5 kids in clean clothes
- posh accent (thanks mum for slogging your guts out to send me to the posh school!) and a penchant for showing off big words.
- we live near ‘swanky’ Brighton
- we both work
- two cars
- semi-detached, 4-bed, newly extended and refurbished house
The reality (which I’ve never hidden) –
- Our recent extension was funded by loans (predominantly from amazing relatives) and thanks to a lot of research looks modern/on-trend and bloody fab thanks to Ebay, shopping around and carboot sales. It was essentially done on the cheap. There are parts of the house completely unfinished and due to lack of money, won’t be finished in the next few years. But we all need goals, right?!
- We haven’t been on a family holiday that hasn’t been gifted as we can’t afford to – it’s amazing that I’ve created this ‘ere blog so companies are willing to quite literally give us a break.
- Although I now have the job of my dreams and work part-time (while also blogging and all that entails!), only 5 years ago I was a single mum on benefits, then a cleaner and ironing lady. In fact, I would have been better off staying on benefits (financially) but didn’t see that as a long-term solution.
- Our two cars are both over 10 years old and collectively worth about £500!
- We shop in Lidl, Aldi and Asda – not out of choice, but they’re the cheapest. I sometimes treat myself to a few bits in Waitrose!
So, the comment of “it’d just be really great to see a normal, not well-off mum on here!” is blinkered, as you’re looking at one! Coo-eeee!! Our family is part of the whopping 60% of households that consider themselves JAMs, and some months we join the 44% of those JAMs who admit to regularly running out of money before the end of the month3.
So why am I bringing this up? Why am I running the risk of sounding like a privileged knob-clanger “insta-mum” sitting in her cosy house, with 2 jobs, bemoaning being labelled as “well-off”? It comes back to the cheesy cliché that is blogging, and those bloody little squares on the gram – it’s about people knowing they’re not alone! Sure, I’ve related to a lot of parenting chat over the years and appreciated the solidarity of motherhood; realised shared stories about depression, breastfeeding or a child struggling with behavioural issues have had the power to make even a dark day brighter just knowing you’re not the only one crying about this shit. But for me, one of the most powerful shares by the likes of Mother Pukka or Clemmie Telford are the financial ones – the sharing of a declined card or having no money – it’s not shameful, and by the looks of the statistics it’s more common than you might think! Talking about money, especially the lack of it, can be embarrassing but it shouldn’t be taboo.
There are so many great stories of motherhood to be shared and listened to, diminishing the importance of any one of those stories and the background of that story is like closing our eyes to the multifaceted beauty that is parenthood. We urge our children to listen, understand, question and be compassionate – we should all give it a whirl!
- Data from The New Policy Institute via The Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2016 (MPSE).
- According to research from Resolution Foundation think tank.
- From a 2016 survey of 1000 UK households with children by comparison site Money.co.uk
Thank you for your honesty. It’s nice to know that there are others like me out there. All I want is the best for my kids. I am a single parent, I suppose I’m thought of as being middle class, I struggle from day to Day and work full time. I have been through a lot over the years but the thing that makes me happy at the end of the day is the fact that my children have a happy home. Money doesn’t buy love. You are doing an amazing job and make me smile every day. Nice to know I’m not the only nutter out ther. Thanks again Wendy xxx
Think your great, even more so. 👏😘
I always look forward to watching/reading what’s going on with you all as you come across as ‘real’ and never put a gloss on your posts. I came across your insta by accident when you were going into your son’s school for discussions and have been following your daily experiences since. I think it’s due to the fact that your so relatable and honest 👍 we’re all struggling to get through one way or another, but sometimes it’s nice to know your not entirely on your own. By the way, you’ve got me saying ‘shiz’ on a daily basis lol
Loved this. I can totally relate and reading this has made me smile in the fact we are not alone.
Well said. Things don’t seem to be getting any easier. There seems to be an absence of common sense politics!
Its very sad you have to try and explain… if people carnt say anything nice then they should keep there gobs shut.. you either like watching your storys like me or they don’t. If they don’t then sod off.. I actually love watching you rambles 😂Keep it up.
Haha… this made me giggle! Thanks lovely xxx
Wonderfully honest post! As the mum of six children I can totally relate. We’re automatically put in a box just by having “so many” children x
Very well written. In the same boat regarding cash. Not working at the moment, one income household. 3 kids. Amazing family who keep our heads just at water level. Most important thing is a happy home and happy kids. Even tho I kill them most of the time 😆😆😆 Love catching up on your stories daily. Good woman!
lovely read and great to see your honesty. I am a stay at home mum to one and what’s so annoying are all these mummy meet ups the ticket prices are like £30 I would love to go but then that money could come in handy for something else so I’m like forget it maybe next time, perhaps if I was still working things would be different. I remember the days I had no child and I was working and I could buy whatever I wanted (not whatever but you know what I mean). Oh well I have a lovely little boy and I wouldn’t change that for the world X
You brighten my day ; love your honest fresh love of life ❤️
Love reading your blogs .. very open and your posts are so relatable ! Always agree never judge a book by its cover , you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors ! We are all doing our best out here !
From a sussex Mum of 5 / working crazy shift hours your blog keeps me entertained 😉x
Absolutely love this! It’s so important for everyone to realise that the squares don’t show it all. Thank you for being so honest.
You are brilliant at putting your point across without getting mega pissed off with peoples narrow minded views.
Aldi and Asda are my favourites. Asda has produce and stuff that the upmarket supermarkets don’t stock. 😍
Great read, thank you. Your honesty is refreshing 👏🏻
Love this post! We are exactly the same, 1 income family at the moment while I’m desperately trying to start my own business (because no bugger offers flexible hours 🙄) 3 boys and just scraping by most months! Although it would be amazing to be ‘comfortable’ I do think that my children will grow up appreciating things a little more that children who have had whatever they want whenever they want.
I would just like to point out that you’re responsible for the rapid decline in available funds in this house due to an ever increasing Jus Rol addiction 🤣
It’s crazy isn’t it how in this country you can be “better off” on benefits as a single parent than working. For a very short time, I was on benefits but had a desperate desire to work. I got a good full time job that paid well’ish. But by the time I paid for childcare and transport, I was left with less than if I hadn’t been working and stayed on benefits. How does that even make sense?! Loved your very honest post x
Well said! It is comforting to hear that so many of us are in the same boat. When people come to visit our house, I am often compelled to say, “Of course, we chose the 70s-look kitchen with the ingrained grease as our first choice of refurb when we moved in 4 years ago!”, before they try to conceal their fright at the state of the place. Like you, so many things in our house just won’t get done until we can finish paying off our current loans….and start another! But this is reality. I am lucky enough to have quit work (due to accumulated stress of full-time teaching and the trauma of losing a sister last year), and look after the kids for a while. The flipside of this means making that bolognaise stretch into a chilli tomorrow night. I am so glad to see you share a positive attitude to life’s difficult situations. Where would we be without sunshine?!