In the first of a new series here at Digital Mums we are bringing you interviews from some of our favourite mums - those 'Mums Keeping It Real'. You’ve told us you want to hear from women like us; those that are doing their best in this crazy work/family/life juggle and are having a laugh along the way.
So of course the first person we just had to talk to was the awesome Sarah Turner, 28, who we all know and love as blogger The Unmumsy Mum. She has two children Henry, four and Jude, 17 months, lives in Devon and (squeal!) has just written her first book. The Unmumsy Mum. As we’d expect it’s less a parenting manual and more an insight into motherhood as it really is. We caught up with Sarah over the weekend...
Tell us about the book - it’s just so exciting that you’ve done it. How exactly have you managed to fit it all in?
"I still can’t believe I have written a bloody book! Even though I have been sat typing on my laptop for months on end, it still seems surreal that those words now lie between two covers. I only managed to squeeze the book-writing in because I took a bit of gamble and gave up my day job. I left my job at the University of Exeter back in June last year, and the last eight months has been my first ever taste of being self-employed.
What are you most proud of about it and what's your favourite bit?
I pledged when I started writing the book that it would be ‘nothing if not honest’ and I can safely say that I have kept that promise. It’s painfully honest in parts and though in many ways letting those thoughts loose is terrifying, I am really proud of that. It’s hard to pick a favourite bit, as I have grown quite attached to a number of the chapters. If I had to choose just one it would be my ‘Spinning Plates’ chapter, which is an accurate summary of how I feel about juggling kids/career/life in general. Basically, I’ve concluded you have to let some plates smash.
We loved your recent post 'I am a terrible mother' and it got a huge response on Facebook. Why don’t you think we’re honest more often?
I wrote that post after a really tough week. There was a split second when I thought, ‘I can’t post this’ but then I started wondering if other people were having a tough time of it too (plus it kind of goes against the whole ethos of my blog to self-censor what I’m admitting to). I’m always pretty staggered at the response to my posts but this one definitely struck a chord – it had almost 10,000 likes in 24 hours and I’m still receiving ‘Thank you for this, I really needed it’ messages now.
Another post 'What Happened to the Sisterhood', struck a chord with us too. You obviously feel passionately about mums judging each other over choices around working/not working?
I feel so strongly about this; motherhood is hard enough as it is without all that judgemental bullcrap. To be honest, before I had kids I think I was pretty judgemental but I have come to realise that our role as ‘mum’ should be the thing that unifies us and not what divides us! Mums are naturally quite defensive – we feel the need to explain why we do things, why we have made certain choices (or reiterate that there was no choice to make because circumstance forced us in a certain direction).
I think that is why debates can get quite heated, particularly online, where the ‘well I’m sure we’d all love to work all day/stay at home all day’ comments pop up time and again. Perhaps we feel that picking faults in those circumstances different to our own somehow justifies what we are doing. It doesn’t, of course, it just makes everybody feel crap. Some mums work full-time, some mums work part-time, some mums don’t work – who gives a shit, ultimately? We’re all just doing what we need to do.
Some of our Digital Mums tell us they really struggle with confidence, especially if they have been out of work for a while. Is this something you can relate to?
God yes – my confidence took a massive knock after becoming a mum for the first time. I had left my full-time fairly high-paced job in finance (which I loved) in favour of a part-time role at the University (which I liked, but didn’t love), and to be honest I had lost my sense of self a bit. I thought I’d chosen motherhood over career and then felt guilty about mourning the loss of that career. If I could go back in time and have a chat to myself I would have said, ‘You’ve given up that career. So what? Start a new one, take the opportunity to do something different. Write a bloody book!!’
What would you say to our Digital Mums who might just be starting out on the journey of combining motherhood and work?
I’m still fairly new to this juggle myself but I would say that you need to appreciate that there are both highs and lows to working from home/working for yourself and trying to fit a career around family commitments. Sometimes I feel smug when I have childcare in place and get a few hours to myself to sit with a cup of tea and do some writing. But there are many other times when it takes a ridiculous amount of discipline to write an article in the limited window when the baby is napping. Then there’s the issue of illness (‘You’ll have to have them, you’re only at home’… ‘Yes but I’m being paid to WORK from home, for god’s sake’…is a recurring ‘debate’ in this house).
Social media is obviously a big deal at Digital Mums. You have over 355,000 likes on your Facebook page, how has it impacted upon your life?
Social media has completely changed my life. It gave me the platform I needed to get my writing out there and under the noses of the publishing team, who offered me a book deal. It’s a dream come true, and I owe much of that dream to Facebook!
What do you think of the Facebook Motherhood Challenge which is currently sweeping social media?
To be honest, I’m pretty indifferent about the Motherhood Challenge. I was nominated twice and I opted not to take part purely because it’s not really my cup of tea. I have read quite a lot of criticism voiced towards the challenge (i.e. it’s not a challenge at all/it’s smug/it’s unrealistic/what about dads) and whilst part of me understands that sentiment I think a larger part of me thinks it’s a bit of a shame if mums get attacked for posting happy pictures with their children. Is it a fair representation of day-to-day parenthood? No. Would it be great if parents shared some of the more candid and truthful pics online? Yes. Do I think this means mums shouldn’t take part? Absolutely not! Share away, proud parent folk.
Finally any top parenting hacks you can share with us?
Don’t waste time reading endless articles about parenting hacks!"
Sarah’s book The Unmumsy Mum is out on Thursday February 11th and available on Amazon to pre-order now. You can also get it in real bookshops like Waterstones already. You can follow the Unmumsy Mum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Stay up to date with all The Unmumsy Mum’s latest blog posts on her website