“Don’t cave into any demands for minions T-shirts – it’s £79 smock dresses all the way” – that was the quote that ran across a recent feature I was interviewed for in The Times Magazine (published 27 November). I didn’t spout that (it was in reference to turbo glummy [glam mummy?] Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, spawn of former French Vogue editor Carine) but with my chops featured immediately below it looked like I was championing throwing £79 at a tea cosy-sized bit of cloth for the urchin.
I don’t begrudge anyone with that kind of cash – I’d be stitching those precious flaps of 100% Egytian cotton together to make a superhero maternity cape if I was that financially stacked. Equally, I’m not too bothered if folk thought that’s my blather – I have been known to chuck money at a Zara sale with the gusto of an E colour-fuelled toddler.
But it gave a slightly distorted view of ‘the millennial mum’; a phrase that, along with ‘cool mums’ and even ‘Instamum’ seems to have perked up in 2015 like a keen nipple. It’s, like, suddenly the world has caught on to the fact that we’re not all swathed in Laura Ashley paisley print, glued to Mumsnet chatrooms wondering if we hit the Jammy Dodgers too hard at elevenses.
It seems 2015 was the year when the media collectively whispered, “ah, they’re actual people too. And they’re on the Internet – no wait, they’re all on Instagram. Oh and I think they have ALL the money. This could be a thing! Take us to them.”
The Instamum world doesn’t – from what I can see with my intense RSI-inducing research/stalking – have that alien Roitfeld polish. Sure, there’s the likes of Parisian Instamum Leia Sfez who seems to cooly navigate motherhood with one hand on a flat white and the other on her monochrome-decked clan. But even the eye-wateringly perfect ones aren’t fluff – they’re not throwing money about willy nilly, wafting about from boob job to baby bounce with the occasional interlude for Darcey Bussell-instructed ballet barre.
They’re smart. An eighty quid babygro equates to a couple of bricks and a dollop of mortar; it’s a domain name for a new business website or blog; it equates to a future that centres on a pint-sized life project who might have just demanded ‘Peppa Pig and ketchup’ but has the potential to rival Abe Lincoln in debate.
For all the don’t-know-my-name-let-alone-if-I’m-wearing-knickers mental trauma of having kids, motherhood leaves you more on it. Exhausted, yes, but equally able to navigate a world of childcare administration, arch negotiation and timetable recitation simultaneously without getting a bead on.
You’re smarter with decisions on who to spend your time with (mainly due to lack of it); smarter on using social media for parental/ inspirational gain, not just to check in on an ex from 1999. (OK, the last bit is a wild lie).
I’m certainly not saying La Roitfeld is lacking in IQ or is a consumerist mule; it’s just that she’s a bona fide celebrity. She’s someone whose Mum probably necked a shot of Chanel No. 5 before bedtime. It’s like saying Madonna represents the majority of pensioners.
The Instamums are a glorious eclectic mix of cupcake bakers, muffin top bearers, boob sharers, boozy carers and everything inbetween – the two extremes I’ve found are @theunmumsymum to @heymamaco. Just flip from one account to the other and it’s like Peep Show-meets-America’s Next Top Model.
But what unites them all isn’t some kind of White Company, sponsored by Cath Kidston showdown, nor is it anything worthy of a Roitfeld-edited glossy rag.
It’s a united front – something Instagram is much better at than troll-tastic Twitter – of women who have each other’s backs. Women who realise that it’s not what she’s doing or what she’s got, but what we can do together.
That’s not to say there’s not the occasional bitching – a world without a dash of negativity is mildly chilling. We’re just a generation of social media-savvy parents who’ve realised we don’t want it all but we want something. And that something ain’t a £79 toddler smock dress.