There’s nothing more infuriating to new mothers than the depiction of other moms in the media and on Instagram. They’re nearly always portrayed as stick-thin, blemish-free, happily smiling and utterly content with all aspects of their new life. But the truth, as many people know, is a far cry from all that. After all, looking after a baby is hard, painful and – considering all the vomit and poop – can actually be pretty gross.
Perhaps in an attempt to redress the balance, then, one new parent decided to use Instagram to open up about the toll that motherhood has taken on her. And she provides revealing insights into what becoming a parent is really like, compared to all those posed pics we’re used to.
Indeed, there’s a lot of pressure among Instagram users to portray themselves as having the perfect lives. What’s more, the platform itself encourages this through filters designed to make images as colorful and pretty as possible. But Sydney, Australia-based mother Rachelle Rowlings decided she’d had enough of the mask.
On the surface, nevertheless, Rowlings’ Instagram does seem like it’s all style and no substance. There are countless pictures of her smiling happily while standing next to beautiful Australian scenery and with a placid baby in her arms. But if you actually click on the pictures, you’ll find the truth.
Indeed, the captions Rowlings writes alongside each image reveal what’s really going on and how hard it was for her to make herself and her baby look Instagram-presentable. Furthermore, she carefully details every single one of her son Roman’s antics. And the fact that she has nicknamed him “Lord Commander” gives away just how frank she gets.
“To dear people without children,” she captioned one happy-looking photo. “Please be aware that when I’m not responding to your text, I’m being pinned to the ground by a chubby minor or used as a human ladder.” After that, she spared no detail about Roman’s bodily functions before, finally, signing off with, “Love always, Your future.”
“Don’t let this fool you,” she wrote beside another serene-looking photograph. “This cute little milk mutant is not subdued, chilled or zen.” She then went on to explain how, in her sleep-deprived state, she’d positioned him with the sun in his eyes for two minutes. And, as a result, she self-deprecatingly dubbed herself “mother of the year.”
So why reveal so much about yourself online? Well, Rowlings had a very good reason. “I was trying to find something that inspired me when I was my least inspired,” she told 9Honey in December 2016. “I had this beautiful little creation and everyone was telling me it would be the best time of my life… and I felt like a failure because I was miserable.”
“So, so in love,” she continued, “but exhausted, hormonal, bruised and battered, bleeding, bloated and felt like a Christmas ham! I was sure that other mums must feel the same but no one talks about it… I was fed up with seeing WAGs parading around a week after pushing one out like they’ve just stepped off a catwalk.”
However, Rowlings has no desire to stop dressing up: she just wants to be honest about the time and effort it took. “I didn’t want to change myself (my clothes, the heels, etc.) because that’s what makes me, me!,” she added to 9Honey. “But I wanted people to know that behind all of this, I’m sweating, the kid is screaming, I’m leaking and I have 17 layers of foundation on!”
Before long, though, it became obvious that people were impressed by Rowlings’ brutal honesty. Indeed, she was gaining follower after follower on Instagram as well as sympathetic comments on her photographs from other parents. “Your post has put a smile on my face and a little skip in my step to pick myself up and keep ‘mummy-ing’ on,” read one.
“I get so many inbox messages saying how nice it is to have an honest account of motherhood,” Rowlings further revealed to 9Honey. “I know there’s a lot of other mums out there who have been documenting real motherhood and that’s amazing. I’m just here to tell my story, too!”
And to date Rowlings has over 13,000 Instagram followers, to whom she gives parenting advice that she herself wasn’t informed about. “Dear stuff-noone-tells-you-about-babies,” she wrote in July 2016. “An ingrown toenail! Really?! The toe is the size of a fleck of dust and it’s managed to malfunction?! So now every three hours I am rubbing antibiotic cream into his chub little footsie.”
Meanwhile, her writing is unflinching in describing the pain, frustration and physical change that comes along with new motherhood. “My boobs look like they’ve been involved in a high-speed collision,” she wrote in a post about her son’s scratching and feeding habits. “I actually cried about it today.”
And Rowlings isn’t the only mom who has had to experience the darker side of parenting. Indeed, around 13 percent of women worldwide will go through mental health issues, such as postnatal depression, after having their children. And the pressures that mothers receive from family, friends, the media and society can all be factors in this.
“The Pinterest society of looking at all these pictures of people who have perfectly decorated homes… it puts a lot of pressure on mothers, especially those who feel vulnerable and not fully confident in themselves,” Katherine Stone, founder of the non-profit Postpartum Progress, said in a 2014 interview with Today. As such, maternal mental health is clearly a pressing issue.
That’s why it’s essential that women see more realistic depictions of motherhood, gross stuff and all. “LC has moved himself into the master bedroom which in turn has become a baby dumpster,” Rowlings wrote in December 2016. “Yesterday he s**t on his owl mat, vomited minced lamb in his bed and became best friends with a PowerPoint.” Yikes.
Additionally, Rowlings is happy to provide a sympathetic ear to other moms – something that can mean the world to stressed parents. “Hang in there, honey, it took me six weeks to feel confident to go out by myself and when I did he had a complete meltdown!” she told a commenter who was struggling with a nine-day-old baby.
“No one tells you that you won’t leave the house for six weeks after they’re born, or that your boobs are rock hard and you’ll be up every night,” Rowlings added in a December 2016 interview with the Daily Mail. “Just because I put red lipstick on to go to the bathroom and squeezed my body into Ellery dresses while pregnant, doesn’t mean I’m not falling apart 99 percent of the time.”
But it seems that Instagram is playing a huge part in keeping that remaining one percent stress-free. After all, her pictures may be filtered and posed, but their captions serve a good purpose. Specifically, they give the Australian mom a place to vent her frustrations and share her experiences. “I’ve always been quite over the top, and I never wanted to lose ‘me,’ even though I’ve now had Roman,” Rowlings continued to the Daily Mail.
“Moms feel like they need to live up to all of these expectations all of the time, but they shouldn’t worry about struggling behind the scenes,” she continued. Indeed, she’s proving to the world that there really are no such things as “supermoms” – just regular ones.