The truly picture-perfect life of an Instagram mum
Thousands of mothers worldwide are embracing the social media app Instagram to publish images of their picture-perfect lives. Alice Vincent logs on.
To those who have a Wi-Fi connection and offspring, the term "Mummy blogger" won't be an unfamiliar one. But as smartphones take over busy parents' lives, more are choosing to share their experiences of parenthood online without the warts-and-all confessions.
One app, Instagram, has become particularly popular with mothers, as it allows women to share photos of their children and the daily routines of bringing up baby.
Instagram enables its users to take photographs from their smartphone or camera and apply basic edits to them, such as altering the sharpness or contrast and applying a range of coloured filters. But the feature that has made it a hit among web-savvy parents is the ability to upload images online and share them on Twitter and Facebook.
The result is a handful of super-stylish mothers with Instagram followers in their tens and hundreds of thousands, and millions of parents connecting through the small, everyday miracles of back-to-school new shoes, baking triumphs and the first shiny conker of the season.
Mothers Kelle Hampton and James Kicinski McCoy use Instagram as an extension of their blogs, which are visited by millions of readers daily. Not unsurprisingly, their Instagram accounts are almost as popular: Kelle's has attracted more than 61,000 followers, James's 172,000. Both post achingly cool lifestyle snaps - tousle-haired children enjoying a beachside sunset, looking sleepy in the midst of enormous, rumpled white bedsheets or captured mid-air as they jump off a mid-century sofa.
With magazine-worthy photography, it's hardly surprising these accounts are so popular - they offer a glimpse into a seemingly perfect world.
Briar Stanley is a 33-year-old interior decorator and blogger , who has gained 10,700 followers in two and half years for her simple, sophisticated snaps of her design process and, increasingly, her toddler Sunday.
For Briar, Instagram is more than just a way of keeping in contact with her blog readers in between posts - it offers a number of personal advantages. "I started off posting photos of Sunday in her first few months if I had dressed her in a cute outfit, say - because, let's face it, there isn't much else going on in that haze of breastfeeding and sleeping," she tells me.
"Looking back through my Instagram feed, I have an amazing visual diary of the first two years of her life. The photos of Sunday genuinely bring a smile to my face. I have a huge family too, and they all love seeing an update from Sunday's week." The feeling's mutual - even at two, Sunday enjoys scrolling through Instagram with her mum to look at photos of her cousins and friends: "I'll make sure I have a weekly scroll through with her," says Briar, "where she names everyone and we talk about what they're doing."
The social aspect of Instagram works both ways, she finds: "There is a big and supportive community of mothers there and I find it a really friendly and engaging forum for women."
Much as her feed offers inspiration for homewares, Briar is influenced by the variety of parenting experience available on Instagram: "There are some accounts that are more personal, they might discuss their child's sleeping habits; others are all about cute kid's interiors and fashion. I'm drawn to both. I find daily inspiration on Instagram - in work and in life."
The "Instamums" trend is growing quickly. Nina Grimstead, who lives in London, with her husband Dan and three sons, runs her own children's clothing business, but manages to find time to share and improve her photography skills via Instagram.
Nina has had an account for two years, and enjoys posting artistic black-and-white shots of her boys, Ollie, 10, Tom, 8, and Jack, 5, with hashtags that help her find curated photography groups that share the best shots on Instagram. Of the groups she participates in, almost all of the other contributors are keen photographers too. "There is a community feel to Instagram which I really like," she says.
Bloggers and online parenting groups have jumped on the Instagram-wagon, which has helped photography and mothering communities collide.
Blogger and mum-of-three Cara McKee joined Instagram six months ago. Like Briar, Cara (40) enjoys sharing photos of her son and two daughters and updates her blog and her friends and family at the same time: "Instagram lets me keep up with friends when we're not seeing each other so much. For instance, one mummy friend of mine has recently moved abroad, and it helps me to keep up with the building of her new home."
While there is an engaged community around blogging, Cara says connecting through Instagram is more rewarding. "I'm usually impressed by the kindness shown by people all around the world. Instagram seems to be a friendlier, more benign place than some others in the world of blogging."
But really, the photos shared on Instagram aren't so far removed from any other family snaps: little occasions caught in time that would otherwise pass so swiftly.
Nina explains: "I have always shared pictures of my children. I love trying to capture their everyday antics."
Cara agrees: "Just looking back through the pictures, it's so clear how fast they grow," she says. "I want to capture all the moments."