Sarah Turner (aka The Unmumsy Mum) is a mum of three, blogger, author and Sunday Times bestselling sensation, famous for her brutally honest and hilarious take on parenthood. We loved her recent book, The Unmumsy Mum A-Z – An Inexpert Guide to Parenting (read our review here) and were thrilled when she agreed to chat to us!
Interview by Sam Eades.
Firstly congratulations on making it into the Sunday Times top 100 influencers list. When you started your blog did you have any idea how much your words would resonate with people?
Thank you! When I wrote my very first blog post, I honestly didn’t have any expectations at all. At the time, I had zero social media followers (the blog came months before I’d even set myself up on Facebook or Instagram). I strongly suspected that there were other mums out there who were feeling a bit disillusioned with all the other parenting bumf they’d read online and in print but it wasn’t until I started receiving comments and emails that I truly believed the blog could become something more.
The Unmumsy Mum A-Z – An Inexpert Guide to Parenting is your third book, and amazingly you wrote it during the arrival of your third son Wilf! Can you share some advice for parents who also want to make time to write?
I would be telling porkies if I said I had a really organised system for juggling writing alongside parenting, though it’s definitely possible to make it work. In many ways it was easier this time because James took shared parental leave, which meant I went back to some kind of work routine when Wilf was around 10 weeks old. Even so, there were a great many late-night writing stints and the usual panic as deadlines approached. The beauty of writing is that you can take it with you wherever you go. I’ve written some of my most popular blog posts as drafts on my phone notes when out and about with the boys, stealing moments when they’re napping or when they’re occupied at soft play.
You open up about mental health and how the “doom cloud” as you cleverly put it struck around day 65. A lot of the information out there focuses on mental health in those first few weeks so can you share a little about this experience for women struggling after the fourth trimester is over?
I felt quite out of sorts a few months after Wilf was born. It wasn’t any one thing in particular, it was more a general feeling of anxiety – almost a sense of foreboding. I made excuses to get out of going to things, I felt nervous about driving and it was as though I was going through the motions without really being present in the moment. This came as a bit of a shock, as the ‘baby blues’ we’re so often warned about hadn’t hit me in the immediate weeks and therefore I’d assumed I’d escaped it! It’s normal to have ‘off days’ or days when you’re not feeling on top of the world but if you find yourself existing under a doom cloud more regularly, that’s really not normal and it’s best to speak to someone who can help.
One of my favourite entries in the book is ‘Good Enough’. Can you explain to new parents what you mean by that?
Of course. Seven years in to the parenting adventure and I’ve come to realise that the expectations we put on ourselves as parents are simply too high. They’re unrealistic, often informed by the glossy versions of parenthood we consume via social media. We start off with this ideal vision of how we’ll be as parents and then as we inevitably start to fall short of that ideal, we give ourselves a hard time. Setting the bar a bit lower to begin with is a good place to start, I think! It feels amazing when you make peace with the fact that ‘good enough’ really can be enough.
Has Jude forgiven you for Sconegate?
Haha! Yes he has. In fact, since writing the book, I’ve had the opportunity to right my wrong as I was invited to this year’s Mother’s Day Cream Tea at nursery – I was the first parent there!! I won’t ever forget his little face last year though, it still makes my heart hurt.
You touch on the infamous Daily Mail article about “Slummy Mummies”. Do you think the way women are talking about motherhood online has changed? Is it important to share the lows as well as the highs?
I think the parenting landscape online has shifted tremendously over the last five years or so. It’s now more acceptable to share the good, the bad and the ugly and I think this is a really positive change. There is, of course, always a danger that we push it too far the other way and only share the lows. I think it’s really important to represent a balance online as this is the most accurate reflection of what parenting is really like. The highs are heartwarmingly magical and the lows, well, the lows can be rock bottom s**t. I try my best to share posts that cover both those extremes alongside a whole host of everyday parenting moments in between.
You mention in the closing pages that this is the last Unmumsy Mum book! What is next for you? We love your books!
This is indeed the last Unmumsy Mum book. It’s the end of an era but I feel like it’s the right time for me to do something new. I do plan to keep writing though and I’ve actually just started writing my first work of fiction. It’s a big challenge as I am so used to writing about my own life but I’m looking forward to seeing what I can write as Sarah Turner.
Can you share one piece advice for new mums?
Be kinder to yourself! You are doing a fantastic job.