'Mummy bloggers' perfect parenting tropes driving mental-health crisis

PR professionals and new research warn that 'mummy bloggers' are setting unrealistic standards for parents to live up to, fuelling a growing mental-health crisis.

Clemmie Hooper faced a backlash for bullying other mummy bloggers. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Clemmie Hooper faced a backlash for bullying other mummy bloggers. (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)

UK mums are facing a growing mental-health crisis exacerbated by social influencers and bloggers presenting a picture of 'perfect parenting' that doesn't meet with the reality for most parents today.

New research in the 'Motherhood #Unfiltered' report, commissioned by PR agency Diffusion, reveals the pressures facing mums and examines the impact that social-media parenting influencers are playing in setting an unrealistic standard for them to live up to.

Produced in collaboration with Zoe Blaskey – founder of parenting wellbeing platform Motherkind, as well as a podcaster and coach for mothers – the report examined the attitudes of 1,000 UK mums, aged 24-38. Additionally, the agency used its own analysis of social-media conversations to provide insights that fed into the report.

One in five of the respondents want to feel less anxious and stressed, while 40 per cent struggle to prioritise looking after their own mental wellbeing.

The research comes in the wake of Clemmie Hooper – otherwise known as Mother of Daughters – being outed as a bully and racist towards other bloggers, shutting down her 600,000-plus follower Instagram account following a public outcry at her dishonesty. 

Although mothers are turning to social media as they look for connection and solidarity with their contemporaries, only eight per cent said they feel positive and uplifted by social influencers.

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) stated they find parenting influencers difficult to trust, as it's not always clear whether they're being paid to promote a product.

'Mummy bloggers' and platforms like Instagram are facing an backlash, with 10 per cent of respondents having already unfollowed 'perfect mums' and social influencers.

Diffusion director Natasha Cobain said that, as brands are spending millions of pounds each year on influencer marketing, there's growing cynicism among mothers about online parenting influencers and the role they play.

For brands wanting to partner social influencers to better engage with parents, Diffusion's research raises important questions on whether the industry needs to do more to vet brand ambassadors, ensuring the content they create for parents is truly representative and relatable.

"Mums want to see a more honest and realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a parent on social media. Smart brands should act now and ensure that the content they share is sincere and relatable, and that the influencers they collaborate with are doing the same," added Cobain.

Perfect parenting myth

The PR Network co-founder Nicky Regazzoni is not surprised by these findings.

"As a working mum juggling a PR company with bringing up two children, I find the professional 'mummy bloggers' and influencers are promoting aspirational 'have it all' lifestyles that are totally out of reach to the average mum on the street," she told PRWeek.

"As this research suggests, increasingly, women like me will disengage from influencers who have fantasy lifestyles, seeking out those who are more in touch with real life. Brands and agencies will need to find more genuine advocates to win consumer minds."

Golin executive director strategy and innovation Will Cooke said that, as a new parent working in the industry, the report taps into three things that need to be addressed in 2020.

"Unease around social media, frustration with 'perfect' stereotypes and the maturing of influencer marketing. Social media used to be a platform for self-expression, yet it is now used primarily for expression repression," he said.

"Similarly, the 'perfect parent' is an advertising trope. We are not the clean-cut, constantly smiling health addicts that stock photos describe; we are the dirty nails, bedraggled hair, overtired individual who still loves hobbies from their youth.

"As influencer marketing matures, audiences are more aware of, and savvy to, transactional relationships and commercial content; they are trusting less and demanding more from the content they are served."

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