Perfectly styled kids, immaculate interiors, and thousands of followers to show for it: meet the Irish mums curating perfect lives online. By Sarah Breen
As of last December, Instagram, the photo and video-sharing app, had over 300 million registered users worldwide. The majority of ’grammers snap and share little more than their pets and brunches; but in a small, beautiful corner of the internet, there is a community of chic mothers who post endless pictures of their adorable kids wearing this season’s must-have designer clothes.
Instamums are all about the aesthetic. They’re visually astute, only posting the most picture- perfect snapshots of family life. You won’t find any Frozen pyjamas, battery-operated plastic toys or snotty noses detracting from their ad-quality shots. If it’s not Pinterest-worthy, it’s not posted. Simple as.
I’m guilty of following plenty of Instamums. Too many, probably. And I can’t help but feel a little inadequate. While their clean and shiny toddlers are dressed head to toe in designer duds, playing with handmade toys, lovingly crafted in reclaimed Scandinavian wood, mine is enthusiastically smashing blueberries into the couch wearing hand-me-down dungarees. Somehow, I feel like I must be doing something wrong.
Claire Hall is a mother of two from Bangor, Co Down. She ’grams under the handle @kawaiigirl79 and has almost 50,000 followers who can’t get enough of her pretty pastel home and four-year-old daughter Ruby’s enviable wardrobe.
“I was always into fashion for myself, so when I had kids, it was only natural that I would like kids’ fashion too,” she says. “When I joined Instagram just over three years ago, I think it just fuelled the fire. I was hooked from the beginning.”
With five kids between the ages of two and 16, you’d think Julie Farrell from Sandyford, Co Dublin would spend any free minute she gets alone locked in the bathroom. But she somehow still manages to share snippets of her youngest über-cool monochrome outfits at @dancewithdirtyfeet, where her 15,000+ followers continually applaud her style.
“I prefer the visual aspect of Instagram to the chaotic conversation of Twitter or Facebook,” she says. “From really stunning stylised accounts to real life family chaos, I think it gives a much better insight into everyday life.”
For Sooby Lynch, a Dublin mum who posts pictures of her two-year- old fashionista daughter Penny at @standingbythewall_, Instagram has been thoroughly life-changing. She befriended Dublin photographer Lili Forberg, who has a two-year- ld son, through the app, and the two have since launched Mutiny Kids (mutinykids.com), a children’s fashion and interiors magazine.
“I recognised Lili’s little boy Leon one day in the supermarket from her photos,” Sooby says. “It took me about five minutes to work up the courage to say hello to her. But it turned out we lived close to each other, so we became great friends.”
The idea that someone might recognise their child in a public place, and approach them, doesn’t appear to be a problem for Instamums, but it gives me the willies. Protecting children’s rights to privacy online is a hot topic right now. Once pictures are uploaded to Instagram, they can be downloaded by anyone, anywhere, and used for any reason. As children can’t give their consent, some people claim it’s unfair to post their images so prolifically.
“I only put up online what I’m happy to share with the world,” says Sooby. “If I want to share something more private with my friends, I send them an email. I try to see the world in a positive way, while still staying sensible.”
“It’s really just pictures of cute things, kids’ clothes and my home,” says Claire. “But if you put your life on a blog or social media, you have to be open about sharing certain aspects. I just don’t like to over-share.”
Staying on top of the latest kids’ fashion trends is a top priority for any Instamum worth her iPhone. That can mean spending big bucks on must-have items and staying up until midnight to snap up new season collections from the likes of Nununu Baby, Bobo Choses, Beau Loves and Rock Your Baby. It has to be done, if you want your kid to be rocking the same romper as her online friends.
As my daughter’s second birthday draws closer, I’m starting to become more aware of what I post about her online. My own Instagram is private, and I only have a few hundred followers, but it concerns me that I could be potentially putting her at risk. Will I close my account? Unlikely. For one thing, my mother would complain. But more importantly, I’d miss trying to keep up with the Instamums.
Follow Sarah Breen on Twitter @sarahjaybee. This article originally appeared in the April issue of IMAGE magazine. The May issue is on shelves now.