Meet three Mummy Bloggers - each of them followed, idolised, imitated, taunted and trolled online.
Elle Campbell is a glossy, lycra-clad mum with washboard abs, a ten-year plan and a secret past. Abi Black has quit sugar, moved to the country and is homeschooling her kids. Leisel Adams slogs away at her office job each day before rushing home, steeped in guilt, to spend precious moments with her kids before bedtime. All three share a label that they simultaneously relish and loathe-mummy blogger. And the connections don't stop there . . .
When all three women are nominated for a prestigious blogging award with a hefty cash prize, the scene is set for a brutal and often hilarious battle for hearts, minds-and clicks. As the awards night gets closer, their lies get bigger, their stunts get crazier - and some mistakes from the past become harder and harder to hide.
The Mummy Bloggers is a sharp and funny look at power of social media and the women behind the likes, shares and filters.
** To purchase move your curser mid-bottom page and click through on the 'Buy' button. Published by Allen & Unwin.
The Stylish Mumma
30,167 people know how Elle and Adrian met.
That’s how many followers Elle’s anonymous blog—Somebody Else’s Husband—had at the height of its infamy.
More people than lived in the small brown town where Elle grew up had followed the story of a young personal trainer and the married financier she’d met at the gym.
A sample post:
Today, Reader [she was twenty-two, after all], I tried to resist A. When he looked at me Like That, I looked away. When he touched my arm Like That (in front of Adam from Zumba!!!) I pulled away. I know what I am doing is wrong. But Reader. How do I stop myself from running towards the only thing that feels right to me???? The only thing that ever has. When I am in his arms, even though I am afraid, I feel safe. It’s the strangest thing. I CAN’T FIGHT IT.
That was true—Elle couldn’t fight it—because there was nothing to fight. Only a plan to follow through. One night she stayed long after her last class and walked into the deserted men’s changing room and right into Adrian’s shower cubicle.
Unsurprisingly, that night had inspired the blog’s most clicked-on post. Ever.
Elle shut her laptop when she heard footsteps outside the kitchen. Adrian had no idea that that particular blog existed. Not then, not now. But Elle had no intention of unpublishing Somebody Else’s Husband. She loved that it lived on, a vivid memento of who she once was. The kind of woman who wrote florid sentences like:
The smell of my pussy reminds me of A. I think about him the way I used to fantasise about Ryan Gosling. OMG. A and I are living our very own Notebook!
These days Elle blogged under her own name, but about much tamer topics. Her most recent post featured freshly baked beetroot-chocolate brownies, Instagrammed with the hashtag #treatday.
The picture was perfection, of course. A high-angled selfie, it took in Elle biting into a brownie, panning down just enough to show her cropped white gym top and tanned, flat stomach. You could see the edge of the oven behind her, brand name visible, and a glimpse of her new ironbark kitchen benchtop—which, she knew, would generate as many comments as the cakes. Or her abs.
She tipped the brownies into her motion-sensor stainless steel bin, immediately followed by the Organic Annie’s packet they’d arrived in. If she left them out, Adrian would be on them in a heartbeat. He couldn’t afford that, in her opinion.
Elle had always had a critical eye—possibly, she thought, as the result of growing up in a house where there was much to criticise. She had always felt like she was observing and running commentary on her life from afar. Now, of course, she actually was: she and 154,158 others.
If Somebody Else’s Husband had granted her blogging training wheels, The Stylish Mumma was her masterpiece—a tangle of relatable mum-confession and aspirational lifestyle porn. She had changed tack at exactly the moment Instagram had started rewarding aesthetics with armies of followers. And she knew what they wanted.
Her new kitchen, for example. When she and Adrian had begun to renovate their dream glass-and-white box in Melbourne’s beachside suburb of Brighton, she’d known that the kitchen would be the heart of her home. Not for her family, but for her followers. It would be the room that made every other woman in Australia feel bad about her kitchen.
And so it was. Sophisticated from every angle, it was a white-on-white masterpiece that barely needed a filter.
Whenever Elle needed a boost, she would open her fridge—the giant, French-doored beast was stacked with shiny, labelledcontainers. Everything was in its place, so there was no need to rummage around: ‘Kale’, ‘Spinach’, ‘Rocket’, all in identical Tupperware, with lids in primary colours. Then the grains, the proteins, the sliced fruit for the boys.
The fridge was the opposite of the ones in the kitchens of her childhood. From whichever council pick-up those appliances had come, they all had blackened corners and cracked plastic shelves that sagged under the weight of her dad’s halfslab. All the kids knew never to take anything from a fridge without a suspicious poke and sniff: discarded apple halves, open yoghurt pots with peeled-back lids, half-eaten cans of beans, hard-edged cheese ends. And always a curdled last-inch of milk.
Elle’s own fridge had a compartment just for plucked grapes that had been washed and chilled in the crisper. Her boys—should they grow tall enough or behave well enough to be allowed—could help themselves to crunchy, fresh goodness day and night. And one day, she felt sure, they would.
Her sons wouldn’t share her secret fetish for ‘poor-people food’, as she and her sister had called it: baked beans, packet mac and cheese, two-minute noodles, tinned spaghetti. Salt. Slop. Fat. It tempted and disgusted her in equal measure. Whereas the labelled tub of kimchi on the middle shelf? It made her feel virtuous, in control, beyond temptation. So, the brownies were in the bin.
Elle’s kitchen was a reminder of how far she’d come.
‘Want me to do anything else before I go?’ asked Cate, from the doorway. ‘I’ve laid out the boys’ clothes for the next three days in the dressing-room, and we’re scheduled through till Tuesday lunchtime.’
Cate never came into the kitchen. Elle hadn’t made an explicit rule, but she knew people familiar with the house could sense the force field around her showpiece. Any interloper was bound to put something in the wrong place. Any foot aside from Elle’s on the polished concrete floor felt like a child’s muddy hand on a fresh white summer dress.
‘I think we’re good, Cate. How’s it looking?’
‘Reach is down a little bit, but to be honest recipes aren’t going as well as the homes posts at the moment.’
Cate was Elle’s social media manager and unofficial au pair. Twenty-one and vibrating with ambition, she had practically stalked Elle, working for free until she was invited to stay. A girl from Sydney’s western suburbs who wanted what Elle had—influence and an expensive wardrobe—she tried to style herself on the boss, spending most of each day tapping away at the phone and laptop in her no-name active wear.
What Cate didn’t know about social media hadn’t been thought of yet, but as an au pair she’d had a lot to learn. Elle had made it clear to Cate that her boys were on a strict daily routine. On Day Two, she’d come home from a photoshoot to find Cate feeding them spaghetti bolognaise in front of Canimals. That was nipped in the bud with a printed-out hourly schedule of exactly where Freddie and Teddy should be at any given moment, along with what they should be doing and the foods they should be eating. ‘Don’t use your initiative when it comes to the boys,’ Elle had told Cate firmly. ‘Just follow the rules.’
‘I’ll be home before eleven,’ Cate was saying now. ‘I think tomorrow’s outfit post is going to go gangbusters.’
Elle had recently started a daily post to showcase her sons’ outfits.
At two and three, Elle’s ‘Irish twins’ were, she recognised, at the pinnacle of their cuteness, with their overgrown black curls and their mother’s green eyes. She could barely keep up with the parcels of free clothes that streamed through the door. Tiny polo shirts and hipster tees, boat shoes and cargo shorts, skinny jeans and drop-crotch leggings, hats and scarves and socks and satchels—all of which would have looked perfectly acceptable on a grown man at a creative agency in Brunswick. The only things missing on her two little #dudes were the beards.
She’d dedicated a whole room to their wardrobe, outfits chosen well in advance and recorded on a polaroid board before posting, to keep track of sponsorships and avoid double-ups. It was almost a full-time job to curate and record the boys’ aesthetic—‘It’s Prince George meets Harry Styles,’ was how Elle and Cate described it to interested PRs.
Elle knew her sons were on the edge of rebellion about the now-weekly shoot. Adrian, too, had his reservations about the boys' photos—after all, he was a 47-year-old man who had, before he’d met Elle, considered fashion to be two things: a suit in the week and a polo shirt on weekends. But the engagement was too good to lose. And anyway, planning the kids’ outfits days ahead made her feel calm.
‘You know why you’re obsessed with order, don’t you?’ Adrian had said to her on one of their early dates, at that stage in a relationship when the other’s neuroses are still charming puzzles to be solved.
That stage in their relationship when he was cheating on his wife.
‘It’s because you had none when you were growing up. You’re obsessed with keeping everything in its place because you think the chaos can’t get you then.’
This wasn’t news to Elle, a long-time devotee of self-improvement books and life-coaching seminars. And she armchair-analysed Adrian right back—not aloud, of course—quickly diagnosing him with a rescue complex. The more vulnerable she seemed, the more invested he would be.
Elle now felt the same way about her followers. She knew how to keep them interested—she knew that they needed aspiration. They needed to know that their own messy lives were a temporary state, that a broken bird could become a beautiful swan.
Her tribe needed to live and breathe that fairytale so they could believe that one day they too would have a kitchen with a spray tap and a Thermomix, even if they’d grown up with a shitty dad and currently made do with a stick blender.
Elle made sure to reveal just enough of herself, of her story, to attach and keep her followers. She exuded enough success to have them want to see her every day, but she remained vulnerable enough that they didn’t completely hate her. She spoke the language of gratitude while appearing to have it all.
As a woman who had already reinvented herself more than once, she’d never felt so well-qualified for anything in her life. After all, her kitchen proved that anything was possible.
‘You go, Cate,’ she said, when she realised that the girl was still standing there with a fixed smile, unable to leave without permission. ‘Have fun! Adrian and I have got the boys.’ Actually, iPads had got the boys—a guaranteed way to silence preschoolers.
Cate obviously had a date: she was wearing lipstick and a skirt that could have passed as a belt, and she fairly sprinted out of the house at her boss’s wave. Pretty girl, thought Elle, but she could do so much more with herself.
Elle swivelled on her high-backed white leather stool and opened the laptop.
A #grateful day.
Ever had one of those days, Mummas, where you realise that maybe, just maybe, you’re doing a good job at this mothering thing after all? One of those days where you can see all of the tiny sacrifices you make for your family paying off?
I feel that way today. The sunlight is coming in through my kitchen window. The washing up is done, the laundry is folded away, the kitchen smells of warm, comforting home cooking. It smells of love. I have just finished baking some #healthytreats for my family that I know will nourish them and make them smile.
It’s one of those days when I’m so grateful that I made the choice to stay at home and put my energy into what matters. One of those days when I know that making the effort to prepare healthy meals for my boys was the right decision. It’s a day when I’m so happy that I have been the one on the floor playing trains with them.
It’s one of those days when I know that everything I have been through, I have been through so I could get to be right here today, in my beautiful home with my three beautiful men. There’s nothing like a #grateful day. I hope you’re having one, too. And if today’s been tough, know that tomorrow can be better #loveandlight
Elle snapped another selfie to go with her post. I am grateful that my new lip filler has settled, she thought, but didn’t type. I am grateful that Cate is getting paid to play trains with the boys. I’m grateful for Organic Annie’s home-delivery brownies. I’m grateful it’s not the day when Adrian’s girls come over to sulk at me. I’m grateful I am not Feral Abi.
‘Come on, boys, it’s bathtime!’ Elle called through the kitchen door.
The Green Diva
Abi got called a ‘dangerous cunt’ twenty-five times a day. On average.
She wore it as a badge of honour. She’d had it turned into a meme, a T-shirt and a bumper sticker for the people mover. She was thinking of writing it on her passport form, should she ever leave the country again.
This morning, Abi was looking at her dangerous-cunt self in the tarnished bathroom mirror and wondering if her followers would ever let her get away with botox. She yanked a handful of curls back from her hairline with full force.
‘Gracey, is there such a thing as organic botox?’ Abi shouted through the open bathroom door.
‘Yes. Babe, it’s called “acceptance”.’
‘Fuck that.’ Abi had a camera crew arriving soon for an interview on An Evening Affair, and every time she saw her head looming large on TV she felt like kicking the screen in. Who was that old bag, anyway?
‘You’re just freaking out because rent-a-quote are on their way,’ said Grace, coming into the bathroom barefoot and sticking a kiss on Abi’s bare shoulder. To Abi, Grace smelt, like she looked, of sunshine and oatmeal and all things golden and good. ‘Don’t worry about it. They’re not looking at your face, they’re listening to your words.’
‘Now, even you know that’s bullshit.’ Abi turned to Grace and kissed her lips.
Suddenly Otto was between them—he always was, it seemed. Grace’s younger son, he was a tangle of seven-year-old neediness, wild hair, bare feet and knock-knees too big for his spindly legs.
‘Sol’s bashing Arden, and Alex is drawing anime on the kitchen wall. And I can’t find my shoooooooooooooes.’
Abi sighed into Grace’s smile and they separated, Grace taking Otto’s hand and walking him out of the bathroom, onto the bare boards of the bedroom, and down the squeaking staircase to where the mayhem of the morning routine was in full swing. Theirs was a household that ran mostly on chaos theory, where the kids had as much say as the adults, but some things still needed to be achieved each day.
This year, Otto had decided to start going to school, instead of being home-schooled like his brother and stepsisters. He now needed shoes every morning, and someone to get in the van and take him into Daylesford. It had been a shock to the household’s system. But hey, sometimes Abi understood exactly why the poor kid needed windows of escape from the madhouse—she certainly did.
Still staring into the bathroom mirror, she muttered to herself, ‘Maybe I’ll ask the people.’
In the bedroom, she rummaged around in the unmade sheets to find her phone under the pillow. She snapped a selfie and tapped out a caption.
Too wrinkly for TV? Any ideas for a botox substitute that doesnt fill my frontal lobes with poison?????
She added a skull and crossbones emoji for good measure, hit Post and threw her phone back on the bed, then started to dig through the piles on the floor for something to wear. She knew that when she picked up her phone again in a few minutes, there would already be a stream of validation.
No KWEEN, your PERFECT. #keepitreal
There isn’t a wrinkle on your wise head, honey. For reals.
Laughter lines are LIFE, sister. Never become one of those blank Instagram bitches. You’re so much better than that.
YOU DO YOU, darling.
And, of course:
Neck yourself now and save the money, you Dangerous Cunt.
Abi liked to think of all this as her Greek chorus of support and affirmation and shit-kicking awfulness. It was hard to imagine life without it.
An Evening Affair wanted her opinion on the Melbourne woman who’d been thrown out of a cafe for breastfeeding her four-year-old daughter. The woman in question had gone to ground, but a helpful bystander had captured the whole thing: the child standing beside her mother and suckling, the cafe manager charging over, hands waving, the woman tearily gathering her kid and her bags and practically sprinting out of the place. Now that matter was all over the internet and the breakfast shows, face pixelated, being called a ‘pervert’ and a ‘sicko’ and an ‘incestuous bitch’.
Abi was more than happy to pull on her armour and go to war with the Parenting Police for a like-minded sister. The AEA producer had known exactly what he was going to get—that was why he’d called her, why he always called her for stories like this. ‘Just be you, Abi. Tell us why we’re wrong.’
Even before doing the interview, Abi knew that the very next shot after her soundbite—‘It’s not that poor woman who’s sick, it’s the society that thinks there’s something sexual about a mother feeding her child. If that’s what you see here, ask yourself what’s wrong with you? Are YOU the real pervert?’—would be of a reasonable-looking paediatrician in a frock making a point about there being no need to breastfeed your children past one, or even at all.
But Abi didn’t give a fuck.
In the past two years, she’d realised that the only way to get anyone to listen to you was to keep it simple and shout the loudest. Clouding your argument with nuance was the road to oblivion, in Abi’s book, and she was very clear on what she stood for.
Ironically, it was her treacherous suit of an ex-husband who had taught her all about brands. And now she was one.
Suck on that, Adrian, she thought, as she yanked a blue top that she knew worked for the cameras from the pile on the floor, sniffed it and pulled it on. All she needed now was one of her signature chunky bead necklaces and a dab of matte red lipstick, and she’d be ready to battle with the tabloid masses.
Reinvention was the only thing she had in common with Adrian’s replacement wife.
‘Hardly the only thing,’ she could almost hear Grace correct her.
Okay, okay. Some children. A blog. Possibly some crossover audience. A few secrets.
Abi laughed, as she always did when she let herself think about what was going on in that sterile modern box in the city. Whenever Arden and Alex came home from the (very) rare weekends at Dad’s, she pumped them for information. But really, she didn’t need to. She followed Elle’s posts with interest— from a fake account, obviously. She’d seen the new kitchen. She’d clocked the new boobs. She knew replacement wife wasn’t worried about the poison in botox.
But Abi hadn’t seen—and loved to imagine—Elle’s face when her tween and teen turned up with their unbrushed hair and their henna tatts and their steampunk-meets-thelittlest-hobo outfits, stomping their big boots on her white fluffy rugs and smearing their sticky fingers across her all-glass everything.
Speaking of which, Abi could hear the monsters downstairs, still fighting despite Grace’s insistence that it was time to calm down and think about what lessons they wanted to learn today. She really ought to weigh in.
But first, a quick post for the people. Back to the phone and some furious finger-typing.
TODAY’S WAR CRY:
Today, my Green Divas, I am calling to arms and heading into battle with the culture, yet again.
Today, I continue to fight to keep us out of that subservient place where THEY want us—doing everything by the new rule-book that none of us helped write.
Whatever shape your day takes today, remember this: There’s a reason you're not one of the sheep. There’s a reason you're reading this blog right now.
There’s a reason the goddess gave you your own mind.
When the world is telling you your child doesn’t fit in and you need to fix him, tell them where to go.
When they’re trying to sell you all that processed food that kills you slowly, tell them you nourish yourself and your family with authenticity and you wouldn’t spread that crap on your garden.
When they’re telling you that you love too hard and too loud, tell them one day they might realise their little lives are just a pale imitation of yours.
You are POWERFUL, never forget it. Your choices are powerful. Parent fiercely. Love loudly. Hit life with all the gusto you can summon from the earth.
Today’s a big day. Live large.
PS: You can see me on An Evening Affair, 6.30 tonight, Channel 8. xx
A quick message to my GD Becca, who messaged me to say her kid's teacher had been complaining about her boy’s beautiful hair: Remember, cutting and combing against his will does not make you a ‘good mother’, it makes you a violator of his personal space and free will. Tell that teacher to do their job and stop imposing their bullshit rules on a little person who's more than capable of setting their own compass. We’re with you. #divapower #fighttheman
A yell from downstairs yanked Abi off the bed. She guessed it was up to her to take Otto into town today. She’d make it back in time for the film crew.