Having recently breached the elusive 10k follower mark, I’d like to share my tips on how to win at Instagram (when you’re a busy parent who doesn’t have the time to engage 24/7/365)

Juggling the spinning plates of parenting and running an online business is bloody hard work. I’m not only a busy mum of three children, I also have a blog and write books. In between home educating the kids, cooking all our food from scratch and my writing, I also have to find time to promote said writing.

No mean feat! 

win at instagramEngaging on social media to build a following is what some consider to be a full time job, and is just not possible for people like me. We have enough going on already. I’ve learnt the hard way that if I have to sacrifice time with my children to win at Instagram (or anything for that matter), then it’s simply not worth it. So here’s my version of winning… 

Don’t be a dick

Actually this is also rule number one of life as far as I’m concerned. Playing the follow/unfollow game, buying followers and setting up like bots are the quickest and most surefire ways to lose your credibility. Nuff said. 

Try not to get too caught up in what everyone else doing

Again, a great rule for life, because as we all know comparison is often the thief of joy. As soon as we start copycatting what others are doing on Instagram we dilute our own message and become background noise. 

Who honestly gives a crap about the perfect flat lay or a pair of feet while drinking a cup of coffee?

Have a truly unique voice  

Which brings me nicely onto this point. Every blogger, vlogger and Instagrammer thinks they’re unique. We all believe we have an important message to bestow upon the world otherwise we’d have chucked the towel in long ago.

The sad fact is that most people are just parroting what everyone else has said. Don’t be like them, be yourself. By sharing the bits of your life that others are afraid to you’ll get the absolute most out of the experience, and your followers will genuinely feel they are gaining something by coming to your feed.

Vulnerability personified…

 

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Saville would fix all your problems, and Gary Glitter wanted you to be part of his gang. Where primary school kids had access to porn films and 8yo girls had their innocence stolen on a daily basis. 😔 I grew up in a world where comparison wasn’t always the thief of joy, and in fact sometimes knowing that others had it so much harder was a good thing for me. 😔 I grew up in a world where the WORST happened, and I got to the point where I could no longer forgive and forget. I made the hardest decision I’ve ever made (to date) when I was 26 years old (I’m now 38). 😔 Motherhood without a mum is more heartbreaking than I could ever articulate. On any given day I’ll flit between knowing I’ve made the right decision to desperately hoping I was wrong and wanting her to beat my door down. To say “I’m here now, and everything will be ok!” The words I know without doubt my dear grandma would have said, given half the chance. 😔 So if you’re struggling with similar issues please email me and I’ll send you a copy of Become the Best You. Had I read the book I wrote when I was on the edge, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have fallen down a deep, dark hole.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

Follow people who properly inspire you

Instagram can too easily turn into one big linky. Scrolling through all the pretty photos, hardly reading the captions, because really who has the time to bother doing that? It can become exceptionally fake and pointless very quickly. The best way to avoid this happening is by only following the people who inspire and support you.

Accounts I like to follow: 

  • fellow home educators
  • people who make the sort of food I like to eat (not just take pretty photos of food) 
  • other parents of autistic kids 
  • yogis 
  • families who go travelling 

Don’t be afraid to unfollow people who don’t inspire you (they probably unfollowed you long ago anyway) 

I used to follow loads of other bloggers, and I would spend ages engaging on their pages because I thought that was the done thing. Then I installed a followers app, and learnt that around 80% of these ‘blogging friends’ didn’t follow me back. Which  is why they never engaged on my feed. So now I don’t bother wasting my time on these people at all. I still follow plenty of bloggers, but the genuinely supportive ones who care when I’m having a hard time and know what my kids are called. 

If someone comes to my feed and shows me a lot of love, then I like to return the favour. It’s nice to show other people that you care as much they do.

Choose your shortcuts wisely, because if they seem too good to be true, they usually are

People who promise to help you win at Instagram by growing your account with real followers are usually lying. I’ve done several trials of outsourcing my Insta, which has led to even more work on my behalf where they’ve followed loads of accounts I have zero interest in. I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t many shortcuts to be had in this arena.

In all honesty, my version of winning might not be everyone’s. I’ve had some great highs, such as this post below which is my most engaged with of all time. I’ve also had some very low lows recently post-algorithm change.

I am not glued to my phone though, and for me, that is more important than anything else!

It would seem that it’s a great time to be a mummy blogger 

what kind of mummy blogger am I?A group of highly successful bloggers were shot down in the national press this week. But who actually takes an article seriously when it speaks of feeding still-frozen fish fingers to children, and swigging neat gin from sippy cups? I suspect the main outcome was driving book sales of said bloggers through the roof. 

Some mummy bloggers are boasting six figure incomes. I find it pretty mind blowing, because it’s an insane amount of money to make through what most see as a little hobby!

Every day bloggers are releasing books, and courses. With the right attitude and work ethic, an uber lucrative career is apparently at all our fingertips.  

Everyone wants you to join their Facebook groups, and be a part of their community. But how on earth do you keep up with that many groups? Not to mention all the other social media stuff that goes hand in hand with blogging.

I don’t really fit the standard mummy blogger mould

I tell it as it is, whilst also advocating feeding my kids the best food possible, whilst at the same time being the crappiest photographer on the blogging block.

I (gasp) actually enjoy having sex with my husband. 

I’ve been open about almost crossing the line into alcoholism, and my battle with the booze. Not in a badge of honour way, in a very real way that most people aren’t willing to face up to and admit.

I don’t do mummy guilt, because I know that I’m doing absolutely everything in my power to be the best mum and wife I can be, and therefore have nothing to feel guilty about. 

For now at least. Who knows what the future will bring?

The trouble with keeping it real

In telling it as it is with my properly raw posts, I quite literally bleed all over the screen. I can imagine people flinching as they read my words, wincing even, thinking: is it really necessary? All that emotion?

Yet readers have told me that my blogs are their therapy, and I make them feel less alone. No matter how understanding friends and family are, no-one truly gets how utterly all consuming it is to raise SEN children, unless they’re also doing it.

That’s not to say that it’s a oneupmanship contest either. I rarely enter into my life is harder than yours competitions, because it’s pointless.

Neither do I use empty phrases like: we’re all in this together, because they are simply not true. We aren’t in this together. We are in this life with our nearest and dearest.

Being a woman doesn’t automatically mean I share the same opinions that all other women have. Just because someone else is a mummy blogger doesn’t mean I agree with everything they say. 

I take offense to the idea that not agreeing with the status quo means that you’re tearing others down. That’s the wonderful thing about people – we’re all different and are allowed to have different views. 

I don’t have a massive following, and when it comes down to the bare bones, blogging and vlogging is a popularity contest

It can all feel so very false.

Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Never put your neck on the line, just in case it looks bad. 

How many Facebook likers do you have? How’s your Instagram engagement? How many retweets do you get? 

It’s an absurd thing to get caught up in. 

what type of mummy blogger am I?

So to answer my own question, I’m the type of mummy blogger who… 

…is exactly the same in real life as I am online. 

…prefers to eat hot food and take crap photos. 

…falls in and out of love with blogging on a daily basis.  

…blogs about real life, not a glammed up version fit for Instagram. 

…only collaborates with brands I believe in. I’ve turned down many a well paid offer because I’m not comfortable to compromise my principles (usually where food is concerned).

…isn’t afraid to talk about the things most shy away from. We live an era where Donald Trump is the most powerful man in the world, and many in the UK will be voting Tory on the 8th June because the austerity cuts don’t directly affect them. It’s a sad time, and we shouldn’t be silenced through the fear that people might roll their eyes and think ‘what’s she ranting about now’? 

I’m not really sure what this post is or where it will lead

Probably no-where, but I will press publish, come what may.

Because this is my actual real life, and that’s what blogging is supposed to be about.

desperately-seeking-authenticityI’ve been blogging here for three and a half years now. From my very first post, my biggest aim has been authenticity. You will never be able to pigeon hole my blog, because I write about such a diverse amount of things.

Real things: real life, lived by real people. No Insta-perfection around here.

I don’t pretend to be something I’m not, but I must admit that I’ve held back some of my opinions. For fear that there would be a backlash. Or (heaven forbid) brands would no longer want to collaborate with me. I’ve had enough of that mindset though.

I’m done caring what other people think on such a superficial level

I cannot and will not spend every minute of every day on social media. All the chat about ‘building your brand’ and ‘engaging with your audience’ drives me mad.

I have a husband and three (demanding) children who are my top priority. Next comes the house, and the food we eat and the life admin. All these things are much more important than my stats.

Don’t get me wrong, my blog is also important to me. It’s been an emotional outlet when I couldn’t afford counselling, and has seen me through some tough times. It’s also been a fantastic stepping stone to becoming a writer. In many respects I’m doing my dream job. When circumstances allow me to of course, which they haven’t recently. Needless to say it’s been a big source of frustration.

I truly admire bloggers who are flourishing, and succeeding in this ever-saturated market. The ones whose children are in full time education, who have made blogging their job, and are damn good at it. The ones who are clearly living life and loving it. I don’t see a huge amount of them though.

I see an awful lot of people talking loudly about nothing in particular. I find the noise offensive, and the need to tune out to it overwhelming.

Untitled design (3)It’s why I don’t read many other blogs anymore. Surely I can’t be the only one who feels this way?

To try and offset some of the noise, I started meditating. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, and it’s been an incredibly positive addition to my chaotic life. I can highly recommend it!

If 2016 has taught me nothing else, it’s that most people revel in their echo chambers

Not everyone though, and I’m grateful that there are lots of good folk out there. Ones who are willing to peel their eyes away from trashy TV long enough to embrace opinions different to their own. These are the people who will have your back when you need support. 

As for me, I’m not the sort of person who smiles to your face, and sniggers behind your back. I won’t only tell you what you want to hear. I stand up for my beliefs and try and have a moral and social conscience. I will never win a most popular blogger award, because I am useless at playing the blogging game.

write from the heartOr any game for that matter. I have always, and will always wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m an open book, have a read and if you like what you see then come back next time.      

I’ve gone massively off piste here. What was supposed to be a thank you to my lovely readers for their continued support has gone a little melancholy. It is new year’s eve after all, this day is always an emotional one. After the year I’ve had, along with so many others, I’ll be glad to close the door on it.

On a more positive note, here’s a sneaky peek of what’s in store next year (click on the coloured text for backstories)

  • Lots of posts about health and well-being and how much diet affects both
  • Updates as I go back onto the super strict GAPS diet (which will include giving up booze and coffee)
  • Recipes and tutorials on making truly healthy food. Specifically gluten free, dairy free, not just refined sugar free but low natural sugar
  • Updates on my family’s accidental home education journey
  • More posts written by my 7yo autistic daughter Polly
  • Updates on a brand new book about autism that we’re writing
  • Editing updates for Picking up the Pieces, and the journey to getting it published
  • Updates on Become the Best You – and why it’s unlikely that I’ll be giving subsequent books to my current publisher

I hope that you’ve liked what you see in the list above enough to not hit the unsubscribe button 😉

Here’s looking at an awesome 2017 all round. May it bring you health, happiness and authenticity!

parenting-must-always-come-before-politicsI’m not American, but like many others across the globe, Wednesday’s result floored me.

I allowed politics to get in the way of parenting, and that is not okay at all!

I was in pieces over the result first thing, and my mood only declined throughout the day. I allowed myself to become consumed by what was going on in the world, completely to the detriment of what was happening inside my own four walls. I went against all my self-imposed rules about time spent on social media, and I cracked open the vino just before 4pm. In fairness that was one of my better decisions, because after the first glass I didn’t care so much anymore. Still, it’s not good is it?

Getting drunk whilst in charge of three kids

To become so embroiled in politics that my only coping mechanism was to get pissed. I wasn’t the only person who went down that particular road though, going by my Facebook feed people started drowning their sorrows much earlier than I did.

I’m starting to understand how it happened, and for what it’s worth I disagree wholeheartedly with the far-righters (or whatever they call themselves). The ones who are saying that this is a sign of independent thinking, and spout on about neoliberalism being at fault. I find this seriously ironic given how affluent these obama-quotepeople usually are, but there you go. I also disagree that it only happened because so many hate Hillary, and Bernie would have saved the day given half the chance.

I think it’s pretty obvious that it happened because people were promised that their lives would become a whole load better under a Trump administration. Perhaps it’s a combination of my Jewish heritage, and having spent time in Cambodia thirty years after Pol Pot but his legacy living on, that puts me on the defensive about Trump. Only time will tell of course – he may or may not be a horrendous president. While I won’t be holding my breath, I’m (just about) willing to keep an open mind.

The thing is, I have a crap ton of real life issues to contend with, and Donald Trump ain’t the top of my list

Things I need to tackle first, in no particular order…

  • Our hot water has been broken for over a week, and the engineers promising to fix it have been useless.
  • Freddy is still up every night.
  • Polly isn’t doing much better, but even when she sleeps, she wakes up super grumpy and picks fights (often as early as 5-something).
  • Clara didn’t get an invite to the first birthday party that is being thrown since starting school.
  • Polly sometimes refuses to do any learning, and cites feeling sad as the reason why. Seven year olds shouldn’t feel this sad this often. I desperately want to help her, but feel so utterly helpless.
  • Clara’s arms and hands are red raw and flaky (eczema? urticaria? rosacea?), but she won’t let me put any cream on them.
  • I’ve lost confidence in my abilities as a writer, and can’t even bear looking at my novel right now, let alone continuing with the edit or submitting it to agents.

hating-is-for-the-weakSo there you go, a snapshot of my life. As you can see, there’s plenty here to worry about without wasting my precious little energy on what’s happening in the US.

The conclusion I’ve come to, is that my children need my presence more than social media needs my outrage.

Parenting must always come before politics. Always!

 

a-fabulous-night-at-the-mad-blog-awardsWarning: If you’re not a blogger, you will probably find this post a bit boring! 

Last night I attended the MAD Blog Awards. For those not in the know, the MADs is a parent blogging awards ceremony, put on by the lovely Tots100 team. I’ve been blogging for almost four years, and have looked on enviously at this do in the past. It always looked like so much fun, and now I’ve experienced it for myself, know that it indeed is.

So, I’m sat here writing this post, still wearing last nights dress. I’m ignoring my kids while they watch endless Paw Patrols on Netflix, and it’s far too early to think, let alone write, given the ridiculous amount of booze that I consumed. Oh, and I’m seriously in the dog house with my husband, for not coming home last night.

BUT…I did have a brilliant time, until passing the point of no return…  

mads-collageMy highlights from the MAD Blog Awards

Top of the list was that I finally got to meet lots of awesome bloggers who I’ve only chatted to online previously. Thankfully I had some good chats with Charlotte, Alison, Detrice, Julia, Emily, Sarah, Hannah, Prabs and Talya while I was still lucid enough to hold a conversation.    

Getting to hang out with my blogging besties Mel and Ting without the kids in tow. As awesome as they are, it’s near on impossible to talk for more than a few minutes without being interrupted when they are around. One of the best things about blogging for me has been the amazing new friends that it’s brought to my offline world. Love you ladies! 

Eating a delicious meal while it was still hot. Not an every day occurrence.

Genuinely laughing out loud at Helen Lederer while she was introducing the nominees. Very funny lady.

Realising that the people with the saddest stories are often the most wonderful folk you will meet. 

Thanks so much to Sally and co for putting on a great night, and congrats to everyone who won (and didn’t win). Hope you had as much fun as I did 😉