Utah Valley is home to some of the nation’s most popular bloggers, and most of them are moms. That’s no surprise. Research shows that moms are 20 percent more likely to use social media than the general population, and 1 in 3 bloggers are moms.
While these women see social media as a way to connect to the world outside of their sometimes isolated lives as mothers, studies have shown that social media sites like Facebook can promote feelings of envy, depression, loneliness and self-loathing, which may be even truer with Instagram.
Turns out scrolling through photo after perfect photo of a mom and her happy family (in cute clothes and a clean house, of course), can be a harmful pastime. That’s why we went to four local moms who have a strong online presence to find out what life is really like behind the pretty pictures and how these down-to-earth women keep things real in a sometimes artificial social media world.
UV360: Tell me about yourselves and what made you decide to start your blogs.
Michelle Petersen, The Mumsy Blog: I have three kids who are all under 5 years old. I got my degree from UVU in early childhood education and elementary education and I’ve lived in Provo for 11 years. I love being a mom, but I felt like I was losing the person I was before I became a mom and all those talents and hobbies I had acquired before. I felt they were getting lost in the chaos of having three kids that were ages 3 and under. I really started praying about how I could find myself again but still enjoy being a mom and the thought kept coming to do a blog.
Natashia McLean, The Mumsy Blog: I’m from Las Vegas, and I’ve lived in Provo for eight years. I’m a fitness instructor of three years. I teach cardio, yoga and Pilates at the MTC. I have four kids. I do freelance graphic design, fine art and illustration and I’m hoping to launch my own portfolio website in about a year. Michelle had the idea for “The Mumsy Blog” and approached a handful of people about being potential partners. I was one of them and we are now over one year old. “The Mumsy Blog” is for women and mothers. It’s a lifestyle blog, a recipe blog, a health blog and a fitness blog. We kind of touch on everything that’s going on in our lives.
Petersen: We’re trying to appeal to every mom, not just the LDS ones. We want to be national, so we gear our writing towards that — we don’t write specifically to a Utah audience. Also, we contribute to provomayor.com and The Daily Herald. We want to let moms know that you can have a wonderful life, no matter where you’re coming from.
Alayne (AJ) Jorgensen, Healthfest: I live in Orem and I have a 3-year-old daughter. I teach elementary school. At the beginning of last summer, I made a lifestyle change in how I was eating and started an Instagram account to keep myself accountable and connect with other people who were eating in a similar way and it just kind of exploded. I was finding ways to make healthy living doable when you’re a mom and you’re busy and when you don’t have hours to cook bone broth and all those healthy things you see on the healthy blogs that say things like, go pluck your own chicken feathers and roast this and grow your own whatever else. I was like, there has to be a better way to do this — to eat healthy when you don’t have seven hours a day to be in the kitchen. I actually didn’t start a blog until just a few months ago because I wanted a place bigger than Instagram.
Brooke Williams, Two in June: I grew up in the small town of Healdsburg in Northern California. I met my husband, Sean, while going to college in San Diego. We moved to Provo almost four years ago for Sean to go to BYU. We now have an almost 3-year-old girl, Harper, and I started “Two in June” to document our lives, my style and the things I love. It’s a space where I hope to inspire others by sharing my thoughts and experiences on motherhood and everything in-between.
UV360: Why do you think Provo is such a hotspot for bloggers?
Petersen: Provo is conducive to and supportive of people like us who are creative and trying to do things to support our families and also support and enrich our communities. I think it’s all because of mayor Curtis. He really saw a vision for that. Before that, Provo was just this sleepy college town and that was it. There wasn’t anything really exciting about it except BYU. That’s changed — now you have the Rooftop Concert Series and you have all these new restaurants and events that go on all the time. I love it and I would love to be buried in Provo when I die.
UV360: What does your day-to-day look like?
(Insert laughter from all)
Petersen: I like to have a routine, so we start the morning off with breakfast and getting ready for pre-school. My oldest goes to pre-school, then my two youngest and I have adventures together. When Isaac comes home we have lunch. Then I am very blessed to have all three of my kids nap. During naptime is when I do a lot of my stuff — my blogging and my hobbies. After that, the kids wake up from their naps, we get ready for dinner and dad gets home. Then you throw in all the other things you don’t really plan for and figure out how to work around them and enjoy what you’re doing. It’s never like that all the time. On a really, really good day it’s like that. Most the time my house is a disaster, and the kids are yelling, and I’m more than likely swearing every now and again. And no make-up, messy hair, sweatpants — that’s my normal day.
UV360: What’s your passion behind your blogging? Why do you do it?
McLean: We want to make somebody else out there realize that motherhood can be hard, but it’s OK. We’re really big on being real. I just wrote a piece about marriage — it talks about my marriage problems and how I’m trying to get through them and how I used to compare my marriage to other people’s marriages. I would think, “Why isn’t mine looking perfect like theirs?” And I’d get really frustrated inside and then I’d have even more frustration towards my husband. We like to focus on connecting with our readers on a more real level. Our passion is to be a real voice out there and also to bring inspiration and joy to our readers. Our new tagline is “let’s party.” It means let’s party in life. Let’s party when life is hard. Let’s party when life is good. Let’s celebrate all the good parts of life.
UV360: What are some of the payoffs of having a blog?
McLean: The biggest thing for me is the professional growth I’ve been able to receive. I’ve learned about networking and social media. I’ve been able to get more into my freelance and graphic design, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator. When I was young, I wanted to work for Disney. For me, that goal of being able to illustrate at some point in my life is so much more attainable now because I’m associating with graphic designers. It’s really inspiring to me. I love blogging because I can be with my children and I can also be professionally skilled in the world.
UV360: What are some of the downsides and sacrifices of being a blogger?
McLean: This is something we actually just talked about because for the last three weeks or so I’ve been gone from my family for at least three to four nights at a time. I told Michelle on Tuesday when we went to the screening for a great film called “The Abolitionists” that I can’t do this and that I’m going to have to take a step down from the blog if this is going to continue because I can’t sacrifice that time with my kids. They’re 7 and younger, and it’s just been really tough to balance. I think that’s one of the hardest things for me — balancing my time because I am trying to do all these things, and it is fulfilling but I don’t want to wake up when my kids are 15 and wish that I would have spent more time cuddling with them, which is why I brought my son today and Michelle brought hers. This is what we do. We’ve brought our kids to photo shoots because you have to involve them if you’re going to have kids and blog.
Petersen: I think another reason it’s tough is you put your heart and soul into a project and take time away from your kids for it, and it’s not perceived the way you anticipated it to be perceived. Also, the blogging world is wonderful, and what I’ve loved about it is meeting all these empowering women who want to support other women and mothers and what they’re doing. That’s my favorite thing about it and what I’ve gotten out of it the most.
However, with that being said, there are also women in the industry and even men in the industry who just want to cut you down and let you know that you are not even worth their time because you’re not on the same podium or level as they are. It can be very much like high school. But we believe this should be a community where we can love and embrace and support one another, and we can cheer for each other’s triumphs. Sometimes that can be hard to come across. That being said, there are so many amazing bloggers, like Alison Faulkner. She is one of the kindest souls. We were at the bottom, just blogging, and we didn’t know bull crap, and she was so kind to us and even collaborated with us. She did not have to do that. There are a lot of really amazing people out there who are more than willing to just say, “I love what you’re doing. Let me help you. Let me show you what I do and let me give you tips.”
Jorgensen: One of the hardest things for me is not to compare myself to the other bloggers. That’s harder for me than negative comments or unfollows or anything like that. I don’t take that stuff personally, but it’s really hard not to compare myself and think, “Oh my gosh, they started after me and they have this many more followers.” I have a hard time keeping the focus on what’s really important to me. If they’re successful too, I should be happy. That’s a hard thing in the blogging world and in real life.
UV360: How do you deal with negativity in the blogging world and on Instagram?
Jorgensen: I’ve seen more negativity on my Instagram than my blog just because I think it’s so much faster and easier to type a comment, and you don’t think so much about what you’re saying. On a blog, you have to sign in. If it’s a question or a negative comment with a question in it I try to answer it and be very diplomatic and respectful. If they have a different opinion I just explain that this might not work for everyone but it’s what’s working for me. I’ve seen other Instagrammers repost the negative comment they’ve gotten but I don’t want to draw attention to the negative. As Michelle was saying earlier, there are so many people that are supportive and positive and I would much rather comment back to their comments and collaborate with them and just appreciate that and focus on that rather than the one in a hundred comments that’s rude.
Petersen: In all honesty, for me and Natashia and what we’re doing, we haven’t fully experienced that negativity and I think I should be saying, “Thank the heavens,” but at the same time, am I writing things are meaningful? Am I really doing things that are making waves and making changes that I sought out to do in the beginning? It makes me think if what I’m saying right now is more mediocre. But I really want to talk about the nitty gritty. With our new branding, a lot of our focus is on subjects that a lot of women don’t talk about it. I’m guilty of just wanting people to think I have my shiz together, you know? And that I’m not experiencing certain things. I think a lot of women think like that because we want to come across as invincible. But we’re all really vulnerable and I think we can become strong together. So it’ll be interesting to see if we can make that transition and if the negative comments are something that starts happening because a lot of these topics that we’re going to start writing about are kind of in the shade of grey. “Is this something you should talk about or is this something you should not talk about?” But we think these are matters that should be addressed and I think at that point we’ll do what AJ does. I mean, all people are entitled to their opinions. There are a lot of times that I don’t agree with what another blogger is doing but I’m not one to go out there and say that. I think that’s mean and that’s bullying and cowardly — if someone is going to post a negative comment, they should say it to my face instead of hiding behind their social media. At the end of the day you don’t want to fuel that fire. Just let it go. I’ve learned from personal experience that when you decide to get down in the mud with those people it can get really nasty so it’s better to just ignore it and keep doing your thing, and graciously let it work itself out.
UV360: How do you keep things real on social media?
Williams: I just got a message on Facebook from a girl saying how much she loves how vulnerable and open I was and things like that. It’s always been my personality to express emotion. I just feel a lot. I’m just that kind of person — I have a lot of feelings and it’s hard not to talk about them. I don’t feel like I’m myself if I’m hiding behind things. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from women on social media who are open. The people that are following me want to follow me. I’ve had unfollowers many times — all the time — but what matters are the people who are there. I feel like I connect really well with people I don’t know but I know on social media when I talk about things that are more personal. That’s why I like to follow them because you get to know them in a sense that you wouldn’t if it’s just fashion post after fashion post or whatever it might be.
Petersen: We just started a new series with Justin Hackworth called “Motherhood Is.” It’s different women who come from unique walks of life, and they’ve had their unique struggles and somehow that’s molded them into the mothers they are and given them the view on motherhood that they have. We ask them to share that. We don’t always want it to just be about us because, yeah, we have a lot to share, but we still aren’t having the same experiences as other women, so we like to make “The Mumsy Blog” a place where women can just come and share their experiences and what they’ve learned. Our most popular posts are when we have people on just being really raw and real. Natashia and I don’t always put up perfect pictures all of the time. We have pictures up there that show things didn’t go the way we planned and our houses are a huge disaster but, hey, that’s OK because we at least tried it and got to spend time with our kids. We look at Pinterest and we look at all these blogs and it looks as if it went flawlessly for them. We wonder, did it really? Was this take five or take 10?
Williams: I feel it’s a lot more common now that people are being honest about things that are not always perfect. This is real life and these people struggle just as I do. It’s cool when you realize these people you put on a pedestal because you love them and you want to imitate their lives are going through the same things you are, and that it’s OK to post about them.
UV360: What are some of your favorite people you follow? What kinds of posts do you like to see?
Williams: I think it’s really personal for people. I have a big love for fashion, but at the end of the day my family and being a mother is what I’m most passionate about and interested in. There’s a blogger and Instagrammer, “XO, Mrs. Measom,” who does hints of everything but pretty much everything she writes has something heartfelt attached to it. Sometimes it’s more in-depth and sometimes it’s just a little tribute to her son. I think that I get wrapped up in the superficial fashion world because I’ve just always had an interest in that, but I’ve recently unfollowed things that are pointless. I’m following more people like Mrs. Measom because it puts me more in touch with the feelings that I have for my daughter. My whole goal in life is to be the best mother I can and so anything that inspires me to play more with my girl or anything like that is what I want on my feed. Motherhood is special to me because I didn’t grow up with a mom, so I’m passionate about it.
UV360: Does the social media world ever get to be too much? What do you do to set yourself apart from it and engage with real people?
Jorgensen: When I post something, I make sure my notifications are turned off on my email and Instagram because I could spend all day reading and replying to comments and emails. It stresses me out to no end if I check my email after work and there are 40,000 things on there. So I turn them off, and if I get a second and I’m not busy, I can go on there and see if there’s something I want to reply to. That helps to make sure it’s not thrown in my face. If it’s the weekend and we’re doing something with the family and I’m tempted to go on Instagram or whatever, I’ll just delete it or log out and leave it. I used to just want to reply to every single comment and answer every question because I wanted everyone to know I appreciated that they were following me and commenting, but as you grow, that becomes impossible.
UV360: Anything else you want to add about life as a blogger?
Jorgensen: When I started my first blog, I wasn’t trying to have a creative outlet or trying to make money. I was just trying to keep myself motivated to eat healthy, and I loved seeing the reaction of people who were like, “Oh, I have those ingredients,” or, “I can throw that together in 10 minutes. I don’t have to check a cook book, I didn’t have to go to the store and I didn’t have to search out some weird ingredient.” Seeing that people liked that helped me keep it real. That’s where it came from. Now when I’m tempted to try a more intense recipe, I always say, ‘This is good for a Sunday brunch when you have time’ because that’s what it’s like for me. We may have had a couple of extra minutes so we sat down and made it a little bit more fancy. I try to keep it connected to my real life.
Petersen: Life is one big crazy beautiful mess. I think one reason we’re all doing this is because we are passionate about what we love in that crazy beautiful mess that we have. We want to put that love out into the world. A lot of us choose to blog because we are putting our hearts out there and our passions and our love, and hopefully it inspires someone else, or other people can say, “Oh, I can do that too.”