Modern mums are under immense pressure to “have it all” – including the perfect home, a successful career and kids who want for nothing.
But in truth, many women with kids struggle to balance the enormous expectations on them to be “perfect” in every way.
While mums have always been under pressure to do the right thing in every situation with the kids, some argue that social media has made things worse.
A trend of “mum shaming” has emerged on platforms like TikTok, where some people share their parenting successes, without mentioning the negatives of being a parent.
In turn, trolls who comment on videos and photos of mums and dads just doing their best can accuse them of being “bad parents” – despite not knowing them at all.
Supplied by Natalie Sutherland)
Supplied by Natalie Sutherland)
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One mum from Aberdeenshire has had enough of being made to feel like she’s not doing enough for her kids – and she’s taking a stand.
Natalie Sutherland, 32, is a mum-of-two who runs a business with her husband Marcus.
She admits she isn’t “perfect” and says she has a more relaxed approach to being a mum than some people, but it works for her.
She first joined TikTok during lockdown when her 12-year-old daughter Lucy pestered her for an account.
“I won’t allow Lucy to have her own TikTok account,” Natalie told The Mirror.
“It’s one of my rules. I have a relaxed parenting style but when it comes to social media I’m very strict.”
To make sure Lucy wasn’t missing out, Natalie made a joint account for the two of them so they could make silly videos and pass the time.
But when Natalie started to explore the platform, she saw examples of mum shaming that made her angry.
“It’s a joke in our household that I’m not a ‘mumsy’ mum,” she said.
“I feel like you’ve got to perform as this sort of perfect mum. That image that you should be in the playground group cats and be part of that culture.
“Going to the school discos and being into arts and crafts – it doesn’t come naturally to me.”
Natalie, who has always worked full-time while raising her kids, said she felt “guilty” as a younger mum when Lucy was little.
“She was in nursery every day from 8-5 while I worked,” Natalie explained.
“I felt like a failure because I didn’t spend that much time with her during the week, but the weekends were always set aside for our special time together.”
Now also mum to Callan, four, Natalie is much more confident in her parenting style while also running her business, Sweet Tooth o’ Mine – and she’s using TikTok to show others like her that they’re great mums too.
She said: “I’d seen some things on TikTok and I thought, ‘hang on, there are other mums like me’. But you never find them in the playground.”
Soon, Natalie began making her own TikTok videos to show her life as a “real mum” – who doesn’t always get it right, but loves her kids just as much as any other parent.
In her videos, which she posts under the #sh*tmum hashtag, she shares the “real” aspects of parenthood, including times when her kids drive her mad and she needs some time alone – as well as living in a “sh*thole “because the kids make a mess.
She talks about the difficulties of getting everything done as a working mum when people are pulling you in all directions.
In one video, she writes: “Where are all my mums at who: Have washing built up like Mount Washmore, frantically search for clean clothes for your kids every morning, don’t like being a mum all the time, let their kids make their own breakfast, survive on 2-3 hours’ sleep, don’t talk to mums at school because they are another kind of mum to you, snaps at everyone in the house and then cries about it at night.”
She has also made confessions about her parenting style that she says you won’t hear from other mums – including making the kids do the dishwasher “because I can’t be arsed and want a coffee” and sometimes forgetting to brush her son’s before teeth bed time.
In another video, Natalie jokes she sometimes pretends to go upstairs to put her pajamas on but hides up there for an hour of quiet time, leaving Marcus to occupy the children.
Since sharing her honest account of motherhood on TikTok, Natalie says she’s received overwhelming support from other mums, and some dads, who also feel immense pressure to be perfect.
“It’s quite nice to be relatable,” she said. “There’s a place for every kind of mum. I’m not shaming any other types of mum, but when you get pregnant, you become ‘mum’ and have to conform to this whole new personality.”
As part of her more relaxed approach to parenting, Natalie encourages her kids to do things for themselves – even if it makes her feel a bit guilty.
She described feeling victorious when she managed to finish all the laundry in the basket one day – before Lucy dropped her three-day-old dirty football kit into the pile.
“I said to her, ‘That’s fine, you’ve been lazy, so you can wash it yourself’. I know I’ll feel guilty watching her do that but it’s really important we teach our kids these little things.
“There’s no shame in kids helping their parents out.”
Natalie also posts about the difficulties of raising Callan, who she believes is on the autistic spectrum.
Describing how he has to stick to a strict routine every day, she said sometimes she will let her son eat what he wants or give him extra screen time if it keeps him calm.
Callan’s condition has thrown up some challenges for Natalie as a mum – but she’s honest about how difficult it can be.
“I’m not a very organized person, I’ve always been a scatterbrain. I’m always running late,” she said.
She added it can be “exhausting” to keep things as organized as possible in order to keep Callan feeling comfortable.
As Natalie continues to share her “real motherhood” journey on TikTok, she hopes she can be a comfort to other parents who feel like they’re not meeting the high standards set for them.
“It can lead to mums having real mental health problems and burnout, as if they’re not good enough.”
She added: “We’ve been told we have to do everything for our kids or we’re not good parents. They need to learn to do things for themselves.”