We Are Family – #AD

motherhood

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In my family, we aren’t fans of routine nor are we particularly traditional in our approach to life or mealtimes.

Sometimes I think I’d love to be the kind of family who have a roast dinner every Sunday or the kind of family who sit down together every evening at 6pm to enjoy a home cooked meal but that’s just not reality, or at least it’s not ours.

We lead busy lives and no two weeks / days / hours are the same. Most weekends I’m either working (as I teach hypnobirthing classes), or we are away visiting friends or family or exploring new places. Having three energetic boys means we are an outdoorsy and active family and so we are rarely home on a Sunday, which rules out the weekly roast.

During the week, I’m not at home cooking and cleaning and preparing wholesome meals ready to serve up when James gets in from work, because I’m at work myself! Like so many working mums, I’m juggling running a business single-handedly with three children and all their extra-curricular activities and appointments on only three mornings of childcare! It’s a struggle to stay on top of the cleaning, washing, food shopping, meal planning and cooking. All the things that traditionally would have been part of the stay-at-home parent’s remit are now chores that have to be shared out (or skipped altogether!) because there is no stay-at-home parent.

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So, although I sometimes dream of a simpler life as depicted by the perfect families in popular culture, I do question if such as family set up even exists in 2017? Certainly, none of my friends’ families conform. Some of my friends are single parents, some are divorced, most (if not all) are working mothers. I know mums who are in same sex relationships, mums who are having mixed race babies and lots who are enlisting the help of grandparents to help raise their children. I know women who are choosing to become mothers on their own because they never met ‘the one’ and many more who have gone through IVF or the adoption process to become parents.

It turns out I’m not alone in my thoughts! Research, recently conducted by McCain, revealed that 49% of Brits don’t think popular culture reflects the reality of modern families and a whopping 84% can’t recall seeing anything in today’s popular culture that featured a family like their own in the last six months! 45% of Brits think more needs to be done to show the reality of everyday family life in popular culture but most worryingly a quarter of people felt the lack of representation of realistic family life in popular culture made them think other families were happier than theirs and 19% even went as far as saying it made them feel bad about themselves and their family.

From a personal perspective, and being a self-confessed Instagram addict, I can totally see how this can happen. We scroll the perfectly-filtered heavily-curated feeds of others’ lives often without consciously acknowledging the impact it’s having on us on a subconscious level. If we start to compare the reality of our own lives against the perfectly-filtered images we see online or in magazines, it’s easy to fall into a downward spiral of thinking that everyone else’ families and lives are better and more fun than our own.

If you are from a family that doesn’t fit the outdated 2.4 stereotype then this feeling is going to be even more pronounced. For example, if you’re a single mum or from a blended family (both of which I have personal experience of) then where do you go to find positive role models or even to learn about the difficulties others in the same boat face and how they have overcome them, if these families are absent from popular culture?!

With so many people believing their family isn’t represented in mainstream media McCain have called for this to be addressed! They have partnered with the National Portrait Gallery as part of their ‘We are Family’ campaign to produce a display which celebrates real-life modern families! (If you fancy being part of that display visit the McCain Facebook Page to find out how you can put your family forward).

But what does a family in 2017 look like, if it’s not what we see on the TV or on our Instagram feed? I guess as with everything else, the real-life version is a lot more messy and diverse with families coming in all shapes and sizes.

I can only speak for my own family and say that although we might look pretty stereotypical from the outside (Mum, Dad, 3 kids) we actually don’t conform to many of the conventional expectations at all….

For one James and I aren’t married. Although the world refers to him as my husband, he’s not. We also aren’t home owners. Another thing I feel society says we ‘should’ be. Having spent 13 years renting we are now living temporarily in my Dad’s house so we can save some money for a deposit. Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards, right?

James is also not our eldest son’s biological dad. But since the biological one is pretty much absent he is for all intents and purposes Oisin’s father. He’s the one raising him, reassuring and comforting him when he has worries or a nightmare, helping him with his homework, taking him to football club and bollocking him when necessary.

We have two children together and have given all three kids the surname Walton-Miller because James is Walton and I’m Miller and I’ve no plans to change my name, even if we were to get married.

I’ve been a young mum – I was 21 when Osh was born and in the middle of my second year at Uni and I was a single mum for many years. I’ve lived with friends, in flats and in a 2 up 2 down house in a nice part of London.

For the past year I’ve been the family’s breadwinner, running my business The Positive Birth Company whilst James has been a stay at home dad.

You see if you scratch beneath the surface of the pretty filtered Instagram squares or sneak a peek behind the doors to most family homes you’ll find the reality is probably a lot more complex than it might initially appear to be. I think this is so important to remember especially if you are feeling down having entered the horrible negative comparison vortex. There really is no such thing as the perfect family!

For this reason, I love that McCain have partnered with the National Portrait Gallery in a campaign to end the misrepresentation of the modern family and to celebrate the real-life messy and magical version! I think such a campaign is well overdue and I’m more than happy to support it. You can embrace the ethos of the campaign too by sharing unfiltered pics of your family using #WeAreFamily and tagging @McCainUK on Instagram or sharing a snap to their Facebook page. Together we can change the visual landscape of what families look like online and hopefully initiate more open and honest conversations around family life in 2017.

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This is a sponsored blog post approved by McCain. However, all thoughts and words are entirely true and my own. Being part of a non-traditional family set up I embrace all efforts to celebrate what real-life families look like and am keen to address the under-representation of real-life families in the media.

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FAMILY LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

motherhood

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We take photos ALL THE TIME, right? We take a million snaps of every moment to get a good one and our iPhones are almost always out of memory. We share tons of photos online every single day but how often do we ever get a photo printed and frame it or store it in a photo album? I’m going to guess never, or at best, very rarely.

When my first son was born, 10 years ago, phones didn’t have cameras or if they did, they were super basic. So instead of an iPhone I used my SLR. Sure I didn’t take as many photos but the ones I did were decent quality. Facebook was in its infancy at the time and Instagram didn’t exist, so occasionally I might upload an album to Facebook (remember that??) of a holiday or a birthday but most of the time if I liked the photo I would get it printed and frame it. As a result I have so many gorgeous high-quality photos of my first born.  When I say ‘high-quality’, I mean that they are at least in focus and high resolution.

By contrast I have so few decent photos of my younger two, despite the fact that technology has improved dramatically since 2007. I have a million times more photos of the pair of them but the vast majority are blurry ones taken on my phone – certainly not good enough for printing. I always think it’s ironic that the photos from 2007 look so much better than the photos taken in 2017. Surely the quality is supposed to get better with time?! I compare photos of newborn baby Oisin and newborn baby Fox (born 9 years apart) and I get confused because the photo of Fox looks like an older photo.

The other thing that makes me sad is that I have so many framed photos of Oisin when he was little, up to about the age of 3 and only one of Arlo and none of Fox. You wouldn’t know I had 3 kids if you walked into my house. Actually maybe you would judging by the mess by that’s not my point.

So recently I decided to address this issue and actually get some proper family photos taken. Also, how rare is it to get a photo with the WHOLE family in? I really wanted to get some photos of all five of us just hanging out and doing our every day thing.  I’m not a fan of studio shots, mainly because I feel super awkward/uncomfortable posing and also it would be impossible to get all 3 kids looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. I much prefer family life photography and candid informal shots. And it’s the every day moments I want to remember – be that a day out or day at home, changing a nappy or working on my phone whilst bouncing a baby on my knee. When I’m older and reflecting on their childhood I want a photo to remind me of what it felt like,  I want the photo to capture a moment in time. I don’t necessarily want to remember the (probably stressful) day we visited a studio and tried (and probably failed) to make the kids smile.

With that in mind I spoke to the lovely Phil of FAWN + BEAR and we got a date in the diary for a family shoot to take place at Hope Cove beach, near where we live in Devon.

The shoot was easy and took about an hour if that – we just hung out at the beach like normal and *almost* forgot that Phil was there in the background taking photos of us!

I was super excited to see the photos and Phil turned them round in record quick time! Within a couple days I was sent all the edited photos from the shoot. I was blown away. It’s shameful to admit but if I ever see a photo that I’m in, even if there are other people in it too, I straight away scrutinise myself and more often than not in a highly critical way. I’m sure others do the same… right?? I hate myself in most photos. I think I look too fat, my cheeks are too round or my arm looks too big or my ear is sticking out or my eyes are too squinty… the list goes on. But in the photos Phil sent me, I actually thought I looked nice. Which happens never!! It was emotional.

So now I have a whole bunch of lovely photos of the family to print and frame. I’m so happy that we did the shoot and I’m now 100% committed to having one done once a year going forward to capture the family as we all grow up. As you know babies change so quickly and we can’t keep them small for long. Having photos is one of the best ways to preserve those memories and for me the photos I now have are priceless. I absolutely love them.

I’m sharing a selection here so you can see Phil’s style and if you’re interested in booking a family life shoot then get in touch with her on email info@fawnandbear.co.uk or find FAWN + BEAR on Facebook. Phil covers both London and Devon and most places in between. She is currently offering readers of the blog a cool 15% off your total order – just mention THE DOUBLE MAMA when booking.

 

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