Author: Holly Wainwright
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Holly Wainwright is a journalist and editor with years of experience. She now works in digital media, most recently as Head of Entertainment at Mamamia; Australia’s biggest women’s independent website. A perfect position from which to observe the online presence of both bloggers and their community of commenters.
The Mummy Bloggers is the debut novel of Wainwright, it is a fictional look at life through the filters of social media but I am sure there is a lot of real life inspiration that has gone into the fleshing of the characters.
The blogging community is home to all sorts and there really is a site for every one and every thing, especially when it comes to parenting. In recent years the blogging culture has skyrocketed and what used to be an outlet for sharing a way of life with like-minded people has exploded into the mainstream and can be quite a lucrative business. Blogging can get you into the limelight and effective blogging personalities carry great influence. But you are definitely left questioning what life is like behind the lens, on the other side of the screen.
Parenting blogs are a minefield; they attract amazing support from the like-minded but they also seem to be a target for people with different opinions to direct all of their frustrations at. It’s something that I don’t really understand or get involved in but I see it happen all the time, on blogs as well as other social media platforms.
Wainwright has taken an insightful look at the blogging world and shared a little about the other side of the keyboard.
I’m sure there are blogging awards, though I’m not aware of them, and that is a main focus of The Mummy Bloggers. In the lead up to the prestigious Blog-ahh Awards we meet three very different bloggers and follow them through the months from nomination to the award ceremony.
There are three nominees for the Blog-ahh’s in the Parenting category and they couldn’t be more different. The Stylish Mumma aka Elle, The Green Diva aka Abi and The Working Mum aka Leisel make up the nominees; each with a strong community of followers, and their share of detractors.
Now, I see things on social media all the time that outrage me. I see posts that I don’t agree with and opinions that seem ridiculous/dangerous/moronic/ill-informed all of the time. Sometimes I can’t help but click the comments to watch the trainwreck unfold. But do you know what I don’t do… I don’t go on the attack, I don’t start slinging insults and trying to enforce my opinion while denigrating the poster or the other commenters. I come from a mindset where it’s about building each other up and not tearing each other down, and if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. The problem with that mindset is that it doesn’t really translate into viral engagement and spiking Likes.
Parenting blogs are like the social media accounts of regular people across the world in that they are a selective window into the life of the author. Sometimes it’s a window into just the moments and the elements they want to share, and sometimes it’s through such a heavy load of filters that it’s almost unrecognisable as the real thing. It is also a window that sheds light on the entire family, whether you intend it to or not.
Blogs are begun for many reasons but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of them start as a means to connect with like-minded people, showcase the moments in your life that you may not be able to share with your immediate circle or to reach out to someone who may understand where you’re at, or to let others know that they aren’t alone. Those emotions can be overshadowed by ego as the numbers start adding up and before you know it you’ve lost sight of why you started in the competitive push for engagement.
I’m not really a follower of parenting blogs, or any blogs, but I often see things that people in my social accounts have shared. I have also somehow ended up following a lot of Facebook pages that I am not even really sure how I hit the like button. The Mummy Bloggers seemed quite familiar, I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were based on real bloggers but maybe inspired by; I couldn’t help but think of actual people as I read the book.
The Mummy Bloggers follows the lives, and blogs, of Elle, Abi and Leisel so you would expect it to be a tri-perspective narrative; but it isn’t. We also have chapters written from the perspective of other relevant characters of the story. This gives us an insight into how the events are affecting the significant others of our bloggers.
The bloggers, what can I say… right from the beginning two of the bloggers grated on my nerves. The Mummy Bloggers gave an opportunity to simultaneously see the content being posted, and the life of the blogger behind the blog. The complete contrast between the image being portrayed and the actual woman behind the mask. Abi was trying to live the Green Diva life, for the most part she was embracing what she was posting but there were times that she stretched the truth for better ratings.
The Stylish Mumma on the other hand just didn’t do it for me at all. I disliked her from the start and not a single thing she did through the entire story gave any hope of her being redeemable. There was not a scrap of authenticity in her and unfortunately that didn’t mean I couldn’t believe in the possibility of her being a real person. I couldn’t relate to her at all but I also couldn’t dismiss the fact that she could exist. She was devious, manipulative and only in it for what she could gain, regardless of the cost.
The Working Mum, now she was a character I could believe in; a character I could relate to and a character that at times inspired me. No, she wasn’t perfect; and she didn’t pretend to be. She was probably a little too self-deprecatory at times. Leisel was authentic, she juggled work with the kids and suffered the #mumguilt on a daily basis. She has a great partner that she loves, and remembers to thank, but still at times covets the extra time he has at home with the kids.
The lengths that these women went to, the information they chose to share, in pursuit of numbers to get them over the line was sometimes scary. It was refreshing, though, that in the end there was some redemption, there was an awakening to the insidious energy creeping into their lives that was no longer a positive force.
I think the thing that I really loved and one of the elements that Wainwright nailed, and I’m glad she did, is in addressing trolling. There is a trolling incident that gets out of hand in the book and it is used as a means to address trolling and look a little further into it; to try and find the person behind the trolling, what might cause someone to behave that way. It reminds us to be kind and remember that you never know what someone may be facing.
Overall I found The Mummy Bloggers to be an entertaining read; there was definitely some humour and a look at life behind the blog but it was also quite an interesting commentary on the vicarious way we sometimes live our lives online. It’s a fine line we walk sometimes and a timely reminder that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true…
Holly Wainwright has proved to be an entertaining storyteller with a fresh debut that means I will certainly be watching out for what she tackles next. I think there is scope for a sequel here and I would definitely pick it up.
The Mummy Bloggers is book #37 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.
Holly Wainwright can be followed on Facebook.