In a world of Instagram filters and perfect hashtags, a refreshingly honest and personal parenting blog by a local mother of six, is garnering fans from across the country.
Since February, Nicola Baldrick, from Buncrana, has been sharing her day-to-day life as a mammy, hairdresser, farmer’s wife and much more on her Instagram Page and blog labelled ‘Mammy of Six.’
In just a few weeks, she has gained a massive following and has been asked to contribute pieces for other publications, including ‘The M Word.’
Nicola seeks to document ‘real life,’ with all its highs and lows and her posts about topics such as sleep or lack of it, vomiting bugs, the importance of self care and even her grief over the loss of her beloved mum, have all struck a chord with readers.
The effervescent mum of Eva, Sarah Jane, Leah, Beth, Ellen and Shaun Og, told the ‘Journal’ how it was important to her to depict ‘instareality’ and everyday life. She began the blog after encouragement from her friends and said she can’t quite believe how much it has grown in such a short space of time.
“I followed loads of blogs and one of my friends said to me that instead of following them, I should have my own. I thought about it for a while and the first time I posted on the blog I was sick to my stomach. I sent it to one of my friends to read first and she said: ‘Just do it.’ But I had to sleep on it first. I woke up the next morning and just went for it.
“It’s been a lovely experience since then.”
Nicola, who is married to Shaun, told how she is regularly contacted by local mammies who ask her questions and tell them how they appreciate her honesty.
However, she stresses how every parent must trust their own inner voice, something which, she thinks, is being drowned out by social media and the opinions of people online.
“One of the other reasons I started the blog was because I was kind of getting fed up with some celebrity bloggers. I was watching their stories thinking: ‘Why am I watching this? This isn’t real life.’
“I think the beauty of Instagram now is that people are really catching onto those who are fake and they don’t want to follow that. They follow me, maybe, as I’m giving out about having to clean the car or saying my house is a mess today.
“I’m sure there are people wondering:’What’s she babbling on about again?’ but, on the other side, I have mammies messaging me telling me they find my stories or blog funny; or that their house was a tip today too! I really want them to find it relatable.”
Nicola told how she finds the online world very different now to how it was 10 years ago, when she first had Eva.
“I think I just had Facebook then. But there wasn’t that thing about ‘Keeping Up with the Jones’ or the competition there is now.
“I do think that because of all that, mammies have lost their inner voice a wee bit.
“I know people might think that’s rich coming from me doing this whole Instagram thing, but I say what I personally think - it might get me into bother but it’s my own inner voice - everyone else has to listen to their own inner voice.
“I have people asking me what would I do in certain situations and I always say what works for me, might not work for them. And we all do it. We all compare ourselves to other parents and these celebrity parents - and I do love watching them too - but that’s not real and it’s not your real life.
“I think it all contributes to mammies feeling bad about themselves and what they’re doing. But there’s no such thing as a perfect mammy. I’m not one, nobody is. We’re all just trying to raise our wains the best we can.
“You don’t get a guide book with our placenta!”
With six children, something she quipped - “isn’t that common nowadays!” Nicola knows more than most that every child is different and has their own abilities.
After having five girls, Shaun Og, her first boy, arrived 18 months ago and is doted on by his big sisters.
And even though he’s her sixth child, Nicola confirmed that parenting a boy is actually a little different to a girl.
She smiled as she said: “I find that he’s a lot clingier than what the girls were. He’s as happy as Larry as long as he’s on mammy’s knee.”
With six children, her career as a hairdresser and a farmer’s wife, it’s no surprise that Nicola described her days as being “pretty non-stop” but added: “We’ve got into a routine now and it’s become the norm.”
She told me how she found the change of having her first and also her third children the toughest as “with your first you’re learning and with your third, you’re badly outnumbered.”
She quipped: “Your husband might be with you, but you don’t have enough hands or arms to carry everyone! But we’ve made it to three and then six and now it’s our norm.”
Nicola said she knows how sometimes, life as a mammy can be quite isolating, especially in rural areas and that’s why she became an ambassador for MumTribe Ireland.
“When I had Eva, none of my friends were having babies. Now, they all either have children or are working part-time, so there’s always someone about.
“But I found being a mammy of one isolating. The majority of mammies who contact me are on their first child and their friends don’t have babies and they talk about the isolation. I’d have loved someone then to have said to me that a meet up was organised.”
Plans for Mum Tribe meet ups are already underway.
DEALING WITH GRIEF
Connecting with other mums is something Nicola really enjoys and she told how, as the blog becomes even more popular, she’s getting requests from parents asking her to speak on different topics, such as holidays and the best prams to buy.
But the one which has resonated most with people and has been the most viewed so far, dealt with grief and the loss of her own beautiful mammy last year after illness.
Nicola said she hoped the post, which was “really hard to write” was completed in two parts, helped at least one person in their own grief.
She was extremely close to her mum and told how she wished she could share her blog and Instagram journey with her.
“I miss her so much on this journey. She was really into social media. I do think this is her thing as well as mine. If someone reads the posts and thinks: ‘I felt like that’ or gets comfort from it then that would be really good.”
Nicola added that she feels grateful to have six happy and healthy children, who she is “so, so proud of.”
“Even before I did this, I always posted photos of them and talked about them on social media.
“Of course you want to be safe online, but I post as I’m just so proud of them all. I think if you’re like that anyway, people know that’s the way I always went on and I’m not just posting these things now because I want to be a blogger. They know if you’re not being honest. That’s just what I try to be and I can tell you what I do in my house, but that might not work for you.
“Being a mammy is amazing - it’s really hard - but it’s also amazing and I’m not telling people what to do - I’m just telling what I do.”
You can read Nicola’s blog on www.mammyofsix.wordpress.com, see Mammy of Six on facebook or mammy_ofsix on Instagram