As I sit here trying to drum up the enthusiasm to start wrapping presents, to the crackle of a log fire and dulcet tones of Michael Buble singing Christmas hits, I let my mind wander. So much has happened for my little family in the last year. I have one child happily settled into school and another who is getting there with nursery. They have grown taller, their vocabulary has widened to the point of holding full conversations, and I genuinely enjoy their company more than ever. And whilst they have their testing moments as small people with minds of their own, I love being their Mummy. We are a good little team.
On the work side, I have taken the jump to working every morning; something that still makes me feel uncomfortable at times, but confusingly also makes me happy. With more time to dedicate to it, my freelancing career is going well. My husband’s career is on the verge of very exciting things. And people read my blog, which is the biggest surprise of all.
I never set out to have a blog that was so followed so widely, but I am not complaining either. I have always loved to write (in fact, often I don’t even know what I’m thinking until I write it down so it’s cathartic too), so to know people are listening is a real pleasure. I like recommending things, I love making people laugh – but what I love most of all is when a reader comments on a post to say they feel exactly the same as me. It’s like I have a big group of friends to constantly affirm that my feelings, decisions, and doubts as a mother are normal – and I hope you all feel the same when you read my posts and scroll through the comments afterwards.
There have been some real highlights this year on the blogging front. I was nominated for Time Out Kids Parenting Blog of 2015 and came out of the hotel in September clutching a shiny Highly Commended plaque. And just a few months later, I was sent a link to a list of “Top Mummy Bloggers in the Middle East” by respected media authority Media Source and was surprised / flattered / delighted to find myself named in the top spot. Not bad for a girl writing on her sofa in her pyjamas, with her babies snoring away in the next room.
I have worked with some amazing companies too – GAP Kids, The Entertainer, Fairmont Hotels, and Moevenpick, to name just a few. My blog is still in the early days (a mere baby at 18 months old) and I am a writer at heart, not a businesswoman, so I find the ‘advertising’ side of my blog hard. I know I need to toughen up on that front and I am getting better at it – but I still receive requests to ‘please post this on your Facebook page, thanks very much’ on a daily basis (sometimes from pretty huge companies too), as if I am a public information service. This frustrates me given how much time and work I have put into growing my blog, but I still usually bite my tongue.
Being recognised is strange. I took some advice early in 2015 to welcome my readers into my world by allowing myself and my boys to be regularly pictured. This is something that I still find hard, both on a ‘terrified of the spotlight’ and ‘protective mother lioness’ front. I know there are a lot of people out there that don’t agree with sharing photos of children online (perhaps even in our own family, if lack of support or interest is a sign) but I understand that with parenting blogging, it is all or nothing. I invite you into my life and you become part of my online family. You are then more likely to trust what I say – and I trust that you will be kind in return. I am adamant that my social media pages, especially Facebook, will remain a friendly place. Having an online presence doesn’t give you the right to criticise me, my family, or other readers – one strike and you’re out. It’s my blog and my rules.
My boys are growing up in a world different to the world I did. My blog will be online forever (provided I remember to renew the URL and pay my hosting fees). I hope they will read the words one day, perhaps when they have children of their own, and will see in black and white just how much they were – and still are – loved. Everything I write, even the bits joking about the challenges of being their mother, comes with only the best intentions. If this blog can create a better life for them, spurring me to do more interesting things with them, helping to pay their school fees, taking them to inspiring places, and capturing their childhood forever through words and pictures, I am confident (most of the time, at least) that being a blogger is a good thing.
I love it when people come and say hello to me, telling me they read my blog. I don’t feel like you are strangers; I feel like you are in my gang. I think people who are with me find it stranger than I do when I am approached between mouthfuls of eggs benedict or when I am climbing a jungle gym with my children. I feel like Dubai is a small world and we probably have mutual friends anyway. On the occasions it has happened in the UK, it’s been stranger admittedly, but it always makes me happy. I don’t want to be a ‘celebrity’ (even the word makes me cringe); I want to be a blogger that makes other mums feel a bit more normal – and if they want to come over and say ‘Hi! I read your blog!’ I will always enjoy saying hi back (even when my youngest is lying on his back on full-on tantrum mode, which happened very recently – and we laughed together!)
One thing that has surprised me, however, about blogging is the competitiveness. I have worked in the fashion and beauty world for years – but those cut-throat worlds aren’t a patch on the competitiveness of Mummy blogging! It’s hard not to compare yourself to other bloggers, wondering why you didn’t get opportunities that others did, why you didn’t get invited to an event, or why a brand seemed to leave you out of a campaign completely. I’m not immune to this by any means, but I’m also a big believer that we should encourage each other. Blogs aren’t like magazines or newspapers – we don’t only read and subscribe to one. People that like reading blogs tend to read lots of them. If we encourage each other, we encourage a love of reading blogs in general. We don’t lose a reader if we say ‘hey, this new blog is really good!’ – and kindness, doesn’t cost anything.
I can’t pretend that copycats haven’t frustrated me over the past 12 months, though – right from the blog posts that take “inspiration” a bit too literally (on more than one occasion), to the new blog that cropped up recently copying everything from my blog name, to the design of the blog, to actually copy + pasting my “About Us” section (just changing the word “Dubai” to her home town in the UK!) They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery and I’ve tried not to stew on it – after all, if you can’t find the inspiration to be original in the first place, it probably isn’t worth giving up the day job.
Blogging is exhausting. It’s not the writing (posts tend to take me 10 minutes to write if I am suddenly inspired), but it’s managing the social media accounts, fitting meetings with brands into my working morning, fielding phone calls when I’m trying to get my toddler to eat his vegetables at teatime. It’s been a good year and I am sure all the effort has been worth it, but I am definitely feeling some burnout as the end of the year approaches.
For this reason, I am going to take a break now. I’ll share the odd archive post on Facebook over the next few weeks and will definitely be over on Instagram as I can’t resist a good picture, but I won’t be writing anything new on the blog until January now as I need a break – and most importantly, my boys deserve Christmas with their Mummy fully focused on their happiness.
But as I sit here listening to Buble with my babies sleeping in Christmas pyjamas upstairs, I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog, send me a message, come and say hello, supported me with review opportunities or sponsorships, mentioned me in a blog post, or simply clicked ‘like’ on my Facebook over the last year. I am so appreciative of everyone single one of you – and I wish you health, happiness and so much love with your little people in 2016.
And with that, it’s time to get started on wrapping those presents…