If you’re a mother with an Instagram account, chances are you’ve come across Marcia Leone – or Not So Mumsy, as you may know her. With nearly a quarter of a million followers watching her every move, the mum-of-two built an online empire almost by accident. As a lifestyle journalist who cut her teeth in magazines, newspapers and events, she eventually transitioned into Marketing and Events before motherhood saw her searching for something else. She started an Instagram account while the platform was in its infancy, and Not So Mumsy was born.
“I remember being at a Coldplay concert at the SCG and my husband said ‘look at all these people in the stadium – you know 5 times the amount of people here follow you on Instagram’”, she tells us. “It completely freaked me out…all of a sudden I saw these numbers being replaced with real people and for the first time it really hit me that so many people knew so much personal information about me. About my fertility. My mental health. My kids.”
Daunting as that realisation was, Marcia felt that there was something powerful and important happening online. “Every time I thought ‘I’m not sure I want to keep sharing so much’, I would get emails or messages or people coming up to me and thanking them for getting them through their miscarriage or IVF or for sharing that motherhood can be really bloody hard. And that’s why I continued.”
Choosing to continue sharing didn’t come without its challenges. It’s no secret that social media can be a vicious place, and criticism behind the veil of anonymity can be particularly harsh. Marcia is no stranger to that. “When I am attacked or do get criticised, it does really upset me because it’s so personal. It will be about my parenting choices or how I look”, she explains. “I’ve been criticised for my motives in leaving my kids to work overseas, breastfeeding into toddlerhood, co-sleeping, my child having a dummy, my body shape…(but) I’m so passionate about creating a non-judgemental space with the message that we all do it differently and that’s OK.”
It’s a calling she feels so keenly that this week sees the release of Marcia’s book, Not So Mumsy. It’s part-memoir, part mothers group – and the culmination of her 7 years in the parenting space. Sharing contributions from experts and other mothers, as well as some of Marcia’s most thought-provoking posts, new content, and everything from style to fertility and beyond, it’s something she “always knew” she would do.
And with Not So Mumsy growing as fast as her kids – her husband has now come onboard and together they’ve launched a fashion label – we could all take a leaf out of Marcia’s book.
Image: Carmen Yeats
Photography: David Allison
You started Not So Mumsy because you felt that the world of motherhood at the time didn't really reflect you. How do you think the motherhood 'market' has changed?
It really has become a ‘market’ now – especially in the realm of social media. Over the past 7 years we’ve seen this incredible rise of the ‘insta-mum’, and of online communities speaking to every type of mother. We’ve seen an explosion in the business of motherhood too. Brands want to work with mums and mums have so many more options in how they work.
When we started we were celebrating the beauty, power and new mood of modern motherhood, but along the way we’ve seen a shift where we want to go deeper behind the façade; sharing our vulnerabilities and the challenges too. For me, I’m at the place where I navigate between the two.
Your platform really boomed with the rise of Instagram. What was that like?
It was a steady build for the first few years until I was half way through my pregnancy with my daughter and out of nowhere it just exploded. My posts started getting picked up by the algorithm and going on the explore page which meant I was growing 5-10k new followers a week for a while there. I went from 70k to 200k in a year. It was a little overwhelming to be honest, especially as I share so many vulnerable, personal moments. It did make me second- guess and filter some of my content for a time.
I remember being at a Coldplay concert at the SCG and my husband said “look at all these people in the stadium – you know 5 times the amount of people here follow you on Instagram”. It completely freaked me out. I was always the shy girl (still am), the one that couldn’t stand up and talk in front of people and all of a sudden I saw these numbers being replaced with real people and for the first time it really hit me that so many people knew so much personal information about me. About my fertility. My mental health. My kids. When I envisaged building an online community Instagram was in its infancy, so I didn’t understand that 90% of followers would be silent observers. I thought it would be more of a two-way exchange where we got to know each other. So for me to be able to continue sharing, I couldn’t focus on the number up the top, I had to focus on the active community and the conversation. I continued to write like I was talking to the people who regularly engaged. Every time I thought ‘I’m not sure I want to keep sharing so much’, I would get emails or messages or people coming up to me and thanking them for getting them through their miscarriage or IVF or for sharing that motherhood can be really bloody hard. And that’s why I continued.
As a mummy blogger and influencer, you must deal with trolling and criticism. The motherhood judgement is hard enough without an online profile - how do you deal with trolls?
It’s not that I deal with it a lot, but when I am attacked or get criticised it does really upset me because it’s so personal. It will be about my parenting choices or how I look. Imagine someone coming up to you on the street and saying “go and eat a burger” or “as if your work trip was for your kids…” Even though 99% of comments are positive, I would still focus on that one negative.
One great piece of advice I received was to go and answer every single positive comment first, and if it still bothers you then answer the troll. That being said I do call it out sometimes – not to give it air time but to hopefully be a lesson for all of us to think before we type – to show there is a real person on the other side.
What issues that you've raised or shared about have been the most controversial? Did any surprise you?
I feel like most the controversy comes from the ‘competition’ of motherhood and mums judging mums. The working versus stay at home mum, breast versus bottle, routine versus attachment – it seems so dated, but it is still happening.
I’ve been criticised for my motives in leaving my kids to work overseas (despite sharing how difficult it was for me), breastfeeding into toddlerhood, co-sleeping, my child having a dummy, my body shape.
Breastfeeding used to be such a controversial issue on social media. Instagram itself used to take down pictures of nursing mothers and we had to campaign to get them to understand it wasn’t the same as pornography. I think we can all see the shift now where it’s mostly celebrated. The normalising of breastfeeding is one of the positive outcomes of social media, but on the flipside, some mothers that don’t or can’t breastfeed now feel they are on the outer – and that’s not fair either. I actually got attacked for not feeding long enough when I started weaning my daughter at 20 months, because I didn’t reach the full 2 years recommended by the World Health Organisation. After years of being subjected to so many negative comments for feeding past one, I found this really surprising to be attacked from both sides.
This is why I’m so passionate about creating a non-judgemental space with the message that we all do it differently and that’s OK.