Katherine Ormerod’s newly released book, 'Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life', may seem at odds with her status as a digital influencer, but once you delve a little deeper, you realise her intentions are nothing but supportive for Instagram stars and social media voyeurs alike...
“The book is really a manual for coping with the dangers of the new media platforms. Like most technology, there is nothing inherently nefarious about social media, but the ways in which we are using it and our perspective on it in terms of it being a reflection of reality are definitely a danger to all aspects of modern womanhood.” To coincide with the book’s launch last month, Katherine went back and revisited some of her most liked posts on Instagram and chose to caption the images with the reality of what went on during that time, so instead of a cheeky cocktail and eye wink emoji, we were confronted with the reality of her divorce, work redundancies, body image insecurities and morning sickness. The whole exercise couldn’t have been a better advertisement for the book and the entire ethos around her message – to not believe everything you see on social media. Sounds so simple, yet as Katherine puts it, “Considering we spend on average 1 hour and 58 minutes every day on social media, it’s really past time that we start properly addressing the situation.” We caught up with Katherine, who chronicles her mum updates online at @mamalovesgrey and also has a website, Work Work Work, which she’ll be resurrecting again soon, on everything from how she approaches social media to her conception issues and birth experience, and unsurprisingly found ourselves even more inspired by her thoughts on work, family and personal style than ever before. An influencer with integrity and cred? That’s a follow from us… Photography: Helene Sandberg | To purchase Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life click here
Your website, Work Work Work, covers a range of topics for women in a realistic way. Can you tell us how it all started?
I’d been posting on social media for my job as a magazine editor for a few years and like most of us, it had been a pretty picture perfect account of my life. But it was actually one of the hardest times of my life and when I got out the other side I started thinking about it. I was on a trip with a group of really successful girlfriends – all grafters who had built their careers from scratch and we were taking lots of snaps for Instagram. It was the usual thing: nice hotel room, cocktails, expensive beachwear. But we were all still doing some kind of work during that trip – either taking calls or emails from the office, not able to entirely unplug from our full-on professional schedules. But we weren’t sharing that side. We were sharing the rewards and not the work. Not the work that had gone into our careers, or our personal development, or hell, even the workouts to get the bodies for those bikinis. We made it all look really easy. But the truth is nothing worth having comes for free, life is full of both tragedy as well as excitement and what you see on social media is just the 1% very best of anyone’s life. I just knew I wanted to create a space where we could start sharing the less photogenic sides of all our lives.
You had your first baby in March this year - how are you now juggling motherhood with your freelance career?
I mean the juggle is real. It has been really bloody hard and in no way would I want to say that I’m a role model or that my set up is a good idea. I started writing a book when I was eight months pregnant and was back writing the day after I gave birth. I actually think it was more of a coping mechanism when I look back, but I definitely I made some mistakes in terms of what I took on. By four weeks I was back editing, but I didn’t have any childcare and it made a stressful situation unbearable. Since Grey was five months old, I’ve had a childminder for 12 hours a week over two days and my boyfriend helps out at the weekend. But I do work every day — one hour between 8.30-9.30am, two hours 12.30-2.30pm and then after dinner from 8-10pm. It has been really full-on, especially with a not-so-easy bambino and sometimes I wish I’d done it all differently. But then I think we all think other women have found the sweet spot when in reality there is no sweet spot. Juggling motherhood and work is generally not compatible. The only saving grace I have is that I will always be flexible and always be around to a certain extent – in that, I’m never ‘going back to work,’ to commute or sit at a desk 9-5.
Has your approach to social media changed since having a baby?
I set up a separate account to cover my motherhood experience because a) when I was struggling to conceive I found social media really triggering, so wanted to give other women the choice to opt in to the content rather than just find it in their stories, b) I knew I wanted to cover motherhood in a really real, potentially TMI way which I just didn’t feel worked that well with the more fantasy world of my fashion and lifestyle account and c) because until I started trying for a baby I was just not at all interested in anything to do with kids — it’s a very specific journey and just not relevant to everyone. In terms of my philosophy, motherhood has made me more passionate about breaking taboos, sharing my reality and helping to burst the bubble of social media perfection for the generations coming behind us.
Your book, titled Social Media is Ruining Your Life, has just been released. Can you tell us a bit about the concept?
The book is really a manual for coping with the dangers of the new media platforms. Like most technology, there is nothing inherently nefarious about social media, but the ways in which we are using it and our perspective on it in terms of it being a reflection of reality are definitely a danger to all aspects of modern womanhood. Each chapter addresses a specific area of our lives from our identity, body image, career and politics with tailored takeaways to help you form a more conscious mindful relationship with your favourite sites. Considering we spend on average 1 hour 58 minutes every day on social media, it’s really past time that we start properly addressing the situation.
How do you approach social media day-to-day? Do you put any rules in place to limit scrolling, give yourself digital detoxes…?
The first one is no phones in the bedroom. Buy an alarm clock and don’t be tempted to check in with your social media just before you go to sleep or as soon as you wake up. You will be so surprised at how this starts to break the habit for the rest of the day. When I’m working, I put my phone in another room, with the volume on high in case someone needs to ring me (since having a baby a total phone ban is just not possible). In terms of the actual environment on social media, it’s so important to remember that you are the one who has the power to shape your experiences. Aside from unfollowing people who make you feel low, make the effort to seek out those who inspire and uplift you. Ensure that you are not just looking at images of women with one body shape and try and make sure there is some humour in there.
You’ve spoken openly and honestly about your struggles to conceive; can you tell us how you eventually came to fall pregnant?
After a year of the scheduled sex, I decided it was time to speak to a specialist and after talking through my cycle, I realised that I was ovulating too late every month. Usually, it would be day 19-21 of a 28-day cycle instead of the usual day 10-14 and it was suggested that I was probably experiencing luteal phase defect—a contested condition which some doctors say is involved in over half of all cases of women struggling to conceive whereas others argue it is irrelevant to conception. What you will find with the fertility battle is that there are no clear or agreed-upon answers in many cases – one GP described it to me as ‘the dark arts.’ The treatment for LPD is progesterone supplements which I ended up taking for 16 weeks every day. The first month I used the treatment (vaginal suppositories, sexy!) I fell pregnant.
Was your birth experience as you had imagined?
I don’t know if you ever really know what to expect. I had a really mixed experience with a very stressful, confused early labour, then an incredibly supportive, reassuring second phase. I’d opted to try a drug-free, birth centre birth, but was kept in a holding ward until I was past 7cm dilated in a really horrible environment where I didn’t feel listened to or supported, so by that point I was like, get me the epidural NOW. The whole labour happened in under 8 hours, but we were pushing for more than two of it, which was tough on my recovery. He was also over 9lbs which wasn’t what I’d expected!
What has been the most surprising thing about motherhood so far?
How it isn’t just how the time you spend with your child that changes your life, but the very fact he exists has changed how you see and perceive everything. You’re still you, but your outlook has shifted in ways you could never predict.
How do you handle the more stressful parts of parenting?
Not well! To be honest, we are through the worst, but the first 17 weeks were hellishly stressful and I found it soul-crushing. I’m actually ok with the lack of sleep, but it’s the incessant crying of a colicky, refluxy baby who struggles to feed every day that really got to me. The only way I got through it was with the support of my boyfriend and a large glass of Shiraz at the end of the day.
Are you a routine style mum or more go-with-the-flow?
Routine all the way! There would be no way I could work from home unless we had scheduled sleep and feed times and the minute we established the routine, things started to fall in place. I am not a go-with-the-flow person in general, so it’s not a huge surprise that I’ve gone for a routine.
What was your own childhood like and has it influenced the type of mother you are today?
My mum was a single, working mother and she has always been the biggest influence on my life. She was and is however definitely more go with the flow and is much more relaxed than me in general, and I do think the madness of our house growing up (it was very creative, definitely not your average suburban home) made me crave organisation. In saying that, I was always scared to disappoint her and actually in some ways she was quite strict. I think that balance of encouraging freedom of expression and the feeling that you would be loved no matter what with clear, defined boundaries is exactly the philosophy I’d like to follow.
Has your attitude towards work changed since becoming a mother?
I’m more relaxed about turning things down now, but work hasn’t become less important. I think you want to provide for your child and that can be a big motivator. I’ve always been the breadwinner, so I definitely feel the pressure to earn.
What’s the first thing you do when you have a moment to yourself?
This is a tough one. I sometimes find myself staring at a wall for at least 10 minutes after the baby goes down! At the weekend I always try to schedule in one Pilates class – I used to do 4 or 5 a week and I miss the stretch and strength the practice gave me.
What’s your attitude towards health and wellbeing at the moment - too hard or necessity?
I think you have to be kind to yourself. Sometimes you will be able to fit in exercise and healthy eating and other times you won’t. Sometimes you will eat takeout four nights in a row. It’s just the way it is, unless you want to add yet another layer of pressure on yourself.
Describe a typical morning in your household...
We get up at 6.45am and change and dress Grey. He then gets his first milk feed at 7am and then at 7.30am has his breakfast, which is usually a mix of porridge and banana finger food. My boyfriend and I take it in turns to have a shower and dry our hair—I’ve learnt it’s so much better to get that all out the way as soon as possible. During his morning nap I work and do the dreaded household chores, which I hate with a passion, then we’ll head out to get a coffee and some fresh air. We then come back, do some activities and then he’ll be down again at 12.30pm for my longer work window.
You have an innate sense of style and clear love of fashion, has your style changed since becoming a mum?
That’s very kind of you to say. I love and will always love fashion but things have changed. Firstly I’m not about to spend a month’s mortgage on a pair of shoes any more, it’s just not on my radar. Secondly, my body is different, so some things don’t work in the same way. I’ve always worn a lot of cinched, belted styles, and I definitely struggled to adapt to a new shape. I guess I’m also a little more conservative now, but I think I will get my full mojo back at some point – it just takes a beat. But I’m still into colour and prints and interesting construction and love wearing dresses, so not everything has changed!
What do you like to wear on a typical day out with Grey?
Occasionally it will be just a tee and leggings, but mostly I dress how I would always dress. Feeling together in how I dress helps me pretend that I’m together in my mind. And having my eyeliner on and my hair blow dried just makes such a difference in my self-esteem.
If you could give one piece of advice to a first-time expectant mum, what would it be?
Really prepare yourself for issues with feeding – we all talk about labour, but breastfeeding, pumping or finding the right formula is the real zinger. And remember often it’s not anything you are doing wrong. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work.
What has been your ultimate saviour in the first few months with a newborn?
The Baby Bjorn bouncer. Grey screamed if you put him flat unless he was sleeping until recently, so I had to hold him the entire time—until we got the bouncer. He has been in it every single day since and still loves it, and it’s wonderful for reflux babies because you can pop them in there for 20 minutes after a feed to try and help them keep their milk down.
Katherine's little list of loves:
Rejina Pyo’s new collection – one of my favourite designers and an inspiring working mother to boot. La Posta Vecchia Hotel, outside Rome – I just got back from a mini-trip to this hotel. It’s wildly glamorous and expensive and offers instant relaxation. LNA – my girlfriends Lauren and Ashley are the coolest twins in LA and their label makes the world’s best t-shirts. I’m Absolutely Fine by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan – this new book is full of truth form the creators of the Midult. The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon – anyone working today whether in a salaried job or freelance needs to read this. In Good Company by Otega Urwagba is a really inspiring monthly podcast – I listen to podcasts on my days working as I travel to and from Soho House’s Electric. The Loewe Gate bag. Even if I’m in my leggings all day it makes me feel polished.