Forget yummy mummy, meet sassy mummy. Gill Sims, author of blog phenomenon Peter and Jane, strikes a blow for exhausted mothers everywhere with her first novel, Why Mummy Drinks. Carolynne Dear caught up with her.
So how does a suburban mum-of-two end up with 250,000 blog followers and a best-selling novel?
I’m still not 100% sure how I ended up with quite so many people following me, though I’m amazed and grateful every day that they take the time to do so. It all began with a chance throwaway comment from my friend Claire who suggested that with my creative use of some of the naughtier words in the English language, I really should start a blog. I happened to have a spare hour that day, so I did.
I originally used the free Google Blogger platform and just shared it with my friends on Facebook as a bit of a laugh. But they found it funny and wanted to share it to their friends too, so I started the Facebook page as an easy way for them to do that. And one day, a post went viral, and it all just snowballed from there.
Why do you think your posts are so popular?
I think partly because I was lucky enough to start blogging at a time when there were the beginnings of a reaction against the ‘perfect mummy’ blogs, where only a few very carefully curated facets of their lives are shown.
No mention is made of the frustrations and difficulties that come with parenthood – of course you love your children more than anything in the world but some days, when they’re fighting, and they won’t eat anything but crisps, and everything is “unfair”, you might not like them terribly much.
I think it was just the right time for some people to start being a bit more honest about the bits of parenting that are not quite ‘#soblessed’. A lot of mothers can relate to the struggles and the ‘bad days’, and with a bit of a humourous spin they might feel slightly less alone.
The blogs that you post are very personal. How do you deal with negative comments?
I am hugely lucky in that I don’t seem to get too many negative comments. And when people do leave a nasty comment, because there are so many comments left on my posts, by the time I see it other followers will have already called them out. I’m always loath to comment on the negative things myself, because anything I comment is automatically bumped to the top of the post, but I hugely appreciate all the people who take the time to have my back.
And if anyone has left anything really abusive, I delete it and block them. I very rarely have to do that though – I think the worst thing I’ve had to deal with was a creepy guy who was commenting under every woman’s comment and telling them he liked their smile and asking them to send him a friend request.
When I first started, I did obsess about the negative comments – there could be 1000 comments under a post saying ‘That happened to me too!’ or ‘Yes! I feel just like that sometimes too!’ but I would be sitting there worrying about the one comment that said I was a terrible mother and an awful human being and my children are scarred for life because I was such a horrible person. But you do learn to just let it go after a while.
You also post about more serious issues. Which are the charities closest to your heart?
I really like an organisation called PANDAS which provides support for women suffering from pre and post natal depression, I think they do amazing work and I wish I’d known about them when I was suffering from PND.
I also love a brilliant little charity called the Teapot Trust. They offer art therapy in hospitals for chronically ill children. Chronically ill children end up spending an unfair amount of time having to undergo painful tests and treatments and the Teapot Trust tries to give them something to look forward to.
Instead of it being a place with needles and nasty things, hospital becomes the place where they go and draw, paint and clay model. There are currently art therapists in almost every paediatric outpatient department in Scotland, as well as Great Ormond Street, and Chelsea and Westminster hospitals in London, but the Trust’s aim is to be able to provide art therapists for every children’s hospital in the UK.
How much time a day do you spend on the blog and social media sites?
Too much! The Facebook posts themselves take about an hour, then maybe around another hour between Instagram and Twitter (I’ve recently discovered Instagram stories and got a bit addicted, I definitely waste too much time on them!). And maybe another hour trying to reply to messages. Then a bit more time checking the comments on the posts, and trying to respond to at least a few of them! I’m very behind at the moment, so apologies.
How different was the writing process when it came to producing a book?
Quite different, as I had to invent a whole plot and work out how and when it would all come together, rather than a quick post which is just a brief snapshot of a moment in time. I found the process itself not too hard, but actually knuckling down and doing it was more difficult – I am a terrible procrastinator, and there is something quite daunting about facing an empty screen with 80000 words!
Are there any bloggers that you follow yourself?
Lots, but I particularly like Hurrah For Gin, although she writes more from a toddler parenting angle, but it’s all very familiar. I also really enjoy a lovely Irish blogger called the S-Mum who is very funny.
I understand your pet, Judgy Dog, has his own blog and Instagram following. Will we ever see a counter-blog from Daddy?
Definitely not! Daddy would quite like his own blog, but he wants me to write it for him, and between Peter and Jane and taking down Judgy Dog’s dictation for his blog (he struggles to type with his little paws), I don’t have time. Apparently, Daddy can’t write it himself because he fears social media and thinks it will steal his soul.
Any more books in the pipeline?
I have a couple of ideas…
And when it comes to Mummy drinking, what’s your favourite tipple?
I live in Scotland where we have a fantastic gin industry evolving. I’m currently loving some of the Hebridean gins coming out of the islands – my favourites are probably Misty Isle Gin from Skye, and Tyree Gin from Tiree.
Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims is published by HarperCollins and is available in Hong Kong with free shipping from bookdepository.com