In January 2016, just under three years ago, I started this blog. My son had been diagnosed with autism a few months earlier, I was struggling to cope with an autistic three year-old and a nearly one year-old with severe reflux, and I was in a teaching job that was slowly eating away at my mental health. I started my blog at the end of the most difficult year of my life.
Since then, my blog has evolved in ways I never imagined. I started to write because my head, and my heart, were full. I felt like I was carrying the heavy weight of those words with me, all the time. They had nowhere to go. I thought of things I wanted to say, to shout, even in my sleep. As soon as I started to write, to get those words down on paper, to know that someone, even one person, had read them, I felt better.
And so my blog was born.
Within three months, my blog had over 150,000 views. The things I wrote about seemed to resonate with people and so, very quickly, before I really knew what was happening, my blog, my social media, and the opportunites that came with them, began to grow.
I got to write for huge publications and magazines. I got offered products to review, trips out, even money for collaborations with brands. My blog was doing so well that there was a small chance I could make it a viable career. I might be able to leave the job that had resulted in three significant burn-outs in the last decade.
I knew it would take a huge amount of work. My writing was clearly accurate and heartfelt enough to make people want to read, but brands want so much more than that when they work with bloggers. They want professional and beautiful looking photographs. They want someone with an engaged and loyal audience. They want someone who can connect with others but who can still deliver their message.
I work SO SO HARD to make my blog work. I have to – for my own mental health and for my family’s quality of life. I taught myself to take better photographs. I took courses online, I saved for better equipment, I worked day and night to improve my social following. I went to blogging conferences to learn more about working with brands. I was verging on the obsessive. I think, in hindsight, my blog became my autisitic special interest. Every moment that I had when I was not caring for the children was spent making my blog work. While they were sleeping, I worked into the night…
Because making it work was my dream. Working from home, being my own boss, it was a dream that I could barely believe was coming true. Some days, I still have to pinch myself that it is real. I still cannot believe that I am lucky enough, after fifteen years of struggling, to have a job that makes me happy and relaxed and not anxious and exhausted. I am so lucky to be able to spend whole days playing with my daughter, to put aside whole afternoons to chase my son’s assessments and DLA and ECHP paperwork.
I gave up my job as a secondary school English teacher in July 2016, just six months after Someone’s Mum started. At first, I did not make enough money to get by. Every month, we were a little short. Every month, I borrowed from here and there, I went without to make sure we could pay the mortgage and we scraped by – just. After another six months, I was making as much as I did teaching. This was still quite a small amount. We do not have a lavish lifestyle. My husband is a teacher and we live in a middle terraced house with 3 bedrooms and one bathroom. We do not go on expensive holidays or wear designer clothes.
Three years on from that bleak moment, when I first sat down at the computer to write my first post, I am starting to make enough that I do not have to be scared that I will not be able to pay my mortgage. This year, I could afford to buy proper Christmas presents for all my nearest and dearest. I do not have to put our Christmas dinner food on a credit-
I have had to defend my blog and the amount of my life that I share online before. As my blog grows, I recieve more and more criticism for this. There are those who believe I am exploiting my children to “flog baby lotion” and who think that I use my children as marketing tools. They leave comments saying as much. I should not have to justify myself. This is my life, my family, my career, my children – my choice.
But I have never taken criticism well and all the words inside me have always had to come out. They must find their voice somewhere. And so, to those people, I say this:
I starting writing, and I still write about autism to reach out to others, to make them feel less alone, to make myself feel less alone, to promote awareness and acceptance, to make society a better and to share all the things I love about my son. The original purpose of my blog is still alive and strong. I still strive to make sure my personal posts are just as they have always been.
I am accutely aware of the social media footprint that I am creating for my children. I show them everything I make and write and always ask them if they are happy with it. They may be too young to fully understand the implications right now but as soon as either one of them becomes unhappy with what I share, it will no longer be shared. I treasure the images I have taken and the words I have written about them and I honestly believe that, as they grow, they will treasure them too.
I take on paid work and sponsorships on my blog and social media to pay my bills, feed my children, and to make sure I can spend more time with them. Instead of commuting for two hours a day and working seventy hour weeks, I am there, with them. I collect and pick up my son from school. When the LA refused my son’s support hours, I had the time and resilience to start the tribunal process.
I could not have carried on living the way I did before. I could not make blogging the life-saving priority that it is without taking on paid work. It may seem like there are periods when all my work is paid or sponsored – at Christmas this is certainly likely as I take on more to pay for things. But for every sponsored post you see, there are several that I have turned down. I now have the luxury to choose to only work with brands that I really want to. I turn down pay-day loans and gambling sites and link-builders and toys I think are inappropriate.
I also find blogging professionally incredibly fulfilling, mentally and creatively. I love learning to take pictures. I love writing – about anything and everything. When I was teaching, I was hanging by a thread. Now, I am happy and content.
I should not have to justify myself; I am working really hard on not caring what others think of me, but I am not quite there yet. And your words can hurt me, so deeply. I know that not everyone will like what I do – and that is fine.
But, if you disapprove of the way I share information about my children, if you think I should not take on paid work to support my family, if you think I have sold out or you disagree with something I have promoted, please, unfollow, scroll on by, hide my posts – forget about me. I will do my best to do the same.