On Motherhood: Katherine Ormerod

"On social media, comparison breeds envy at every corner. Instead of feeling grateful for what we have, we believe we need to be more, just to come up to scratch. Our careers, our wardrobes, our lifestyles, even our children…none of them are enough.”

Last year speaker, consultant and author Katherine Ormerod made headlines for re-sharing (and re-captioning) some of her most popular Instagram posts from the past five years to reveal the reality behind the picture – a floral dress against a blue door became the tale of workplace redundancies; a street style shot from New York Fashion Week concealed a painful divorce; a casual picture in France hid the morning sickness of early pregnancy.

Now mum to baby Grey, aged one, and celebrating the success of her first book, ‘Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life’, Katherine is particularly well positioned to reflect on the difficulties that self-comparison to the seemingly perfect lives that punctuate our Instagram feeds can cause in real life.

This Mother’s Day, we’ve teamed up with the content hub The Grace Tales to celebrate the launch of their first book ‘Grace Mothers’ – a collection of 60 thought provoking letters from Mothers to their children. Here, founder Georgie Abay talks to Katherine about her current relationship with social media and how daily life has changed since Grey’s arrival.

Careers after kids is never straight-forward. How has motherhood changed your career and how you work?

I think that because I’m self-employed/freelance/whatever we’re calling it these days, it’s hard to say how motherhood has impacted my work life – it’s really changeable depending on what is going on work-wise.

When Grey was first born and I was writing my book it was hell and the pressure I felt was extreme. Now I’m working two days a week with childcare, so it often feels the same as it did before I had a baby.

I think my mindset has changed – I would have been driving myself much harder career-wise if I wasn’t also mothering. Even though I know objectively I’ve had a fantastic career year, I would probably be trying to fill my days to the brim with work, which I don’t do now. I try to only take on what I can manage and not compare myself to what other people are doing.

I only have two days a week and the odd weekend or evening stint here and there, so I’m not going to be publishing 16 articles a week. Sometimes I worry if I’ve lost my edge or ambition, but I think it’s more that I know this is such a short moment in time. I’ll be working for at least another 25 years, so if I take the foot off the pedal for the next couple of years, it’s not going to mean the end of my career.

Because I never really off-ramped – in that I didn’t take a real maternity leave – I’ve kept my toe in my career. That didn’t come without cons, but it has helped me integrate the two sides of my life over the past year.

How has motherhood helped your career – has it made you more inspired? More efficient?

Sadly, I’m not more efficient, though I’m not a huge procrastinator.

Work-wise I’d say I’m much more practical and less emotional. If something doesn’t work out, I move on immediately because I literally do not have the head or heart space to obsess over it. I’m also very relaxed about doing things for primarily financial reasons as long as it pays for me to do creative and meaningful work too.

I do often worry about where I’m going, but I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that it’s the winds that guide my sails rather than feeling I always have to be captain of the ship.

The housework side of mothering gets no credit, has no status… I truly believe we need a new, more accurate term for the job we all do. Chief Household Officer is my favourite so far.

- Katherine Ormerod

Is motherhood what you thought it would be? What have been some of the more surprising parts of motherhood for you? 

I didn’t realise how much domestic work I’d be doing. I think because the term ‘housewife’ has fallen out of favour and has been replaced with ‘primary caregiver,’ in lots of ways the house stuff (which is probably about 70% of the job) has been totally erased from the narrative.

The housework side of mothering gets no credit, has no status and makes you feel like some kind of retro Stepford wife. A lot of the time I’m scrubbing the floors of broccoli thinking, “Is this what I signed up for?” I thought it was all play dates and monkey music. I truly believe we need a new, more accurate term for the job we all do. Chief Household Officer is my favourite so far.

On Instagram, motherhood often looks perfect. How do you aim to portray your experience of motherhood on social media?

I’d describe it as raw motherhood. I just told the complete truth and didn’t hold back when things were bad or confusing or depressing. I felt I could do it as I set my mum account up to be totally separate from my fashion/work account. It meant I knew that everyone was there because they knew the premise – so I didn’t feel like I had to apologise for lots of baby pics or feeding content. It’s become an amazing resource as well as a scrapbook of our time.

As a new mother, spending time on Instagram can often be overwhelming if you’re house-bound and sleep deprived. What’s your advice to new mothers on using social media in those early days?

My best advice is to be honest and vulnerable. Don’t pretend it’s all fine if it isn’t. People can’t support you if you gloss over the struggle and you will only alienate yourself further if you try to keep up appearances.

I don’t know where I’d be without the incredible outpouring of love and advice I found on social media. But also remember that no one else has experienced your child or sees the world through your eyes. Only you can ever really know what you’re going through, so try not to compare too much.

Day-to-day how do you approach social media – do you check in every hour or two or do you schedule dedicated times in the day for posting and scrolling?

If I’m with Grey (if he’s awake!) I don’t check social media. I post after he goes to bed and don’t engage much at all during the day.

Talk us through the inspiration behind your recently published book and what has the reaction been like?

In 2017, I launched a website called workworkwork.co and started interviewing amazing women working in aspirational careers about the unedited sides of their lives. The warts and all stuff we’d all been hiding from social media.

They talked about infertility and grief, toxic relationships and body issues. Things none of their followers could believe they’d been dealing with. The one theme that kept cropping up time and time again was the impact that scrolling through so much content on social media was having on their mental health. It was that issue which really got me thinking and researching my book.

How will you be spending Mother’s Day this year?

We have no plans, but Sundays are usually slow and cosy with a glass or two at the pub at lunchtime!

If you could pick three things from Anthropologie to receive this Mother’s Day, what would they be?

 The Silk Leopard Print Dress, the Embellished Shape Study Cushion and the spotty headband! All my plates are also Anthropologie – I’ve collected the Nathalie Lete plates for the past five years.

How would you describe your personal style?

Feminine, colourful, high + low.

What about your interior style?

I’m really eclectic when it comes to the flat, but I’m obsessed with palette – all the choices are down to colour. I love investing in true design classics then mixing in pieces picked up from my travels. I’d love to be able to afford more art, but the priority is probably a bigger apartment right now!

Photography by Julie Adams.