Social Media and Parenting- Author of Your Guilty Secret discusses how social media has impacted her own experience as a mother

Whilst researching my latest novel, Your Guilty Secret, about an A list celebrity whose life unravels in the full glare of the public eye, I bumped into an old acquaintance. I hadn’t seen her for years, but she started to tell me about the exotic holiday she’d just returned from with her kids.

“It was sheer hell,” she said. “The children didn’t sleep. One of them was sick. I got food poisoning. My husband was on work calls all the time…” and so it went on. I thought that sheer hell might have been over-egging it – but I got that it was a slog. And that having kids makes a holiday just – another day in another place, unless of course the childcare is in abundance.

Later on that day, though, I was scrolling through Instagram and there it was. A photo of a place to die for. Crystal waters, white sand. Palm trees gently blowing in the wind. There was even one of those swings in the water. The stuff dreams are made of. I read the caption. Paradise, it read (that much was true). The most perfect week I could have ever imagined. The kids remained illness free, we all slept like logs and my husband was the most doting man on the planet. Ok, I can’t remember exactly what it said. But it was something to the effect of: My life is god-damn perfect and I don’t care who knows it. But then I scrolled up. The poster? It was the lady who I’d bumped into that morning. The one whose holiday was a ‘freaking nightmare.’ That one exchange had since made me feel better about every time I take my children anywhere – and I question my own parenting. Because no matter where we are, us parents are all doing and wiping the same shit. Unless of course you’re blessed with twenty-four hour childcare.

In Your Guilty Secret, the main character is Lara King –whose world-wide fame has everyone’s eyes on her. On the face of it, her life is beyond perfect. There’s the beautiful Instagram shots of Lara and her 6-year old daughter Ava, doing yoga on the lawn of their beautiful LA house. The sparkling swimming pool, the doting relationship Lara has with film star Matthew Raine. Yet as is most often the case, this doesn’t show the whole story and as things start happening in Lara Kings life and she starts to unravel, we see what happens behind closed doors.

I thought about the mother and her ‘disastrous’ holiday when I was researching the novel. How for celebrities and influencers, some of their entire brands are based on the narrative they present on social media. I often find it more interesting to pick apart how people want their audience to see them, rather than the actual photograph.

So all I need to do, when I’m scrolling aimlessly through the countless pictures of beaches and holidays and I’m experience a negative feeling (normally jealousy), is either unfollow the people that make me feel really bad. Or I just need to switch the narrative a bit. Reimagine the scene: a beautiful beach but two minutes later a child covered in vomit, and a husband and wife at the end of their tether.

Your Guilty Secret by Rebecca Thornton. Published by Zaffre, Paperback original 7th March 2019 £7.99. Available from Amazon

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