Admittedly, when I was thrust into this beautiful and terrifying journey called motherhood, I was expecting to learn a lot about myself. Becoming a new mom requires quite a steep learning curve.
One thing I did not expect to learn about myself was that I was one of those moms. I wanted to take photos of every single moment, because they were just gone too soon. Day to day, my newborn changed and developed and I felt it leaking through my camera-phone-obsessed fingers.
And that's how I stumbled upon this community of people just like me: the instamoms (and some instadads).
I suppose I should have realized they exist. I mean, there is a community of every possible permutation on instagram, but before becoming a mom, I hadn't really thought about it.
And then, during those 2AM, 4AM and 6AM feedings, while I sat in the dark room, nursing the baby, I found myself browsing through photos of babies from all over the world. I knew that my friends were likely sick of seeing the oversharing of photos of my baby on my social media. But here was a community of parents who would were doing exactly what I wanted to do: sharing every moment.
So, I decided to make a separate instagram account and recruit some advice from some of my new friends on Instagram with huge beautiful feeds of photos. And I became an instamom for 6 weeks.
Here's what happened.
Week 1: Help from @taylensmom
Instagram handle: @taylensmom
Kids names & ages: Taylen (2.5 years) Aleia (1 year)
Years on Instagram: 2.5
Location: Davie, FL
Advice: Be honest and transparent.
Angelica has two of the most gorgeous little girls I've ever seen. She is also one of the instamoms who has been shouted out by celebs like Kim Kardashian.
She had one major piece of advice that was super useful when attempting to figure out the voice and direction of our Instagram. I couldn't just be posting photo diarrhea, right? She told me, "Be as honest and transparent as you can be through your posts. Each of your moves will affect your children's future - let them be kids first. Nothing should be propped or pushed on them, let them be kids and have fun sharing your world with others."
Looking around instagram, you will see lots of moms doing the opposite of what Angelica suggested. I thought it was amazingly wise and sound advice that she gave. So I decided to show little peeks into our life and chronicle letters to my daughter. I wanted it to be something she and I could both look back on and marvel at all the love (and some hardship) that we had gone through in those early months and years.
Photo inspired by Angelica
Through Instagram, Angelica's adorable daughters have now been picked up by a modeling agency. But it all started with a feature account!
Feature accounts are the accounts on Instagram that scour for the cutest or most fashionable photos and then post to their own instagram. It's a great way to get exposure. Angelica was featured by @fashionkids. "After @fashionkids posted the first photo of Taylen on their page- the photo automatically became viral with over 120,000 likes in one day. Still to this day, that photo is the most liked photo on their platform. Shortly after that, we were picked up as the first influencer for Kardashian Kids line nearly 2 summers ago and our page went from 10,000 followers to now close to 150,000." Then, this past holiday season, Taylen headlined Kardashian Kids holiday print campaign.
So, going into week 2, I decided to reach out to my friend Nadine of @kidzootd
Week 2: Help from @kidzootd
Name: Nadine Nankervis
Instagram handle: @kidzootd
Kids names & ages: Jaiden (12 years); Aiva (4 years)
Years on Instagram: 2.5 years
Location: Birmingham, England, UK
Advice: Combine fashion and fun
Nadine has one of the largest feature accounts for kids on Instagram. With almost 300,000 followers, she has garnered a following of people who just love cute kids in cute clothes.
She was kind enough to actually pick an entire outfit for my daughter, and reminded me to always "combine fashion and fun." So, during week 2, I focused on getting together the outfit for our photoshoot while Nadine would feature the next month. But, I also posted my first fashion-focused photo.
Photo inspired by Nadine
Nadine chooses her photos mainly from the hashtag #kidzootd. She says, "Whatever pictures catch my eye will be featured. With over 1 million pictures tagged, I can be torn between a few, so I consult my sister and close friend now and again with the selection process." For the moms looking to be featured, Nadine says it's pretty simple. "I look for clear pictures and of course trendy outfits, I especially love unique or new products I haven't seen before so I can share the hottest new trends or items in children's wear."
During week 2 I discovered that, not only are there a ton of feature accounts, but there are a plethora of cute children's boutiques on instagram. This fueled my shopping craze and I loaded up on outfits because when I see a pair of tiny panda socks... or baby loafers, I really cannot resist.
Name: Tayler Gunn
Instagram handle: @taylergolden
Kids names & ages: Remy (2 years), pregnant with second!
Years on Instagram: 3
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Advice: People like to follow feeds, not photos
Tayler's feed is absolutely gorgeous. Her piece of advice made me think more about the photos and my aesthetic and less about each individual photo. She told me, "People follow feeds. All your photos need to look consistent and go well together. It helps if you use the same filter on every photo."
I knew that something had been missing, and once we told me to focus on the feed, I realized what it was. I wanted a pretty feed. I wanted it to look like a magazine. Tayler encouraged me to think outside the box with my photos.
Photo inspired by Tayler
Honestly, this was the breath of fresh air I needed as a new mom. You don't realize it before the baby come barreling out of you, but once you are a mom, life feels a little isolated. You can't go out the way you used to, the baby's nap schedule dictates when you can shower, and going to Sunday brunch with girlfriends is pretty much out of the question. This gave me a reason to take an hour out of my day and do something that I enjoyed. I got to pull out my camera and be creative.
This week was the week my feed went from a hodge podge to something that I thought through. It was also the week I realized that I really love photography. I decided to invest in a better camera.
Name: Peter & Amber Yong
Instagram handle: @leialauren
Kids names & ages: Leia and Lauren (10 months)
Years on Instagram: less than a year
Advice: Get some quirky clothes to dress up in and have fun!
Ok, so Peter & Amber are two of the most lovely people I've ever met, but their twins! Goodness, are they beyond adorable or what? They have become an internet phenomenon. Obviously, I had to chat with them about their Instagram life. Luckily, Peter happened to be in New York that week on business, so we caught up, both sans babies, to chat.
For Peter and Amber, Instagram really started as a way to share with friends and family. "We started using instagram for our travel photography, even before our babies came about. Instagram is a perfect platform for us to document Leia and Lauren's growing journey." Amber is the brains behind the concepts of their shoots, focused on cute outfits and quirky accessories.
photo inspired by Peter & Amber
I had such a ball perusing some of the sites they suggested to shop on. I settled on the romper with a giant bear face, because frankly, my daughter looks like a chubby little bear.
The quirky aspect added even more fun to this experiment (and even more dollars to my credit card bill). During those middle-of-the-night feedings I now had something else to do. It kept me smiling.
Week 5: Help from @gparrish
Name: Ginger Parrish
Instagram handle: @gparrish
Kids names & ages: Jonah (4 years), Riggins (2 years)
Years on Instagram: 4
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Website: www.theparrishplace.com, www.gigipip.com
Advice: Make your photos look as unfiltered as possible.
Ginger is a recent friend on Instagram. She takes beautiful photos that tell a story. But this wasn't always the case. She told me, "The first instagram I ever posted was the day we brought our first son, Jonah, home from the hospital. A photographer friend had posted a new picture on Facebook that he had edited with instagram so I instantly downloaded it to edit my newborn shots." In the beginning, much like the rest of us, it was all about the filter. "You know, Valencia? The creamiest filter in the crop? I applied it to every single photo I took from there on out for a nice glossed blur."
But then, she saw the light. "Fast forward to today, I don't remember the last time I applied an instagram filter. In fact, I try hard to make my pictures not look filtered. We've come along ways in 4 years." And her photo advice has been sought out by so many others in instagram that she even released an e-book on how to edit them.
She told me to never use a filter, and keep the photos looking crisp and clean. Considering that I don't really know how to use the instagram filters correctly, anyway, this was an easy task.
Photo inspired by Ginger
It's really all about the moments. I want to journal them as they pass, because they pass too quickly. My daughter is already 6 months old, and I can't believe how much she has grown in that short period of time. "I think I would describe an instamom as a mother who is making an effort to enjoy the everyday moments with my children and documenting them along the way," Ginger said it best.
Week 6: Reflecting On Being an Instamom
So, I've realized a few things as I started journaling my new life as a mom.
1. Many people post multiple photos a day. This helps with followers, however, I don't have the energy to do that. So, I probably don't qualify as a real instamom. I am probably more of a half-assed instamom.
2. I found that I love photography and it's a hobby that I will probably enjoy for many years.
3. Everyone uses hashtags. Angelica describes them as "a parking space for your photo." If you are looking to share your photos and engage with the mom community, you need to hashtag your photos. #momlife is a good place to start.
4. Due to this experiment, I am leaving my 6 weeks with so many more framed photos than I expected.
5. Scrolling though my own feed makes me feel nostalgic. I know this is akin to liking your own post on Facebook, but I'm being honest. Seeing her grow up in the tiny square Instagram photo grid makes me glad that I started documenting.
6. I've made friends around the world who are also moms, and who are willing to give me advice about the 2AM, 4AM, and 6AM feeding that are still happening!