Mummy blogging sensation Tova Leigh is taking over the world. With over 400,000 followers on her Facebook page, Tova Leigh - My Thoughts About Stuff, and plenty of fans on her blog, TovaLeigh.com, mums just can’t get enough of her raw, honest and totally hilarious approach to motherhood, relationships and kids. Here, she tells us about her journey to becoming a successful mummy blogger, how it all started with one frustrating afternoon tea, and how she deals with negative feedback.
I always felt like motherhood did not come easy for me - that’s the honest truth.
I struggled a lot at the beginning. I had PPD after my first child. I had twins after that and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. I spent two months in hospital. Nothing came easy, and I felt very, very alone.
Nothing came easy, and I felt very, very alone. The experience was not necessarily a positive one at times and I felt very alone because I didn't really see other people struggling
The experience was not necessarily a positive one at times and I felt very alone because I didn't really see other people struggling. I just saw other people doing a great job and finding it easy - at least, that's what it looked like to me at the time -and I kept it all bottled in.
It all started one afternoon over tea
We were having guests over for afternoon tea and I was having one of those nightmare days. I felt like I had to sit down and write something or I was going to explode. I wrote an article and I quickly looked online to see how you start a blog, found WordPress and put it out there with a picture. The article was titled “I love my kids but sometimes I wish they would fuck off” - blunt! I just shared it on my personal Facebook profile, and sort of left it and went back to hosting the afternoon tea and getting on with my day. I came back to my computer in the evening after everybody had left and the kids were in bed. I was in shock to discover that 3,000 people had read the article.
The response was shocking
People started writing to me saying, “oh my God, thank you so much for saying that. That's exactly how I feel. Nobody says that and you make me feel so much better about myself and it's good to know I'm not alone.” A couple of months later I started my Facebook page, which I called “My thoughts about stuff” because I couldn't think of another title! My goal was to try and be as honest and as open as I could be about my experience with motherhood. It's not everybody's experience and that's fine. Everybody has their own experiences, but I have found since then that a lot of women share similar feelings and similar stories about their experience in motherhood.
A few months later I started doing videos
I saw that people were vlogging. I trained as an actress a few years ago before becoming a mum and it was something that I thought “I could give this a go and see how it goes”. The Facebook page is quite big now and there are business opportunities that come with that. I’m exploring them. I hope that I can make this into a business that I can make a living from as well as doing something I am really passionate about, but at the end of the day it has always been and it will continue to be very, very personal. It's my life and it's my experience and I don't plan for that to change. Everything I talk about and everything I vlog about comes from either something that's happened to me, or stuff that's happening to my friends and that they are talking to me about. It's always really, really personal. It's quite amazing to see how so many people go through such similar things. I sometimes write a post about something that I’m not sure people will relate to. Then I get an amazing reaction and you think ‘wow, we’re all so similar’.
Blogging is now my full time job
I was working part time in an office till two months ago and I left my job. It was a leap of faith, to be honest. I just realised I have to jump because I'm really passionate about this. I love doing it. I love the feedback. I love the fact that it's helping people and I just wanted to try and give it 100% and see what could happen.
I feel very lucky
I tell my kids what I do and I want them to know what I do. It's so great to be able to tell your child that you're doing something that you love because one day when they do something it will hopefully be something they love. I'm happy that's the position I'm in.
The kids participate in some of the videos
My eldest, especially, is six and she's always up for it. She's got great ideas. It's becoming more and more of a family thing because at the end of the day, it has to be, doesn't it? It's not just about me. It's about all of us. My husband also takes part in some of the videos and he's really been helpful and supportive. The people who follow the page really love him. I think it also gives another perspective for the guys because there are men who follow the page as well. I think it's nice for them when they see Mike in the videos and what he has to say.
I come up with my video ideas from real things that happen in life
I don't really sit down and write a script for the videos. I'll play with the idea in my head for a few days and I'll talk to Mike about it and we'll bounce some ideas off each other. Usually, when I sit in front of the camera I have a script in my mind, but I'll usually start ranting and see what happens, so a lot of it will just be in the spur of the moment.
I had to teach myself so many skills, like editing and filming, when I started out
If you want to start a blog, I would start with WordPress: it's free and it's super-easy to use. I think building a network is also very important. I reached out to a lot of other bloggers who talk about similar things, introduced myself, shared a lot of their content on my page to try and build some sort of relationship. It took time but I've managed to build that network and I think having it is key. You get a lot of advice and people are every helpful, but also because once you get on their radar, they'll start sharing your things and expose you to a bigger audience and that's how it works.
I had to work this weekend. On my way back from a meeting I ran into someone I know who asked me what I was up to, so I told him I was trying to catch up with all the work I missed because the kids were off school for a few weeks. He then asked "but where are your kids now?" and for a moment I actually had to think, because the way he asked it made it sound like they should have been attached to my head. I found myself mumbling: "they are at home with their father... I think". We said our goodbyes and I walked away wondering if something is wrong with me for not feeling one bit guilty about working for a few hours on a Sunday, while my children play happily (ie wreck the house) with my husband at home. I also didn't feel sorry for enjoying my work, or for not wanting to spend every single moment of my day with beautiful three kids. I mean, let's be honest - I love my kids, but sometimes going to work for a few hours is like going on a luxury cruise compared to having to deal with their neverending demands. And I know that admitting that may make me sound like a shit mom, but I would rather be considered a "shit mom" and be happy than try and be some sort of "perfect mom" and slowly lose my mind. Now, I'm not sure if he would have asked my husband the same question, had he run into him without the kids instead of me (doubt it), but that's not the point I am getting at. What I am trying to say is this: whether you are a SAHM or a working mom, whether you like doing arts and crafts for 5 hours with your kids every day or you fucking hate it, whether you run the PTA or barely make it to one event a year - as long as you are doing YOU and your kids are loved and happy, then you are doing just great. #moms #mums #SAHM #workingmons #parents #parenting #kids #mommyshaming #motherhood
I feel you have to be authentic and to have your own voice
There's no point in looking at what other people are doing. You have to be doing what you're doing. It’s a lot of work but I love it.
I don’t normally get recognised, but…
I did get recognised once at the zoo just after my three-year-old was having the biggest tantrum. And there's me literally falling apart, and then this lady comes up to me asking ‘are you the lady from the internet?’ and I just wanted to die. It was so embarrassing.
I love getting feedback from other parents
Knowing that you're not alone and that other people are struggling with the same things has been a comfort. I think what has helped the most is for me to be me. To say, you know what, she's doing it that way, and that's great but this is how I do it. Before, I was comparing myself to other mums who I felt were doing a better job than me and trying to be more like them or live up to other people’s standards but at the end of the day you can only be who you are. You can only try to be the best version of you. That's the main feedback I get from other people. Saying, ‘I have learned to accept who I am and I'm not perfect. I do my best.’
I try not to give parenting advice
I don't give advice and I don't think there's any shame in going to see somebody to get professional advice. We had issues with stuff like potty training and sleep and we went to see people who have great tools and have a lot of knowledge. I don't think there's any shame in saying we don't know everything.
I get a lot of negative feedback as well
I don't want to say everybody loves me because they don't. A lot of people really can't stand me. Some people say I'm ungrateful and that I complain about my kids or that I don't love my kids. They could call social services. They're praying for my children. There’s a lot of praying going on! But you can literally see a picture of a puppy and people complain. At first it did bother me, but I reached out to a couple of bloggers from America, and they said to me, ‘what are you doing reading the comments?’ I've grown a thicker skin now. I don't read the comments. I know what kind of a Mum I am. I know how looked after my kids are and how much I love them. I just ignore it now. I just want people to know that it is out there and that it comes with having a mummy blog.