Smoke and Mirrors: What you don’t see on Instagram

I’d read a post this weekend by Molly over at ‘Mother’s Always Right’, about how ‘It’s Cool to be a Normal Mum’and that the pressure and expectations, often brought on by the likes of Instagram and You Tube, have definitely increased for Mums over recent years, and I couldn’t have agreed more with her. 

There’s definitely something about Instagram that leads many people to call it their ‘happy place’, the place where they mostly show their highlights, with all smiling children and gorgeous houses. And understandably people don’t want to show the bad bits, the part of the home that features the pile of doom in the corner. Or the fact that your Instagram-styled-and-smiling cherub has just been uncharacteristically evil and launched a bucket of water over her brother, unprovoked (ahem). ‘Highlights’ like that don’t tend to lend themselves to 200 likes and a #blessed do they? 

But by not being honest, are we doing other mums, and also ourselves a massive disservice?

As a largely interiors and family lifestyle blogger who now makes a living out of writing about, and styling, pretty things, am I guilty sometimes of being part of this problem? When in fact there are some days I feel like a bit of a fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I am by nature pretty organised and tidy, but like anyone ‘normal’ (well, normal in my books), there are times when the house is a complete hole, and of course these are the times when you don’t anyone to see the state of the kitchen that you are currently working from home in.

It’s so easy on Instagram, in blog posts and in magazines to show the amazing bits, as I know only too well from an online magazine shoot I participated in 18 months ago. A photographer had been booked to come and shoot the kitchen in our old house, and therefore I had cleaned and tidied to a standard that I thought would be acceptable for the photographs. However, when the lovely (and by the end, extremely patient) photographer had arrived, he proceeded to clear almost the entire contents of anything on show into my living room (I shit you not, he almost filled the bloody room). I was mortified at all the clutter that we had seemingly accumulated, apparently unnoticed by us Freemans. 

What was left was me grinning in my beautiful kitchen, devoid of any aspects of ‘real life’- the fridge magnets on the Smeg, the ‘stylish’ washing up drainer that stopped our work surfaces from warping, and the utensils in their mis-matched pots. The end result looked GREAT, but if I’m going to be honest it wasn’t my ‘real life’, because real life can be messy, often uncoordinated, and if you’re me, involves a Gruffalo Family Planner keeping track of family life alongside the hip Stendig calendar you may see on Instagram. 

So with this in mind, I thought I would show you how my new kitchen looks right now, on this Monday morning, compared with the styled, Pinterest-worthy snaps I took the other week to showcase our kitchen renovation. It will no doubt be clean and tidied by the time I go to pick the kids up from school this afternoon, and as part of my job I HAVE to show things styled in a certain way a lot of the time. But I want to show how EASY it is to hide what you don’t want others to see, and that if something looks too perfect and too good to be true, well, the chances are it probably is!

So first up, the good old Stendig calendar, beloved by interiors instagrammers the world over…. and then accessorised by a clothes horse full of washing, wonky chairs, drawing materials, hideous blue booster seat etc etc


If there’s one thing that makes me feel like I’m on top of my chores, it’s a tidy kitchen work surface. Which is all very well if you’ve emptied the dishwasher before the kids go to school, or washed up those few bits from the night before, or taken the recycling out. Otherwise, the overall kitchen look is very ugly indeed…!

Fancy an Instagram-friendly flat lay today? Best move further down the work top away from all the leftover breakfast crap…

Our lovely, grown-up looking breakfast bar, perfect for socialising, drinking a glass of wine at, and a real feature point within the kitchen…expect when the children have whirled through like Tasmanian Devils and dumped their stuff on it!

And the corner of our kitchen/diner that wasn’t even shown in my original kitchen renovation post, as it really is the corner of doom! Introducing the outdoor shoe basket, pile of charity shop stuff, bowl that the kids spent the weekend making a ‘potion’ in, bags of clean washing to be ironed, and a welly graveyard. All next to be very dirty bi-fold doors due the rendering that is still on going:

Looks a bit different to this eh?

Whilst I never want to mislead readers, and yes, my kitchen can be very tidy and it’s a space we’re ridiculously proud of, I think a bit of honesty sometimes never goes amiss.

So when you see someone with a ‘perfect’ home or ‘perfect’ life on social media, just remember that it’s probably not like that 24/7…


What do you think? Do you think social media is to blame for making us feel inadequate? Or are you aware that so much is ‘smoke and mirrors’? Do you only show your ‘best bits’ on Facebook and Instagram? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!





  1. March 27, 2017 / 11:17 am

    You already know that I love this post! I’m a fan of honesty, and because I’m such a crap photographer I’ll never be an insta-star. Can I just say that even with the mess I adore your kitchen! Swoon xxxx

    • Becky
      March 27, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      Ah thanks R! x

  2. March 27, 2017 / 11:30 am

    LOVE this post! Actually had me laughing out loud because I can so relate! Also – your kitchen is GORGEOUS, messy or not! xx

    • Becky
      March 27, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Thanks Molly, and thanks once again for the inspiration! x

  3. Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely
    March 27, 2017 / 11:46 am

    I get where you’re coming from with this post, I really do, but from someone who’s home genuinely, 90 percent of the time, looks like it does on their blog and on Instagram, it also makes me kind of sad, as well. I feel like we can’t do anything, be proud of anything, be who we want to be, be who we are without having to justify it. Have a tidy home? Then you have to play it down say that it’s messy most of the time. Have a day out with with incredibly well behaved kids? Then you have to say that it’s a rare thing. Kids that sleep through the night? You need to get down on your knees and apologise for it. I hope that one day we’ll reach a point where we don’t have to apologise for or justify what we have and what we do, and just be. Sorry! I’ve hijacked what it a post with really lovely and kind intentions x

    • Carie @ Space for the Butterflies
      March 27, 2017 / 7:57 pm

      I’m hijacking further because I completely agree and it’s part of a wider form of female preconditioning that makes women devalue themselves and their talents and achievements without even thinking about it. Your kitchen is beautiful and you have every right to show it to its best advantage:)

      • Becky
        March 27, 2017 / 9:23 pm

        Ah thanks for your comments ladies, not hijacking at all, I know they come from a good place 🙂 I guess I’m not saying we have to apologise for things looking nice/going well for us and pretend we’re ‘slummy mummies’ (heck, my place is tidy a lot of the time!) but just to show how easy it can be to ‘fake’ an instagram picture. I reckon it depends what you’re using instagram for- mine is largely stylish shots and it is my mini beautiful gallery a lot of the time and that won’t change because I’ve posted this, BUT I’m talking about how if seeing images of ‘perfect’ homes makes you feel bad then to remember that it’s not necessarily always the case that everything is ‘amazing’. I hope that makes sense? Rambling a little there!

    • Becky
      March 27, 2017 / 9:26 pm

      Oh I love that Bored Panda post, brilliant!

  4. Carie @ Space for the Butterflies
    March 27, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    I don’t feel inadequate because of beautiful pictures from other people and I always share my best pictures and tidiest bits because Instagram is a creative outlet for me. Isn’t the theory that if you’d change your shirt in the morning because the first one you picked had a smudge on it then you’re not being fake if you tidy your clutter out of the photo.

    • Becky
      March 27, 2017 / 9:24 pm

      That is true Carie! Have responded further to your’s and Rach’s comment up-thread x

  5. March 28, 2017 / 9:15 am

    Love this post! It sure is easy to feel a bit down when all you see is the highlights of others on social media.

    I don’t geel bad myself though as I know it is usually edited or cropped and well, if it really is as pictured then good on them 🙂 I do what I can with the time I have and that’s as good ands I can be and no one’s social media feeds will make me feel bad about it.

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