The difference between perception and reality can often be blurred because of social expectations and media portrayals of what it means to be a mother. Social media storytelling is also increasingly shaping and impacting the mothering experience.
We asked 1,000 Australian mums from the Stable Research Mums Omnibus panel, (including stepmums and grandmothers) in the 18 to 65+ age group, how their best friends would describe them as a mum? Would they be considered, an Insta mum, confident, in-control or just hanging in there?
Here’s more about our mums and what they had to say.
Organised and in-control mums’ rule
By far the biggest response was an ‘organised mum’. In our survey, 45% of respondents agreed that their friends would regard them as organised.
Our Mums Omnibus backs up this fact showing that Aussie mums are actively involved with the church, charities and caring for the elderly as well as canteen duties, P&C, literacy programs, fundraising, class liaison, excursions, ethics programs, uniform shop and other school activities.
Our organised mums were spread across every age and marital group, education and occupation level. However, retirees (13%) were least likely to claim this description. Busy mums who studied while also working full time certainly need to be well organised, and the study reflects this as these mums were very likely (67%) to claim the description. Nearly half (49%) of the organised mums had university postgrad qualifications.
Cool and collected, loving life and been there done that mums
Other large representations in our survey were from mums who felt they projected a positive, confident image to their friends. A further 26% felt they were perceived as a ‘cool and collected mum’ to their friends, 25% as a ‘loving life mum’ and 22% as a ‘Been there done that’ mum.
In the survey it was much more common for the mums responding to these three descriptors (each 50%) to only have the one child.
Interestingly, when focusing on that most happy descriptor of ‘loving life’, none (0%) of the full-time student mums thought it would be applied to them. Whereas, 38% of the unemployed mums thought they would be described as ‘loving life’, making them the most likely, and retirees at 32% the second most likely.
With over a million followers between them, @teresapalmer, @sophiecachia and @rozalia_russian are some of Australia’s top Instagram mums. A small but noteworthy percentage (3%) of our survey respondents indicated their friends would classify them as an ‘Instagram mum’.
The rise of the ‘Insta mum’ social media phenomenon is relatively recent, and our small sampling of Instagram mums reflected this, with them much more likely (14%) to be in the 18-24 age bracket. The Instagram mums had various employment arrangements – fulltime, part-time and self-employed – with the bulk leading the busy life of the student who also works full-time or part-time jobs. A slight majority of the Instagram mums were university educated and had a postgrad or professional qualification.
Mums on the edge
Another group of Mums represented in the survey were more tentative about how they were perceived – 13% thought their friends would describe them as a ‘Just hanging in there mum’. While the responding mums might have claimed this title humorously, we know from national statistics that a significant proportion of Mums do struggle with the weight of their role and responsibilities.
More (24%) of the ‘Just hanging in there mums’ were in the youngest age percentile (18-24 years). However, for the over-55 mums this perception was much less relevant, (3% aged 55-64 and 7% aged 65 and over), suggesting that age and experience helps to dissipate such anxiety. However, financial circumstances might also contribute to anxiousness and override other factors, as many of the ‘Just hanging in there’ mums were on a pension (24%) or single mums (22%).
Mums in the moment
Another 18% of Mums thought they projected a ‘Live by the moment mum’ image to their friends, perhaps identifying themselves as disorganised and unstructured, or perhaps subscribing to a mindful ‘live each day in the present’ philosophy.
It was likely (30%) for the ‘Live by the moment mum’ to be aged 25-34 and least likely (4%) for them to be an over-64 mum.
In conclusion, we know from ABS Statistics (2016) that at least 77% of Australian women aged 15 years and over are mums, the median age of first-time mums is 30.5, the proportion of mothers who are active in the workforce is 53.4% and more than 50% have post-school qualifications.
Digging a little deeper into how these mums think others see them is an interesting and positive experience, one that also shows how they see themselves.
At Stable Research we are interested in the people who make Australia tick. Stable Soapbox recently reached out to the mums of Australia. The age range of our survey covered mums (including stepmums and grandmothers) in the 18 to 65+ age group and the majority of respondents were between the ages of 25 and 64. The findings of the research make up part of our Mums Omnibus.