Three years ago, when the children were one, two, three and eleven, following a year long battle with my health, I decided to claw back a little sanity and start a blog to share our story with others. And at first it was just that. I would write about our life raising rainbows, my story of baby loss and mental illness, sharing the good days and the bad with all of those who took the time to read it. And those hours I spent tucked away writing reignited a spark that had been lost with the madness of motherhood, and I soon realised that this was something I wanted to do more of.
I can still remember the first time I was offered a review item for the blog, a small plastic toy which cost just a few pounds, but to us it was pretty exciting. I can still remember the first £20 I made through a sponsored post, how I felt as though I had hit the jackpot, and how it opened my eyes to the fact that there was a whole world of opportunities to be had if I worked hard enough.
And so I did.
And let me tell you, I put blood, sweat and tears into my blog, slowly reaping the benefits as my following grew, knowing that all of my perseverance was paying off as my children enjoyed new toys, clothes, days out and holidays, a whole host of opportunities that we would never have been in the position to afford on a single wage. And honestly, I was so grateful, and so thankful to give my children all of those things, and I still am.
This Summer we were offered a week at Eurocamp, Spain, and obviously we jumped at the opportunity. And so I put a photo on Facebook to share with my followers, showing what a fantastic time we were having and how amazing it was to be away on a foreign holiday for the first time in six years.
We had been beside ourselves with excitement to be offered the holiday, a week away that we never imagined we would be going on this year, and far from boasting about our stay, I was simply sharing with other families such as ours that there are affordable ways to take your family abroad, even with four young children. So I was pretty shocked to receive the following comment on my post.
“Most people with 4 children will never be able to afford this kind of holiday. Telling them how wonderful it is on your free holiday is a little nasty.”
I’ll be honest with you, at first that comment really stung. I was sad to think that anyone would feel hurt by my excitement at our holiday, and I like to think that anyone who knows me well would agree, I am far from nasty. But once that initial shock had worn off, and once I realised that this lady was nothing more than a troll, I actually felt pretty annoyed. Not at her judgement of my character, nor the fact that her statement was completely untrue, but because of two words which actually made my blood boil.
Because the truth is, ‘Susan’ isn’t alone in her judgement. It’s something I hear every single day from others, and even from friends, “Maybe I should start a blog and get all that free stuff!”, “Oh wow more freebies?”, “Can you not get me any free stuff?!”. And it’s so frustrating for us bloggers to receive these comments each day, the implication that these things are just handed out to us on a plate, the insinuation that anyone could do our job, the refusal to accept that we have worked ourselves into the ground to reach this level.
Because although you may see my beautiful photos of leisurely days on the beach, swimming in the pool and drinking cocktails at sunset, what you don’t see when I post about my “free holiday” is that, unlike you, I didn’t get to lie back and relax for seven days.
You didn’t see how I was constantly on my phone, updating my social media, interacting with the brand, tagging every location, following every hashtag, show casing all the resort had to offer.
You didn’t see my panic at the dodgy wifi, or the miles I trekked just to get a signal, waving my arm out of the window like a crazy lady, just to upload an Instagram photo as promised.
You didn’t see the hours I spent photographing the site, making sure I caught every area from every angle, waiting for the sun to shift and the shadows to fade, going back and forth to get the right shot, at the right time, in the right way.
You didn’t see me filming, continuously throughout the week, juggling the children, the beach bag and the giant inflatables, the GoPro in one hand and the camera in the other, sweating like a beast in the heat.
You didn’t see my frustration with the children when they refused to look at the camera, or my bickering with Gaz when we all got fed up at having to walk down the same street for the fiftieth time just to get the right shot.
You didn’t see the nights I stayed up editing afterwards, trying hard not to fall asleep at my desk as I edited ten billion photos, knowing that I had deadlines to meet and standards to reach.
And you certainly didn’t see the hours, and the years, of hard work I put in, every second of every day, just to get that opportunity in the first place, to be offered a holiday that perhaps we wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to afford without my blog.
And it’s funny that should I have posted saying I paid for my holiday through my regular job, from working 40+ hours a week, that would be acceptable. Should I reveal the exact figure that goes into my bank account each month, sure others might feel irritated by my boasting, but they’d accept it as genuine income. But when my ‘income’ is an experience, a holiday, a day out, or something lovely for my family to enjoy; when my income comes from writing a blog, from sharing our story, from laying myself on the line every single day, all of a sudden that’s not allowed? All of a sudden that’s different?
So many times lately I’ve found myself cringing when I have to use the ‘ad’ hashtag, worrying about sharing sponsored content, panicking that others will judge me for it, scared I will be accused of ‘selling out’. And that’s crazy isn’t it? Worrying about admitting I’m doing a job I work hard at? Panicking that others will think differently of me for accepting payment for all of the hours I put in? Isn’t that just the way the world works? Isn’t that what we’re all doing just to get by?
Yes it’s a privilege to be in this position and to provide for my children, yes it’s an honour to be invited on these trips and to be able to give my children a life we may not ordinarily have been able to afford, but don’t think for one minute that I’m not working bloody hard for it.
The truth is, my holiday was about as ‘free’ as your monthly pay check. And it’s about time that people stopped judging bloggers, silenced their own bitter thoughts, and realised that every single thing we are gifted as bloggers is earned, not by luck or by fluke, not due to a sense of entitlement or being in the right place at the right time, but by sheer hard work and much deserved merit.