For the second instalment of my new interview series with some of my favourite Insta chums, I’m excited to share with you my recent ramble chat with the one and only Sarah Turner – affectionately known and loved the world over as The Unmumsy Mum – giving her first exclusive interview since announcing that she’s pregnant for the third (“and definitely final”) time.
Sarah’s blog, The Unmumsy Mum, shot to fame four years ago, after her brutally honest and consistently hilarious posts captured the mood of thousands of new parents, with blog after blog going viral as a result.
Since then, she’s accumulated more than 840,000 fans across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and has written two books – The Unmumsy Mum and The Unmumsy Mum Diary – both instant hits that made her a Sunday Times bestselling author twice over. And with more than 200,000 copies bought so far and the foreign rights sold to fifteen territories including the US, China and Russia, the sky really is the limit for this insanely talented mama.
So keep scrolling to read our full chat, recorded during our recent Cornwall ‘road trip down the A303’, discussing her latest pregnancy and her reaction on finding out the gender of her new babe, coming out of the blogging closet and her subsequent rise to literary fame, her progress on Book Three, and why she’s somewhat partial to boy racers and a Yorkshire pudding (or six)…
An Impromptu Road Trip with The Unmumsy Mum
GILES: Right. First things first. Are you driving or am I?
SARAH: Why don’t you kick off, but then I’m happy to swap over at some point. I love driving but sometimes it’s nice to kick back and relax as a passenger…
GILES: Works for me. So where should we go? Lady’s choice…
SARAH: Well, despite the fact that I already live in Devon, what do you think about heading a little further down into Cornwall?
GILES: Sounds good…what should I put in the sat nav?
SARAH: Do you know Port Isaac?
GILES: No way?! I love that place…we go down to New Polzeath every year and Port Isaac is just round the corner. There’s a great little pub there just down the hill in Port Gaverne…
SARAH: Sounds perfect – it really is such a lovely part of the world. We absolutely love going to Cornwall, though not so much the holiday traffic in peak season, stuck on the A30 around Bodmin or wherever, with the kids screaming that they need a wee. But once you’re there, if the sun’s shining, there’s no nicer place.
GILES: Great! But before we set off, what snacks have you brought me? I’m starving…
SARAH: Never fear Giles … I have brought snacks! As you know, I’m not really one for sophisticated car nibbles so service station grub is fine by me. Actually, it’s a bit of a joke in my family about how many pork pies I eat, because I bloody love a pork pie! So, I’ve brought along a little duo pack for us to have en route. And a shit load of crisps, obviously… gotta have crisps.
GILES: Perfect…I’m not sure I can really set off on a long journey without my Grab Bag of Skips. And what shall we listen to? Radio OK?
SARAH: I’m definitely more of a radio girl, especially on a road trip, because even though I find commercial radio with all the adverts really irritating, I love how you never know what you’re going to get next. You know, how they sometimes just throw up a tune you’ve forgotten about from your past and you’re like, “Oh my God, this is such a CLASSIC!” But if there’s nothing good on, I’ve brought along one of my 90s R&B CDs, so we can always whack on a bit of Bump n’ Grind in an emergency…
GILES: Works for me…let’s go!
So, I hear you’re a bit of a petrol head. How did you get into that?
SARAH: You know what, I haven’t always been into cars … I completely blame my husband for that. He’s always been a car fan, and I kind of had two options, ignore him or join him. And join him I did! I now willingly sit through hours of car vloggers’ videos on YouTube, even when I’m on my own. At least it gives us something to talk about other than the kids, which obviously make up about 99.9 per cent of our daily conversation…with cars being the other 0.1 per cent.
God, I remember when we first met, his pride and joy was his little Citroen Saxo…
GILES: Seriously?! That was my first car too!
SARAH: Really?! Well, it has a special place in my heart that car. I think James fancied himself as a bit of a boy racer, which obviously I shouldn’t have found attractive, but secretly quite liked. We used to ‘cruise’ around the town we lived in, not with anywhere to actually go, just going out for a drive, which thinking back, was pretty sad.
GILES: Oh, I miss those days…
SARAH: I know. Such care free days! Since then, my tastes have changed somewhat and I find myself perusing new cars and dreaming about which one I’d like to buy if we ever won the lottery. In case you were wondering, it would be a Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge, which costs more than my house! Sadly, we still drive around in an eleven-year-old Vauxhall Astra (it was what we could afford at the time) but that Roller will be mine one day (a girl can dream).
The Unmumsy Mum’s dream car
GILES: Lol…now Sarah, I’ve got to admit, I am feeling slightly under pressure driving you around as it isn’t just the two of us in the car now is it?
SARAH: Ha! No, it’s not! You’re absolutely right…we’ve got some rather precious cargo on board, in that I am with child!
GILES: Congratulations!! So exciting!
SARAH: Thank you! It is really exciting…well, both exciting and just mad as well. James and I just look at each other every day and do this weird nervous laugh thing because we can’t quite believe that we’re actually doing it again for a third, and definitely final, time.
GILES: And you’re having another boy! Seriously outnumbered now…but at least it opens the door to a potential name change for the blog and Insta…Mother of Sons perhaps?
SARAH: Well, exactly…this has been my plan all along! I want to get in on that Instagram empire and just keep breeding sons. Only joking!
Do you know, we both had an inkling we were having another boy. And in many ways I just can’t imagine life with girls now. We’re feeling really lucky at the moment and can’t wait to add to the craziness…
GILES: And how have you been feeling?
SARAH: Not great to be honest. I was sick during both of my previous pregnancies and this one’s been no different – if anything it’s been worse. Not morning sickness for me though; more evening sickness. I find I’m alright-ish in the day…just feeling a bit queasy, but at least I can function. But then it gets to late afternoon/early evening and I just want to go to bed and/or be sick. Evenings are not good, but I’m hoping the worst of it is now behind me.
GILES: I don’t know how you pregnant ladies manage feeling nauseous all the time? Sounds horrific…is food any help?
SARAH: Not really, sadly. It’s weird…I swing from being ravenously hungry to not even being able to look at food. I’m one of those people who, if I really fancy something, I just eat it. Like the other day, I was working from home – seriously dangerous as you have unrestricted access to so much food on tap – and I was browsing the kitchen cupboards for a snack. But I just couldn’t find anything that was going to satisfy my cravings, as I fancied something a bit stodgy but not crisps, or biscuits, or cereal, or toast. So, after a bit of internal debate, I ended up cooking myself six frozen Yorkshire puddings…
SARAH: … with a jug of instant gravy. You know, keeping it real classy! I put the puddings in a bowl and filled up each little Yorkshire well with the gravy and then literally devoured them in about five minutes. And that was just a snack…it wasn’t even lunch or anything.
GILES: Just like elevenses?!
SARAH: Exactly. Because I feel so shit in the evenings, I’ve learnt to just eat when I feel hungry now. You have to kind of go with what your body tells you it needs. I mean, saying that, my friends and family were a bit dubious about whether my body really did need those six Yorkshire puddings and gravy, but I’m going with it. Clearly the baby wanted it!
Just a light snack for The Unmumsy Mum
GILES: Totally valid…I mean that’s pretty much what I have for lunch most days too, so fair game. So, thinking back to when we were pregnant, I remember Rosie getting asked the same 14 questions by every single person who found out we were expecting. What’s the one question that everyone seems to always ask you now that it’s public knowledge?
SARAH: The worst one I always seem to get is, “Was it planned?”
GILES: Always such a sensitive question to get asked…
SARAH: Right?! There are obviously people in the world who have surprise babies, but just to ask someone that question outright seems way too forward. Just for the record, it was planned! But because I’m so honest, if it wasn’t I’d probably be the one person who says, “Actually, no…it was a bit of a shock!” Seriously though, what do people think you’re going to say?! “No mate, it was a massive mistake…”
GILES: So, two babies down and one on the way, and you’re only 30…did you always plan to start a family young?
SARAH: You know, I honestly didn’t think that we were taking the plunge particularly early until I met lots of other mums and realised I was in the minority. I was 24 when we had Henry, but James and I had been together for such a long time by that point – since we were teenagers – we’d bought a house, got married and both had steady jobs…
GILES: So you were both proper grownups already…
SARAH: Yeah, I feel like we did everything early. I know this sounds cheesy but, I guess, since we’d ‘found the one’, everything was just brought forward. But actually I’m so glad that we had the boys when we did.
The Unmumsy Mum and her hubby as teenagers
GILES: And thinking back to those early days of motherhood, how was it getting to know other mums in your local area?
SARAH: I can’t lie…it was hard. When I had Henry, we lived out in the mid-Devon countryside. I’d heard great things about NCT but it turned out there wasn’t a group within 30 miles of where we lived. As a result, there were definitely times when I did find it quite lonely. It really forced me to make friends the old-fashioned way by striking up conversations with people at baby groups and asking if they wanted to meet up away from the village hall. Although I’m quite a confident person, there were so many times where I thought how nice it would have been if I could have chatted with other mums online first, to break the ice in a slightly less scary way.
GILES: Is that why you got involved with mum meet-ups website Mummy Social?
SARAH: It was! I remember I was contacted out of the blue by a local mum called Josie, who lived near me and had set up Mummy Social when she was pregnant with her second child. She asked if I’d be interested in getting involved and, after some initial scepticism, I agreed to meet her for a coffee to sound it out and quickly realised that she’d tapped into something pretty amazing.
Entirely off her own back, she had over 50,000 mums signed up to her website, who were meeting other mums for coffee, lunch or larger social play dates. It made me think of all the mums that had messaged me through the blog saying that they were really lonely and struggling to make the first move when it came to chatting to somebody at baby sensory. I immediately saw that Mummy Social was the ideal solution they were looking for, so it’s been a great project to be involved in.
The Unmumsy Mum with Helen and Josie from Mummy Social
GILES: Absolutely – such a brilliant idea. So, what pushed you to start the Unmumsy Mum blog in the first place?
SARAH: You know, I wish I had some kind of exciting story to tell, where there was some pivotal moment when something happened and I had an epiphany that I just had to blog about. But it wasn’t really like that…it was more an accumulation of things over the course of my first year as a mum.
I was working part time at the University of Exeter and I was struggling. I had this desire to have it all as a working mum, putting in an adequate amount of effort at work and at home, and not letting anybody down. But I found that motherhood wasn’t quite how it had been sold to me.
Don’t get me wrong, there were times when it was magical and marvellous, and I seriously missed Henry every day that I was back at work after maternity leave. But on the days I was with him, I found that I was quite often frustrated, tearing my hair out, wondering why he was crying, or why he wouldn’t nap or eat. You know…
GILES: Agreed – it’s such a confusing time, especially with your first.
SARAH: Totally…so I remember looking online and in magazines for support to make me feel like I wasn’t on my own or a massive failure. Or even just that someone else was finding it tough or wasn’t really enjoying this particular phase. But I couldn’t seem to find the reassurance I was looking for. I suppose I also got to the point where I was just fed up of only ever seeing the glossy moments. The #cherisheverymoment moments, that didn’t marry with my everyday experiences.
And so I thought I’d start writing something to show the other side of the story. So one evening after work, with Henry in bed, I started the blog and just began typing. No plan, no strategy, no structure…I just went with my heart and wrote about how I was getting on.
The Unmumsy Mum and her fam
GILES: And was it always called The Unmumsy Mum from the very beginning?
SARAH: It was…for me, it was just my mind-set of how I was feeling there and then. I guess the expression ‘mumsy’ was kind of like my aspiration at the time; something I wanted to be. Because ‘mumsy mums’ had their shit together. They knew what they were doing. They packed all the right stuff in their changing bags and were actually enjoying motherhood. But at the time, I felt like I was kind of the opposite of that…
To be honest, I don’t even particularly like the name. It quite often gets misconstrued, with people thinking it’s an attack on people who are ‘mumsy’ – which I can understand – but it really isn’t. Anyway, the name kind of stuck, and, well, it’s certainly too late for me to change it now!
GILES: Was there a specific moment when you realised The Unmumsy Mum was really taking off?
SARAH: Do you know, there have been a few of those moments over the years. Bearing in mind I never had any specific ambitions, because blogging was just a hobby for me at the beginning, the first was when it started to get lots of shares and Facebook likes. At the time, I was just pottering off to work and hadn’t told any of my colleagues that I was blogging. To me, it still felt like quite a private activity, sharing personal things about myself and how I was finding motherhood, sure, but still in a kind of anonymous way.
Then suddenly it got to the stage where people would start coming up to me at work and be like “I’ve seen you on Facebook!” And that was a moment where I had to literally come out of the closet as a blogger, and kind of admit to myself that it had become a much bigger, more public thing.
The other one, which I know makes me sound like an almighty knob, was when people first started coming up to me on the street, in the supermarket or in a restaurant, and saying “Sorry to interrupt, but I love your blog.” It started happening increasingly often and that was when I really twigged that it wasn’t just me online anymore, as people were now recognising me offline. It was quite a weird transition to say the least!
Promoting her second book, The Unmumsy Mum Diary
GILES: Amazing! I mean, you’ve done incredibly well…
SARAH: Ah thanks – it really is just mad. I honestly owe so much to Facebook and everyone who has ever shared my stuff on there. Like, with the book deal, I’m not shy in saying that the reason I got it in the first place was because my publishers, and now literary agent Hannah, had found blogs of mine through Facebook. So, I have that to thank really for everything that’s happened since…
GILES: So, it’s basically all down to Mark Zuckerberg then…
SARAH: Yeah, exactly! If I ever met Mark Zuckerberg, I would snog his face off. And I’d just be like, “Thanks mate for all you’ve done for me!” just so he knows why I’m snogging him.
GILES: Haha! I’ll try and set that up for you….would be great material for the next book!
Moving on, there’s been a bit of a backlash recently in the press against so called ‘slummy mummies’ and for some reason certain titles seem to really have it in for you. How do you deal with all this unnecessary drama and what keeps you going in spite of it?
The Unmumsy Mum with the brilliant Scummy Mummies
SARAH: It’s a difficult one. The first time someone wrote an article about me in the tabloids, which basically said I was championing being a terrible mother, I was really upset. I remember having a good cry and saying to James that I didn’t know if I even wanted to do it anymore. I was putting myself out there, bearing my parenting soul on the internet, and then people were giving me shit for it or misunderstanding who I am as a person and what I’m trying to do.
But then I had a word with myself and realised that these one of two scathing articles were such a drop in the ocean compared to the bucket load of messages I get each and every day from mums that say ‘thank you’ for telling it like it is. For making them feel like they’re not on their own. For helping them to feel better when they’ve been suffering with postnatal depression.
For me, that remains all the validation I need to stick two fingers up at any negative press and just crack on. So, now my reaction to those articles, in particular the recent Mail Online ones, has been entirely different. I no longer have that feeling of dread. I don’t cry. I don’t have a miserable day after reading it. I just read it and laugh. You can’t let the opinions of a few people upset you and you absolutely can’t please everyone all the time.
GILES: And at the end of the day, unlike any of these haters, you are actually now a Sunday Times Number One Bestselling author!
SARAH: I am! Glad you dropped that in…
The Unmumsy Mum Diary – her second Sunday Times Bestseller
GILES: Well how could I not?! So how did you celebrate when you first found out?
SARAH: You know, it’s a weird one, because I massively celebrated the first book getting published, as I was just so super excited. And I always held out this hope that it would go to the top spot, but it actually didn’t go to number one for about 10 weeks…
GILES: Oh really?
SARAH: Yes! So, in my head I imagined a champagne moment, where I stormed straight to the top on day one…
GILES: “NEW J.K ROWLING OF THE MUM BLOGGING WORLD!”
SARAH: Exactly! But it didn’t quite happen like that…there was definitely a bottle of fizz though when it eventually hit the top spot. It was such an amazing feeling.
The Unmumsy Mum at The British Book Awards
GILES: And now you’ve obviously started writing book three…how’s it all going?
SARAH: Um, slowly…because with being pregnant and all, I’ve just felt so ill. I seem to have spent so many days pottering around at home feeling sick – not sure if I want to go to bed, throw up, or make myself another bowl of Yorkshire puddings – so I haven’t been anywhere near as proactive as normal.
But now that I’m feeling slightly brighter, I think I can really get stuck into writing again. I’m not 100 per cent sure what the book’s going to turn into yet, so I’m currently trying out a few different things to see what works…
GILES: Well we can’t wait to read it! So, are there any other bloggers, aside from me obviously, that you read?
SARAH: Well you’re the top one of course, number one on the list…
GILES: The homepage on your desktop…
SARAH: My homepage, yeah, absolutely! Haha! You know, it’s funny…this may sound weird, but I don’t often read many other blogs. Not because I don’t want to though! It’s just that when I’m book writing, I have this deep-rooted fear that if I read other blogs that I enjoy and respond to positively, I’ll somehow internalise what they’ve said and unintentionally plagiarise it within my book – does that make sense?
SARAH: To be honest I mainly follow people in the blogging community on Instagram, even if I don’t necessarily always get the chance to read all their blog posts or watch their vlogs.
GILES: So, who are some of your favourites?
SARAH: I love Emma Conway from Brummy Mummy of 2, as I like what she represents. She’s very real and down to earth, and champions ‘the normal mum’.
The Unmumsy Mum and Emma from Brummy Mummy of 2
You know, in the kind of work that we do, you meet a lot of people online and then offline at events, and there are some that you just click with straight away. And Emma is one of those people who has crossed the line from a work colleague to someone I see socially. In fact, I’ve just been to stay at hers for a sleepover, which was hilarious.
Susie Verrill is another one I love on Insta…
GILES: Isn’t she married to Team GB Olympian Greg Rutherford?
SARAH: Yes, that’s the one. She’s hilarious…very dry and witty. She also dresses really well which is quite nice to have on your feed, and I enjoy seeing what she’s wearing. I just generally love what she has to say on things.
Ultimately, I just love being part of a wider blogging community, and on Instagram especially, where there’s such a varied pool of interesting, fun people whose lives you can dip into regularly.
GILES: I totally agree – it’s been such a great tool for connecting with other parents going through the same as us and realising everyone’s in it together…
The Unmumsy Mum with Jude
GILES: So Sarah, before we pull over for a quick comfort break, as I’m sure you’re busting for a wee by now, do you think you could hold it in long enough to do a few final quick fire questions?
SARAH: I’ll try but can’t promise anything, my pelvic floor is not what it used to be so there may be a dribble …
GILES: OK…I’ll be quick! So, in The Unmumsy Mum Movie, which is obviously coming out in 2022, who would play Sarah Turner in the story of your life?
SARAH: I really like Claire Danes, you know, from Romeo & Juliet, Homeland, etc. But then actually I think the story of my life would probably be more of a comedy, so I’m not sure if she would be quite right for the part? But if I imagine the poster right now, she’d be on it!
GILES: Your go-to karaoke song?
SARAH: I have been known to partake in the odd karaoke experience while under the influence. Generally, I like to go for something I can really belt out, like “Mr Brightside” by the Killers, or more of a traditional classic like “You’re so vain”, which, I’ll admit, I’ve done a number of times before…
GILES: And if you were to win a place on Celebrity MasterChef, which given your newfound fame could actually become a reality…
SARAH: Heaven help them!
GILES: Aside from your favourite, freezer tapas, what would be your signature dish?
SARAH: Oh my God, I am such a basic cook that they’d be like, “Sarah has prepared a bowl of pesto pasta, from a jar, topped with some roughly chopped bacon” (you know, to make it a bit more exotic). Hmmm…I tend to go for a one pot type hearty dish, so some kind of casserole or stew, but then I’d have to add some kind of posh twist for MasterChef, wouldn’t I?
GILES: Like Worcester Sauce or something?
SARAH: Ha! Exactly, or grated nutmeg! God, who knows. I’m really not very adventurous in the kitchen. I estimate that we probably have the same four meals on rotation every week in our house…
GILES: Favourite tune of all time?
SARAH: I think, Green Day, “Good Riddance (Time of your life)” is probably my favourite song ever. It just makes me nostalgic about my youth.
GILES: Oh yeah…that was such a soundtrack from our teenage years, wasn’t it?! OK, moving on, biggest pet hate?
SARAH: Noisy eaters…so gross! Because I’m pregnant, my patience is just completely shot to pieces, and it really winds me up. I mean, I know there are some things that are kind of impossible to eat quietly, like crisps and things like that. But you know when you’re sat next to someone on public transport and their eating a sandwich or something, and they’re really going for it, and you can hear every crunch and swallow? Ergh…I seriously can’t stomach that at all.
The Unmumsy Mum ‘loves’ a noisy eater
GILES: Favourite item of clothing?
SARAH: It would probably be my dressing gown, as it just perfectly signifies the comfort of home. You know what it’s like when you’ve been out all day – well, obviously, you do – but as a man you don’t have to contend with the daily struggles that us women have to, like skinny jeans, knickers that feel too small, bra straps digging in…
GILES: Well some of us do…
SARAH: Ha! You get it then?! Seriously, I’m really an unattractive pyjama wearer at heart. Sometimes James will look at me at just say “Jesus Christ” because I’ve got the baggiest PJ bottoms on, paired with an oversized men’s t-shirt, topped off with my massive towelled dressing gown over the top. It basically signifies that I’m now home, in my safe, happy, comfortable place. James also reckons it signifies that he’s absolutely 100% not getting any romantic action that evening either as I’ve literally belted myself up…
GILES: It’s your marital chastity belt…
SARAH: Haha – it really is! Hence why it’s my favourite! Obviously, it must have come off at least once over the past few months to produce our third child, but I can assure you it’s safely back on now…
The Unmumsy Mum, closed for business
For more from Sarah, you can check out all of her original blog posts over at The Unmumsy Mum here, or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via these links. And if you don’t have her books yet, you should definitely buy them (they are superb and pant-wettingly funny)…available here and in all good book shops!