She shot from midwife to socialmedia star in the space of four years, attracting half a million followers. So why, this May, did Clemmie Hooper (aka Mother of Daughters) delete her Instagram account? She tells Caroline
Leaper about the highs and lows of a life lived online
The juggle is real for Clemmie Hooper. In the week that we speak, she has put in lengthy shifts on the labour ward at King’s College Hospital in London, and dispatched her eldest daughter, Anya, 11, to her first week at secondary school. She has celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary with husband Simon, and taken their three younger girls (Marnie, seven, and twins Ottilie and Delilah, two) to various iterations of school days and play dates. She has also posted for her 560,000 Instagram followers: 1) a great outfit selfie in front of the bedroom mirror; 2) an emotive picture of her hands giving Anya her first set of house keys; 3) a shot of herself in a lace bralet to demonstrate that big bras aren’t just for nursing; and 4) an artistic picture of a woman’s C-section scar, to encourage public discussion on the subject.
More than 100,000 people pressed ‘like’ on that series of posts. Just by sharing what she’s doing and thinking under her alias, @mother_of_daughters, Clemmie has captured the attention of a highly interested audience. She’s an influencer of the most powerful kind: when she endorses a product on her page (say, wearing a nice new jumper while her adorable twins cling to her feet like shoes), that message, like one from a close friend, is far more likely to resonate than when a celebrity posts a stylised advert.
What’s special about Clemmie, though, is that her whole family is part of the package. The Hoopers are a marketer’s dream: Clemmie is 33, stylish and pretty. Her managementconsultant husband Simon (aka @father_of_ daughters) is 35, handsome and has almost 900,000 followers of his own. Their girls are cherubic, all gorgeous blonde curls and bright blue eyes. They’re a picture-perfect family with sensible jobs and a relatable daily grind – which they just happen to pull off while wearing lovely clothes. We could be them, if we just dressed a bit better.
‘Ten years ago, I would never have predicted that I might be an “influencer”,’ says Clemmie. ‘I definitely don’t look like a model. But I think there is this amazing, positive shift in the way we’re looking at women’s bodies, and brands are understanding that we want to see more women who look like us [in advertising].’
In May, Clemmie went from being Instafamous to making national headlines when she took a break from social media. The decision to close her Instagram account for a month came after she received a virtual battering for her choices in a Mumsnet forum. A conversation had begun about Instagram influencers and the ethics of promotional posts and ‘sharenting’ – and Clemmie weighed in personally to defend herself. ‘I would like to point out that neither myself or my husband make huge wads of cash, if we did he wouldn’t still work full time… I am also fully committed to my job as an NHS midwife,’ she wrote. ‘I don’t feel I “sell” my children to make money. I actually hardly ever feature the older girls. They also see and give consent to any post where they are in the picture.’
Almost a thousand comments followed: one said that she and Simon had ‘sold the soul of their family to the Instagram devil’, and others that it’s ‘strange and unsupportable’ to feature their children; that ‘asking children for consent to something they can’t possibly understand is neglecting parental responsibility’. Others applauded her for coming on to the thread and engaging with the debate herself, but she was clearly wounded.
‘I think I’m always cautious and conscious about the family and what I’m sharing,’ she says now. ‘Especially as Anya and Marnie are getting older, giving them more privacy is important. I know that people from Anya’s school follow us on Instagram and might see things, so we’re definitely being more mindful about what we’re posting.’
Clemmie originally joined Instagram in 2014 as a way to promote Gas and Air, the blog she had started writing about her midwifery practice. Her original username was @MidwifeyHooper and her feed was dominated by her job and her experiences of motherhood. ‘Every now and then, though, I’d post a picture of myself and people would ask where my shoes were from, or my bag,’ she explains. ‘My following grew from there and brands began to get in contact to say they wanted to work with me.’
‘Working with’ a brand is a multifaceted concept. A partnership might be as simple as the brand giving a product as a gift to the Instagrammer, hoping that they like it enough to show it to their following. It might involve paid-for posts, whereby the
‘I’m always cautious and conscious of what I’m sharing – as they get older, giving my daughters privacy is important’
Instagrammer shoots one, or a series, of constructed photographs for an agreed fee (Clemmie clearly labels these kinds of posts when she does them). We’re speaking today because Clemmie has now landed her first gig at the next level: a design collaboration.
Clemmie says that she became familiar with British jewellery designer Rachel Jackson’s work via social media two years ago. ‘She messaged me on Instagram and said, “I’m a jeweller, I’m a mum, I’d love to send you a piece from the collection,”’ she explains. ‘I loved what she was doing, and I ended up buying things for my family as well. It was a dream when she asked me to collaborate.’
For inspiration, Clemmie looked to her own jewellery box – especially sentimental pieces, like her grandmother’s charm bracelets. ‘I haven’t put my name to anything like this before,’ Clemmie says. ‘So it was important to me that it was personal.’
When it came to shooting the campaign imagery, Clemmie couldn’t resist getting her family involved. ‘I said it definitely needs to be people in our lives that we love; we can’t use models as it won’t work. That’s when we decided to bring in my children – doing the shoot together was so fun.’
Incredibly business-savvy, over the years the Hoopers have gleaned many lessons about what ‘works’ and what doesn’t. Of herself and her husband, Clemmie was the first to start blogging, but he quickly caught her up and now both have released parenting books. They also share a limited company, and have done campaigns with household names from Boden to Persil.
‘Simon’s posts have a very different style to mine and he only posts in the evening, as that’s when his engagement is highest,’ she says. ‘His one umbrella is fatherhood, so it’s all about himself and the kids, whereas I’ve got a few more arms to mine through fashion and interiors. Simon is “owning” the children, really, so I’ve been bringing a lot more midwifery back on to my page.’
Brands now ask the pair for their insight and tailor their deals accordingly. ‘A trainer company might ask us to do a campaign together and to post about the trainers with pictures of the family doing stuff,’ she says. ‘But we learned that if we put it on our channels at the same time, it doesn’t work. Also, a brand came to me recently with a deal
and I passed it on to Simon – their idea was for me, the mum, to be doing the housework and I thought that was sexist. When we fed that back they loved our new approach.’
Having the whole family become famous on social media has had its highs and lows. Google the Hoopers, and you’ll find detailed rundowns of every element of their lives: the birth weights of their children, the family’s holiday photos, pictures of bath time/ bedtime/any time. While she’s had plenty of benefits (sponsored holidays, free handbags etc), Clemmie says that she’s also learned a lot about oversharing. ‘Two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about posting a “back to school” picture of the kids,’ she says. ‘But now I wouldn’t do it. With the amount of followers we have collectively, I’m more conscious about safeguarding the kids, and people recognising their uniforms.’
So was her hiatus in May helpful? ‘I just needed to step away from it,’ she says with a long exhale. ‘The trolling was very intense. I was at a crossroads, wondering if I wanted to carry on with Instagram. The amount of time I spent on it was becoming a big issue – and you’re answerable to a lot of people. When your following gets to a certain size it is very difficult. I felt like a pressure cooker trying to reply to everyone. It was great to take time out and set myself some new rules.’
Living in two worlds – a reality and a fantasy – at once is undoubtedly a challenge. So if she had to give up one of her careers, which would she choose? She doesn’t hesitate: ‘Instagram. Midwifery is what I love the most; I’ll never get bored of it.
‘Instagram is just a snippet of someone’s life,’ she adds. ‘I still emptied the dishwasher today. I went to work, paid my bills and shouted at my kids to make their beds. There are 24 hours in a day, and, at most, I’ve shown you one minute of mine.’
Previous page Clemmie with daughters Marnie (left) and Anya. Above This series of posts got more than 100,000 ‘likes’ on Instagram
Above Statement Charm Necklace plus charms, £285, RJL x MOD Collection (racheljackson london.com). Below Clemmie with Rachel.Right, from top The Hooper clan; Clemmie with a fellow midwife