Mother knows best

They look great, but celebrity mums like Victoria Beckham and Beyonce may not be best role models for mothers, writes Hazel Gaynor

CELEBRITY mums — love them or loathe them, there’s no escaping them. From Victoria Beckham to Katie Price, Beyoncé to Madonna, the tabloids, glossy magazines and TV documentaries offer a seemingly endless insight into the intriguing world of the celebrity mum.

For us ‘mere mortals’ it’s hard to resist the temptation to condemn, admire, misunderstand and talk about these women — these alleged ‘super mums’— as we wipe the spilt breakfast cereal off our business suits and try to leave the supermarket with our dignity intact after another showdown in the biscuit aisle.

“How come this never happens to Angelina?” we cry, hysterically.

And, perhaps, that is where the problem lies. Are we right to look up to these women as role models for motherhood? Can we ever really hope to match up to their flawless parenting and flat stomachs?

Sheila O’Malley at Practical Parenting thinks not. “For most women, stories about celebrities are simply something to read in the hairdressers. We understand that Victoria Beckham’s life isn’t going to be something we identify with closely; that you can only have a flat post-pregnancy stomach in two weeks if you have a nanny and can get to the gym every day. Real parents need to have reasonable expectations.”

But for many women who are struggling to maintain an image of having it all under control and coping perfectly well (when the truth of the matter is often far, far different), it is hard to ignore the images of maternal perfection we are bombarded with. “Some of these role models appear to be able to have it all,” Sheila continues. “Career, home, husband — it can look like an enviable lifestyle, especially when those of us who live in the real world may be really struggling, suffering from baby blues and the physical and emotional impact of motherhood. It is important to remember that these role models don’t represent reality, that the papers and magazines are ‘selling’ a lifestyle.”

And the other problem with role models is that they can let us down.

Take Amanda Holden, generally accepted as a good example of a working celebrity mum. And yet, within a week of nearly losing her life after giving birth of daughter Hollie Rose, Amanda was back to work, judging on Britain’s Got Talent. “No,” we cried. “Don’t go back to work Amanda. Stay at home and bond with your baby and get better.”

Victoria Beckham is another celebrity mum who is often promoted as a great role model for working mums — she doesn’t exploit her children for her own gain and has carved out a very successful fashion career herself. And yet, just months after the birth of much-longed for daughter Harper Seven, it is now being suggested that Victoria is suffering from exhaustion. Perhaps you really can’t have it all, after all.

And then there is the-girl-next-door, the very normal mum, former X Factor finalist and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here winner, Stacey Solomon, who was crowned celebrity mum of the year 2011 by, beating Holly Willoughby and Victoria Beckham. Single mum Stacey was admired for the way she was raising son Zachary. However, the recent paparazzi shots of Stacey showing her smoking while pregnant with her second child show that we cannot always put these women on a pedestal and expect them to stay there.

Within a month of giving birth, Beyoncé was back in her designer gowns looking every inch the groomed star. Suggesting that this is ‘normal’ behaviour for a new mum is ludicrous. There is absolutely nothing ‘normal’ about Beyoncé’s experience of motherhood, so perhaps we should stop trying to compare our own experiences to hers and accept that, just as in all other aspects of her life (her home, her lifestyle, her bank balance, her daughter’s diamond-encrusted crib) we cannot relate to her and shouldn’t even attempt to compare our life to hers.

However, there is an element to Beyoncé’s (and other celebrities’) approach to being a new mum which Sheila O’Malley suggests may have a positive influence.

“Celebrity mums do appear to be good at taking care of themselves, and perhaps on that level their influence is a good one. I often remind mothers that self-care is the most important thing you can do. What you eat, how you look, how you feel, can all have a knock on effect on the whole family and on your relationships. Perhaps women need to hear that or be reminded of it from celebrity mums — that although you are a mother, you can still care for yourself.”

So, maybe the issue isn’t whether there are any good role models in the wonderful and privileged world of celebrity motherhood, but whether we should look up to these women as role models in the first place.

International Women’s Day serves as a timely reminder that, perhaps, women — and especially mothers — should not be continually judging each other’s choices and comparing each other’s lifestyles, but should simply appreciate that whoever we are and whatever we are doing, we are all just women trying to do our best with what we’ve got. And if what we’ve got is snot on our shoulder and a screaming child in the supermarket trolley, then so be it. At least there won’t be photographs of us splashed all over the front pages of tomorrow’s newspapers.



Lisa Healy, blogger at gives her view on celebrity role models

“I’m not a big fan of celebrity culture — I find the whole thing contrived and off-putting. But I do believe that celebrity mums have a huge role to play in society’s expectations of motherhood, simply because the media gives so much time to commenting on them.

“Absolutely, celebrity mothers can be a positive influence when they demonstrate the benefits of making good parenting choices, but I think any positive influence they may have is completely outweighed by the additional pressure their perfect presentation of motherhood places on normal mothers. I don’t think we should rely on celebrity mums as role models because for the most part they don’t live in the “real world” with the rest of us.

“When a celebrity mum appears on stage two weeks after her baby is born, looking as though she’s just come back from a relaxing holiday, and is back in bikini-body shape, it sets up unrealistic expectations for normal mothers, many of whom are still slightly shell-shocked by the new arrival, and most of whom won’t return to anything close to the pre-pregnancy shape for at least six months to a year.

“We can’t compete with celebrity mums with their staff of nannies, personal trainers, chefs, and cleaners. So I don’t believe it’s fair to hold them up as role models, when they are setting unattainable standards thanks to all that help.”

* Hazel Gaynor’s new book Hot Cross Mum — Bitesize Slices of Motherhood is available as an ebook on Amazon and other ebook stores

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