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The Brit Moms Of Instagram Saved Me

In the first weeks of motherhood, I needed friends who were awake at 3 a.m. They were there for me.

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Three o’clock in the morning was my hardest hour in the first weeks of parenthood. The blue light of my phone was my only defense against an ever-cresting tsunami of exhaustion. Baby on my boob and body in post-C-section shambles, I’d tug on Instagram, begging it to refresh. To please deliver dopamine, company, a friend doing something stupid — any sign of life from the outside. But, of course, all the sane people — friends still living the “normal life” I’d left behind when my son was born — were asleep when I needed them most.

It wasn’t a crisis. I wasn’t bleeding (much). What I needed wasn’t worth waking a friend for. I was just bored, a bit stunned, isolated. After a few nights of this blue-light loneliness, I had a revelation: 3 a.m. Pacific Standard Time is 11 a.m. in the U.K. A quick search, and I found a little subculture of British moms who were awake and posting right when I needed them most. At my least favorite time of day, there they were; living, snapping, and posting in the clear light of day, promising that I, too, would make it to morning.

I fell hardest for this one lady, Steph (@steph_dontbuyherflowers). She had a baby (hi, Frank!) who was just slightly older than mine, so her content spoke directly to my bleary existence. To this day, I’m pretty sure Steph is my friend and she just doesn’t know it yet. During our trusty 3 a.m. PST / 11 a.m. GMT hangs, she’d be just as exhausted as I was, but with the “we’re going to make it” perspective that a little daylight and caffeine offer.

Also, Frank was her third kid, so she knew stuff. Certainly more than I did. I’m pretty sure the only reason I ever napped was because of her constant reminder — often shared directly from bed — that “naps save lives.” Hand the baby off to your sweet and useless husband and go take a nap! OK, Steph! I will. You know best! You know how it is.

Rather than the dizzying polar extremities of American motherhood — Are you a perfect IG mom or are you a defiant hot mess?! — these moms seemed comfortable in the unfolding midst of it all.

I followed Steph first. She’d tag a friend in a post (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, and Exhibit D), and I’d follow them, too. Suddenly I was spending a lot of time with all of my new, trusty British mom friends who were always so funny, wise, and (most of all) awake in my nightly hour of need. I fell deeply into these parasocial relationships and I was better for it. I didn’t look forward to middle-of-the-night nursing sessions, exactly. But, in these women, I had companionship. I had stumbled into something sparkly and new and mine at a time when few things belonged only to me. It wasn’t secret, exactly, but I didn’t know how to explain what I got from these women to anyone in my real life.

Steph Douglas is the mom friend that got me through the newborn days, she just doesn’t know it.

It felt good to lose myself in a jovial circle of seasoned moms juggling work and kids and still having some very silly fun. These Brit moms of mine walked the messy middle way beautifully. Their posts didn’t feel curated or curated-to-be-messy. What you love about Sharon Horgan (yes, she’s Irish, but to me, she counts as very U.K.-adjacent) and her gorgeous shows is what I loved about these Brit moms. They’d absolutely trash their husbands in the most brutally resonant and hilarious way. Then, a few hours later, they’d be dancing in the rainy streets, drinking a few too many canned G&Ts with those very same husbands. You love them, you hate them, then you love them again! It’s OK! Have a laugh! they’d remind me, as I sat there next to my snoring husband, alone with my baby and my secret, brilliant, funny British friends.

Good friends that they were, they reminded me constantly about the importance of all the little everyday things that help make parenthood feel good: naps, spontaneous dance parties, complaining really frankly about your children or your husband, and squeezing your post-baby body into a disco-glitter vinyl bodysuit and hitting the town with other moms for a night. I know my inner anglophile is showing now — and yes, maybe I see it all through the rose-colored glasses of an outsider — but these women seemed to have a distinctly healthier, warmer, and more tolerant take on motherhood than their American counterparts. Rather than the dizzying polar extremities American motherhood presented to me — choose your fighter! Are you a perfect IG mom or are you a defiant hot mess?! — these moms seemed comfortable in the unfolding midst of it all.

I’m not on social media as much now that midnight nursing sessions are behind me, but I still like to check in on my friends here and there. These days, I mostly interact with my beloved Brit mom vibe via all the brilliant British shows that my super talented (pretend) mum friends make. Sharon really nailed it with Bad Sisters, and the intense-but-gripping I Hate Suzie spoke to my heart for reasons I’m still thinking about (please join my Lucy Prebble fan club). Celeste Barber is a member of this club, too, even though she’s Australian. And speaking of Australians, there’s definitely a spot in the club for Chili Heeler.

These brilliantly sharp British moms — Sharon and Steph, and the “Scummy Mummies” and everyone else I encountered in my dark-of-night scrolling — share a quick humor that can be as wicked as it is unabashedly dark. It is their superpower, and they wield it with deceptive ease to point out the trickiest things about being a woman and a mother. Their biting humor declaws uncomfortable truths, and makes it easier to talk about them, because uncomfortable feelings are a lot easier to talk about when you’re laughing together.

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