The perfect mum experiment

This post was created In Association With Baby Dove

I’m in London this week, and as I was coming through Waterloo station yesterday I saw the new Baby Dove ad.  It showed an eerily flawless looking mum and included a question:  Is there a perfect mum? which quickly became a topic of conversation on social media.

The ‘Perfect Mum’ image is the epitome of perfection – clear skinned, sparkly eyed, shining with the happiness that is the early months of parenting. She’s full of energy and zest for life, with not a splash of baby vomit in sight. She’s got parenting NAILED. Yet, this ideal can often lead us to harsh self-judgment, leaving many to wonder, why do I feel like a bad mom? It is essential to recognise that these feelings are common and not a reflection of our actual parenting.

Baby Dove perfect mum

I mean it COULD be me right?


Unfortunately, the ‘Perfect Mum’ image didn’t quite resonate with real mums in the UK. Funnily enough, the verdict on social media was that most mums looked slightly, well, more normal. Most mums look a bit tired for a start, with good reason. They probably haven’t had time alone to have a shower, let alone do their hair or put on a full face of make-up. (I use this excise still now, and my girls are 21 and 14.)

So what was going on??

Dove as a company prides itself on depicting REAL WOMEN, and yet there didn’t seem to be anything real about the image of the perfect mum in the new Baby Dove ad.

With good reason as it turned out – she wasn’t a real mum. In fact, she wasn’t even a real person, as  Baby Dove revealed today.

The Baby Dove ‘Perfect Mum’ was created using the latest Artificial Intelligence technology based on the images of motherhood that new mums are exposed to every day.

I think it’s a brilliantly conceived campaign by Baby Dove, designed to challenge an ever growing pressure on new mums to BE that perfect mum on the billboard. It came in response to a survey from Baby Dove of 3,000 first-time British mums, that revealed that a whopping 9 in 10 of them feel the pressure to be perfect, citing media representations of motherhood in magazines and newspapers and images on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook as the two biggest pressures.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a ‘real mum’ in an advert in a baby magazine, or posing for an Instagram picture? You don’t. Traditional and digital media normally show you an idealised version of motherhood, a version that you’re just never going to be able to recreate 24/7, no matter how many succulents you buy, or how much avocado toast you eat.

Because it’s just not real guys!

I consider myself lucky that things like Instagram weren’t around when my kids were little. I love Instagram, but if I was at home with a screaming baby, looking and feeling like I’d slept in a bush for the last three days, and I was faced with a stream of pictures of silent babies, lying on hand crocheted blankets in pristine fox patterned pyjamas, gazing contentedly at a carefully arranged bunch of tulips…

Well, I think you get it don’t you?

It’s basically what I’ve been trying to do all these years with this blog – present a REAL picture of parenting, a story that isn’t always Instagram ready. And yes, I do try to make my photos look nice, and I don’t tell you about Belle’s tantrums, because she is 14 and I can’t do that, but hopefully I tell my stories in a way that makes you think ‘Yes, I get that.’

Baby Dove is doing the same, trying to show mums that you’re okay just as you are, and that all you can really do as a parent is to trust your way. We get so many messages from the media, friends, family and healthcare professionals, but at the end of the day, no one knows your baby like you do. Trust your instincts, listen and understand your children, and you can’t go far wrong.

No mum is perfect you see. We just do our best, in any given situation. That’s your job you see, to give them someone to blame for things when they grow up and realise they’re not perfect either.

Because nobody is.

What do you think of the Baby Dove perfect mum experiment? Do you feel pressure to be a perfect mum? Please leave a comment and share your views.

Slummy single mummy in London

No idea why Baby Dove didn’t pick this picture of me in my sexy knitted hat to represent the perfect mum.

*Research by Baby Dove from 13th February – 21stFebruary 2017 of a survey size of 3001 first-time mums



  1. 4 April, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    It starts as baby mom’s, but continues, this media perception that woman need to be perfect. We’re also supposed to have perfect relationships with our tweens, our teens, and our young adults. Think, caring mom who is the best friend and comforting shoulder as our children move through life. It doesn’t stop there. We are exposed to perfectly coiffed, trim, just the right amount of silver for grandma’s as well, Fortunately, I’ve given up, and don’t even try to obtain the look and image. I’m the sweat suit, wearing, mom in a pony tail, no lip stick, tired mom and will the grandma that orders pizza when the grand kids come over.

  2. Claire
    5 April, 2017 / 2:23 pm

    I think it’s a great campaign and a really important message. No two mums are the same and no mum is perfect, but there’s so much pressure from society and the media telling us we need to be.
    It’s not just about our outward appearance though! I spotted an advert earlier today from a well-known baby product company, captioned “Enjoy every moment with your baby.” What? No one enjoys EVERY SINGLE moment with their baby do they? No one actually LIKES getting projectile vomited on at 3am! But ads like that condition us to believe that we should be enjoying every single second. And then when we don’t, we feel guilty and ungrateful.

    • Jo Middleton
      5 April, 2017 / 9:59 pm

      That’s so true – that media image of perfection isn’t just how clear your skin is or how glossy your hair is – it’s EVERYTHING.

  3. 5 April, 2017 / 3:51 pm

    I think it all comes down to the media you consume and the people you follow on social media. If you read the Mail Online, you’ll wind up feeling pretty hideous about your skills as a mother, the size of your hips, whether you flaunt your ample assets on a daily basis like apparently so many women do etc etc. And if you only follow people on social media who present an idealised version of motherhood / life then you’ll feel pretty crap too. The trick is to follow a nice range of people (and definitely never read the Mail) and this perfect mum thing won’t be an issue.

    • Jo Middleton
      5 April, 2017 / 10:01 pm

      Good point Alison. I guess though that you do have to be a pretty strong woman not to get sucked in to the stuff that’s bad for you, even if you kind of know it’s wrong? I consider myself pretty sassy about that sort of thing and yet I can all too easily find myself looking at an image and starting to feel awful about it. It would be nice if we didn’t have to self filter out all the crap!

  4. 5 April, 2017 / 9:51 pm

    Social Media can make you feel more pressured to be perfect… but to be honest, I know it’s just snapshots of people’s lives- NOT the whole `picture. Perfect doesn’t exist

    • Jo Middleton
      5 April, 2017 / 10:03 pm

      That’s really interesting actually – do you think that as a content CREATOR, you are at an advantage, because you KNOW that it’s not a true representation of your everyday life? I’m wondering if you were just looking at everyone else’s stuff, and not a part of that world yourself, whether you might not appreciate how carefully curated it often is?

  5. 6 April, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    After watching how this campaign has unfolded and then the advert on tv to show how there is no perfect mum I think it is a very clever piece of marketing. Only annoyance is that the depiction of a perfect mum is white with blonde hair but then maybe this is what we are told. I think it would have been better to show a few more artifical images with a diverse ‘perfect mum’ then it would have had the perfect impact. But yeah no mum looks like that! ha

  6. 6 April, 2017 / 7:52 pm

    I love, love LOVE this post Jo! You’re so right – the perfect mum really doesn’t exist. We’re perfect as we are! (Also – your description of a baby in fox patterned pyjamas gazing at a bunch of tulips had me laughing out loud!). x

  7. 10 April, 2017 / 12:49 pm

    Great post! I quite like the add and agree that there is no ‘perfect mum’ we are all doing the best we can!
    I get that some people get pressure for not looking perfect everyday but As a mum that does make an effort everyday I actually get put down for that! I always have a full face, have my hair done and dress as nice as possible and I actually get other mums making horrible comments and putting me down for it! I think for some reason as a mum you can’t win, there will always be someone standing judging. We should be more supportive of every mum And build each other up and stop tearing each other down Xxx

  8. 11 April, 2017 / 7:26 pm

    I love this post! So true there really is no ‘perfect mum’. Being a mum each and everyday makes you perfect in your own way.
    Besides isn’t bags under your eyes, sleep deprivation and being so exhausted you can’t remember your own name part of the glamour?? :)

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