Author Sarah Turner: The Unmumsy Mum
- Credit: Archant
She’s the Devon mum whose searingly honest account of motherhood has made her an international best-selling writer. And now, Sarah Turner is publishing a new chronicle of her life as The Unmumsy Mum, as Chrissy Harris discovers
Her refreshingly honest approach to parenting has made Sarah Turner a top-selling author and internet sensation. But fame definitely hasn’t changed this former columnist for Exeter Life, sister magazine to Devon Life.
As we meet in the family’s terraced house in the city’s St Thomas district, Peppa Pig chatters on the television, there are bits of wooden train track on the floor and toddler Jude is singing a made-up song with made-up words at an increasingly loud volume.
It’s very much business as usual for the 30-year-old who has just written her second book, called The Unmumsy Mum Diary, which documents a year in the life of Sarah, husband James and their boys, Henry, five and Jude, two.
Sarah’s first book The Unmumsy Mum was a runaway success and quickly became a Sunday Times number one bestseller – a fact she’s still trying to come to terms with.
“It’s so weird,” she says, in between dishing out tea and biscuits, adjusting the TV volume and asking Jude what he’s singing about.
“When it went in a number six, I thought: this is amazing. I can say I’m a bestseller. I never assumed it would hit number one although there was a little bit of me that was disappointed!”
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However, the book, based on her much-followed blog and social media sites soon hit the top spot and hit a nerve with mums and dads who admired her openness.
Parents from all over the world sent messages of support and expressed their relief that somebody was actually talking about family life as it really is, with all its ups, downs and plenty of laughs.
“I’m so pleased that mums - and dads – have taken something from it,” says Sarah. “Lots of mums with postnatal depression have said that it helped to ease some of their low points. It’s been overwhelming.”
With such a strong following, it’s no surprise then that Sarah has gone on to write her second book, this time in a diary format.
The Unmumsy Mum Diary is another searingly honest account of life with two young children, complete with all those feelings of parental guilt, envy, lots of swearing, wine and some very intimate problems (read it to find out more).
“I did enjoy writing it,” says Sarah, who has worked for banking firms and the University of Exeter as an alumni relations officer. “But it was harder because I had slightly less time and because of the interest of the first book, I was being pulled in all sorts of directions.”
Sarah has taken part in many newspaper, radio and television interviews, as well as speaking at literary and family events up and down the country.
“I do quite like it but I always feel like I’m play acting in somebody else’s life,” she says. “When I’m sat there on the train, I still feel like a child that’s been let loose. It’s like: check me out, going to a meeting!”
Like many mums, Sarah feels the pull between work and kids and says it can be hard being based at home, even though she has support from grandparents and husband James (who now works part-time).
“Sometimes when you want to make phone calls and stuff, you just want a private office because you hear things,” she says.
“My dad comes up to help once a week, which is amazing, but I’ll be working in the house and I can hear him saying: ‘Now Jude, where’s your swimming kit…?’
“And I have to come down and say: ‘Oh, are you looking for his swimming kit?’ “It can be hard to concentrate.
“I do like working from home but I don’t think I’ve got it sussed yet. It’s really nice but it’s kind of a hybrid, isn’t it? I never feel like I’m doing either job very well.”
Sarah’s honesty about life is infectious and it’s easy to see why she has more than 500,000 Facebook, 27,000 Twitter and 148,000 Instagram followers.
She says people open up to her about all sorts of things, telling her everything from their birth stories to struggles with depression.
Is she tempted to write another book?
“I’m probably not in a position yet to do another non-fiction,” she says. “Also, I’m not sure how much I want to document of Henry, now he’s at school. I know some of the school mums read my Facebook page or blog and they’re really nice but I don’t want him to be embarrassed.”
It will always be family first, says Sarah, explaining how she’s turned down a glamorous book launch in London this week because she’s got to do the school run.
There have also been offers of film screenings and other events that are simply too difficult to get to when your family life is in Devon. Not that there are any plans to move.
“I can’t see us leaving, we love it here,” says Sarah. “I feel myself physically breathe a sigh of relief when I get back from London into Exeter St David’s station.
“I play at a fast pace of life for a day or two and it’s really exciting but I actually can’t wait to get home.”
More parenting help
As well as her blog, social media sites and books, Sarah has also helped to support Mummy Social, a website designed to help parents connect with each other.
Founded by Crediton-based mum Josie Barron, the site, which helps mums make new friends, is backed by Sarah and TV presenter Helen Skelton.