This is an excerpt from our new podcast series, Unfiltered, and has been edited for length and clarity.
Full interview video:
Instasize: So, Oakley, you are inspiring to so many moms, and, I know, even people that aren't moms. I look up to you, and I know there's a ton of women that do. So, tell me a little bit about your story. How did you get started, how did Nothing Down About It get started?
Oakley Peterson: Yeah, so, Welles was a surprise diagnosis, and that whole first year that he was born was kind of like the year where you go through the process of all the feelings, and kind of process that whole lifestyle rerouting. So I felt so much heaviness in that first year, and so much joy, because we could tell immediately, after all the tears, that this was going to be such a blessing and strength to our family, but it was kind of like everyone around us has to adjust with us.
They weren't really sure what to say, or how to respond, because they knew that it was a shock and that it was a difficult shock in those very early days, and so I got a lot, "I'm sorrys," or, "Oh, you guys are such saints," or whatever. And I was like, "No. People need to understand that this is a beautiful lifestyle, that we can still have a very normal family life, and a very beautiful and wonderful family life, if anything, enhanced because of Welles, and because of down syndrome."
So I just kind of was like, "I'm going to be his voice, I'm going to be his mouthpiece, until he can be a voice for himself and put it all out there." So I did.
IS: What does it mean to you to be a mother?
OP: It's the best job on Earth, but it's also the hardest job on Earth. I think being a mom is the best way to learn one of the most key ingredients to happiness, and to me, the key ingredient to happiness is looking outward. When we look inward, we are less happy. When we're helping other people and we take the focus off of ourselves, we're happier people, and you have to do that when you're a mom. You have no choice.
And even if you did have a choice, you want to do that when you're a mom, because there's this love with parenthood that is so unique and incredible that you literally wake up and your thoughts turn to your children, most of the time. And then we have to remind ourselves to think of ourselves.
My husband, this morning, as he was leaving for work, he's like, "Give yourself some me time today." I'm like, "Oh, okay, that's not going to happen, but okay." And I tried, though. I did try to make that happen. But I think motherhood is such an easy way to learn true happiness. If you have the right attitude, and if you are constantly looking at it as a blessing that you get to look outward and that you get to ... This privilege of taking care and fulfilling all these little people, that is so much constant service, and that's how we grow as humans. We just do.
Countless studies will show, when you're serving other people, you are more fulfilled. You're more happy in your life. And so I think they force you into that. So what a cool way to learn those things.
IS: So, you're also not only a mom that has this amazingly beautiful family, but you're also creating, right? You're creating content for Instagram. So, tell me a little bit about how you find time to do that, and how you come up with these ideas, and all that.
OP: When your life is one walking amount of chaos after another, it creates its own content. A lot of my content, especially my stories, is the chaos that motherhood is and that children are. So I actually don't know that I'm the best ... The other day, I was listening to a podcast, and she said, "I love Instagrams with a lot of white, relaxing photos." I'm like, "This lady would hate my Instagram." Because it's all bold, crazy, colorful. Our life is bold, crazy, and colorful, so I just kind of keep it true to that on my Instagram.
I keep my Instasize filters colorful, I keep my content that I'm creating true to what our life is. I really strive for that. I don't ever want to mislead people about that parenting is perfect and easy, and always wonderful, because it has so many hard aspects. So I try to be super honest with that content that I put out there. I try to really show our true family on Instagram, and I think I do a pretty good job of that. That's the goal.
IS: That's really cool, and that's one of the things I always like when I was reading through your comments and things on Instagram. People are always like, "I love that you show your real life." They love that, that aspect of that. So was there anything that inspired that? Because I know you have the Instagrammers that show this kind of ideal life that it's very staged, very not, and you've chosen to go the route of, "This is reality," right? What kind of inspired that?
OP: Definitely my upbringing. My husband always says, "You look so ticked," if I'm ticked, if we're out, because I cannot ... I'm not good at even ... My face is so transparent, I am so transparent that I just, that's not an ability for me to even think perfection, because that's not my personality. And I come from a very bold, colorful family. My parents are eccentric and interesting. I don't think they ever listen, but they are very unique people.
I grew up in a rock band. My sisters and I were not even in school. We traveled around, there was four of us. Eight Brown Eyes. Before YouTube, so you can't even find anything.
IS: So this is a question I know a lot of us had, and I'm sure a lot of your followers have. Will you let your kids have social media?
OP: Yeah. We're in that world. This is the day and age where you can't afford it ... Now, in the appropriate time frame. Absolutely not for a long time. But when my daughter gets to that age where she's like, "Mom," yeah, with limits, and really teaching them about the dangers, and the beauty of it.
I think we can't be fear-based with social media. There's a lot of that out there, right now, and the reality is, it's not going anywhere, and our kids are going to find it one way or another, and I know so many good families whose kids have secret Instagram accounts.
IS: Really? Secret Instagrams?
OP: Oh, my gosh, yes. Teenagers, if their parents withhold it, that can be very dangerous. I think you just need to be super transparent with your kids. "Hey, this is a tool that can be used for good, and it can be used for bad, and it can be used for this and that." And Anna McFarland, from Kids Are The Worst, she does some great tech courses about how to protect your kids, and I think finding resources like that, educating yourself on how to talk to your kids about it.
But I think when we take it away, and say, "We don't trust you with this," or, "This is too awful and bad for you," well, they're going to grow up, and they're going to find it, and then that can damage your relationship. I just think you need to be cautious and take whatever approach works for your family, but for us, for sure, eventually. If they really want it. It'd be great if they didn't. I think they will. [crosstalk 00:12:43] ever-evolving social media world, now.
IS: So what does the future look like for you? You've built this amazing Instagram account, this amazing life with your family. Are you going to keep documenting this even when they become teenagers, and onward? What's your plan?
OP: I'm not known to be one with a plan. So we'll see. But I don't foresee us stopping. I love that, I look back at old Instagram posts. I love looking back at some of the ones that I maybe was talking about a struggle I had, and saying, "Oh man, we have come so far from there," or even struggles with my other kids, or things that were so exciting and amazing. I love documenting.
So I don't foresee us stopping. I think it's such a fun way to ... What a cool thing we have that our parents didn't have. It's like a journal, but everybody reads it, so you've got to be a little careful.
IS: So what made you decide to use Instasize? What's the background on that?
OP: A good friend of mine worked at Instasize, Brittney, and so she introduced me to it. She's actually an amazing photographer, and she uses and has created a lot of the presets. So she would show me the preset she used on some pictures she took of our family, and then she actually ...
You would think I'm very tech savvy, because I run a blog and Instagram, but I'm actually terribly un-tech savvy, so once she downloaded it and showed me how simple it was, I was like, "Okay, this is easy and there's a million options," and I just really love the options.
I use D1 a lot, and R1. Anyways, those are some of my favorite ones. And I like that you can enhance certain things, and brighten in certain ways, and even add grain. There's a million options. But it's simple, and I got to do simple.
IS: And one other question, kind of wrapping up here. What does it mean to you to kind of be a mom, but a mom that creates? So, this stuff on Instagram, you're also, obviously, you've created a beautiful life for your family. What does that mean to you, motherhood and creativity, I guess? The mix.
OP: I like that. I've never felt like a super creative person.
IS: I guess you are, though.
OP: I guess I am. I guess I am. I think it is really cool when you look back at the content that you have created, and you say, "Wow, I did this," or, "I built up this following," or, "I've built these connections on Instagram." And that is, I guess, creative, right?
And being a mom at the same time, and I'm really lucky. I know I have a ton of friends that are Instagrammers, and they do different things. Food, fashion, whatever. Mine fully encompasses my kids.
In fact, when people are like, "Hey, can you ... We want you to do this, and we want a picture of you," and I'm like, "No." My kids have to be in it. I will not. You will never see a picture of me. I should never say never, but you will probably never see a picture of me on Instagram by myself.
So I think it's really amazing that I get to do this creative thing with my kids, that we're all in it together. Now, if we do a sponsored post, I pay Scarlett $5, and she gets to earn money by being in it, because she is. She's there, earning this money. We don't make a ton of money, don't be fooled.
But when we do do a sponsored post, that gets to go towards Welles' speech therapy, or for Scarlett to get herself something at Target next time, or whatever. So it's really fun. It's definitely a full family effort, and it's us. It is really awesome.
IS: This has been so fun and so insightful for me and, I'm sure, for everyone out there.
OP: Oh, you're so sweet.
IS: We hope you have the best Mother's Day coming up soon.
OP: Thank you. I hope so, too. I'm sure it'll be great.
Follow Oakley Peterson
- Instagram: @nothingdownaboutit
- Snapchat: @nothingdownai
- Facebook: @nothingdownaboutit
- Pinterest: @nothingdownaboutit
- Website: http://nothingdownaboutit.com