Like so many of my fellow moms, I stumbled upon Caitlin Murray (aka @bigtimeadulting) on Instagram in those bleary, early days of the pandemic. There I was: (barely) surviving those rough early weeks “home-schooling” my kids and working from home, sourdough starter-ed out and slowly going mad, when she burst in my feed all curse words and exasperation. “Fuck YEEES,” I thought to myself. I had found my people.
There’s a reason you feel a connection to Caitlin; she’s in the thick of it just like you. Her kids are 10, 8 and 4, and she’s not afraid to call bullshit on her kids or on motherhood, which is probably why she gained such a huge following (1.1 million people) in such a short time. She’s so damn funny, and, bonus, she can laugh at herself.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but she lives in my Westchester suburb, too, so when we met for breakfast last week, it shouldn’t have surprised me that she was recognized. Like full on, two-moms-about-our-age-came-over-and-fangirled recognized. “That happens all the time now, actually,” Caitlin said. So there we were, just two moms, one a quasi-celebrity, one a lot less so, talking about what it’s like to be @bigtimeadulting.
Scary Mommy: How did you get started doing all of this?
Caitlin Murray: I really started this because I wanted to write a book. And because I had been writing so much about my experience as a mom with what my son was going through when he was in treatment for leukemia, which over three years of treatment, and I just was using writing as an outlet. I had compiled all of these emails that I had written to family and friends into a blog, so that I could have a place to go back to them and just see what I had written in five years or whatever, 10 years, 20 years. And I just loved writing.
SM: What was it like to explode in popularity during the pandemic?
CM: Really awesome. During the pandemic, I really started to gain a lot of traction because I was doing these funny series about Covid and being trapped in your house with your kids and stuff. And I think a lot of what I was doing then caught fire. It was really relatable to so many people, obviously. And it was really what I had been feeling for the last three years, being trapped at home with my little kids. So I was ready to rock.
SM: What was the transformation from doing memes and writing stuff to Reels? What was the vision behind that?
CM: Well, I also loved sharing the spoken word. So as soon as Reels came out, I was like, “Oh, this is going to also be my jam.” I just really like delivering jokes. And a lot of the things that I was writing I think, even though a lot of the material was heavy, there were certainly funny parts throughout it. And so it’s just part of the creative process that works for me that I like doing both.
SM: Do you rehearse before you start filming?
CM: No, I don’t rehearse it, but I write it down. So rehearsal is I guess somewhat accurate. If I fuck it up the first time I say it or the second time, I’ll say it as many times as I need to before I get it to a place where I’m like, “Yeah, I got it.” They say you have seven seconds to capture somebody’s attention. So you can’t be filling that with “ums” and “ahs” — it’s like, “Nope, scrolling.” You have to be quick, so you can’t just wing it.
SM: Who are your favorite people or accounts to follow on Instagram?
CM: My contemporary peer that I really love following is Nikki Marie. She’s just very real and raw and funny. She’s totally herself, and I love that. I follow other pages just for me; I like to follow comedians. So pretty much things that make me laugh. I use social media as that type of outlet. And then for the deeper, more spiritual stuff, I follow really only a few of those accounts. But Eckhart Tolle, he’s just one of my favorite authors. Dr. Edith Eger, she’s a Holocaust survivor who has written a couple of books that I feel changed me. She’s amazing. And I like to follow Mel Robbins. She’s got good energy.
SM: What were the ‘oh my God’ moment follows for you?
CM: There’s a few of those that I was like, “Holy shit.” Jennifer Aniston’s totally up there. I’m like, “Oh my God, why are you following me? You don’t even have kids.” Chelsea Handler was a big one that I was like, “She’s a comedian and she thinks I’m funny.” And then other artists like Pink, I love her. Penelope Cruz. I was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so chic!’ It’s one of those things where you’re like, “I’m a totally regular person, and now this person who doesn’t seem like a regular person to me knows who I am.”
SM: You often end your videos with ‘get yourself a snack.’ What are your favorites?
Caitlin: Somebody made fun of me the other day for saying that I like popcorn. I’m like, “Fuck you. I like it.” It’s really satisfying and salty. But then if I have popcorn, I typically want something sweet right after. So I might have a little piece of chocolate to balance it all out. I like beef jerky. I love a cookie… I’ll munch on some goldfish. The original flavor goldfish to me is unmatched. I snack on an apple. I try to eat healthy snacks. I get very hungry, so I have to eat.
SM: What are your favorite, desert-island songs?
CM: So I’m a huge fan of Kygo. I was once Googling birthday playlists. It was my husband’s birthday and Kygo’s ‘Happy Birthday’ came on. And I was like, “Never heard this before. What is the sound?” Then I went to check out more songs by Kygo, and I’m like, “Oh yes, love this.” I went to a Kygo concert for Mother’s Day in 2019. I love Oldies, love some Motown music. It always gets my juices flowing. Hip hop, ‘90s hip hop. I mean, who doesn’t love it? If you throw on some Snoop Dogg for me, I’m ready to rock. I mean, Salt-N-Pepa give it to me all day long. I had a second grade dance routine to ‘Push It’ actually, which now I’m like, “Wow, that’s completely inappropriate.”
SM: Do you have a personal motto?
CM: I think my motto is probably to keep going. I just feel there are so many moments during any given day where you’re just feeling defeated. And it’s just like pick your head up, look for a positive. I feel like that’s how I get through little challenges along the way. Just like, “Fuck it, let’s keep going. Find the humor.”
SM: You’ve been known to shit on toddlers. Are they — to you — the worst of all the ages?
CM: No — babies. They’re worse. Newborn babies are the worst. They just don’t let you sleep at all. And it’s misery. The first three months of having a baby is a weird time. It’s supposed to be joyful happiness, and there are definitely moments of that. Even a toddler, it’s like you’re understanding my words or you can point to what’s bothering you right now or what you want. Right? With a baby, it’s like, “I don’t know what the fuck you want right now. I’ve tried everything.”
SM: What are the funniest or stupidest kids’ trends — for instance, my sons are obsessed with Flow Society shorts, which are just so horribly ugly — you’re seeing?
CM: Well, my daughter is really the trend seeker of the family, and it’s not so much that I think that it’s stupid or a waste of money. I’m like, it’s just straight-up inappropriate. Like, “No, you cannot dress like a gothic hooker at school. It’s not allowed.” I’m sorry… And I’m like, “No, you’re not having that yet. When you get older, if that’s what you want to wear, go for it. Have a blast. But you’re too young right now.” Psychological warfare, it’s begun. She’s also so fun, and I can tell she’s going to be the greatest hang when she gets older. But for now it’s just like, ‘Oh my God, I’m in trouble.’
SM: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
CM: [Dead pans] “Ave Maria.”
No, I just like to say that. I feel it’s such a hilarious thing. Like, “Put on ‘Ave Maria’ and turn it up.” … I would, if somebody gave me a microphone and a screen, I’d be all over it. You’d never get me off of it, but I’d sing anything. I’d just be like, “It’s performance time. Let’s do it.”
SM: So if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
CM: I honestly do not know, because I think that what I really learned from having kids is that being a full-time stay-at-home mom did not feel personally fulfilling enough for me. I think actually if I weren’t doing something this creatively that I’d be doing something in the fitness realm. I’d be teaching fitness class or something like that.
SM: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Caitlin: I’ve never honestly known where any of this was going. And I try not to put too many expectations on what I’m doing or too much structure to what I want, because things change so much. But I can say, generally speaking, what I hope is going on in five years. Most importantly, I hope my marriage is still as strong as it is today. It’s my number-one priority in my life. I hope my kids are doing well and that they’re healthy. And the blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve put into parenting them through these young years have paid off in a way that our relationships are strong and good, and I see them developing well.
And then after that, professionally, I hope that I’m in a place where I’m making a lot of money doing stuff that I love. Because that’s really something that people don’t say out loud that often. But I feel I’ve put a lot of work into my content, the people who are there, the community, and that it’s a good thing to say that you want success. And I do, I want that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photographs by Spencer Heyfron
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