Crazy Narcissistic Exploitative Zombie-Pimp Mom-Bloggers, Unite and Take Over

April 23, 2008

Nothing makes a mom-blogger prouder than to open the online editorial page of a major newspaper and see a picture of her daughter with a hyper-linked headline that asks “Is Blogging About Your Kid Exploitation?”

Of course it is, you say to yourself. And then you print the article and fold it neatly – you know, for the scrapbook, and also maybe for tax purposes – alongside the stacks and stacks of hundred-dollar bills you’ve collected from the enterprise of exploiting your daughter. The stacks that you make her wrap in wee elastic bands and load into the stroller basket to take to the bank. When she’s not busy posing for the pictures that you post on your exploitative ‘GET UR LIVE TODDLER SHOW RITE HEER” blog, that is. Or amusing herself in the corner with old vodka bottles while you spend the better part of each day telling the Internet stories about her. You know, for the cash.

I knew what that Globe and Mail story was about when I agreed to be interviewed for it. And I knew, too, that allowing them to photograph Wonderbaby and I would make us a focal point. I also knew that when I said, in the interview, this is going sound totally inappropriate, and probably needs a lot of explanation – it’s just that I can’t think of a better word – but in a way I think of her as my property, yanno? that the ambivalent preamble would be omitted when the quote was – inevitably – used. (Actual quote, minus preamble: “In a way I think of her as my property, my work of art… She’s a work in progress that I’m involved in. To that extent, I have some licence to be public about having her as my muse.”) I didn’t have a problem with that. I was prepared to stand by that. I knew that I would have to stand by that, because I knew that I’d get shit for that.

And I did. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the force of the shit being flung.

In the comments to the online article, this was the tenor of the response:

“Is it just me or is this poor little kid doomed from the get go?”

“Isn’t this just another form of pimping?”

“At 6 her daughter will likely hire a lawyer and sue her for half.”

“Parents that sit and blog are actually NOT paying attention to their children. You know the old saying ‘where are the parents.’ Well their (sic) right here in front of you honey, but they are zombified in front of a screen.”

“If this is the way this woman views her child, I hope she saves up whatever money she’s earning from her pathetic blog to pay for her kid’s therapy later in life.”

And my favorite (regarding a quote from Wonderbaby, cited in the title of the article) “Who would teach their child to speak like this?”

(Memo to ‘Dennis sinneD from Calgary’: if you know any two-year olds who can not only construct complete sentences, but articulate those sentences with perfect diction, then you live in some alternate parallel universe where said children quote EB White at five years of age, attend Oxford at seven, and publish their collected essays on the rise of the English novel at ten. Which is to say, NOT CALGARY.)

Anyway. OUCH.

The comments are stupid, I know. And, simply, wrong: I’m not some shameless mom-pimp, whoring out an online kiddy show for pennies from Google ads. I’m a writer. I make money from writing; it’s my job, my contribution to the household income, the means by which we’re going to send her to university and pay for her wedding and help her buy a house and just generally take care of her and her sibling. But it’s also a labor of love – I didn’t start writing to make money, I started because I love it. And I started writing about – mostly – being a mom because, in addition to loving the writing, I found solace and comfort and release and community in it. And so did others – readers, and other writers, who shared their stories with me. And so I kept writing, and so I keep on writing, and so I will keep on writing, until I have no words left. The money is nice, but it’s incidental to my love for the practice of writing.

Most of what I write is not Wonderbaby anecdote. I’m not simply keeping a play-by-play (or, more accurately, asskick-by-asskick) record of her life. I’m writing what is, in part, a living memoir of my experience as a first-time (soon to be second-time) mother. She’s a big part of that – the biggest part, in most obvious respects – but there’s a lot about that experience that holds her at the periphery. A very, very close periphery, but still. My motherhood is a work in progress that involves her closely, but it is, also, a work that is more mine that hers. When I said in the article that she’s my muse, that’s probably as close to the truth of the writing matter as I could get. She is the source of my identity as a mother, and my primary inspiration as a writer – but the story that I tell about the experience of motherhood – the experience of womanhood after having children – is not, strictly speaking, her story. It’s mine. Mostly. (The issue of public/private distinctions as these pertain to the quote-unquote institution of motherhood, and the idea of children as any sort of ‘property,’ are subjects for another post. Soon.) (I’ll just say this: the word ‘property’ – from the Latin proprius, meaning one’s own – doesn’t necessarily refer to chattel. Rousseau and Mill took ‘property’ to refer to the broad spectrum of things – including happiness, self-respect, family – that one might hold dearly as ‘one’s own’)

And in any case – even if one does regard my personal blog as simply one long exercise in narcissistic storytelling about life with Wonderbaby – what of it? As this blogger pointed out to me in a private conversation, why does so-called lifestyle writing in print not prompt people to generalize those writers as narcissistic nutbars or neglectful parents or – most pleasantly – pimps? Memoirs, autobiography, lifestyle op-ed columns – these have been around for a very long time, and while some such writers, I’m sure, are called narcissists, most of them have probably not had the unique pleasure of being called crazy, zombified pimps. (Most of them, however, have – from Rousseau to Sedaris – historically been men. There’s something about so-called lifestyle writing or memoir by women – online or off – that inevitably provokes hysterical name-calling and foretellings of the decline of civilization. This has everything to do with the historical consignment of women and family to the private sphere, I think, but again, that’s a subject for another post. I can only skim the surface here.)

There’s something about mothers lifting back the veil of the family that upsets people, that leads people to accuse the mothers who dare do such a thing of neglecting their maternal duties, of exploiting their children, of exposing their children to the dangers of the public sphere, of being bad. But that’s precisely what makes mom-blogging – to overuse a deservedly overused phrase – a radical act. We’ve always been told to not lift the veil. We’ve always been told to stay behind the veil, no matter what. We’ve always been told that the sanctity and well-being of our families depends upon the integrity of that veil – upon modesty and privacy and keeping our struggles and our victories to ourselves. Which has, over the course of the history of Western civilization (and that of other civilizations, of course, although I cannot speak to these with any authority), kept us isolated from one another. Kept us silent.

I choose not to be silent. I choose to tell my stories, tell – while she is young – her stories, tell the stories of she and I and our family and our place in this world and to pull meaning from those stories and to speculate on those meanings and to reflect, out loud, on what it means to be a mom in this day and age and other days and ages and all the days and ages to come. I choose to use my voice, my fingers, my keyboard to make myself heard. I choose to write. If that makes me appear, to some, a crazy, narcissistic, exploitative zombie-pimp who whores her child out for the sake of a few bucks and the self-indulgence of storytelling, then so be it.


It’s worth it. It’s so worth it.

******

Wee update: The writer of the article contacted me and asked if I wanted the offensive comments removed from the Globe and Mail site. I said no – apart from the name-calling, they’re expressing an opinion that I chose to engage with (because I think that it’s stupid and in some cases offensive, but still) and in any case, I’m not much on with censorship, unless it’s me doing it on my own site. Still… was that the right decision? Letting comments that refer to me as ‘vile’ and ‘zombified’ and ‘pimp’ stand for eternity on the interwebs? Or does open discourse require a bit of personal discomfort – perhaps more than I’m used to – sometimes?

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    { 174 comments }

    Fairly Odd Mother April 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Heck, us vile, zombified (is that even a word?)pimps gotta stick together. Even worse? I do it for FREE.

    But, I think my kids will be happy I chose to be a mommy blogger vs a contestant on a reality show or a pageant show mom or even just some miserable wretch who complains about how other people raise their kids.

    GoMommy April 25, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I think you’re exceptionally talented and I love reading your blog. Your honest take on all things “mommy” is so refreshing. Mom blogs are awesome (I may be biased) if only for the simple reason that I can relate to other mothers, other women, who are going or have gone through the same things I have. It unites us. To hell with the haters-
    Play on playah-

    janny226 April 25, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I like and can relate to the quote, even without the disclaimer. I have been blogging for only a few months and heartily agree that it makes me feel connected, it’s release, and yes, part of what I need connection to is other moms and release from, at times, my feelings about, anxiety about, and sheer insanity of living with, son!

    Anne Glamore April 26, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    This comes up at our house a lot (I let my husband read Dooce’s recent comments about the way Jon feels when she announces she’s published, and he wonders whether he should shoot himself NOW or go read it, and he could relate.)

    Oddly enough, though, my husband doesn’t care nearly as much about the things I write for print publications. In his case, and I suspect in many other’s, it’s the thought of the INTERNET that’s scary.

    I find that amusing, as yesterday’s post is quickly replaced by today’s, but the print article sits by the dryer at the beauty salon forever.

    Anyway, I think a lot of it is people freaking about a “new” medium.

    I loved your response, and your decision to leave the hatery comments up. That’s the way I go, too.

    Redneck Mommy April 26, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Hey honey,

    So I’m late to this as usual. Had my head up my arse with my other woes…so nervous that I can barely sit still to read let alone articulate intelligent thought.

    I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you (and your beautiful husband’s defence of you…go Mr. Bad!)

    I just want to know, since you obviously make stacks of hundred dollar bills at Wonderbaby’s exploitation and expense, that I had to pay for a certain leather purse when you obviously had enough cash to cough up for it???

    Heh.

    I miss you.

    And your boobs.

    xo

    Holly April 26, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I gave DMD a *standing ovation* and you get one too. Makes my stomach turn thinking that ‘people’ think mommy bloggers are crazy… well, if that’s true then send me a funny white jacket too ’cause I’m not giving it up.

    Backpacking Dad April 27, 2008 at 3:32 am

    Oh come on. Who name-drops Rousseau in a parenting blog? You’ll never be taken seriously as an inane, zombified, neglectful child-abusing pseudo-parent if you insist on reading and thinking about what you read.

    I never feel guilty about the writing I’m doing. I write what I know, and what I’m thinking about, and forming words on a screen isn’t easy, and it hurts to make it public, and there is no reward for me beyond personal achievment and developing a craft. I don’t piss on parents who go to work away from home for 8 hours, or those who, what?, knit or something during nap time. I write during nap time. Sometimes I also write while my daughter is awake, but it’s because she provokes me and I have to write it down before the provocation is gone. I don’t also stab her with a fork while I’m writing.

    If, at the end of the day, I haven’t stabbed her with a fork, I’m doing a pretty good job. And I think I’m allowed my downtown, fulfilling, satisfying, outlets and hobbies. Thankyouverymuch.

    Especially if other people are allowed their “not staring at the kid right at this moment” activities.

    momto4kidsny April 27, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Hi! I found you via Table for Five and had to come check you out! Don’t let those haters get you down! Keep doing what you are doing! They are only pissy because they don’t understand the whole thing that comes with having a blog! Having a blog has been what has kept my sanity with being a stay at home mom for almost 10 yrs!! Until they have walked in our shoes…they will never understand!
    I can only wish that my 2 yr old talked as well as your daughter does! He has an eval coming up to see if he may need speech therapy as he only has 3 words to say!

    Tere April 27, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Great post, HBM.

    It’s funny, because I look at my (non-money-making, written-purely-for-the-release-of-it) blog as being about ME – my challenges, my joys, my bullshit, with my son as just a part (an important, beautiful part, but part nonetheless) of what I and my life are.

    It’s hard to take the comments and journalistic “insight” of people who don’t actually read a particular blog seriously. These are life stories being shared, and it’s impossible to be so simplistic about it.

    Mom101 April 27, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Dude! Love the husband’s comment on the G&M site.

    He just went up like 187 notches.

    goddess in the groove April 28, 2008 at 12:04 am

    The internet is a blessing and a hell hole at the same time. It has always been an outlet for those who would never voice their nastiness in person. They are cowards.

    I have learned not to pay them mind. Over the years of blogging and listening to the cowards judge me, I have decided not to give them much energy.

    I love the picture, and your blog. Will be back soon to read more.

    ~**Dawn**~ April 28, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Ah yes, comment #163, if your’e even reading them at this point. ;-) What I find most ironic is that these same people, if they are not parents, are speaking out of turn with as much authority as I would have speaking on nuclear physics, and if they *are* parents, then I would like to know who is watching *their* children while they read this article and type such comments, no to mention what kind of example are they setting for those children by spewing such hateful, negative commentary, designed only to cut another person down? If we didn’t write about that which we know, what value would there be to writing at all? I applaud your resolve to not allow these people to take away something that brings you joy.

    Her Bad Mother April 28, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    **Dawn** – I read every single comment. Every single one. And I thank you for yours :)

    ~**Dawn**~ April 28, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    The fact that you will read 163 comments is, in & of itself, amazing. Never mind the replying. For the record, I didn’t mean it as an insult, but rather that if I opened up my email to find 100+ messages in my inbox, I think I would hide. =)

    Andrea April 28, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I can’t say anything that the people above me haven’t already said more eloquently than I could. But I wanted to chime in my support.

    I was particularly moved by the part in your post about the veil of silence us mothers are supposed to obey. Pish, I say. It’s my life, my take on parenthood, and if I manage to make a few extra bucks doing it (right now I don’t, but that’s not to say in the future I won’t) who’s to say I’m not putting it toward my kids’ education or putting clothes on their backs? Just because my audience happens to be bigger than just my parents and in-laws and grandparents doesn’t mean that what I have to say is exploitation.

    And clearly, those in the comments of the actual article seem to be completely out of the loop as to how parenting works. I love the opinions about a subject which the clearly know nothing.

    Solidarity, sistah. Don’t stop because someone tells you to. They’re just too weak to handle it.

    Meg April 28, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I think I’d take the words written by someone named Tralee with a grain of salt.

    (((hugs)))

    Rhen @yestheyareallmine April 28, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Oh my goodness! If we, as parents, could not say, do or have anything that could even be considered embarassing for our children then we would have to burn our camcorder tapes and DVD’s, burn our baby books, shred all the family get together photos and never talk to anyone about our families ever again. That would be one boring world. Isn’t part of the fun of being a parent embarassing your children at some point? Geez, I am 32 years old and my parents still get a kick out of it!!
    Great blog!

    Wishful Mommy April 29, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Excellent post as always. I also enjoyed the article. Kudos to you for not removing the comments. And the photo is so lovely.

    Here’s a thought: if Wonderbaby is annoyed you recorded so much of her life in a blog, she will have tons of other kids to empathize with her! They can start a club.

    Hang in there. Stay strong. Getting excited about Baby #2.

    To Think is to Create April 29, 2008 at 2:19 am

    I wasn’t going to comment because I pretty much am just violently nodding my head in agreement with you and the other commenters, but then I saw you say you read every one…so…

    Totally loving you taking this stand for the rest of us, and feel like I’ve been really missing out on your writing up until the J&J event when I first started reading you. Kinda grew a bit of a comedy crush on you after seeing the video of you that Tracey showed of you discussing your “nether home”. Apparently I have a thing for funny zombie pimps. Who knew?

    Adventures In Babywearing April 30, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I’m quite late to the party here but I guess I was too busy exploiting my poor kids… sheesh- I don’t get these people, but I do get you.

    xoxo
    Steph

    Commander Mommy May 2, 2008 at 8:34 am

    I’ve only just now entered the world of mommy blogging. Who knew there were so many haters? I find it hard to believe that these people who say such horrible things never talk about their kids. I mean, that is all this is, right? We talk about our children and someone happens to be amused enough that we get paid for it. Nuff said.

    Mud Mama May 2, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    The feminist in me is wondering where they’;ve strung up Dave Barry and Bill Cosby for mining their family life for humorist material. Then my little child of the 70′s self wonders who is burning Erma Bombeck in effigy for destroying her children’s lives.

    Fuck!

    Anonymous January 25, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Um, my child did speak in complete sentences and did have perfect diction by two years of age. In fact, he ordered food in a restaurant at 14-1/2 months of age. He used a complete sentence. He asked questions like, “Do you like the light?” at 19 months of age.

    I don’t know what that says about me, or his father.

    Anonymous January 25, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    P.S. I AM from Calgary, and our chld was born in a northern oil patch city. My child attends a public school, and neither my husband nor I are Rhodes scholars.

    The boy loves to talk.

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