I Am Mommy Blogger, Hear Me Roar

September 30, 2011

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The post that follows is a revised version of a post that I wrote last year. I had been considering writing a new piece about the term ‘mommy blogger’ and to what extent I see that as part of my identity, not least because Kyle and I have been having conversations – partly in jest, partly not – about him becoming a dad blogger when we complete our move to New York and he becomes, for the most part, a stay at home dad, and those conversations raised the question: why ‘dad blogger’ and not ‘daddy blogger’? And why not ‘parent blogger,’ or some other neutral term?

I haven’t sorted out my thoughts on the daddy-blogger question – stay tuned – but reflecting on that question brought me back to this post, which still stands as a pretty accurate statement of my feelings on the term ‘mommy blogger.’

Dear Internet: I am not a mommy blogger.

Yeah, I know. There’s a baby in my header. There are lots of pictures of my children here, including that one, right there, on the upper left-hand side of this post. (Aren’t they cute? I let them call me Mommy.) But still. I am not a mommy blogger.

I am mother, yes. I blog about my children, sometimes, and about motherhood, frequently, and about other things here and there (including but not limited to: religion and spirituality, grief, social causes, my nephew, cupcakes, social media, feminism, and zombies), and I do have the word ‘mother’ in the title of my blog. But I am not a mommy blogger. You can call me one, if you want, and I won’t, like, have to restrain myself from punching you. But I’d prefer that you didn’t.

And it makes me sad to say that, because you know what? I’m proud of being my children’s Mommy. And I’m proud of being a blogger – a writer – who has made a career out of reflecting upon the condition of her ‘mommy-ness’ and who has contributed to the tremendous and – yes – revolutionary movement that is mothers seizing the opportunity to own their stories and to create discursive space with those stories. I’m proud to be part of a community of women who work to lift the veil on the lifeworld that is motherhood, the lifeworld that has for the entirety of human history been kept hidden behind the walls of privacy and modesty and decorum, the lifeworld that has so long been kept at a remove from the public sphere and from public discourse. And if that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about mommy-blogging – if by mommy-blogging we refer to what the very wise Alice once, and rightly, called a radical act – then yes, I really do want to claim the mantle mommy blogger and own it and wave it proudly. But that’s not what most people are thinking of when they use the term mommy blogger. That’s not what they’re thinking of at all.

They’re thinking, vapid diaries about shit and binkies. They’re thinking, mindless prattle about playdates and sippy cups. They’re thinking, glorified scrapbooks and virtual coffee klatches and dear GOD won’t someone shut them up already? They use the term condescendingly, as shorthand for women you probably shouldn’t bother listening to, because, you know: MOMMY = SILLY. MOMMY = RIDICULOUS. MOMMY = WOMAN WHO IS DISEMPOWERED AND ALSO MINDLESSLY OBSESSED WITH DIAPER BAGS.

A mommy, in the estimation of those who look down their noses at ‘mommies’, is a woman who couldn’t possibly have anything serious or interesting to say. And a mommy blogger? Is a woman who makes a daily practice of forcing her unseriousness and uninterestingness upon the world. 

Which, god. Why? Even the person who is most clueless about how diverse and complicated is the mad, mad world of the Internets should know that a) the community (broadly speaking) of women who are mothers and who blog is vast and heterogeneous, and it is reductive and misleading to collapse them all into one category, and b) even if someone does identify themselves as a ‘mommy blogger,’ that identity isn’t necessarily relevant to everything that they do or say, online or off. But even setting those things aside, why on earth should it be a matter of ridicule or condescension if a woman blogs about her motherhood and/or children, qua mommy blogger or not qua mommy blogger (however one understands the term)? What does everyone have against mommies and moms and mothers, anyway? Unless you sprung fully formed from the forehead of your father, you probably have one yourself.

This bothers me, in part, because it seems to be part of a broader and deeper social inclination to dismiss and disparage mothers and motherhood; to compartmentalize mothers, to set them apart and ignore their discourse and, basically, just shove them back behind the veil – the wall of the private sphere – where, it seems, some people think they probably belong. There’s a long and fascinating history to that whole social impulse. The ancient Romans, for example, codified it and wove into the very fabric of their understanding of morality. Public virtue was for men (hence the very meaning of the term virtue, which holds the root vir, or man, such that virtu, in Latin, means manly); the honor of women, on the other hand, was modesty (pudicitia), defined almost entirely by their ability and willingness to respect the barriers of their gilded cage, the domain of family, the private sphere. That was millenia ago, but still: every time someone makes fun of ‘moms’ for discussing the work of motherhood in public, or for simply daring to live and breathe and flaunt their motherhood publicly, they give us all a little shove back toward that cage. (oh god can’t you / keep it DOW-UNN / VOICES CARRY...) That women participate in this appalls me. That self-described feminists do it makes me want to punch something.

And that any of this makes me, even for a second, recoil at the term ‘mommy blogger’ makes me want to punch the very mirror that I’m looking in, because recoiling from the term ‘mommy blogger’ is part of the problem. It’s conceding the point; it’s a move backwards, an acknowledgment that okay, yeah, maybe I should be embarrassed by my own ‘mommy blogging’ impulses. Maybe I shouldn’t write so much about my kids! Maybe mommy blogging isn’t a radical act. Ceding that ground is ceding the argument that there is something unseemly about flaunting one’s motherhood in public. It’s letting the terrorists win.

So, screw that. I’m loud, I’m proud, I’m a mommy and I BLOG.

I am a mommy blogger. Suck it up.

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    { 11 comments }

    Josette at Halushki October 3, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Nobody is forcing anything on anyone. Call yourself what you want and write about diapers and poop.

    There are eleventy-billion blogs out there, and really, as important as we all think we are, the fact is, that if I asked the next 10 random people I met on the street or at work “do you know what a Mommyblogger is?” they’d most likely say, “A 45 year old man who sits in his basement and writes about the women in the school drop-off line across the street that he’d like to bang?” More likely, most people still say, “What’s a blog?”

    At least in this neck of the woods: a mid-level city in the US within spitting distance of NYC, DC, Baltimore, and Philly.

    So call yourself what you want. The people who put down “mommies” – whether mothers, mommies, or people one-step removed from being a mother themselves – do so because they are saturated from dawn to dusk with images and sounds and a lexicon of “Silly Mommy” much larger than a few hundred-thousand blogs.

    Josette at Halushki October 3, 2011 at 8:30 am

    And I really, really dislike that game of “There are six people in a life raft, but you will all only survive if four are on it. Who do you throw off?”

    And then the people are listed according to one variable: doctor, businessman, carpenter, boat captain, etc. If one of them is Mommy Writing About Her New Stroller, she’d be, generally, a goner.

    But this is as incorrect as that other philosophy exercise in which people list Who It’s Okay To Hate. Of course racist, pedophile – and nowadays people of specific political parties – make the list. But the answer has to be “none”, doesn’t it?

    It’s a paradox or irony or something like that: if we are not all equally worthy of life and worthwhile in our pursuits as unattached from dollar signs and market share and what we can offer others, than we all become something a little less than human (in the best definition.) Mommy Plus should be unnecessary. No one should have to say, “I’m a mother BUT I also do such and such” as way to justify their worth on any level. Saying “I’m a mother” full stop should be enough, if that’s the only variable someone wants to share. And women need to be the first ones to respect and value that. We can be brutal with each other as we clamor to insist on our own better-thans.

    kelly @kellynaturally October 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I am a mother. I am a working mother. I am a blogging mother. I am an artist mother. I am a gardening mother. I am a too much coffee drinking, vegetarian meal throwing together (but more often take-out ordering), minivan-driving, rollerskating, piano-playing, vacation-wanna-be-taking mother. Who writes a blog. Sometimes about my kids, sometimes about parenting in general, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about inspiring myself and others to get out of the darkness and heaviness of their own lives and labels and heads and just experience the joy of life. Cause we’re all here now. And why not enjoy it. Whoever we are, and regardless of what anyone else might think we are or are worth. Looking forward to reading more about your adjustment to the East Coast, Catherine. In my humble opinion, this ocean we’re on is one of the best. :)

    Iuliana Calin October 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Witty and defying post, like your writing. I especially like the designation of the “recovering academic” from your Twitter profile, in addition to the “mommy blogger”. I think the motherhood world despite being omnipresent in our society is still very private, or really separated from the rest of our social layers (work, politics, social discourse etc). Once you have a child you are accepted in the “mommy club”, someone told me a while ago. Beforehand, I did not know what to make out of it because, yes, it did not seem a particularly “privileged” group. But then what baffled me as a 35 year old ambitious, adventurous, professional woman who just had her first child, was how little I knew about being a mother. I had no friends with kids and rarely interacted with any kids since in my teens. I had left my country of origin, Romania and led an international life pursuing a Master in the US and then jobs across different continents. All I knew was to be “self-centered”, expand my horizon and pursue my career like a woman with options in the 20th century. Now that I am in the “club” I struggle to keep all identities alive, the before, present and what ever comes next. But hate to be defined as just a “mom”, a “mom blogger” or even a “working woman”. The issue in our society I think is that we tend to hang out with people like us (singles with singles, families with families) and lose perspective and have little patience for the other types.

    AC October 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    “the lifeworld that has for the entirety of human history been kept hidden behind the walls of privacy and modesty and decorum, the lifeworld that has so long been kept at a remove from the public sphere and from public discourse” – I’m sorry but I have a real issue with this because I don’t think it’s true. Women have always shared their stories and experiences. And just because the nuts and bolts of motherhood are not front and centre of social discourse doesn’t mean they’re dismissed as unimportant and not worrthy of discussion just because they’re experienced by women. There are plenty of things that I bet are only discussed by men among their friends that aren’t out there in the public discourse either. I really enjoy reading “mom-blogs” because they can be interesting, funny, sad, whatever. But is it a radical act? Not to me. Really – it’s just an extension of the stuff I hear everyday from the mother’s I know. I think a certain amount of eye-rolling is because people are irritated by the writers who talk as if they are the first people to experience and articulate the feelings of motherhood and parenting and it’s impact on their lives. Lots of people have been there before you and will be there after you. There’s an element of arrogance and self-importance in some mom blogs that really does wind me up. I’ll probably get trashed for this but I’m being honest.

    Her Bad Mother October 7, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Mothers have always shared their stories privately. And the divide between public and private life – and public and private discourse – has long been a cornerstone of social life, with women’s lives kept mostly on one side, and men’s on the other (to the extent that our longstanding cultural frameworks of virtue have run along gendered lines – women as modest/private, men as public-spirited – in accordance with that divide) – this isn’t just my observation, it’s well-established and well-documented (it’s my observation inasmuch as I wrote a dissertation on it, but I was not the first, by any stretch.) So, yeah, this is radical from the perspective of Western social, cultural and political history – women/mothers have never had a large-scale, democratic public platform for their stories, now they do. It’s not that the stories are necessarily radical – it’s the telling.

    Mary@The Good Life October 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I simply could not agree more with all that- the language in that article was extremely patronizing. It was ‘nice’ to hear, toward the end, that they felt a certain reluctance to dictate someone else’s actions (Sugarpants in this case) but all that heavily paved mockery was pretty awful. A well written piece is a well written piece. I have nearly cried laughing at stories written about the mundane moments in life- and I have actually cried reading the same. Fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, and whomever is out there chanting “I am a rock, I am an island” have mundane moments in their lives, too, mothers certainly don’t have the upper hand on that. I’m pretty sure we would all scoff at reading about some “culturally-approved-forward-charging-highly-successful” person price shop for car tires. Unless they were a good writer. Unless they made it relatable. In which case I’d LOVE to. The idea that ONLY the lives of “mommies” contain boring moments is infuriating. If you think it’s boring to be a mom than clearly you have never been around kids for longer than a few minutes. They get pretty damn “entertaining” in about as long as it takes them to try to flush someone’s keys and your cat down the toilet. Then they turn around and tell you how to solve the problem of world peace. Pay attention, people.

    patchhats October 5, 2011 at 10:28 am

    There are plenty of things that I bet are only discussed by men among their friends that aren’t out there in the public discourse either. I really enjoy reading “mom-blogs” because they can be interesting, funny, sad, whatever. But is it a radical act? Not to me. Really – it’s just an extension of the stuff I hear everyday from the mother’s I know,, I thought you mom’s may be interested in the newest kids craze in my town, Patch Hats! Check out a hat you have never seen before here at www patchhats com

    Her Bad Mother October 7, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Sure, men have long had private talks – but historically, ALL mother’s talk has been private, and most women’s talk, inasmuch as for most of human history womens’ lives have been closely tied to motherhood. The radical thing is that that talk is now public.

    Anne October 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Hi,

    A little off topic here, but can you let us know if you have shut down the “basement”? The last entry is from May and i always enjoyed reading it.

    thank you.

    Her Bad Mother October 7, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I haven’t shut it down – I’m migrating it to this space, and that’s been a little challenging, especially with my life having gotten so complicated of late! I’ll have an update soon!

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