The genre bearing the umbrella title “Mommy Blogger” has exploded. It is divine synchronicity: brilliant women on the baby bench express themselves in eloquent columns, and mothers who are similarly situated join a virtual support community. It is a blessing for moms, often isolated after years of collegial workplace friendships.
Some blogs provide guidance. Some vent. Some are simply a narrative of the big adventure that parenthood is. The tone of these blogs ricochets from profane to sentimental; there is a voice for every mom to relate and annex to.
I lived my family life in public, and have no regrets. My “blogging” was oral- husband on the radio, daily updates of my pregnancy, audio of my sons’ births, anecdotes highlighting their antics, scorched earth fights- it was all there for public consumption.
Now I am a crone, so to speak. So for what it’s worth- here is what I learned..sometimes by violating these guidelines.
1. Don’t use pejorative terms for your spouse, in-laws, parents and mostly, your kids. It can be fun to say your daughter is a bitch or son is a clod. Or have a clever but clumsy nickname for an inlaw. Don’t. You are creating a permanent record with your words. You will lose the high road. Trust me, you will need it when your own kid is called names at school. Or calls a playground pal a dick. And I can say with certainty, if your parents and in-laws are living…there will be a moment when they can help you out. But if you call your Dad Dumbass, his tool box may be forever locked.
2. Do not publicize the most personal corners of your marriage. You know what they are. Disagreements may be fair game, but intimacies and deep divides should not be available for public consumption. It is tempting to summon a jury of your readers for support or approval. It’s not their job to referee or judge. And yet they will. With malice, sympathy, whatever. Face it: readers may drift in and out, but the spouse- in a perfect world, he’ll be a constant.
3. Using an assumed name does not really provide cover, for you or your kids. If you are successful, people will want to know the real person. So efforts to protect your family’s dignity are worthwhile. Pictures: use judiciously. What they do, their room…fine. But if your blog is open to the universe…more issues of privacy and security are in play. Talk to your inner circle for guidance.
4. You are special: your voice is yours alone. Your experiences are unique. Be honest. Never trade the essence of who you are for a cheap laugh or a moment’s attention.
5. You are, on the other hand- not the first woman to traipse this path. The “horrors” of a bad day are shared by millions of moms. Poopwriting, constipation, squalling, projectile vomiting, loss of privacy- there are a million stories in the Baby City. Don’t whine, find the humor. Because for every tale of woe you can write, someone can have your misery and raise you. Then call you and take your chips. Better to be part of a sorority than a martyr.
6. Never dismiss out of hand the wisdom proffered to you. Don’t use your blog to judge or eviscerate a bad parent or relative. Trust me, someday, as you dip a paci in Coke (Sangria?) to clean it, you will regret complaining about the cat hair at Aunt Tina’s house. Don’t set yourself up for guilt as you lower the bar. Never push away an ally you may need. And always consider that a Mom who seems dig-worthy may be having an epically miserable day.
7. If you are on your last nerve, and your writing takes no prisoners-pause. Save the words until the next day. Catharsis feels great, but try to imagine yourself on a raft, cutting away the rope that connects you to land. It is better to have a lifeline to friends, family, caregivers, and community. Scorched earth is not a way to maintain the connection. And of course-NEVER cannibalize your care provider unless you are prepared to do this job full time.
8. Quit with the tired in-law/parent tropes. We have raised you, loved you- don’t really want to own you anymore. We are thrilled to see our grandkids. Glad to help as needed. We also appreciate guidance as to your goals and standards for your children. What we don’t deserve is missives and “don’t you dare” lists that characterize us as controlling and annoying. Or especially, stupid. If you don’t want Legos to clean up, we get that. It doesn’t require a Parent Manifesto to express it.
9. Swearing: Delicate point. Sometimes it is really funny, and expresses the frustration of a day with ten million crises and no tangible work product. Or it channels the pain of loss of adult conversion, workplace gossip- hell…a hot lunch or bath. Sometimes, however, it is a cheap attention getter- the literary equivalent of the dude who drops trou for the attention. Plan accordingly. And remember- it is a permanent record you are sculpting…a 21st century baby book. Your kids will read it. Imitate it, perhaps. Be ready for the call from play group/school/neighbor. (Mine was about the word pussy- I totally blamed Steve;poor kid had no idea what he was saying)
10. Share the sweet times. Yep- they aren’t as funny, but your sweet moment might give a beleaguered Mom a smile. Use your blog to point out little kindnesses that helped you through a crappy day- or made a great day better. If no one is wordworthy in this respect, CREATE those moments. Write about positive things, and your readers will DO positive things. Friends do more than commiserate, they CELEBRATE. Your readers should get a balanced picture of you, highs and lows.
Sometimes I wish “Mommy blogging” was an art form when my kids were young. I was alone in Chicago, and the connectivity would have energized me. Or taught me that my non-speaking temper-tantrum throwing 2.5 year old might have bad ears. Remember, there was no Mayo Clinic Online. Or Sitter City. I would have welcomed the virtual community with open arms.
On the other hand, I would have immortalized ugly moments with an alcoholic husband. Instead, our frustrations were expressed face to face, or even on-the-air. Today, they are vapor. Sadness and rage were not consigned to paper. Memories blur, harsh feelings evaporate. I don’t retrace those days because they are not indexed and accessible. My husband is sober 18 years, we are marking 35 years together in August. A memoir might allow me to inhabit a victim/harpy persona, might freeze him in his sloppy time. I guess I was born in the right era. For us.
Still, I am in awe of the talented voices I read. I am glad they have this outlet, this circle of sisters. They make me sensitive to my daughters-in-law and my grandkids. I learn. Laugh. I have chilled my urge to buy big toys/complicated toys/expensive toys/multi part toys/loud toys. I honor a more diverse juggling than I had to do.
But as a professional buttinski, I have to have this last tiny bit of advicer for Mommy Bloggers:
It’s summertime in Chicago. If you are ever crunching words while your kids wait to play outside with you, or read a book…write less,play more. (Sorry Jimmy@ChicagoNow) Ok- just write shorter and late at night. Carry your phone, dictate your outline ideas…fill in as time permits. Own your life, share as you can.
Then your kids won’t be writing missives about their Mom. Because really- if the saying “No good deed goes unpunished” applies to the masses, the familial corollary is “my parents screwed me up.” Don’t bring rope to your own hanging.
And a little PS: Write about yourself favorably so you can immortalize your triumphs, and counter their future misperceptions. Celebrate yourself. No self hatred, no recriminations. Do not Pinterest yourself into a corner. Set your sights for the happy moments, and they will appear.
Take it from the crone.
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