“There is no “manual’ written for the raising of children,” says Dani Donders, an Ottawa mother of two and creator of the blog Postcards from the Mothership. But there’s a movement afoot that has, in effect, created something that’s just about as close to a motherhood manual as you can get, she says. It’s the wonderful, the weird, the rallying, the validating — and yes, occasionally, the over-sharing — world of the mommy blog.
“No matter what your parenting concern or question, with a search engine and a little bit of time, you can search parenting blogs for individual solutions and approaches to just about any conceivable parenting situation,” says Donders. “It’s not the most concise manual ever, but it’s probably the most colourful and interesting one!”
Donders belongs to a generation of “wired moms” who see the Internet as an essential motherhood tool. Today, 88 per cent of moms turn to the Internet for advice on raising their kids, and, increasingly, their search for information and advice is taking them to blogs created by other moms.
The term “blog” has become such a part of modern nomenclature that you’d kind of have to be your grandmother not to know what one is. But in case your kids have really been hogging the computer for the last five years, blog is short for “web log”, and it refers to an online form of journaling which popped up around 10 years ago. Each entry runs the gamut from simple personal musings to more journalistic op-ed installments that may live on established news websites and actually be someone’s job to write.
WHY MOMS BLOG
What are moms doing with their blogs? The kinds of things moms have always done — but this time online.
They’re keeping journals rich with the slice-of-life moments that moms have traditionally written about: the funny things kids say and do, and how hard it is to get through the long days and longer nights of motherhood. Many use their blogs to update friends and families about what’s going on in their households. It’s easier, cheaper and more personal and timely than mailing out form letters once a year, and you can include electronic snapshots of that first painting from preschool, to say nothing of live, as-it-happens video clips of baby’s first steps. And some moms start blogs for themselves; they see blogging as the online equivalent of scrapbooking or writing their motherhood “momoir.” “I found that I wanted to write,” says Marla Good, a Toronto mother of one and writer of the blog Hello Josephine. “There was this latent creativity and new voice inside me.”
MEET YOU THERE!
The momosphere can also become a haven or meeting place for like-minded moms who, by search engine or serendipity, stumble upon a blog post about potty training or preteen angst and return to that particular blog again and again. Some of these moms may even become real-world friends — the ultimate blogging dividend.
“Blogging, and especially mommy blogging, is about community and about conversation: two things that mothers, especially mothers of very young children, are often desperate for,” says Donders.
“With blogging, I can write about my frustrations, my fears, the things that haunt me in the wee hours of the morning, and find a welcoming audience of friends (and sometimes strangers) who offer advice or suggestions or even just a cyber hug.”
As that spirit of community begins to unfold, bloggers frequently discover that they can make things happen, mobilizing their collective mom power to effect change when breastfeeding clinics lose their funding or childcare programs get cut. And when it is at its best, the momosphere can be home to all kinds of creative, mom-inspired ideas and solutions — both collective and individual. Now that’s something to blog about.
THE DARK SIDE
Not everything that happens in the momosphere is positive and empowering, however. When you put your private thoughts and family life on public display, you leave yourself open to criticism by anyone who happens by — your mother-in-law, your boss, a mean- girl blogger or an Internet troll. So while there’s certainly a whole lot of bloggers who let it all hang out, others are more selective about what they share and about how they share it.
“As my daughter grew and developed her own voice and personality, I had to find ways to portray her while protecting her too,” says Good. “I found that the best way to do so was that in depicting her, to never show her full-faced [in photos], instead letting her hands, her figure and descriptions of her whimsies give the impression of her.”
It might be the Internet stalker-type that comes to mind as the most obvious of online downside, but there’s also increasing nastiness from within the blogosphere. Whether it’s the dream of fame via an editor waving a book contract or fortune via huge blog ad revenues, for some bloggers it’s all about blog-hit numbers and building up audience share.
“I think that the influx of advertising and paid blogging gave people the feeling that the blog was not as personal anymore,” says Jen Lawrence, a Toronto mother of two and the creator of MUBAR. “Mom bloggers were also starting to see other mom bloggers not as colleagues but as competition for advertising dollars or paid blogging positions.”
When she started following blogs way back in late 2003, Lawrence felt people treated each other with a certain amount of respect because blogs — in contrast to public chat rooms or bulletin boards which often saw “flame wars” and other forms of bullying — were seen as a very personal space. “Insulting someone on their blog was tantamount to insulting them in their living room after they had invited you over for tea,” she says. “But, as Cyndi Lauper wisely sang, money changes everything.”
Blog watchers say that the boom days for creating new blogs hit their peak last October, which might mean the peak days of nastiness in this realm may be waning, too. You can sidestep a lot of the alphamom behaviour by choosing your blogging friends wisely, just as you do in the real world.
Most moms find that blogging is a fun, albeit highly addictive, habit. As Good puts it: “When it comes to reading blogs, it’s like following Alice down a rabbit hole: there are entire worlds for me to explore, ready and waiting in my computer.”
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