KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Comment

On reading Mom Blogs

by Imogen , November 22, 20126 Comments

Photo credit: The Opus

I started reading ‘Mom blogs’ way before I got pregnant. At first, my reading was secret and covert. Alone in the house, I browsed the 1000 or so pages of blogs ranked by readers on the Top Baby Blogs register the way other people privately peruse porn. I found my burgeoning Mom Blog obsession deeply embarrassing for reasons I’ll come to in a minute, so I constructed a lie to tell myself about what I was doing so that I could keep doing it. The lie was premised on the idea that what I was really doing was engaging in an ironic brand of voyeurism, research for some analytic article I never really intended to write. What I was honestly doing was becoming more and more wholeheartedly absorbed in the lives and thoughts of a host of women, many of them American, who were articulating – sometimes beautifully, sometimes clumsily, often with heartbreaking candor – the many challenges that new mothers face in this contemporary circumstance.

Today, I’ve been following the lives of a dozen or so mothers for so long that many of the women I first ‘met’ when they were expecting their first child have already had second babies. I experience daily that overwhelmingly adult response to time passing – ’oh, my, look how big you’ve grown!’ – familiar to so many children from family gatherings, only the children I am observing aren’t family. I don’t know them personally. We will never meet. Yet they aren’t strangers. In fact, I probably know a great deal more about the day-to-day lives of these kids and their mothers than I do about the lives of my closest friends.

On one level, the sheer propensity for the (over) sharing of intimate detail on Mom blogs is what makes for such compelling reading, and this is certainly the aspect that hooked me in to begin with. I am deeply interested in the lives of other people. While indulging in the vast array of novels that explore our human condition is one fundamental manifestation of this interest, its uglier counterparts are a penchant for gossip, a love of reality television, an abiding commitment to Facebook. Let’s just say that I find the lure of other people’s diaries strong. Anything to get close to the lived experience of others, to comprehend, even briefly, the outer boundaries of their lives and selves. Mom blogs offer all this on a platter. They are in no way literary, but nor are the majority of them as cynical or constructed as most reality television. Though there are those that have clearly been set up as businesses of sorts, the best Mom blogs in my opinion are those written by ordinary women as creative outlets, as a means of alleviating the crushing isolation of the home, as attempts just to survive each repetitive day. Mom blogs are not only records of particular childhoods but, more crucially, they are public broadcasts: conversations from and about the otherwise largely private, even silent space of the stay-at-home experience.

What I find so captivating about Mom blogs in this context is that they provide a platform for celebrating the many small joys of parenting and the important – but largely unacknowledged – labour done daily in the home. Simultaneously, they provide a means of voicing the disappointments, isolation and anxiety that seem to be a part of committing to such challenging, repetitive and exhausting work. Often, the more difficult aspects of parenting are not addressed overtly on the blogs, but come through painfully between the lines. That the difficulties experienced by Mom bloggers act as subtext to their triumphs renders them all the more poignant, at least to me. To take one example, Abigaila young English mother – writes in passing on her blog Abigail and the Future:

 

I’ve been trying really hard to motivate myself to get out the house and do fun things with Theo, on my own … Because Rob has to work every Sunday now I have made a conscious decision to make myself do something productive, so I don’t feel down that everyone else is out doing ‘family’ things together, and I’m not.

 

The sense of loneliness and hardship in this post is palpable, but so is the blogger’s determination, her courage. In the space between these two feelings, in their intrinsic relationship with one another, lies the emotional charge that makes Mom blogs worth reading.

Why was I so anxious then about owning – and owning up to – the fact that I read Mom blogs? On the surface, the answer seems obvious, a combination of my particular social positioning and conditioning, and the very domestic (that is, supposedly low-brow, unworthy) content of the blogs. I am lucky to have been gifted the privilege of higher education and the many freedoms of choice it endows. But implicitly entwined with this privilege, as I have experienced it, is the message that women can and should do more, desire more, than ‘just’ becoming mothers. I was subtly schooled to understand that motherhood was a far less pressing pursuit than creative or professional fulfillment – an assertion I don’t have the space to unpack here. Suffice to say, from that ideological place it is easy to find something a little bit twee and shallow and easily ridiculed in the fact that literally hundreds of women are posting daily and earnestly about their children’s eating habits and toilet training and trips to Pottery Barn. It is easy to snicker, to disregard.

Mom blogs are arguably challenging – easily viewed as illegitimate, even trashy forms of writing – because they also affirm the tired assertion, all too often bandied about most often in relation to literature, that ‘women writers’ only ever write about small-scale domestic matters, leaving men to write on more important, worldly and universal subjects. Combined with this, the platform –blogging – holds a peripheral, disposable place in the spectrum of legitimate publishing ventures, while the untrained and ‘ordinary’ nature of the writers – who are, after all, ‘just’ women, and most of them ‘just’ stay at home mothers at that – allows easy dismissal and derision of almost every aspect of the Mom blog.

I think Mom blogs deserve more penetrating assessment and consideration. The capacity for readers to engage with these bloggers, to comment on their posts, provides invaluable encouragement and validation to otherwise largely isolated women, a vocal, global community of support. In return, in posting their domestic material, Mom blogs importantly allow not just voyeuristic access to otherwise private spaces, or even fundamental insight into the rigors of parenting. What they ultimately provide is touching, everyday discourse on what it means to be human: to love, to be challenged, to do one’s best in the world despite the odds.

Alice Robinson lectures in the Bachelor of Writing and Publishing at NMIT. She blogs on books and reading at www.critrature.blogspot.com 




  • http://practicalfilmtheory.wordpress.com Cody McCormack

    Hi Alice,
    Nice confession which made me agree that the worst thing about being middle class – aside from the aroma – is the well-trained need to condemn certain narrative forms as ugly, cynical and constructed (eg reality tv) and rescue others with more penetrating assessment and consideration (eg Mom blogs). As you recognise upfront, the desire to deny certain forms and the pleasurable experience they may offer is so strong that we have to deny it in ourselves just to face friends and family because all those enlightened souls also know the rules and would surely point out our folly…unless (and here’s the irony) we can make the object legitimate via intellectual contemplation! :)

  • April

    Alice i am curious to see if you would consider creating a ” mom blog”?

    How did you find the blogs which are centred around a “parenting style”?

    The blogs which had a strong stance one way or another reminded me of religious or political views where there is a right and wrong way. It was so interesting to me that often a birth experience or a sudden surge of unlocked childhood memories often impacted the choices made to join one of these teams.

    I have found the experience of going through these blogs as a new mother so interesting – not just to not feel isolated but also to be reminded of how different everyones life experience is.

  • http://www.littlegirlwithabigpen.wordpress.com Sam van Zweden

    What a great article, Alice!
    I love that you’ve interrogated the genre and its motivations, but also your attraction to it. It’s always a two-way process, isn’t it?
    Great stuff.

    S

  • http://abigailandthefuture.blogspot.com abigail

    hi alice, I just came across your article as I noticed I was getting some traffic from a link, and was amazed to find me featured in it!

    I really enjoyed reading this article, you raise so many interesting points. I’m not sure why I started my blog, well actually I am, it was an outlet for a completely new experience that I was going through, and going through alone. I had no-one in real life who was going through the same experience, so I needed to record and write down my feelings. But then once he was born I don’t know why I continued, I guess to just keep recording the experiences, and reaching out to others that may be experiencing the same thing.

    I don’t know whether that’s the reason many people start mum blogs, but it’s a world I never knew existed before I was pregnant.

    thanks for reading though!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAyHNT53d20 Sytropin Reviewsr – YouTube

    I am sure this article
    has touched all the internet users, its really
    really good piece of writing on
    building up new website.

  • http://www-bci.univ-lille1.fr/userinfo.php?uid=7854 http://www-bci.univ-lille1.fr

    Great info. Lucky me I found your website by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

The Fictional Woman

Carody Culver

Learning from semi-charmed lives

When famous public figures take a step further and use their personal experience as a literary vehicle for exploring wider social issues, I can happily check my celebrity memoir prejudice at the bookshop door. Read more »

My Salinger Year

Carody Culver

Searching for Mr Salinger

Joanna Rakoff’s book is ‘the truth, told as best [she] could’, of her year as an assistant at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies, a job for which many an Arts graduate would sell a kidney. Read more »

editing

Carody Culver

Giving voice to a silent profession

The role editors play in the process of ushering new writing into the world is both vitally important and strangely overlooked. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

Douglass books

Julia Tulloh

High fantasy writers who aren’t George RR Martin, and who are also women

‘Tolkien is the greatest burden the modern fantasy author must labour under and eventually escape from if they are to succeed.’ So wrote Australian high fantasy writer, Sara Douglass, a decade and a half ago. Replace Tolkien with George RR Martin, and one might say the same principle applies today. Read more »

Conchita Wurst

Julia Tulloh

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

Gabrielle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Beyond tics, limps and prosthetics

Think of a disability – mental or physical – and there’s sure to be a film that features it. What about giving big roles to actors who actually live with the disability they’re depicting? Now that would be authentic. Read more »

Under the Skin

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Size Matters

Bigger isn’t always better, but some films will open themselves up to you and pour themselves out in new ways when you see them on a cinema screen. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

filter

Reality vs. Instagram

It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Read more »

2014 Budget

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Could we crowdfund the dole?

Following the announcement of the 2014 budget, the director of a leading arts organisation posed a question on Facebook: ‘What recourse do the people have to stop these changes? What are next steps? Would be curious to know of any other effective measures to get the message across… apart from complaining on Twitter.’ Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Danielle Binks

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

‘It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll* Read more »

The Fault in Our Stars

Danielle Binks

The Fault in the Cult of John Green

I like John Green as much as the next YA-aficionado. I’ve snot-cried through his books, and chuckled over his YouTube videos. But now it’s time to talk about the media-led oversaturation of John Green, and the insulting way he’s been heralded as the saviour of young adult fiction. Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

The Knife

Chad Parkhill

Never Settled: The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment. Read more »

Tori Amos

Chad Parkhill

Loving (and hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them – but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »

deadwood-03-1024

Zora Sanders

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Zora Sanders defends Highbrow TV

I’m going to be honest with you. I feel a little guilty being gifted highbrow TV as a subject to defend. Highbrow TV doesn’t need a defender! It’s a battle that has been won! Highbrow TV is downright fucking awesome and every single person reading this already knows it. Read more »