Advertisement

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 




6 thoughts on “On reading Mom Blogs

  1. 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! :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

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 »

9781863956932

Carody Culver

Charmless lives: Helen Garner’s This House of Grief and Erik Jensen’s Acute Misfortune

How do narrative non-fiction writers who dare to dissect the darker aspects of humanity keep their readers engaged, rather than simply horrified? Read more »

KrissyKneen_credit_DarrenJames

Carody Culver

‘As if the top of my head were taken off’: The digital possibilities of poetry

‘When Emily Dickinson says, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry,” I can’t help but think she would be stupefied by the possibilities of digital literature.’ Read more »

tumblr_n9hftkebsr1tfwx0xo1_1280

S.A. Jones

‘Fool the Axis, Use Prophylaxis’: World War II’s anti-venereal disease posters

Protect Yourself: Venereal Disease Posters of World War II gives a fascinating insight into one of the ways the United States ‘managed’ servicemen’s sexuality: through poster art. Read more »

15115828030_526f79c515_z

Julia Tulloh

The celebrity spokesperson phenomenon

What should we expect celebrity advocates to deliver? Emma Watson is not a full-time activist, but if she inspires young people to take an interest in gender equality, is that not a good thing? Read more »

Clara and Doctor

Julia Tulloh

Doctor Who’s gender dynamics: a mid-season evaluation

In some ways, Peter Capaldi was a problematic choice for the newest regeneration of Doctor Who. How on earth were the producers going to pull off a successful friendship between a middle-aged man and a twenty-something woman, without it seeming at best patriarchal and at worst creepy? Read more »

blue-ombr-speckle-liner

Julia Tulloh

From the outside in: the beauty vlogger phenomenon

A current cohort of beauty bloggers are helping to break down distinctions between internal and external expressions of self in ways that allow them to generate new ideas of beauty on their own terms, rather than according to society’s expectations of what women (or men) should look like. Read more »

Gone-Girl-Ben-Affleck-Rosamund-Pike-Entertainment-Weekly-cover

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Marital Crises: Gone Girl and Force Majeure

You can share your body, your bed, your bank account, and even your toothbrush, with another human being. But each mind contains a private world that can never be fully understood or examined, let alone shared with another. Read more »

theskeletontwins1

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Suicide, Laughter and The Skeleton Twins

Even the best parents can inflict some form of lifelong damage upon their children. But when parents are outright mad, bad or dangerous – or in the case of the funny, bittersweet comic drama The Skeleton Twins, so depressed they commit suicide – the damage can feel impossible to bear, even decades down the track. Read more »

stepup5poster

Anthony Morris

Let’s Dance: unapologetic repetition and Step Up: All In

A franchise of movies based entirely around good-looking people performing unlikely and oddly aggressive dance moves wouldn’t seem to require heavy continuity – or any continuity at all – but Step Up: All In is surprisingly effective. Read more »

ST_Ello_600

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Rise of the High-Minded Startup

Ello’s manifesto is the key to understanding its relative success, and how it has managed to sign up hundreds of thousands of users despite offering a wafer-thin feature set. Read more »

6289302147_38e8035680_z

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Jacqui Lambie and the limits of Remix Culture

The combination of Google Image Search, Photoshop, and Facebook is a powerful one, providing web users with the ability to seek out swaths of copyrighted visual material, rip and manipulate these pictures so the original source is obscured, then share the freshly “remixed” images to a broad audience with no real fear of legal action. Read more »

Streisand_Estate

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Don’t Look: The emergence of Streisand criticism

In the wake of the recent nude celebrity photo leak, I noticed something strange about the ways different publications skewed their coverage. Tabloid-style publications tended to be honest about their motives. The behaviour of left-leaning broadsheet-style outlets, however, was more complex. Read more »

9780062211194

Danielle Binks

Nepotism, bullying and stalking: When online reviews go bad

The tangible power author Kathleen Hale wields, evinced by her numerous connections and Guardian platform, enabled her continued harassment of her book’s 1-star reviewer. The vocal support and defence put forward by Hale’s influential friends and family appears to be a case of privilege feeding narcissism. Read more »

nonaandme

Danielle Binks

Race, growing up and Nona and Me

Nona & Me beautifully explores female friendship amid cultural and political upheaval. It’s a tender portrayal of two girls who have so much in common, but are worlds apart. Read more »

7183815590_de3f64bca6_z

Danielle Binks

‘YA-bashing’: sexism meets elitism

Another month, another critic who doesn’t read YA literature but still feels superior enough to dictate to those who do. And with this latest instalment of ‘YA bashing’ comes critique of the critics – as many start pointing to a patriarchal undercurrent that runs beneath such articles that claim young adult and children’s fiction is unworthy. Read more »

homepage_large.9419e472

Chad Parkhill

The music of exhaustion

The War on Drugs new album Lost in the Dream is the startling sound of exhaustion – both a personal exhaustion and a broader cultural exhaustion – transformed into art that is thrillingly and paradoxically vital. Read more »

free-u2-album-on-itunes

Chad Parkhill

The Perpetual Undeath of Rock

 ‘Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die.’ Depending on your own tastes and cognitive biases, Neil Young’s famous lyric will now seem more prophetic than ever before – or profoundly misguided. Last week saw the release of U2’s Songs of Innocence in what Apple … Read more »

arthur-russel-beckman

Chad Parkhill

Calling out of context: The perennial appeal of Arthur Russell

When Arthur Russell died in 1992 at the age of forty, he did so in relative obscurity, having released four commercially unsuccessful albums and granted a single print interview: not exactly a promising oeuvre on which to build a legacy. Read more »

bojack-horseman-exclusive-trailer-debut_bghe

Stephanie Van Schilt

Jerks, antiheroes and failed adulthood in You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman

In addition to both being really funny, two new US comedies – You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman – speak to a widely-held fear about what, exactly, constitutes ‘adulthood’. Read more »

images

Stephanie Van Schilt

How To Talk Australians and the rise of web series

How To Talk Australians has deservedly garnered widespread praise both locally and internationally. With close to two million views worldwide, it could be deemed our first truly successful locally-produced web series. Read more »

please-like-me

Stephanie Van Schilt

Mental illness and Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me

While the jury is still out on the success of Please Like Me’s efforts to address ideas around mental health, the discussions both its seasons have provoked and continue to encourage are incredibly important. That, I definitely like. Read more »