Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Mummy Blogging. Just How Important is it?

I realise that I may be coming to this conversation a little late - such is my habit I'm afraid - but after reading what I felt to be a rather objectionable on-line article that had been featured in the New York Times and is entitled: 'Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand' I felt moved to write a response.

The piece was written by American journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn, and from the very beginning is shot through with exactly the same patronizing tone that so distinguishes the title. Mendelsohn portrays Mummy blogging as a self indulgent and silly hobby, enjoyed by mostly middle class mothers with far too much time on their hands. An air of mockery can also be detected consistently throughout the article - Mendelsohn quotes the titles and tag lines of womens blogs with a superior and sardonic air - as though she can't quite help but cock a speculative and disbelieving eye at how anyone could possibly concern themselves with reading and writing such trivia.

Unfortunately this point of view is not an uncommon one. I have often heard it implied (by other bloggers too, interestingly) that mummy bloggers specifically are a sad, socially challenged bunch who use blogging and social media as a substitute for real friendships and interaction, and who have nothing better to do with their free time than to spend it documenting their little darlings adventures on the toilet for all and sundry to read. Mendelsohn herself describes the mummy blogosphere as functioning as a kind of "modern day kaffeeklatsch" and in doing so reinforces this attitude that mothers who blog have nothing of value to contribute to any serious discussion. As offended as I am by the tone of her comments, I nevertheless can acknowledge a grain of truth in what she says. The mummy blogosphere can indeed sometimes resemble something of a virtual coffee morning, but mostly in the sense that it provides often isolated mothers with the support, advice and company of their peers. Being the sole or main carer for children is not always conducive to an active social life, or necessarily to an active working one, and so what many resourceful women are finding is that blogging can provide new ways of connecting with other mothers, of discussing the issues that affect them, and of engaging with a world from which they can sometimes feel excluded.

What I take real exception to is the derisory tone Mendelsohn chooses to adopt when discussing the possibility that some mummy bloggers might take their writing seriously. I presume (and it is a fairly large assumption, but bear with me) that as a well educated, successful woman in a male dominated field she would have at least a passing familiarity with the principles of feminism. I wonder then why she feels it acceptable to dismiss what is in effect an entire genre of female writers in one fell swoop, and why she is happy to imply that women who dare to take a bit of time out for themselves in order to write are neglecting their children.

The attitude that mothers have nothing of value to contribute to any discussion that doesn't involve either nappies or baby food is - unfortunately - not an uncommon one either. Even the feminist movement itself has sometimes marginalised or ignored mothers and the issues that can affect them, which has always struck me as being hugely counter-productive. After all the majority of women become mothers at some point, how can we claim to advocate for womankind whilst simultaneously pretending that the majority don't exist? The occupation of motherhood is often denigrated and given low status by both men and women because it is unpaid and is therefore classed as having no economic value. Stay at home mothers especially suffer at the hands of a male dominated and profit driven society that often seeks to class them as being brainless amoebas with nothing to contribute and nothing to say. Never mind that we have given up our independence in order to bring up the next generation. Mendelsohns article plays neatly into all of these odious stereotypes. 'How dare these women entertain such ideas above their station' seems to be the message. 'What thinking person would possibly want to read about their lives?' To quote the inimitable Germaine Greer: "Motherhood is now regarded as a sort of personal indulgence." If that is the case, where then might that leave writing about it?

Of course as any blog reader will tell you there is in fact an infinite amount of variation in womens on line writing. Although if you are a woman and you mention your children on your blog - however tangentially - be prepared for your blog to be instantly labelled a 'Mummy Blog' whether or not that is how you would choose to define yourself. There has been a lot of talk in our corner of the internet recently about the term 'mummy blogger' and how well it defines what we do. Are we 'just' mummy bloggers or are we more than that? Does the term itself invite others to take us less seriously? Or are we proud of that label? Would distancing ourselves from it simply play into the hands of those who would seek to denigrate mothers and their writing? Or does it not really matter either way because we only blog for fun anyway?

In truth I have not read many blogs that focus exclusively on relaying the day to day bringing up of small children, although I certainly do not think blogs that do are less relevant than any other. The beauty of having a blog is that it is your own space to write about what you want. What I have found to be mostly the case though is that the vast majority of mummy blogs are actually concerned with all sorts of subjects aswell as parenting. Popular culture, politics, history, mental health, feminism, crafts, creative writing - it's all there. Not only that but it is being documented by some extremely talented writers. Writers who without the medium of blogging might not have found a space to use as their creative and intellectual outlet. Just imagine what a treasure trove it will all make for the future social historians of the next millenium.

Mummy blogging is important, simply because through it we are telling the truth about ordinary womens lives. It is the story of our time and place from a myriad of different perspectives. It is relevant and it is worthy - and not only that - it is being kept safe for future generations.

So with this post I am asking: What does mummy blogging and your writing mean to you? Leave a comment, or if you are interested in doing a guest post with a view to answering the question in more detail, feel free to e-mail me (contact details are linked to at the top.)


  1. "Unfortunately this point of view is not an uncommon one. I have often heard it implied (by other bloggers too, interestingly) that mummy bloggers specifically are a sad, socially challenged bunch who use blogging and social media as a substitute for real friendships and interaction, and who have nothing better to do with their free time than to spend it documenting their little darlings adventures on the toilet for all and sundry to read."

    OK the above is me at times. I have openly admitted that I write my blog as if speaking to friends. But it is more than that, otherwise I'd just facebook my random thoughts. I like to write. I am not trying to get a book deal, nor am I trying to garner PR people for reviews, I just like to write and pretend to be humorous every now and again. I certainly don't want to be talked down to because every now and again I might mention my son...

  2. Absolutely. I think that attitude towards mummy bloggers is just so offensive. We all write about our children, but so what? We often write about other stuff too, and even if we don't - so what? We're writing about our lives - why are they less important than anyone elses?

  3. This is a great post, Gappy--you so eloquently point out why there is such interest and ardor for this medium.

  4. I have real issues with this too but just can't articulate them as well as you have. Cherished By Me is fun for me,I think I deserve it and I can only assume that women who question these blogs have their own issues and hang ups. They should be 'sticking up' for women not denigrating them. Does this woman think that she'll get 'a slap on the back'?
    It's most definitely a man's world out there...I am in huge battles myself with this mans world and women don't need to be criticised by other women- if there wasn't a market for women's blogs then why are they sprouting up daily? Right...I suppose i better go & give my children some attention now! ;0) Great post.

  5. My blog writing is occasionally about something to do with my grown children or a story reminiscing about one of their childhood mishaps. Evan though I don't have children at home any longer, I read some blogs written by mothers raising children. I enjoy the stories of what families face today and the joys of sorrows of moms. The key is that people like you are writing in a style that is interesting and you are a darn good writer.

  6. Well said lady. I blog because I enjoy writing, and I do it for me. It helps keep me sane in a crazy bonkers life. If people happen to enjoy what I write then that is awesome. If they don't, they can easily find something more to their taste, there are plenty of other blogs out there.

  7. Actually thinking about this a bit more, how 'important' are food blogs, music blogs, blogs about fishing, stamp collecting, whatever? In the grand scheme of things, not very. Are any of us trying to be important, no, we're just doing our thing.

  8. Thanks Jana, I find blogging to be such a good outlet - I think most of us do. We're all getting something out of it eh.

    Nova, Yes I know exactly what you mean when you say you feel you deserve it. My blog feels like the one space that is entirely my own, and after a hard day catering to everyone elses needs, I too feel as though I am entitled to retreat here. I also agree that when other women are very critical of mummy blogging, it probably has far more to do with their own issues than anything else.

    Technobabe, Well you know that I've been hooked on your blog ever since I read the post about the little girl peeing where she wasn't allowed. Thank you for your lovely comment.

    Tiddlyompompom, Exactly, if people don't like it they can go elsewhere can't they.

    VBIC, I think you make a good point. It is only blogging after all. But the point I was trying to make is that I resent Mummy blogging being dismissed as unimportant in a way that I don't feel other types of blogs are. My blog is important to me because I get so much enjoyment from it. And I do think that as a group, we are documenting a little piece of social history.

  9. Gappy, I am an expert at writing mistakes. As a veteran of over four decades of writing and journalism, I have made so many. Nevertheless, I will muster the courage to call to your attention that the piece in the New York Times to which you are referring was NOT written by my friend and colleague Monica Lopossay. It was written by Jennifer Mendelsohn.

    Candidly, even casual research would reveal that Ms. Lopossay is a consummate heard-edged profession who is a credit to promoting the seriousness and value for which you would like society to understand women in their respective chosen endeavors.

    You raised fair questions about the trivialization and marginalization of women, but do yourself and your readers a disservice by attributing the promulgation of odious stereotypes upon a person who has worked hard to inspire societal change through her photography.

    Not to be overlooked are Ms. Lopossay’s two trips to Haiti – and Iraq as a war zone photographer, her hard-hitting portrayal of urban dystopia, and the fact that she was unceremoniously laid-off from a newspaper and took a photo assignment from the New York Times to help put food on her table.

    You were on firm ground when you asked: “[Why] a well educated, successful woman in a male dominated field … [would find] … it acceptable to dismiss what is in effect an entire genre of female writers in one fell swoop…,” because I cannot imagine Ms. Lopossay would harbor such derisive thoughts…

    I am a fine one to point out your error, however in the context of the respect you deserve because you have worked hard to raise meaningful questions and observations for discussion, one may only imagine that you will probably want to appropriately address your attribution error – and perhaps apologize to Ms. Lopossay. / Kevin Dayhoff

  10. Great post!

    The power of blogging is that you can write about whatever you like. If you are a mother it is likely that at some point something to do wtih being a parent will make it into your blog - it is a huge part of our lives after all. But there are hardly any mummy blogs that ONLY talk about parenting. And just because we occasionally talk about parenting and being a mother does not invalidate our opinions on everything else. So hoorah for this post - shove it under the noses of those who try to belittle our blogs (whilst at the same time thinking it to be oh so important to discuss the most recent shade of neutral on this seasons outfits). x

  11. Kevin, I appreciate you pointing out my mistake. I will of course write a post pointing out my mistake to my readers and apologising to Ms Lopossay straight away.

  12. What a great post. And a topic I could talk about 'til the cows come home. One of my favourite bloggers, Her Bad Mother ( wrote this about the New Yorker article, about how she was going to a conference and was told not to tell anyone she was a 'mommy' blogger.

    I agree with you and Brit in Bosnia too - although the phenomenon is called Mummy Blogging (don't you think the dads feel sidelined?) who actually writes about the day in day out minute by minute aspect of looking after them? Who would read that?

    What I like is the variety. The story telling. I have just bought a book called Kirtsy Takes a Bow about celebrating women online and there is a fantastic article by Katherine Center which sums it up for me. It's a pretty long quote, sorry
    "Girls know how to talk for talking's sake. They know how to share. They know how to create the little miracles of connection that happen when two people lay it out, tell it like it is, and bridge the isolation of each single human life through language and laughter and pedicures.....Even as grown up women, we're looking for stories that speak to us and reflect our lives. We long for insight into our worries and food for our best hopes. We're looking to connect with something true."

    Sorry to take over your comments section. And now the cows have come home. Great post.And brilliant last paragraph.

  13. Fantastic post, and like for many others here it's a topic that gets my blood boiling (or you know, simmering at least).

    It's just part of the general culture out there isn't it?

    Now that we're mothers we must surely know or learn very quickly that the thing which takes up the majority of our time and effort (raising children, at least when they're small) cannot possibly be interesting enough to talk about to anyone but other mothers.

    How could it possibly trump listening to details of a night out or a film or a band or politics or, heaven forbid, work?

    Back in your box everyone. Here's a silly label to slap on our ridiculously fluffly little pink heads. (Mummy bloggers indeed!)

    Gosh, thanks for the opportunity to get that off my chest.

  14. Brit in Bosnia, Or are you a brit in britain now? Thanks for your comment - "just because we occasionally talk about parenting and being a mother does not invalidate our opinions on everything else." Exactly. Wish I'd written that.

    Deer Baby, Thanks for the links - I love it when people recommend stuff to read. Actually I read a rather brilliant post by Her Bad Mother the other day on the catholic church abuse scandal. Will definitely have to subscribe.

    Flo, I know what you mean. It makes me feel really defensive and angry when people use the term Mummy Blogger to patronise mothers who write - whatever they choose to write about.

  15. I read this article too. As a mom and a blogger, what bothered me even more than the article - and that did bother me indeed - was the vitriolic comment section in which a number of commenters chose to skewer the women profiled in the article and "mommy bloggers" in general. I think you are quite right to question the reasons why so many seem so ready to dismiss an entire subculture of writers - especially when blogging is an endeavor that allows readers to opt out simply by clicking away.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

  16. I think people okay me get addicted to blogging because now and again you read someone's blog and maybe you're going through the same problem and suddenly you get this aha moment and don't feel so lonely. Even if the connections are tenuous they are still connections and blogs provide support and advice for many.

  17. Frankly, I found the original New York Times article witty and informative, though perhaps, yes, there was a 'tone' that might have been a bit cynical. BUT journalists should take a line and hold to it. What I'm finding interesting is that on one hand bloggers - of which I am one - want to be taken seriously and respected, but whenever there is any criticism the bloggers under fire get all upset and uppity. We can't have it both ways: in most cases bloggers are trying to look like professionals but then duck under the cover of 'amateurism' whenever needing safety.

  18. Kristen, I read the comments too. Some of them were just poisonous. I really don't mind listening to criticism - as long as it's offered constructively and respectfully - the old adage of treating people how you would wish to be treated yourself applies on line too eh.

    Emma, Nice to meet you. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Like you say just because the connections are virtual doesn't make them meaningless - a lot of mummy bloggers are now friends in 'real life' as a result of having met on-line.

    Nigel, I do think you make a really good point. Firstly it was an opinion piece - that was the line she took - fair enough. It certainly was a good piece of journalism in the sense that it provoked a lot of response! Secondly as bloggers we do occupy a strange sort of no mans land in which we are not professional writers, but would still like to be taken seriously, or at least not belittled. I did try not to come across as too defensive in my post but I'm aware that I didn't succeed too brilliantly! True feelings will out I suppose. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for adding something new to the conversation.

  19. Fabulous post and response (have you seen the Detroit Free Press article yet). Mommy blogging bashing seems to be all the rage now. Like a lot of media these days, it seems to be all about headline getting and not much research. Most mums blog to get that "aha" moment and feel a connection with others going through the experience of raising the next generation that will inhabit this earth -- and who is to judge that?!

  20. Thanks for being so open, Gappy. Of course it was never my intention to discredit 'mummy blogging', just that if any community of bloggers is going to put themselves out in the public then they have to be able to withstand any criticisms that come that community's way. We all say we love the democracy of the blogging medium, but with that democracy comes exposure to different points of few. It's quite a thing, huh!

  21. Hello,
    You visited my blog so I came to check out yours... and I'm very impressed by your writing. This entry alone is a perfect example of how wrong Mendelsohn is. A very intelligent and well-written blog. I look forward to reading more. :)

  22. Modern Mother, I haven't seen that article. I've tried to google it but I can't find it. Will try and catch you on twitter, or please could you could leave a link in comments for me? Would be really interested to read it.

    Nigel, You're right. If you put yourself and your opinions out there then you can expect that not everyone will agree with you, and that sometimes you will receive some criticism. That's fine. Constructive criticism can be a good thing - it encourages us to think more in depth about things and it encourages us to improve and be accountable. My problem with Mendelsohns article is that I don't think it was particularly constructive. I actually think that it was quite lazy - she took the cheap easy shots - and failed to add anything new to the mix.

    Drawingdad, Wow, thank you very much - not only for that day making comment but for your other comments too. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my stuff. I was also extremely impressed by your blog and in fact went to nominate you for the most innovative blog award at the MADS (which is a British award) before realising that you were not in fact British, and that they had daylight savings in other countries too - duh - not so intelligent!