Sara and I were late as we headed to the bar. “Don’t worry,” laughed Matt, “I already texted the guys that we’re running late because you two were discussing mommy blogs.”
“No!” Sara squealed, embarrassed, “I don’t reveal my mommy blog obsession to anyone other than close, female friends!”
We headed out for the night and the conversation shifted, but I could not forget my friend’s embarrassment when called out on a harmless pastime. Why the shame surrounding mommy blogs? Why is interest in motherhood inferior to reading a blog on, say, politics or culture?
Women have been publishing household accounts written for other women as long as the modern periodical has been around (and probably writing them for much longer). In the 1800s, the female “literary domestics” filled magazines and paperbacks with their tales of family life. They used pseudonyms like Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth and Fanny Fern to impart everything from household tips to gut-wrenching melodramas on the importance of home and a strong family culture. “America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women,” wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1855. Today, large sections of the blogosphere are dominated by a new mob of Pinterest-ing, Instagram-ing women.
It is no secret that many professional, single, and childless women often have a strong interest in these shiny, happy “mommy blogs.” Salon ran a piece in Jan. 2011 in which a self-described “standard-issue late-20-something childless overeducated atheist feminist” admits to her obsession with the cheery lives depicted on Mormon mommy blogs. Two years later, however, most young women are still refusing to admit to their secret interest. What gives?
In the wake of Susan Patton’s controversial letter advising Princeton undergraduate women to find a husband while in school, some commentators argued that female graduates of the Ivy League and other top schools have a duty to stay in the work force. The pressure is on for educated young women to live up to the feminist ideal: a high-powered career. Those who opt out are perceived as taking feminism for granted, or worse, are guilty of “killing” feminism and its gains. Faced with these stigmas, many women are uncomfortable admitting that they want to stay home for a while when and if they have children. If they do admit this desire to themselves, they may find relatively few role models of women who are happily and successfully navigating this life choice.
In some cultures, young women have a strong network of older women who can act as mentors. At the village well or in the red tent, women can learn what to expect from childbirth or can commiserate about the daily struggles of motherhood. They can share successes and console failures. Today, young women considering motherhood often lack a strong support network. Our mobile culture means that many young women live far away from their own mothers, let alone their grandmothers and aunts. Pop culture depictions of childbirth are terrifying and the Hollywood take on parenting portrays mothers as, at best, sweet-but-dumb and, at worst, out to ruin the fun. Cue the mommy blogs.
Many mommy bloggers are strong, feisty, and often hilarious women. Most make no secret about the difficulties of married life and child-rearing. They can be honest to a fault, writing detailed descriptions of home births or health issues. In other words, mommy blogs are not for the faint of heart.
But unlike Hollywood depictions of mothers, in the mommy blog world it is the mothers who are having fun and running the show. Most bloggers poke gentle fun at their sassy offspring and react with candid humor to parenting pitfalls. Readers learn that these mothers are not perfect, and hear the reassuring message that perfection is not required to be a great parent.
Mommy bloggers share practical tips on everything from budgeting to cooking to entertaining young children. These are mixed in with wisdom about growing old, talking with children about “the big stuff”, or faithfully practicing a religion and passing culture on to one’s kids.
The reality is that the majority of young women will choose to have children – 4/5 of American women according to a 2010 estimate (note the tone of the article and the accompanying picture). Those who choose to have children and take time out of the workforce to be with those children need healthy, strong role models as much as they would for any other full-time job. For many young women, the only place to get a range of mothering perspectives is in the pages of mommy blogs.
Many women today are more comfortable being seen in public with “Fifty Shades of Grey” than reading a mommy blog or admitting to a desire for motherhood. Yet when intelligent, driven women step out of their careers it is helpful to know what they are stepping into. Mommy blogs answer that question and show women how to mother successfully. More, they help younger women see the joy that motherhood can bring. They demonstrate that mothering is not all drudgery, nor is it an inevitable slide into a ho-hum life of soccer practice pick-ups and PTA meetings. Parenting can be fun, suggest the mommy blogs. It can be daring, freeing, and exhilarating. And when it’s not, an entire community of fellow moms waits to sympathize and offer support.
If a young woman is considering motherhood, there are few better places to get a glimpse of this path than the mommy blog world. Consider mommy blogs the trade publications of motherhood. Sure, some blogs portray an idealized slice of a messier reality. But don’t all trade publications? And many bloggers are candid and honest – again, almost to a fault – about the difficulties. They don’t say it’s not worth it, but they do give young women a needed heads-up about what to expect from motherhood.
Young lawyers and law students read up on legal history and precedent. Young journalists follow the news religiously and read past Pulitzer Prize winners. Young mothers-to-be can turn to an array of experts and fellow travelers when they choose to embark on what many people – both women and men – consider their most important job: parenting. The mommy blogosphere offers strong role models, helpful advice, and an extensive support network. There should be no shame in taking part.
Lillian Civantos graduated from the University of Notre Dame and now works for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire