My corner of the blogosphere has been in an uproar over the New York Times article scathingly titled, “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.”
I snapped off a retort on Strollerderby yesterday, but now that I’ve had a chance to think (and read) more about it, I have something more personal to say.
The issues with the article, for those playing along at home who maybe didn’t click through all those links, are that it suggests:
- Women who blog are neglecting or shortchanging their kids.
- It’s cute and funny that us wee little women think we’re doing something professional with our writing, when really it’s no more serious business than Tupperware parties.
- If by some chance we are making serious money, getting endorsement deals or accepting product sponsorships, we’re sleeping with the devil.
These are issues that have been on my mind a lot lately for personal reasons. I’m not exactly making a living blogging now, but I’m making more than “pin money”. I’m confident that by the time Serena hits kindergarten, I’ll be doing this as my full-time job.
I work my ass off. On top of being a full-time parent and running a morning preschool out of my house, I work about 25 hours a week blogging here, at Strollerderby, at Get Rich Slowly and other sites. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I spend using social media.
In addition to the visible work of writing, I’m constantly digging up new leads, writing and sending query letters, researching articles, conducting phone interviews, taking photographs, learning technical skills and networking. All told, I make about $10 an hour.
The fact that I love what I do to the ends of the earth doesn’t mean it isn’t work. Being able to work in the buff at 2 a.m., swear on the job and get paid to live out a childhood dream doesn’t make me unprofessional. It just makes me lucky.
Lucky and well-prepared. I have a master’s in writing. I’ve been a professional journalist since high school. I was a professional writer before I had a mommyblog, and I’ll be a professional writer when my kids are grown and I’m writing about menopause and bake sales at the senior center.
Of course, most women who write personal blogs about their lives as stay-at-home moms probably aren’t doing it professionally. For a lot of moms, a blog is a combination of high-tech scrapbooking and a social gathering, as the New York Times article suggests. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be mocked or belittled.
Whether we’re making money or not, all of us are making art. It’s possible that all these women writing, amateur or otherwise, are making some people just a little uncomfortable. Tupperware parties probably seem a little safer. The powers that be would rather see us consuming than creating. As Marguerite Duras wrote, “Men cannot bear a woman who writes.”
Because making art and sharing information is dangerous to the status quo. When Charlotte Perkins Gilman went mad with post-partum depression, her doctor prescribed a life of perfect motherhood in which she was charged never to touch pen or paper again. She happily ignored that advice, left her husband to raise their daughter on his own, and took to a life of travel, lecturing, writing and publishing an early feminist magazine. Her agenda did not include Tupperware parties, but I bet if she were alive today, she’d have a blog.
So would Virginia Woolf, who in A Room Of One’s Own makes the case that what women need to write is money and a room of their own to do it in. A blog creates a kind of virtual room for a woman, a space in which she can shout to the rafters, sob in frustration, curse a blue streak or share a little wisdom.
This is a lot more than a virtual version of girl’s night out. It’s a space where women can share our creativity, experiences and expertise in a wholly independent way.
In doing so we’re changing our lives. ChildWild began a year ago as my pebble in the wishing well: a wish for a larger voice, for a return to my profession, for a creative space to call my own. For the first time in my life, I’m claiming space and time to write every day. Beth Terry uses her blog to hold herself accountable in her efforts to give up plastic. Katy Wolk-Stanley shares the simple wisdom of her frugal life, Catherine Connors shares her heart.
Whether we’re helping each other make no-sew tutus or wearing those tutus to raise awareness about a fatal illness, women bloggers are changing the world, and the way that world is reflected in the written word.
When I saw Amy Goodman speak last week, she talked about the importance of a vibrant independent media, and the importance of a free, diverse online media.
I don’t think the role of professional journalists will be replaced by amateur bloggers. Yes, paper newspapers are going the way of the papyrus scroll, but they won’t take the entire profession of journalism with them. The world needs – and continues to create venues for – seasoned professionals whose entire job is to be the 4th estate and hold government and society accountable.
What the proliferation of independent bloggers does is loosen the stranglehold mainstream media has on information and opinions. Yes, there’s a lot of noise in the blogosphere, but there’s a lot of strong, interesting signals too. Maybe in time we’ll comprise a 5th estate holding the media’s big guns accountable.
For mamas blogging, we’re doing something more: we’re taking for ourselves a measure of the power enjoyed by male authorities. So many best selling parenting books are written by male doctors. Women writing about their own experiences offer a refreshing, powerful alternative to that “expert” advice.
Stronger and more experienced voices than mine have weighed in on this. You can (and should) read a great round-up of mommybloggers responding to the Times at Phd In Parenting.
By the way, the photo with this post is of me nursing my slightly sick, slightly disoriented toddler at 1:30 a.m. while I put the finishing touches on this essay. Which is exactly how I treat my kids while I’m “building my brand”. Put that in your patriarchy and smoke it, Mr. Mainstream Media.