As Hurricane Sandy was ravaging the East Coast last week, an Atlanta mommy blogger named Jenny took to her keyboard to opine that the storm—which had as of press time killed at least 110 people—might just be a consequence of biblical negligence. “Some of the most liberal and [God]-mocking areas of the nation are threatened by Sandy,” she wrote on her blog, Toddlers, Teens and In-Betweens, making sure to note that a number of states that had legalized same-sex marriage were in harm’s way. After receiving a slew of what she called “rude and obnoxious” comments, Jenny fought back, insisting that she didn’t care if she offended people. Then she deleted the original post.
Despite my tendency to run from the Chabad-Lubavitch Mitzvah Mobile, I don’t identify as a self-hating Jew. I’m not even a self-hating reality TV aficionado anymore, having fully embraced my unironic love for The Bachelor’s moribund matchmaking. But it’s time I admitted that I’m a self-hating mommy blogger.
Now, to be clear, unlike Jenny and her homosexual-smiting floodlust, the vast majority of mommy bloggers are far from incendiary or offensive. And those whom I’ve met online or in person have been perfectly lovely, smart women who genuinely support one another. But the M-word carries a certain stigma. When I was pregnant, I gazed down at my inside-out navel and wondered aloud on my blog whether having a baby was a one-way ticket to Mommy Blogland. Readers begged me to fight it, but ultimately I succumbed, mostly for selfish reasons.
More than anything, I wanted to belong. Mommy bloggers are forces to be reckoned with online. They can bend their Twitter armies to their every whim, making or breaking the success of an individual or brand. Heather B. Armstrong, a k a Dooce, the most successful mommy blogger of all time, who blogged her way into the 1 percent with a rumored seven-figure income and a profile in Forbes, once experienced unhelpful customer service at Maytag and urged her million-plus followers not to buy their products. With a few tweets, she brought the brand to its knees. That’s power. Getting blog-famous became my new American Online Dream, and my uterus was my golden ticket.
But Dooce is the blogger equivalent of Halley’s Comet; there probably won’t be another one in our lifetimes. Most mommy bloggers are more like me, enjoying a small readership of a few hundred or a few thousand. McDonald’s doesn’t come courting, but I will jump at the chance to taste-test a Jimmy Dean frozen breakfast for $50. It’s hard not to entertain the fantasy, however unlikely, that blogging can make you rich. Success stories like Dooce, Jenny Lawson (also known as The Bloggess) and Ree Drummond—whose food-centric blog, The Pioneer Woman, has led to a Food Network show, have led countless women to register a URL and slap on a kicky moniker: Pretty Mommy, Scary Mommy, Smart Mommy, Dumb Mommy, Mommy Wants Vodka, Mommy Wants Freebies. My online handle, The Sassy Curmudgeon, conjures the image of Don Rickles doing a ’90s-style finger snap, which is a branding decision I’ve come to regret (I started it in 2006, but had I waited until procreating, I might well be The Mommy Curmudgeon).
There are scatological blog names (PoopPeePuke, anyone?) and pretentious blog names (see also The Art of Making a Baby, which sounds like soft-core Lifetime porn). Mommy bloggers are chronic oversharers; they post photos of baby poop in the bathtub when they’re not writing graphically about their periods, their perineums and their husbands’ vasectomies. Having written a post called “What Childbirth Feels Like and Other Burning (Pun Intended) Questions Answered,” I realize that not only am I throwing stones from inside a glass house, but I am choosing to do so naked.
Which leads me to my main problem with the mommy blog genre. There’s a lot out there that’s worth reading, but I just don’t like the culture of mommy blogging, which seems more and more to prize ass-kissing over dialogue, and which can sometimes feel—for lack of a more anatomically-appropriate term—like one big circle jerk. There’s a class system online just as there is “IRL” (in real life), and it causes unrest.
There are a select few “big” mommy bloggers—whose names wouldn’t mean anything to the average person but who have legions of e-sycophants swooning over their every keystroke, most of them wannabes of various echelons. The big bloggers are invariably either best friends or engaging in secret feuds. The way moms show loyalty in Blogland is to promote each other’s posts, usually hoping for the same in return, and so those with a handful of mom bloggers in their social network are likely to encounter, on any given day, half a dozen links with intros like “So powerful!” or, simply and emphatically, “THIS.”
The more powerful bloggers include their friends on lists with names like 50 Best Mom Bloggers, or Top 25 NYC Moms. Page-views are emotional currency, and get traded back and forth like summer camp friendship bracelets.
No bloggers would let me use their names when I asked their opinions for this article, largely out of fear of backlash from the leaders of the community, who have the social media prowess and follower armies to make or break you with a few simple clicks. Ironically, the more followers someone has, and the more well-connected she is in the community, the less her actual content seems to matter. As in a kindergarten art class, every effort, no matter how unoriginal, is met with effusive praise. Kid said “shit” in front of your neighbor? A chorus of LOLs!! Finally confronted your sister-in-law about her overdone salmon? YOU’RE SO BRAVE!!!!
Bloggers spoiled by preaching to a rapt choir can lose sight of what’s important. The most stomach-turning example in recent memory came after a popular mom blogger complained about her morning sickness—when a reader who had suffered a stillbirth gently suggested that the blogger’s main concern should be the health of the baby, she was not only shouted down but actually mocked. (The proles have their soapboxes, too, though; that spurned commenter vented her frustration on Get Off My Internets, a website for blog-bashing that tags its mom-blogger forum with the line, “Yes, we know, you’re the first mommy ever.”)
I suspect that I’m not alone in my love of hating my very own Sisterhood of the Traveling Rants. Maybe, like that old Groucho Marx joke, I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me for a member. I wonder if this column will serve as my pink slip. Maybe I want it to.
Schadenfreude should do wonders for my blog traffic.