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The Blogging Mom Clique

Anyone can join

By Asha Dornfest

Mother-written weblogs are as diverse as the women who write them. Some offer a window into the writer’s domestic life, reality TV-style. Others are more literary or philosophical, musing on current events and social trends as they apply to motherhood. Still others act as “release valves;” where mothers vent their frustrations in a public, but safely anonymous, forum.

Spend some time perusing the “A-list” mom blogs, however -- Dooce, Finslippy, and Mimi Smartypants, to name a few -- and you’ll begin to notice a surprisingly consistent tone. There’s a certain prickliness, an attitude that says, “I’m a tough-talkin’ mama. You got a problem with that?” The in-your-face approach is, in fact, what makes these blogs so revolutionary and compelling, and what inspires a massive, loyal following. I love to read them. But as I began blogging, I realized my take on motherhood, and the way I wrote about it, was different. Late one night, on a lark, I typed up a post to sum up how I felt about joining the community of blogging mothers:

The Blogging Mom Clique
Posted by asha at

Um, hi? My name's Asha, and I, um, do a blog? You know, a weblog, kind of like an online journal?

Well, is it okay if I blog without, you know, um, cussing and stuff? Because I don't really cuss, not that much. I mean, I say shit when I stub my toe like everyone else, but that's about as bad as it gets. And it seems like many of the popular motherhood blogs emphasize their points by cussing, and while that's okay, and all, it's not me, really.

And, um, I don't really drink, either. I was scanning the mom-blog circuit last night, and several writers  mentioned how they got drunk regularly. No problem, I don't have a problem with it, I just, you know, don't want to have to project this drinking, cussing persona to fit in and be all "bloggy." You know?

And I'm, like, a pretty positive person? I see the bright side of things most of the time? I'm not, like, DUMB or NAIVE or anything, but my blogs are light at times, and dark at times. I'm not, you know, cynical? And, well, honestly? I think people pass off cynicism as intelligence a little too much. But that's okay!! Some of my best friends are cynical, cussing drinkers! Really! I just don't want to have to sound critical to be taken, you know, seriously.

I'm not saying popular mom blogs like Dooce and finslippy aren't fantastic, well-written, incisive, funny, GREAT. They are, and I love them. I love how blogging has exposed the everyday brilliance, quirkiness, and desire to share so many people possess. (I'm also not specifically calling Dooce and finslippy cynical, cussing drinkers.)

I just want to blog my stuff, my way. I don't want to have to be cool. That's one of the best things about growing up, you know? I don't aspire to blog stardom, with daily entries and 10,000 hits an hour and appearances on everyone else 's blogrolls and 450 comments after each post. I just want to blog.

So, um, is that okay? Can I still be part of the group?

In my modest, sparsely-visited weblog, this post generated more buzz than any other. Although the tone was tongue-in-cheek, several women responded, saying they, too, felt like the uncool kids watching the popular girls from the other side of the lunchroom. We all agreed: while we admired these women’s bold talent, we had no desire to try on the edgy, “rebel mama” persona ourselves.

The validation felt good, because, despite how popular blogs have become, few moms in my daily life knew what I was talking about. Even now, when I tell my friends about blogging , their eyes grow politely hazy. They think blogging is intriguing, but impossibly geeky and technical – and out of their reach.

So, I plugged away on my personal blog, Ashaland. I wrote up my observations and opinions, recorded funny quotes from my kids, and shared my essays and articles with whomever was interested. I occasionally wondered why anyone would want to read my blog. It seemed so narcissistic. My loved ones encouraged me, however, and I was having such fun with it I didn’t care. A part of me rejoiced every time someone left a comment, or a friend said, “Hey! I read your blog!” More than once, a blog post prompted an interesting real-time conversation over coffee or during a playdate. I found myself reading and leaving comments on other mothers’ blogs. I started contributing to urbanMamas, a community blog started by mothers in my city. I was hooked.

The idea for a new blog arose out of a casual conversation with my husband: what if we used a blog as a way to swap tips with other parents? Pretty soon, I was pounding away at my keyboard, writing up all the little workarounds we’d devised during our six years as parents. I tinkered endlessly with the color scheme and the layout, and finally, over my kids’ winter break, I launched Parent Hacks. We showed Parent Hacks to our family and friends (a few of whom are prolific bloggers themselves), thinking it would be fun to start a running conversation with parents all over the country.

Then, the unexpected happened: Parent Hacks took off.

After getting mentioned on the popular weblogs BoingBoing, Blogging Baby and Davenetics, the Parent Hacks visitor count shot into the tens of thousands. Suddenly, hundreds of parents were writing about Parent Hacks on their own blogs, emailing their friends about us, and sending us their creative ideas. For a short time, Parent Hacks was the most popular blog listed on del.icio.us, a social bookmarking service that allows people to create links to sites they like, and then share their bookmark lists publicly.

What happened? I went from blogging in relative obscurity to writing for an audience of thousands in a matter of hours. My homespun parenting tips (if a blog can possibly be called homespun) were reaching parents the world over. Even more exciting, parents were commenting and sharing their own bits of wisdom. What began as an experiment in collective wisdom has turned into something of a community, almost overnight.

I’m still stunned by the response to Parent Hacks, but it goes to show how inclusive the blogging mom clique really is. Whether the tone is acerbic or gentle, philosophical or practical, mothers -- and fathers -- want to read and write about the firsthand details of their parenting lives. Blogging fills that need.

Can I now call myself an A-list blogger? Am I one of the popular girls? Hardly. I’ve just discovered a fundamental truth about blogging: there are countless ways to blog, and they’re all cool.

mmo : february 2006

Asha Dornfest is the editor of Parent Hacks (www.parenthacks.com). She also blogs at urbanMamas (www.urbanmamas.com) and her personal weblog, Ashaland. Her work has appeared in Hip Mama, Literary Mama, mamazine, and The Imperfect Parent. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two children.

Also by Asha Dornfest:

A weblog of one’s own:
How to start blogging

Are you ready to start your own blog? It’s easy, no matter what your level of geek savvy. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection and something to say.
By Asha Dornfest

More reading from the Mamas in Blogland edition:

The secret life of mothers:
Maternal narrative, momoirs, and the rise of the blog

The proliferation of shared experience as seen in blogs is a powerful way to unite women who might not otherwise feel as though they had anything in common.
By Andrea Buchanan

Suburban Playground:
My intermittent attempt at blogging

I often debate about how much personal information to put out there, especially about the kids. Instead, I put personal things out there about myself.
By Jessica Gullion

Finding my voice… and broadcasting it to the world
Extended discussions about motherhood, culture, feminism and politics -- topics that are unlikely to make it onto a commercial morning drive-time radio show -- can now have reach a wide audience thanks to internet radio.
By Amy Tiemann

Nothing sacred
My name isn’t really Lucinda. It’s a pseudonym that allows me to blog about groundbreaking subjects like post-partum peeing, bitchy soccer moms, angst-ridden stepdaughters and a toddler who says the f-word -- all without being tarred and feathered and drummed out of the suburbs.
By Suburban Turmoil

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