I get my news from Dooce these days
Once upon a time, I placed articles in The New York Times. And when I wasn't placing articles in the Times, I was reading it slowly and leisurely with a big steaming cup of coffee beside me. Now (though I cringe to admit this in print), I'm just as likely to stumble upon a Times article of interest to me while reading Dooce as I am to discover it while actually reading the paper. And if this sounds like a "woe is me, parenting is so hard and I've given up my true self" tale, then I guess the author of last Sunday's story about Mommy blogs was right that people who blog about the experience of parenting are just narcissistic, self-absorbed folks in search of validation.
I'll give the author this -- by definition, the very act of blogging is the ultimate in narcissistic navel gazing, and there's some validity to the assertion that this is a generation accustomed to getting our fair share of attention. But those are generalizations about the entire categories of blogging and 30-somethings. Parenting blogs certainly don't have the market cornered on self absorption (just take a look at some teenagers' blogs to confirm this). So the only real difference I can see in the so-called Mommy blogs is that they're getting a lot of traffic and a lot of attention these days. And the point the author missed entirely when writing his story is the reason why they're so popular.
Unlike the Dooces of the world, I keep my blog primarily for myself. After doing little for myself during the first few years that I was a mother, I've found the exercise of writing regularly to be both cathartic and a reminder of who and what I used to be in my former life. I consider my blog entries to be the ultimate love letter to my children, who will be able to relive their childhoods some day through the words I've written here. More important on a personal level, as I mull over what my next steps toward resuming some kind of a career might be, resuming my love affair with the written word has felt like a baby step in the right direction. I've written many first drafts here of essays I dream of someday shopping around to parenting magazines and eZines. I've tried out some new styles and honed my voice a bit. But mainly, I've just embraced the discipline of writing regularly again, dipping my toe in the waters of what it would be like to do more than simply care for my children during any given day. Whether or not I actually decide to take the plunge and embark on a freelance career, this has been a fun chance to try it out a bit and a nice opportunity to step outside of my world, if only to look right back inside it again.
In the process, a few people have stumbled upon my blog -- less, certainly, than the 40,000 or so who read Dooce on a regular basis, but a few dozen more than I expected when I started out on this project. It's been surprisingly fun to have an audience, however small it might be, and I often find myself watching my stat counter and my comments section after I've posted an entry here to see how it will be received. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think any of the people who are reading what I write here are doing so because they're seriously interested in my children's accomplishments or the minutiae of my life. I suspect you're reading this right now for the same reason I read the dozen or so Mommy blogs (ugh -- that term again) on my favorites list -- because I appreciate good writing, both the thoughtful and the humorous, and I appreciate it even more when it addresses an issue that's important to me. Sometimes I find solidarity or a little piece of myself in someone else's blog. Other times, I just enjoy a good laugh or a good read.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I think parenting blogs have been so successful -- because the people who are writing them are good writers and because the topics they're writing about are universal. Being in our 30s when we decided to have children may mean we're more accustomed to professional accolades and prone to intense scrutiny of every action, as the article suggests. But it also means we were perhaps a little more established in our careers and our talents than earlier generations of parents. And those people who were good writers before they had children are still good writers now, even if the topics they're covering are a little more narrowly focused these days. Ultimately, that's why Mommy blogs are successful -- because they're good reads, plain and simple.
Much has been written about the community that people find online, about the way the Internet brings people together. As at-home parents, we get far fewer opportunities to stand around the water cooler than our peers who work in more professional settings, and blogging -- for both the readers and the writers -- is one way to share a laugh or a frustration or just to take a quick break during the day. But in the same way that people tend to avoid the water cooler when they see an annoying bore standing there holding court, no one would be reading Mommy blogs if they weren't good reads. Bottom line, 40,000 people read Dooce regularly (I know, I know, I've said this already. I'm just so astounded by that number). They read the site because Heather's a good writer, whether she's writing about the Mormon church, working in a dead end job or raising a baby. And perhaps a few of us also read it to find out what the Times is covering these days. When you're a parent, you learn to multitask.