Friday, May 15, 2015

The Shelf Life of a "Mommy Blogger"

There was a time in my blogging life when I made at least a post a day, often more. If you're a regular reader, you may have noticed that I'm now posting only three or four times a month. Much of this is because of changes to constraints on my time. I'm now a full-time faculty member, the mother of a very active preschooler, and a graduate student writing a dissertation.

But it's also because of changes to my blogging persona that I haven't quite figured out how to deal with. I never really considered myself a "mommy blogger" although I know that others labeled me as such. And for good reason. The catalyst for starting this blog in the first place was a positive pregnancy test. Many of my connections in the blogosphere were with other "mommy bloggers" whose work I deeply respect. I was featured on lists of "feminist mothers" and participated in parenting themed blog hops.

But the point of it--for me, if not necessarily for every reader--was to design a space where I could wear all of my hats simultaneously. Motherhood was always just one of many roles, and some of my favorite (and most popular) posts had nothing to do with motherhood. Analyses of songs and movies, commentary on politics, and discussions about teaching all have their place here. Often I felt like my blog had no cohesion and wondered who its readers could even really be. I mean, how many people are there in the world who want to read posts about breastfeeding, teaching community college, and Lil Wayne analysis? So the center of the blog is, and will continue to be, me. It's one space (at times, the only space) where I can move in and out of different roles without feeling too exposed, too out of place. I still wear all the labels that I do in my various positions of life, but I do it more fluidly, and that feels good and makes sense.

I was thinking about this tonight because Annie at PhD in Parenting just announced that she's no longer going to post at her blog. Hers is one of the very first blogs I ever started reading, and her work inspired me both as a reader and a writer. She notes a consistent dwindling in her post count, and I've sorely missed seeing her work but have found myself returning to her previous posts time and again over the years. Her post about halting her blog, like all her posts, is full of insight and wisdom:
But I've had less and less to share as my children get older. I feel like I've written just about everything I wanted to write about parenting (and I don't like repeating myself) and I also find there are less common topics to discuss as our children get older.
I, too, have found myself writing less and less about parenting as my daughter has gotten older. I don't know, though, that it's because I have less in common with my readers (potential and actual, known and unknown to me). Instead, I think it's that my daughter's life has started to untwine from mine in a very real, sometimes painful, and inevitable way. In infancy, parenting is all-consuming, but writing about it is more about the experience than the person you're raising.

The more autonomous she's gotten, the more sharing feels like a boundary issue. I've tiptoed around those boundaries in my most recent parenting posts. When I talked about her possible sensory issues and our discussion about an Elsa Halloween costume, I was sharing my experience, but in a way that wasn't true when I talked about my struggles with breastfeeding or the challenges of sleep during those early months, I was also sharing her experience. I've always been very careful to walk that line in a way that feels ethical and right to me, but that means there are a lot of posts I just don't write. There are too many times when the scale tips too far on her side of the equation.

Annie is almost certainly right that there are fewer people who have these individual experiences, but I still think we have a lot of room for overlap and connection. For me, it's not so much that I can't find an audience for those stories as it is that those stories are no longer mine to tell--at least not here.

I don't feel the need to stop blogging because there are plenty of other things I can blog about, but I do think that if I had more fully embraced the "mommy blogger" label, I'd be at a loss right now.

But the thing that I'm really thinking about tonight is how many of those "mommy bloggers" I really found community with when I started blogging (five years ago) have disappeared. And it has almost always been a quiet trailing off into the abyss. The posts get fewer and farther between. Then one day they stop. It's at once beautiful and heartbreaking to see the people you've walked beside find new paths and journey out of your sight.

But it is also scary. There was a time when I felt pretty involved and connected to the blogging world. Technology moves so fast that my lulls for dissertation writing and teaching have left me behind the times. I just kept walking as I watched so many of my companions veer off on paths months and even years ago, and now I'm standing in what feels to me like uncharted territory.

Am I just a mommy blogger blogging past her expiration date? Perhaps. But writing is crucial to my sense of self. It is how I find my foothold in what feels like an endless tumble. So I'll keep walking, humming to myself alone in the woods.

Photos: Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis, David Sterbik

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy you're still writing, and I plan to keep going too. I've never liked mommy blogger either, but I think we're stuck with it.

    I've always just blogged about me and my life. Sometimes that's about the kids, often it's not. It's been hard to keep it going (especially since I took on Listen To Your Mother, which I'll be dropping), but I still think to myself, "this will make a great blog post." I think when I stop seeing life that way, maybe then it will be time to quit. But for now, I can't imagine not writing.