A friend recently gave me a link to a radio conversation she’d heard and thought I might find interesting.. Among other topics for discussion was ‘mummy’ (or ‘mommy’ depending on how your English is accented) blogs. The point was made that the title ‘mummy blog’ was used often quite disparagingly, to dismiss as trivial and unimportant the issues raised in such forums.
On some level, I was aware of this, since I’ve been blogging at livejournal for some years now, and it was in order to avoid the ‘mummy blog’ stigma that I started here at WordPress. It’s not that my livejournal is only about my children, but they feature strongly in it, since I use it to record their — and my — milestones, and what I’m thinking at the time. And after all, I’m a mummy, so of course my blog is a mummy blog.
Why does my identity as a person have to rest on whether or not I’ve reproduced? In order to be taken seriously, should I avoid any mention of children? Or is a passing mention acceptable, but a post all about them would have me lose my credibility? Do we dismiss the issues in such blogs because we dismiss mothering as worthwhile? Is it assumed that you’ll be unable to make intelligent observations once you have a child?
I think it’s hit home because I’m having my own existential crisis of sorts. I’ve now got four young children, and most of my day is spent parenting, and I sometimes wonder about where my own personality disappeared to. Where did that well-read, interested, eloquent woman go, and who is this rather exhausted-looking and frazzled person staring back at me in the mirror? It’s always been important to me to read and write about international issues, world politics, social change. I want to identify and be identified as more than just a parent.
And yet… and yet!
I love being a parent. I love sitting down to afternoon tea with my children, or exploring in the garden with them. I love reading to them on an evening, when they tuck themselves under my arms and lie across my legs and hang on every rhyme. And I’m also interested in other people’s family lives. I’m interested in how other people deal with parenting issues; I share their enthusiasm about their children’s achievements and I empathise when they’re going through difficult times. This kind of blog serves a purpose, too: it is a sharing of information, it provides a sense of camaraderie, it helps one feel less alone in the parenting journey. That’s what I think of, when I hear the term ‘mummy blog’.
I realise though, that while I enjoy reading such blogs, I’m enjoying them because I’m going through similar experiences, not because they’re challenging my beliefs or asking controversial questions which give pause for thought. Of course, some of them do just that — they place their parenting squarely in terms of the wider world. Are they still mummy blogs?
I do wonder about the impression I’m giving, when I write about my children’s lives. I want to portray myself as a person first. But while it irks me that others may see me as parent first — rather than teacher or gardener or Volvo driver — I still don’t want them to dismiss the parent part. Is it too much to ask that I can lament how frustrating it is to be toilet training my toddler, and in the next breath, want to discuss the situation in North Korea? Why does it have to be one or the other? It’s true that there are times when I’m so sleep deprived that I can’t even string together a coherent sentence about anything, let alone a topic of international importance. But for me, on most days, I’d at least like to try to have a conversation which revolves around something other than parenting.
There are blogs in which the author simply wants to record what is happening, to remind herself for later. And there are others where the author wants the writing to shine as much as the content. If we want to be taken seriously as writers, and if we want to blog about our children and their daily routines, then we need to illustrate through our writing that we are still intelligent, contemplative individuals. That doesn’t mean we have to be discussing deep and meaningful topics everyday, because hey, sometimes you do want to just revel in the simple joy that is your baby’s first steps. But it is a challenge to us as writers to foster our curiosity about the world, to craft our stories with care — even the ones which seem dull and ordinary. We should strive to find profundity in mundanity.
But we should also be asking others to check their stereotypes of bloggers and parents and writers. It should be clear that whether or not someone is a mother, whether or not she writes about what she’s cooking for tea, or whether or not she thinks about shrinking global linguistic diversity, she is sitting down at a keyboard to chronicle something important in this life, at this time. Sometimes a mummy blog is not a mummy blog, and sometimes it simply is.
Either way, as a reader, you don’t have to agree with what she has to say. You don’t even have to read it. But you should at least give her the respect for taking the time to write it.