So I read this article over the weekend that I can’t stop thinking about. “How the Mom Internet Became a Spotless, Sponsored Void.” You’ve maybe seen it too. The gist is that the original mom bloggers (still can’t say “mommy blogger” you guys. Not doing it.) from like a decade ago have given way to a prettier, more polished, antiseptic, sponsored-post, Stepford kind of internet situation. Shudder.
I can’t say I disagree; I’ve read articles about how the personal essay is dead (shut your piehole, is not), and how blogging is dead, and why nobody wants to hear your oversharing story about your feelings or crappy life. Also, xoJane went away because the confessional blog post is also history.
This article made some fantastic points about why some of the “original” honest bloggers have faded away from the scene. I mean, first of all, how long can you write about the shitshow of sleepless nights, squirting breastmilk at your FIL, the poopsplosion on the airplane, or how your kids ruined Christmas, when kids, by right of being human, are only kids for so long? The point is, kids start to grow, and it becomes kind of crappy to share details of their lives. Puberty is a touchy subject. It’s not cool to express your desire to squeeze your tween’s blackheads on the internet (I’m talking about a friend, guys).
And also, people want to make some freaking money, and really there’s nothing wrong with that. I personally have not been able to dive much into the sponsored post realm because of the icky factor, but honestly? It’s to my own detriment. Why shouldn’t a blogger want to make a little money for their blog that isn’t exactly paying the bills? Maybe I should partner up with HelloFresh? (Note: I kind of hate them, actually.)
But We Don’t Want Picture Perfect Mom Internet!
The other issue in this article, however, makes me sad. It’s the “picture perfect” Instagram representation that has replaced photos that are slightly more, um, relatable. Like, hey, this one!
I don’t want my internet filled with supportive communities that encourage honest sharing, and yes, even “confessional” style expression to be replaced by delightful pictures of immaculately clad children eating chia pudding out of teeny, tiny Mason jars. Just, no.
And really, the last thing the parenting community in general needs is more photos of this kind of unattainable beautiful perfection. The pressure and competition are already out of control. Moms are overwhelmed and feel inadequate. We don’t need something else to aspire to; we need people to commiserate with. We need other moms juggling too much in untidy homes and losing their shit sometimes. We need fewer pretty pictures and more real ones.
In fact, this whole thing reminds me of that ridiculous millennial photo essay from a few years ago, “The New Face of Motherhood: Young, Cool Moms Who Are Totally Killing It.” I of course replied with my own “One Semi-Cool Gen X Mom Is Killing It.” Please tell me this isn’t a millennial mom vs Gen X mom thing, is it? Because I can’t believe millennial moms don’t feel the need for reality, for honesty, for true parenting support and connection. I can’t believe they aren’t floundering, too. I can’t believe they prefer sprigs of freshly cut thyme photographed on a sparkling granite surface to the photo of your kid smearing themselves with cottage cheese.
I digress. And don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to look at pretty pictures and get inspiring ideas about how to make your home more beautiful/run more smoothly/be healthier/etc. But when you’re fishing craisin-speckled feces out of the bathtub with a toddler toy, it’s probably more important to find validation and alleviate the isolation and frustration you’re feeling, yes?
But Wait, I Am Kind of Changing, Too . . .
So back to the article. I shared it on my Mommy, for Real Facebook page and something interesting happened. A reader of mine sent me a private message intimating that with my recent series, Your Best Self, For Real, which has focused on health and wellness more than my previous posts, I too was crossing over into hypocrite-ville. Ouch, right?
I appreciated her honest feedback for sure. She asked if anyone else had complained about the shift, and I honestly told her no. Most of my readers have supported my sharing about my recent health stuff (I went gluten free and it eliminated my acid reflux and I lost a bunch of weight, yay!) and said the wellness focus inspired them. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel super conflicted when I launched into that new focus. Because who wants to be a sell-out?
So I sympathize with the plight of the blogging mom (still not gonna say it) who wants to branch out, do something inspiring, and for the love of God maybe partner up with a toilet bowl cleaner to earn some cash. My closest thing to a sponsored post was to write about Stitch Fix, but I maintain that if a desire to get some free maternity-waistband-style jeggings isn’t keeping it real, what the hell is?
But the commentary in the article about the reality of kids growing and changing is legit. And you guys, it’s true for me, too: my kids aren’t breastfeeding/starting preschool/waving goodbye to their poop anymore. Their problems aren’t for the world to read. Our family life is more private. So where does that leave a MOM WHO BLOGS? Writing more about her own journey, I suppose, which at this point involves making sweet potato porridge and gluten-free granola and yes, freaking chia pudding in Mason jarsDON’TJUDGEME.
There Must Be Some Middle Ground, Right?
But, friends, I promise to continue to keep it real. I am still a wildly imperfect person and mother. Exhibit A, a short and highly incomplete list of my shortcomings for reference: We haven’t filled out a reading log for my first grader since before Christmas; My six-year-old used the F-word during a heated playtime disagreement with her sister and pal (cringe); I can never remember to tell my kids to practice piano; I have a reminder set in my phone for a “5-minute cleanup” every night at 7:45 that happens approximately once every 18 days; Instead of engaging in “Family Wellness Time” before bed, we let the kids play until the literal last minute then yell and nag and complain because bedtime sucks.
I will continue to share our family circus moments in ways that feel honorable to me, but it’s true that things have to change a little because they are older. And yes, there are some new directions I am taking while still writing my own version of parenting stories.
My lifestyle change happened completely by accident, and I am the most skeptical crunchy mom you’ll ever meet. I will not turn over this space to partner up with corporate giants to sell you shit, nor will I post perfect photos of my perfect family, and also my chia pudding really looks like crap, it seriously does.
Case in point: my recent legs up the wall challenge photo. First I searched for stock photos and then decided eff that noise; I’d take my own pictures. But I hadn’t gotten a pedicure for like six months so I had to wear socks, and I’m actually wearing socks that say “I’m a delicate f*cking flower” on them. So there’s what I have to offer you: a meager dose of health and wellness with a healthy sprinkling of profanity, unshaved legs, and a shitty pedicure.
I think my point is this: I am a MOTHER WHO HAS A BLOG whose kids are growing, and who is approaching some kind of weird midlife thing. My blog is evolving, and I can’t write tell-all essays about my kids as much. It’s just not right. But while I’m over here in my little corner of the Mom Internet, please know that even if it’s healthier or I want you to sign up for Stitch Fix so I can buy some more damn Mom Jeans, it’s still me, keeping it real. If you want to vent about your parenting frustrations, I’m your gal. If you want someone to understand the profound ambivalence you are experiencing as a parent, I am here for you.
And I know I’m not the only one. If you want real talk and genuine parenting support, I promise you, it’s still out there. Please, let’s keep it alive together! In addition to those of us who are still going strong, I know there must be a wave of fresh new voices who are sharing the reality of parenting young kids. Let’s find those voices, share them, and encourage our fellow moms to speak their truth.
I’m not going anywhere. I will not become a spotless, sponsored void. You’re stuck with my sweary, sarcastic, awkward, doing the best I can, failing to pack lunches the night before and yelling on the way to the bus stop and drinking in the parking lot during dance recitals and cringing while my kids force me to play school with them REAL MOM crappy corner of the Internet. You’re welcome. Please stick around.
Here are some posts you might like:
I’m Glad They Warned Me (#sogladtheytoldme)
When We Lose It
What We Choose Over Homework
Raising Feminist Daughters
Dear SAHMs: Go Ahead and Complain
And more real talk from moms supporting moms in my book, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood.
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I read that too and it made me want to blow up my blog. Also—did you read the idiot comments ? My fav was a GUY who said that if we miss the old blogs we should just go read them. A) that’s like going back and reading 10 year old magazines and B) nobody pays to host a dead blog. ?♀️
Nooo!! I didn’t read the comments but I bet they were ridiculous!! And yeah, pretty much. Sheesh.
I, for one, have no desire to watch a new action movie staring (Arnold, Sylvester or any number of ‘dude-your-face-it’s-awful-you-look-like-a-burn-victim’ old ‘action’ stars). Time passes.
Setting aside the question of making money from writing a blog, what I get from your post is the question, ‘Why do I come to this place (the blogosphere) and do I feel it’s worth my time?’
‘Dude(tte)!’ At the risk of exposing my marginal footprint in this place, I would say, ‘Have you turned on your television lately?’
I would submit that anyone, still writing posts after a year, derives satisfaction from the effort to craft their words in the manner that best to expresses whatever the hell they thought they were expressing.
Of course, there is ‘the rut’ that results from writing about the same topic over and over. In the natural selection of this medium, boredom does what silence (from Readers) much more effectively.
Guess I’m saying, this internet (in general) and the ‘sphere (at the moment), remains a place to tell stories. (imo, it’s always been that. even if you have photos to prove it, the words we type and send into the world are stories. stories of our lives (whatever segment we chose to share) stories of our world as we are experiencing it.)
I totally agree with you.* There is no problem with blogging. It a worthwhile endeavor and this virtual world remains a place to tell our stories and know that others, sometimes, can identify with what we say.
Still better than tv. ya know?
*lol…. then there’s that moment. what?!! I didn’t say that! I don’t think I did….
Thank you for that, Clark! And i couldn’t agree more– the internet is a place to tell stories, for sure, forever!
Wow Stephanie. You nailed it. You put into words stuff I hadn’t even figured out for myself yet. I started blogging 8 years ago and for, like, the last year or two, I’ve really been struggling with adding to the blog, closing it down, what? I couldn’t figure out what the “problem” was. You’ve given me lots to think about & lots to feel relief over. (I’m not sure if anything I just wrote makes sense. Apologies. I’ve been up since 4 and it’s only 6 am)
It makes total sense and actually kind of makes my day. Thank you for that!! It’s nice to know someone else gets this weird nebulous blogging struggle. xoxo
Such a great post. I found the original article and the discussion in the HerStories group really interesting. I am someone who found some of the blog world from 7-10 years ago (when I also entered the scene) too overly confessional. I laughed some. But I cringed sometimes, too. I know my blog was probably a bit stilted/careful/not-funny in comparison due to my refusal to not go all the way “there.” But I’m in total agreement, that the new instagram-world version is like the polar opposite of over-sharing. It’s sterile and there’s so much that looks the same. It’s as if everyone is using the same filter in the most literal and metaphorical ways. Do I want to see a photo of vomit? No, thanks. But yeah, spare me the thyme on the granite. 😉 (loved that example)