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May 29, 2008
Mommy Bloggers, More Than Cloth vs. Disposable

I’ve always thought I knew what a mommy blogger was. I’ve heard the term, I know a couple of mommy bloggers, and I read all kinds of blogs, so I am familiar with mommy blogging in general.

I try to keep an open-mind about all blogs, and there are some great writers out there writing on mommy blogs, and I enjoy and respect that. I write a blog, but I don’t consider myself a blogger, and I certainly don’t call myself a daddy blogger, though there are hundreds of men who do think of themselves that way.

There are several things about mommy blogging that intrigue me, so I decided to do some research. I wanted to know how deep the mommy blogger “movement” ran, whether it was about more than cloth vs. disposable diapers, why women become mommy bloggers, and whether the phenomenon had run its course.

I think there’s a subtle contradiction in the term “mommy blogger.” In a career context, the words “mom,” “mother,” and “mommy” traditionally have had an almost apologetic element to them, or have served as qualifiers. A “working mom” was someone who balanced career and family life. An underlying implication is that this involved tradeoffs, or sacrifices, in the quality of both family life and career. The term “stay at home mom,” came into use as a way of saying “I don’t work for a company, but I do an equally or more important job than my husband.”

“I think mommy blogger can be demeaning because you don’t see the word daddy blogger being bandied about,” freelance journalist Kimber Schmahl, who does not consider herself a mommy blogger told me. “I certainly don’t feel my blog is any less worthwhile because I am a mother.”

Whether it’s politically correct to say so or not, the mommy blogging field is an offshoot of blogging in general. The very early days of blogging were generally dominated by male bloggers. When women started blogging it was initially (though no longer) a novelty, and the notion of a mommy blogger was all the more unusual.

Even today, mommy bloggers remain a minority, albeit a large one. According to one study, 57% of the total female population in the U.S. is online regularly, but only 20% of online users are moms. And in the last three years, Internet use by moms has tripled. In other words, the market for mommy bloggers should be growing.

“The mom blogger field is an over saturated one right now,” says Mae Mason, creator of Mutha Mae’s “Word to Your Mutha” blog. “There aren’t enough hours in the day to get through all of your favorite blogs/mom networking sites/mom forums.” Mae says she blogs because she likes the attention, enjoys the outlet, and draws strength and confidence from her readers.

Mommy blogger Kristen Munson thinks “mom blogs are going to remain very influential, whether they are personal or for business,” adding, “Most women have an inherent need to interact with other women, and the Internet makes this possible in so many unique ways.”

From a thematic standpoint, the idea of a mommy blog does not generally appeal to me, because I have always assumed mommies blog about mommy stuff, like choosing a private school or day care provider. I have children, and my wife and I have a circle of married friends with whom we get together socially, and these topics are constants, so I have no need for an online forum for this. I prefer to spend my online time on my career and on personal interests like antiques, vintage motorcycles, music, rhetoric and persuasion, etc.

Zoe Siskos, a blogger and Social Media Analyst who often helps clients interact with mommy bloggers, says “I always keep in mind that a person is not their blog…Being a ‘mommy blogger’ may be a piece of that, but I also enjoy diving into their blogs to find out what other ways they like to define themselves.”

Still, even the most popular mommy blogs often focus on the minutiae of being a mommy. This can be very appealing to advertisers who want to promote car seats, children’s clothing, baby formula, etc., as well as fashion and women’s lifestyle products.

If you’ll pardon the mangled metaphor, perhaps the mother of all mommy blogs is Dooce, written by Heather Armstrong of Salt Lake City. According to ABC News, “Armstrong says she prefers to chronicle ‘the mundane and boring details of the life we all live.’” While this holds no interest for me, apparently I am alone. Dooce boasts 1 million monthly readers, and receives “$40,000 per month in revenue from advertisers like Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard and, most recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Mommy blogging is big business, though Mason “doubt(s) there will ever be another Dooce phenomenon.”

Dooce was also the winner of the 2008 Blogger’s Choice Awards for "Hottest Mommy Blogger", which brings me back to this notion of mommy blogging’s potentially confusing messages: mommy bloggers often take stands on social and political issues, and actively support mothers and families as important institutions, while at the same time, writing openly about sex, and in some cases, porn and sex toys. I can understand how people are receiving mixed messages from some mommy bloggers, and this could make it difficult for some of them to take a clear, firm moral stand on gender and sexual issues.

I think mommy blogging, like blogging in general, is a very useful and healthy pursuit for most people. Mommy blogging is surrounded by complex social and gender issues, and both perceptions and misconceptions. There is both tremendous opportunity to do good, and potential to deliver mixed messages and demean women.

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Joel Postman is the principal of Socialized, a consultancy that helps companies make effective use of social media in corporate communications, marketing and public relations. He's the author of SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate, a handbook designed to help corporate communicators and executives understand how to successfully adopt social business strategies in large companies. Prior to founding Socialized, he was EVP of Emerging Media at Eastwick Communications a Silicon Valley public relations firm, and before that, he has a decade of Fortune 500 corporate communications experience, including leadership roles in executive and internal communications at Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

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