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January 29, 2005

New York Times Article About Parents Who Blog

The New York Times has a new article called "Mommy (and Me)" about "Mommy Blogging, Baby Blogging, and Daddy Blogging.

I have never heard those particular terms before. I first read about the article at Clancy at Culture Cat.

She wasn't particular surprised or pleased with the article. She was contacted by the author, David Hochman. She noted that "when David Hochman was talking to me about the story, he used the words "narcissistic" and "confessional" to describe parents' weblogs, albeit in a questioning way ("Aren't they just kind of narcissistic and confessional?" that kind of thing)."

The article seems to look down on parents who blog, as if they have no business talking about colicy babies, diapers, and the days ups-and-downs with kids in such a public forum. The patronizing terms "Mommy Blog," "Baby Blog," and "Daddy Blog" furthered that feeling for me. The article even mentioned the blogger Dooce losing her job after someone anonymously sent her posts to her company: "After someone sent an unsigned, untraceable e-mail message about Ms. Armstrong's blog to her company's board in 2002, she was promptly dismissed, and "Dooced" entered Urbandictionary.com as a term for "Losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, Web site, etc."

I have read tales of bloggers losing their jobs because of what they post. I have also heard tales of custodial mother bloggers who lost custody of their children when their vindictive ex-husbands used their old ranting posts against them in court. I as a rule do not blog about my family, partly because that's not the focus of my blog, and particularly because I prefer to keep my family life private.

This portion made me wonder if the Times author really understood what blogging, especially journal-type blogging, is really about:

What the blogs show is that "parents today are focused on taking their children's emotional, social and academic temperature every four or five seconds," said Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the author of "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee." "It deprives us of having a long view of development. Kids do fine. The paradox is that the way to have them not do fine is to worry about them too much."

Maybe that is so. But perhaps all the online venting and hand-wringing is actually helping the bloggers become better parents and better human beings. Perhaps what these diaries provide is "a way of establishing an alternate identity that makes parenting more palatable," said Meredith W. Michaels, a philosophy professor at Smith College and the co-author of "The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women." "You're turning your life into a story that helps answer the question, 'Why on earth am I doing this?' "

As Alice Brady, who writes the popular baby blog "Finslippy" (finslippy.typepad.com) out of her Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, apartment, put it, "I'd be a lot angrier if I didn't do this."

It makes the bloggers sound as if all they do is spend an amazing number of hours venting their problems on their blogs. That is a very limited view of blogging. I think of blogging as personal expression, including all the ups and downs. It seems that the "downs" of blogging gets the most press, as if these people are so enamored of their lives that they spend too much time examining their navels.

Bloggers are often treated with disdain by the media. Parents, in particular mothers, are also treated with either disdain or they are patronized in an annoying manner, especially when the goal is to sell them products. While this article made some good points, I felt that it looked down on parents who blog. The impression was subtle, but it was there. Clancy pointed out that while Hochman was friendly and great to talk to, "but comparing my initial conversation with him to the finished product I just read, it's clear to me that he'd already made up his mind about "baby blogs," "mommy blogs," "daddy blogs," what have you: "The baby blog in many cases is an online shrine to parental self-absorption." Parents are "insecure," and they crave "attention and validation."

To use the words of the late Rodney Dangerfield, bloggers can't get no respect.

Posted on January 29, 2005 at 11:22 AM | Permalink