Mommybloggers: Integrity, Community and Taking Back the Respect We Earned

Back in 2005 before the first BlogHer conference, two amazing women- Jenny of Three Kid Circus and Meghan of I’m A Bloggin’–  were asked to be on a panel about mommyblogging by BlogHer co-founder Elisa.  I was honored to be asked by Lisa Stone to join them.  We were told it would be a small room and not to feel bad as it may not have many attendees.  In fact, I believe the words “mommyblogging” and “passing phase” were used by Elisa.  (Yes, we laugh about that now seeing as there was an entire track dedicated to mommybloggers in 2009.)  You see, back then mommybloggers were at the very bottom of the blogging food chain.  We were just moms writing as a “little hobby.”  We were not taken seriously.  We were not respected.  We were the frivolous bloggers who would go away soon enough.   During that session, the room was filled to capacity.  Not only were other mom bloggers present, but tech bloggers, literary agents, a reporter and others who were just curious to see what we had to say.The main topic of conversation that first year at the first BlogHer during their first mommyblogging session was the phrase “mommyblogger” itself.  Was it derogatory? Was it demeaning?  Do you we fight it or embrace it?  Many opinions were shared that day but the bottom line came down if “they” were going to call us mommybloggers, we were going to make it a phrase to be proud of when we were labeled with it.  Many women that day did not want to be labeled at all. Especially not labeled a mommyblogger. At that time it was “uncool” to be a mommyblogger.  We did not have respect.  We did not have the “power” that other kinds of bloggers had.  In fact, it was almost a joke to be called a mommyblogger.  We did not have the media clamoring to talk to us about our blogs.  There were not agents knocking on our doors for book deals.  We certainly did not have marketing representatives or PR professionals coming to us for our opinions.

Alice of Finslippy said it best when she stood up at the closing keynote and declared, “Mommyblogging is a radical act!”  And?  It was.  At that time, to be called a mommyblogger and have a mommyblog was radical.  We had to fight for any respect we received.  We had to work hard to earn any recognition that was not negative.  It was radical to embrace (or even accept) being called a mommyblogger.

What did we walk away with that day?  If “they” were going to continue to label us mommybloggers, we would make it a term that was synonymous with respect, integrity and quality writing. The opinions and writing styles represented by the women in that room at that panel were as varied as the writers behind them.  It wasn’t as if we walked away holding hands and singing Kumbaya.  We weren’t suddenly some bonded community that adored each other and created a uniform way of mommyblogging.  For goodness sakes, some of us didn’t even like each other but we did respect the writing represented by each one of us  Regardless of any of our differences, we did agree on one thing:  We would no longer sit back and be disrespected for being a mommyblogger. We were not going to sit at the bottom rung of the blogging ladder and be content.  As a collective of individual writers, we were taking back the term and demanding respect. Not by telling people to respect us.  Not by storming the gates of the media and demand they respect us.  No, we gained respect through our writing.  Call us what you want–label us what you want– we were first and foremost writers.  Good writers.  We just happened to write about our family lives and our children.

Part of embracing the term was starting the site Mommybloggers.  I registered it and went to Jenny and Meghan and asked if they wanted to start a site that focused on featured the quality writing of the amazing women who were labeled “mommybloggers.”  Thus, a we began to shine a light on how amazing these women writers really are.

It was inspiring to see the changes in the perception of mommybloggers after that first year at BlogHer.  We mommybloggers  proved through our writing that we were a powerful group of bloggers.  We showed that the power of our blogs reached much further than our immediate family. We could change the world with our words on our “little mommyblogs.”

Many of us that day were blogging long before some of the “big name” mommybloggers of today even had children.  Yet, when they became moms and were suddenly labeled mommyblogger, they brought even more respect to our community.  Simply because they were popular?  No, not exclusively.  Because they could write well and they did so with confidence and authority and wouldn’t let the label mommyblogger change that.  It was an exclamation point on what we were doing. And I admire them immensely.

The fact of the matter is, those of us who were blogging at and around that time were pioneers in the mommyblogging field.  We did it with pride, openness and quality.  We told the stories of our lives.  We shared stories about motherhood honestly and without apology.  We took back the term “mommyblogger” and made it synonymous with power, integrity and respect.  We worked hard to gain that respect.  We fought for it. We earned it.  And even those who did not want to be labeled at all could be proud when referred to as a “mommyblogger” because we all made that happen.  Together.  Individually with our own blogs.  Yet together.

In the past year or so a new crop of mommybloggers has popped up.  Many women who are a part of this new breed of mommybloggers have come to the scene heralding with much pomp and circumstance a sense of entitlement.  They feel they are owed something.  They feel just by slapping the label mommyblogger on their blog (blogs where they barely if ever write about their personally lives or families at all), they have earned the same respect as those who are writing quality stories that engage their readers.  Do not misunderstand me.  I am under no circumstances saying that this includes all new mommybloggers.  I don’t care if you started blogging 10 days ago or 10 years ago.  It is not in the length of time blogging but in the attitude behind it.  There are some absolutely amazing mommybloggers who are just starting out who I absolutely respect. It is not about being new.  It is about being a part of the “new breed” that is stirring things up.

What do I mean by a ” new breed” of mommybloggers? I am talking about the ones who project an air of entitlement because they are a “mommyblogger.”  I am talking about the ones who shout so loud to marketers that the rest of us can barely be heard above the clamor. I am talking about the ones who behave rudely to PR people who do not give them what they want, complain if someone else got something they did not, or cry foul if they are not the ones sent on a trip that other women took.  I am talking about the ones who try to tell others how to make PR work for them and how to get the best things and how they deserve those things.  In the midst of all of the noise and self declared importance, where is the quality writing about life and family that actually brought respect to the mommyblogging community?

Now, before you even go there I will say that I do not have a problem with working with the media. (I have done several interviews both in print and on tv.)  I do not have a problem working with marketers or PR representatives.  (I have great relationships with many, many of them.)  I do not have a problem with sending bloggers on trips to teach them more about a product and show them firsthand where it all starts.  (I have been on a few of these and have referred many other mommybloggers for these trips when asked.)  And finally, I do not have a problem with free products, product reviews or working with a company to test a new product. (I have done all of those more than once.)  I do have a problem with assuming you are entitled to it, demanding you receive it and throwing an Internet hissy fit when it doesn’t go your way.  I have a problem with behaving so poorly and rudely that the term “mommyblogger” is suddenly becoming synonymous with greed, rude behavior and a self important sense of  entitlement.

Who do you think brought those marketers and media to your blog?  Those of us who fought (and still fight) to bring respect to the term “mommybloggers.”  Our writing, not our shouting, demanding or grabbing gained us the respect this new breed feels entitled to have.

This weekend I heard bloggers that I admire and respect say things to distance themselves from the term mommyblogger.  The always kind and spot on Julie of The Mom Slant saying  more than once “Don’t call me a mommyblogger!” Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored who never pulls a punch declaring her new motto ” Not all bloggers are like that” when referring to being called a mommyblogger.  Hearing Busy Mom (The Original) –who happens to be one of the most mellow, non-judgemental, pioneers in the mommyblogging community– refer to all of this as the year shame died which in turn prompted the title of a brilliant post from the amazing blogger, Liz of Mom 101.  I heard and experienced all of those last weekend.

And it broke my heart.

These are the women who stood up and earned respect for term “mommyblogger” through their amazing writing, professionalism and pride in what they write about.  Even those who resist labels altogether wore the mommyblogger label with pride when it was applied to them are now these women want nothing to do with it.  Those same women who brought respect to the term and the community are now repulsed by it.

And I am heartbroken.

And I am mad.

It brings to my mind a question that I have been pondering since all of this finally came to a head at BlogHer.

And I want you to think about this long and hard.

If you join an established and respected community, do you owe it anything?  Is it your responsibility to respect what has been built with hard work and diligence by the people who consider themselves a part of that community?  Especially if it is a community without set rules, guidelines or membership but rather it is merely a community of writers who have worked hard to support each other through their writing and willingness to stand up for each other both on their blogs and in their personal lives?

If you throw on that label, what does that mean?  Does it mean anything?  Should you respect those who came before you–the pioneers if you will–or do you say to hell with how it has been done or the work they have put into this community, this is how I want to do it?

If a community is built by being open to everyone who identifies with it, respects it and is proud to be a part of it, what happens to that community when just using the label that identifies it throws it into turmoil.  When it places someone right smack dab into the middle of this open community and that person has little respect for what it stands for already?

Does self labeling make you are part of a community?

I don’t know.

What I do know is my heart broke when I heard amazing writers who have never fought the term mommyblogger and even go as far as bring it respect, not want to be associated with it.  Worse?  When I was talking to  Susan Getgood, a woman I respect immensely,  and heard the words, “I don’t even want to be called a mommyblogger anymore if this is what is has come down to.”  come out of my very own mouth, my heart dropped to my feet.  The look on her face (and the tears that began rolling down my cheeks)  said it all.

But now?  You can forget that.  Too many amazing mommybloggers fought too hard to walk away from something we brought respect to.  Mark my words, we will take back the respect we earned and fought for.  Will we do it through screaming, threats, blog attacks or excluding people?  No. Absolutely not.  That is not what built us up in the first place and it is not what will sustain us through this insanity of poor behavior.

What will we do? We will write the hell out of our blogs and remind people who mommybloggers are and why we earned the respect we have.  Just before I left I was handed a fortune cookie. (I was overwhelmed so I cannot remember the link of who gave it to me. Tell me and I will link you!)  That fortune cookie says it all for me.

The end looks much like the beginning.  Return to what you once knew and many have forgotten along the way.

I have not forgotten.  Have you?

36 Comments

  1. Jenn, I’ve adored you from the start. You are a pioneer, and while I call you my friend, I’ve never forgotten your role and your tenure in our community.

    Liz wrote another post once called “mommybloggings” in which she discussed the two primary reasons for blogging that many of us had – becoming better writers and creating a community. These aren’t mutually exclusive, but there were differences of opinion as to what the “right” motivation ought to be.

    Yes, it bothers me personally that the low barrier to entry of blogging means that anyone can create a Blogger account and call themselves Mommy Cutie Patootie and start hassling PR reps for free stuff. The sense of entitlement (and the subsequent grousing when we don’t get what we think we should) make us look bad as a community.

    So perhaps, as you’ve written, it’s time to remember the days of being snubbed by “more important” bloggers and band together to change perceptions once more. I think Blog With Integrity (thanks for your support!) and this “come to Jesus” post (take that with a grain of salt, especially from me) have helped set us on a path to recovery.

    Thanks Jenn, for not giving up on the community we love.

  2. Yet one other reason why I puffy pink heart you, Jenn.

    Rock on.

  3. i just wrote a post about this. not as well worded though!
    this post! amazing. i am a mommy blogger. i have always blogged with integrity. i always will.
    thank you for this post!

  4. This is amazing.
    thank you for writing this.
    I just want to say..

    Hell Yes.

  5. While not nearly as popular, I’ve been blogging since late 2003, being a small tiny voice of “mommy blogger” since late 2004. I’ve known and stood by as my friends wrote books and saw the spotlight. I would never, in a minute, believe I am entitled to anything because of the success of others.

    This post is more than wonderful, I hope it resonates with those new bloggers who are quick to “get high” in traffic and quick to “throw down” the PR people. It’s a long road, this blogging business. I’m so glad you said so with so much eloquence.

    On a side note, I fucking love you. (Can I use the “F” word here? YES? ok!) And it was a highlight meeting you. xoxo

  6. I want a framed, autographed picture of you to hang in my living room over the sofa so PEOPLE will see it and know I know you. It would be a bragging point for me. Some of your innate coolness might even rub off!

    And why didn’t I see you at BlogHer? Were you hiding from me? Were you afraid I would squeeze all the stuffins’ out of you?

    And well I might have.

    This post is perfection on a stick. I heart you with real candy hearts.

  7. Pingback: Mommybloggers: Integrity, Community and Taking Back the Respect We Earned | Long Distance Inc

  8. Bravo, Jenn! Bravo!

    I have to admit that I’ve distanced myself from the blogosphere as more and more of blogging has become so commercial. But I agree that you, and so many wonderful other bloggers, have given great respect to the term “mommy blogger”. Hell, I hope I’m one of those too. Even though you know I despise the term for other reasons, in this context it would be a great compliment.

  9. Ever since we talked at BlogHer I’ve been waiting for you to write this post. And it was worth the wait. Well said.

    I’ve been blogging since 2005 (but still just a small fish in a big pond). However, I don’t feel entitled to anything (heck I don’t even respond to 90% of the pitches that reach my inbox) and I’m amazed that this “new breed” does. At some point a few people decided hard work was no longer necessary for success. They believe companies need promotion so we’re entitled to their free stuff. Shit, some people are even reducing themselves to blackmail threatening to sick the mommybloggers on somebody who doesn’t give them what they want.

    For centuries women have had to fight to prove their worth and I’ll be damned if I let some selfish women set us back. I want to read a blog that speaks from the heart and keeps me entertained with her (or his) stories. An occasional review is wonderful too. But we can’t force ourselves on to companies demanding products, payment, and more. We need to be respectful and prove that we are powerful demographic with a lot of pull. Not a bunch of catty women who arm wrestle over laundry detergent samples.

    BTW, it was great to meet you last weekend!

  10. Wonderful post, Jenn. I started blogging in 2005, as a way to record the stories of my own life. I was kind of horrified the first time someone I didn’t know commented. I learned a lot from reading people like you, BusyMom, Mom-101, CityMama and others. I learned that there were smart, funny women out there who struggled with the same things I did. I felt privileged to be let into their lives, and honored to get to know some and call them friends.

    I’ve been honored to be invited to marketing events with bloggers, and gotten more than my share of swag. No trip or product could possibly be worth more to me than knowing people like you, people who are genuine and honest and full of wisdom and grace. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  11. I posted this quote over at Facebook and wanted to be sure everyone saw it so here it is again (from Little Gidding – T. S. Elliot)

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    Sounds right, no?

  12. “In the midst of all of the noise and self declared importance, where is the quality writing about life and family that actually brought respect to the mommyblogging community?”

    This is the thing that frustrates me the most with some of the “big mommyblog marketers”. They don’t WRITE. At all. They are in the business of “being known.”

    Now, in regards to “joining a community”, I have this to say:

    I’m not sure anyone has ever called me a mommyblogger. I am probably too crude for that. I don’t know. But I DO feel very intimidating by all of you who have been doing this “personal blogging” for SO long. I’m afraid that there isn’t a place for new faces. I’m afraid that there is a sense of “we did it first” that is impossible to overcome. While I respect and admire and read about that first panel in AWE, I’m also intimidated as hell.

    And I’m frustrated when I see this “new breed” because I don’t want to be lumped in with them (which you haven’t here, by the way) just by virtue of having never drank Yahootinis around a pool.

    I’m not sure where I fit into all of this, but as a woman – if nothing else – I am sitting in awed respect of what you all did, what you started, all those years ago.

    I’m just wondering what MY place in all of this is now.

  13. @Miss Britt Your place is right here with those who “get it”.

  14. I started my blog in 2003 when I was pregnant. Nothing like a really pissed-off preggo mommy to rage against George Bush. 😉

    So I feel a huge debt of gratitude to both mommybloggers and progressive netroots bloggers for making a space for my voice to be heard.

    And I continue to be awed and grateful for the wisdom of folks like you, QueenofSpain (writing about “carpetbaggers”), Mom101 (on the death of shame), CityMama (best practives/responsibly engaging with PR people) and others I’ve been lucky to know through their words, in person, or both.

    I think we’re in the midst of defining what best practices are for PR people and for blogging women who deal with them. Here’s hoping that the few “bad apples” can know and understand how their behavior isn’t appreciated by the rest of the mommyblogosphere.

    xxoo

  15. Jenn, as always, you get to the heart of the matter and tell it like it is – with eloquence. You (and all the women you reference in this post) are what I aspire to when I sit down to blog. I’d like to think that the majority of us have the same goal.

  16. Damn, I hate being late to the party. (Not for the free swag, btw. 😉 )

    I think Brit said it best. I’ve only been blogging for about 2 years and wonder where I fit sometimes. I don’t always write about my kids. I don’t always post recipes, or household tips, or whatever it is that makes one a ‘mommyblogger.’ I’m not even a particularly good writer. I blog because I found a community that I want to be a part of BECAUSE THE INTEGRITY WAS THERE FIRST. Yes, it’s been great to have a few samples or a trip that engages with a PR firm/product, but that is not the first reason that I’m here. It’s a benefit, I hope, of having integrity myself and engaging in the larger community of women and men bloggers that happen to also have families.

    My biggest fear is someone thinking that I’m here just for the free stuff. If that’s true, it’s not worth it. Not for one minute do I want to be a part of the ‘new breed’ because that is not what I signed up for.

  17. I think there will always be people who put ‘stuff’ above writing, but great content will always speak without needing to shout.

    Thank you for your blog 🙂
    Anita

  18. Jenn, my little hen party at BlogHer discussed this topic at length while we were in Chicago. I am proud to be a mom who blogs and I proudly call myself a Mommyblogger.

    I write about my life. I was a blogger before I was a mom. Now my life is full of KID, so I blog about it. It’s not all I blog about but when you have a toddler that is what your days are filled with. I also write about other things.

    With the exception of the Mommy Madness thing we did together, I have never been approached to review products or do anything. I don’t have the readership really, and I’m ok with that. If I were in PR and looking for bloggers to reach out to for things like that, my blog wouldn’t even be on the radar. Honestly I’m not sure how I ended up in the Mommy Madness group.

    My blog is first and foremost my journal. The fact that even a few people read it and care about what I have to say is gravy. I’ve met some amazing women through blogging and I’m happy about that.

    What I don’t understand is this: If you don’t like someone’s blog, why can’t you just click off the page without starting a movement about how they and others like them suck? I stopped reading a very popular blog years ago because I felt that when her blog became her means of supporting her family, her writing really went downhill. I don’t spread hate about her. I don’t hate her. I just no longer find her writing interesting, so I don’t read it anymore – simple as that. Why is that so hard for people to do?

  19. Jenn, you identify two major points that have been so troubling to me: 1) the remarkable sense of entitlement in the “new breed”; and 2) the unfortunate timing that makes new bloggers feel lumped in as part of the greedy bandwagon jumping.

    I’ve been blogging for 3 years, which lands me somewhere between the veteran bloggers and the newbies. It’s been interesting (mystifying, embarrassing, etc…) to see the frenzy and fury in the last year or so over products, trips, etc.

    All things move in waves, and I can only hope that we are hitting bottom here and the tide will turn for the better. But I think brands and PR agencies will need to help us here — by not responding to the requests and demands they can help filter out the blogger “chaff” …if squeaky (whiny) wheels are ignored I can only imagine at some point they’ll just fall to the side of the road.

    -Christine

  20. Excellent post. Most of this controversy has gone over my head, since I refuse to follow blogging “rules” – like you, I like to write and work with companies when the fit is right for me.

    I just can’t believe I’ve been a mommyblogger since 2005. Wow. I remember when you launched mommybloggers like if it was yesterday.

  21. @donna It’s not about “spreading hate” for a particular blog or blogs. It’s that the behavior of a few affects our entire community as well as how we are perceived and it’s just kind of getting old.

  22. Mommy blogging has come to mean product placing, pushing and actively pursuing and there is not much room left for the average woman writing about her life and interests.

  23. I keep trying to write something pithy and smart, but it boils down to this. Maybe I’m not so ashamed of being a “new” mommyblogger yet. I’m still not sure though. Things are going to have to change with this new set before I am willing to wear it proud. I appreciate you being clear about how it is not all new bloggers. Not every one is so specific about that, it burns more than a little. I could care less about SEO, and while I’d love to be asked for my opinion, and who doesn’t want a new washer and dryer, that isn’t why I have a blog. I just always wanted to be a writer some day.

  24. Awesomeness.

    And, let me second that praise of Busy Mom.

    She is the best ever.

  25. What Alli said. Exactly.

    Well written. That took a lot of time, girl:) It was worth it.

    And what Miss Britt said too…I wonder where I fit. I am mommy, but write about other things quite a bit. I never know what to tell people. Been doing this a long time, but I am not terrible plugged in other than coming across great posts like this.

    Anyway. It’s late. Just wanted to add a few and give comment hugs here. Bless you, dear woman 🙂

  26. Oh Babe, just move to Australia where the PR dudes won’t touch you.

    Then you REALLY have to blog for love.

    😉

    (and this post is teh awesome)

  27. I’m not a mommyblogger, because dogs still don’t count as children and I’m infertile.

    So I’m just a woman writer.

    But I wanted to thank you for this post, and thank your readers for their comments because it’s all helping me articulate the growing sense of bother I’ve had about the current blogosphere and many of the ‘newcomers’.

  28. We’ve had so many conversations about this – thank you for putting it into (eloquent) words.

  29. Imagine me alternating from clapping to sending you hugs and kisses.

    Awesome awesome post. I have high regard for mommybloggers because I learn a lot about life from your posts. And when I become a mommy too, i know the mommybloggers are going to be a support group I will frequently turn to.

  30. Brava, my friend. Well said, as always. We must all learn/remember to use our words well and take responsibility for our actions as IRL, too, right?

  31. Great post, Jenn, and perfectly timed! I just JUST resurrected my site and was walking down memory lane…

    The good old days (2006, 2007) seem so long ago now…

    Rachael

  32. Yours was one of the first blogs I ever read before starting my own in 2004. I started blogging as a creative outlet and for a sense of connection when I was home alone with a new baby. But I’ve just about let my own blog go, having become disenchanted with the whole thing. The experience was great when it felt like I was part of a community of mothers who write. But once the marketers became involved (and, really, it was just a matter of time), it seemed like the motivation for blogging became getting free swag and giving stuff away for more free stuff. And now people START blogs for that reason. Is anyone surprised? I want to blog again, but if “mommyblogger” is now just a marketing term, I might also prefer to call myself something else.

  33. I wish I could print out this post, make multiple copies and have it on hand for those times when I do actually go to conferences and the like, so that when I see someone acting, as you say, rudely and as if they are entitled to all the swag they can stuff into their conference bag, I can tap that person on the shoulder and say, “Here you go. You should read this, and think about the message your actions, let alone your blogging, are sending every. single. day.”

    I skipped BlogHer09 this year, for the first time in three years, in part because I was feeling a little of what you are feeling. I made a new commitment to make my blog my own voice, and I also re-introduced myself to my favorite blogs, the ones that inspired me, as well as seeking out other writers to see what they had to say.

    I’m glad to say that I discovered, in my searching, that there are still mommybloggers out there that are committed to quality and integrity–and who recognize and respect the pioneers who came before us, like you.

    And, in case I haven’t made it clear, you are one of my heroes.

    Thanks so much for writing this.

    Don’t give up!

  34. I can say that I blog for myself to reread in a few years, and my mom to read now, so she can keep up with her only grandson.

    This post made me want to keep blogging–so I can be one of the newbies who isn’t shouting… 🙂

    Thank you!

  35. @Miss Britt Your place is right here with those who “get it” 🙂

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