Living the Question / Mommy Blogs

Okay I am wasting time on the internet. But, I did work straight for an hour and a half almost (which isn't even that good but I have to take baby steps, I'm used to toggling back and forth between work and email/internet all day long). I decided to buzz around online for a bit and found this article about a mommy blogger Josi Denise ending her blog with a fantastic confessional piece called "Dear Mommy Blogger". Here is my favorite part:


I mean no one. Even the people you think are reading your shit? They aren’t really reading it. The other mommy bloggers sure as hell aren’t reading it. They are scanning it for keywords that they can use in the comments. “So cute! Yum! I have to try this!” They’ve been told, like you, that in order to grow your brand, you must read and comment on other similar-sized and similar-themed blogs. The people clicking on it from Pinterest aren’t reading it. They are looking for your recipe, or helpful tip promised in the clickbait, or before and after photo, then they might re-pin the image, then they are done. The people sharing it on Facebook? They aren’t reading it either. They just want to say whatever it is your headline says, but can’t find the words themselves. Your family? Nope. They are checking to make sure they don’t have double chins in the photos you post of them, and zoning in on paragraphs where their names are mentioned.
Why? Because your shit is boring. Nobody cares about your shampoo you bought at Walmart and how you’re so thankful the company decided to work with you. Nobody cares about anything you are saying because you aren’t telling an engaging story. You are not giving your readers anything they haven’t already heard. You are not being helpful, and you are not being interesting. If you are constantly writing about your pregnancy, your baby’s milestones, your religious devotion, your marriage bliss, or your love of wine and coffee…. are you saying anything new? Anything at all? Tell me something I haven’t heard before, that someone hasn’t said before. From a different perspective, or making a new point at the end at least if I have to suffer through a cliche story about your faceless, nameless kid.
You’re writing in an inauthentic voice about an unoriginal subject, worse if sprinkled with horrible grammar and spelling, and you are contributing nothing to the world but static noise.

I'm kind of fascinated by this and I have to say somewhat satisfied and I'm not sure if that's only because hardly anyone is even pretending to "read my shit" so I at least have that consolation. But I guess it's also because I have wondered about/marveled at/recoiled from that world of mommy bloggers with conferences and giveaways and enormous site traffic. I like that she asks about goals - how she says that many mommy bloggers have the goal of driving up traffic and that seems to be the end. For what, she asks. And I too ask myself this sometimes - why is it you want to post on your blog and have people read and interact with what you're saying? What is the benefit over a traditional, private journal? Yesterday when I had in-between moments I flipped every time to a journal, a real notebook my sister gave me with pages, and a pen, half the time a leaking one or one without ink half the time and having to rummage around for another one and then poof - that in-between moment I had would be gone. But I did get sentences down here and there. can't say I have a clear distinction for what I write in my journal vs. here except, obviously, the private one is more private. I guess I do think of my blog as more of a conversation, an interaction, with people who are thinking and wondering about some of the same things - raising kids, maybe in a city or not, trying to simplify their lives, trying to live consciously and compassionately, to live an examined life but not to the point of neurotic introspection. 

I realized -- this seems simple and obvious, and I think it's something I "realized" 25 years ago -- but again recently, that I want to be challenged, want my perspective altered, want symbiotic, synergistic conversation. It only works if the other person is equally willing to change his or her view. It doesn't work if one person has the answers. Gives advice. Disagrees reflexively. It has to be thoughtful. All participants in the conversation have to be willing to push others and also to be pushed. To say, "I hadn't thought of it that way" and re-consider their positions. A true dialectic. I thought I'd find more of that dynamic in the academy. Sadly, many of the conversations are simply rehearsals of what people already know. Recitations. Inflexible and unyielding. Sure, a scholar might be extremely knowledgeable and able to teach others through this inflexibility. But the best way, it seems to me, is to always be open to learning and growing. 

I see this blog as a place for that, a blank and always open space for questioning. In the commencement speech our Dean Eva Badowksa made a plea for the continued ability to pause and to question. I come here with observations, complaints, reflections, but most of all, with questions. I have noticed that questions can make you sound shaky and uncertain. Milton Glaser, a designer, offered this advice: "Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience..." I think I definitely err on the side of being too open to experience. But I'd rather that, then be closed off. Writing, a questioning, I hope, open kind of writing, helps me to stay open to experience.

And of course there is always Rainer Maria Rilke, with his advice for all poets, young and old:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”


  1. One of my favorite Rilke quotes. I think that we are forever living the questions. We arrive at answers within a particular moment, but there is always more to discover, more to learn.

    I love that sentence, "Many of the conversations are simply rehearsals of what people already know." So true. Sometimes I think people shy from questions because they are afraid to appear uncertain.

    Nobody Is Reading Your Shit cracked me up, mostly because my foray into the glutted blogosphere made me feel so naked, so afraid of being seen. Then you get out there and realize no one's even looking. Different bloggers have different purposes. It took me a long time to dip a toe in the water because I didn't have a well-formed concept, a brand, a specific offering. My blog is exactly what they say blogs shouldn't be: esoteric. But I'm doing it anyway. My goal was never to develop a huge readership--failing at monetizing side gig over here!--but to have authentic exchanges with other writers. And that is a big part of why I decided to try writing out loud in addition to journaling.

    I don't keep up with the mom blog scene. I've realized that the blogs I consistently read and follow are by writers who blog, as opposed to brand bloggers looking to monetize (which I'm not knocking--it just doesn't happen to interest me). I listen for the authentic voice in myself and in others. It sometimes reminds me of letter-writing, back in the olden days. :)

  2. Yes Sarah - more to discover, more to learn. Each answer brings more questions, as it should be. I think you're exactly right that people are afraid to appear uncertain. I've always taken that fear of uncertainty (which often presents as rigid or even dogmatic) as poorly obscuring a much greater sense of insecurity and uncertainty.

    Totally know what you mean about the fear of being seen then realizing you're not actually all that exposed after all. Hilarious. My blog too is exactly what they say blogs shouldn't be - esoteric. I look at the ones with a very clear point to each post, and there is something comforting and relaxing about those. Big font, lots of space, lots of pictures, very little to have to process. Not necessarily my thing, but I do understand the appeal. Reminds me too of letter-writing! So glad you made that comparison. I've been getting back into writing them, a few a week now. It's so satisfying.

  3. I love that Rainer Maria Rilke quote...had forgotten about it & now I get to rediscover it.

  4. I also knew a fantastic cat named Rainer, in a Brooklyn bookstore, named after that poet...

  5. That's so cool! Great name for the cat. Do you know the band Rainer Maria? If not, listen to the song "Ears Ring" instantly!

  6. I loved Rainer Maria, used to see them play in the city and once out in Coney Island. Back in the days of Artifical Light. Now I need to listen to that album! And I'll have to check out Ears Ring.

  7. Hah, that is a great quote. I struggle with the wanting my blog to grow, but like you said, not just the stupid tit for tat growth that comes from insignificant exchanges and online politics.

  8. Back in Artificial Light days...that was when she sang with a sweeter voice, less rock n' roll, right? At first I thought you meant Artificial Light days as in, days before motherhood when we stayed up late and slept late.

    A Morning Grouch - thanks for your comment. We'll aim for meaningful growth!

  9. I don't think you have the kind of blog that someone can skim through and find something to comment vaguely on, at a level barely above the spam comments that are at least sometimes accidentally hilarious. When I look at blogs that get a lot of comments, they are rarely of a dialectical sort.

    In the distant past I had the ability to write the occasional post that drew some truly thoughtful and enlightening comments - once I had to write another article on the topic just so I could share my readers' (sometimes contrary) ideas. Those were the days!

  10. You're right Gretchen. The blog posts are not skimmable. I am seeing more and more that the kinds that people are generally attracted to and the kinds that are broadcast at places like ScaryMommy are ones that have one clear point to make. Very neat that you got so many great responses they generated another article. Seems to me you'd still be capable of doing that and it seems you have quite a lively following.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts