Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Mommy Bloggers R Us … Sort Of

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Dear Marjo,

I've been a "mommy blogger" for four years. I love writing about my child's antics (funny and not-so-funny) and about my own journey as a new mother. I also love the community of other mommy bloggers, some of whom I only know online, and others whom I've met at conferences like BlogHer. These women (and a couple of men) are my closest friends. They're also my support group and have helped me with more problems and questions that I can count. Most importantly, they've helped me stay sane when I've felt isolated as a stay-at-home mom.

All this is changing now that my son is five. He's just starting to read, and even though he's still sounding out c-a-t, I've suddenly realized that in a few years he'll be able to read everything I've written. I'm embarrassed because I'm only just now realizing that I've been telling his story, not mine. And I don't want to share that embarrassment in the future, when he's old enough to understand what I've written.

I'm in such a quandary. I don't want to stop blogging and give up these friends who've become so important to me. But I also don't want to take advantage of my son, just for the sake of my own enjoyment. I've thought about starting another blog, but I feel like I'd be starting all over again, trying to make new friends and losing the old ones who are so dear to me. 

Signed,

Mommy Blogger

Dear Mommy Blogger,

Do you remember that old Girl Scout song, "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold"? It's easy to sing that song when you're 10 and your biggest social problem is who to sit next to at lunch. It's much harder when you're an adult, with 200 (or 400 or a thousand) friends who sit next to you every single day. And while other not-mommies are blogging about their jobs, or their crafts, or Zumba classes, their readers are only some of their friends. They shower every morning and go to someplace Very Important, where they banter and laugh with actual grown-ups and eat Cobb salad for lunch. Meanwhile you're on a twice-weekly shower schedule, covered in body fluids, and surviving on little more than your child's leftover mac and cheese. The worst part? You're alone, isolated from people taller than your kneecaps and using Very. Short. Sentences.

With all that said, I'm absolutely sure that your son is the center of your universe. And he should be! He is probably crazy cute, cracks you up every day, and sometimes makes you cry. Which is why you love blogging so much. Because all those other moms get it.

I get it, too. I blogged about my son for four years, building a good-sized readership that included moms, dads, and even a handful of soldiers in Iraq who missed their own mothers. I loved it, but I also needed it. Mired in a postpartum depression that was going on two years, there were days that blogging was all I could do. The connections with my online friends almost literally kept me sane.

Then one day my four-year-old son saw a yellow car and said "Mommy, why does that car say TAXI?" It was definitely a Holy Shit moment. Somehow my son had been learning to read without my even noticing it. Not only that, but he would keep reading … and reading … and reading. How long before my introverted, shy son asked me to stop?

This is the part where the words "cold turkey" come into play. Except they didn't. I blogged for another two years after that, not wanting to let go of my lifeline. Because that's what my blog felt like: a line to life, the thing that kept me from floating away. If I wasn't MomBrain, who was I? I'd already lost all of my work friends when I decided to make my maternity leave permanent. Could I bear losing all my friends again? I tried to recast it, to write about camping, cats, my poor husband – anything but my son. But eventually, finally, it fizzled.

Now, after seven years, my blog is dormant. I keep renewing the URL just in case, and once even turned down an offer of $2,500 for the name. I started a fitness blog, a crafting blog, a history blog, a writing blog – but nothing sticks. I'm still besotted with my first love, and nothing else will do. But while I'm waiting, I'm still writing. In fact, it's part of what led me here, to Literary Mama, and to a travel writing gig with Disney, and to plenty of magazine articles and essays in local and national publications. So when the Blog Fairy blesses me again, my pencil – and my writing voice – will be sharper. I'll be more comfortable with that darned daily posting deadline, and less worried about reader stats. I'll be a better blogger.

So, dear Mommy Blogger, I'm afraid I don't have a pat answer for you. Though I'm further down the path than you are, we are both in the same transitional space. I do know that many mommy bloggers bump into the same wall at some point. Some stop blogging, like I did. Others keep going, damn the coming torpedoes of adolescence. I know a couple of mommy bloggers who ask their young children to read and approve before they post, though my own six-year-old son would have lacked the judgment to say yes without regretting it later. And one of my friends pays her kids to let her write about them.

What's right for you? Should you keep writing, as I've done, or pray to the blogging muse for other ideas, or live a fabulous and interesting life and trust that creative lightning will strike again?  There's no right answer. Only you can hear your heart and know how to follow it. As for me, here at MomBrain HQ it's nothing but crickets and the occasional bull frog. Will it be that way forever? I do not know.

XO,

Marjo

Do you have a question about the joys, complexities, or challenges of being a mother? Email askmarjo AT gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer it. Please do not bend, fold, mutilate, or otherwise contort this column into anything it's not meant to be: friendly advice from one mom to another. My opinions and thoughts, no matter how heartfelt, are not a substitute for professional counseling or medical care.



Marjorie Osterhout is a writer, editor, and storyteller. Her essays and articles have appeared in anthologies like It’s A Boy (Seal Press) and magazines including Parents, Parenting, and ePregnancy. She also spent a whirlwind three years travel writing for Disney. She is a former managing editor, columns editor, and columnist (“Dear Marjo”) for Literary Mama.


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I get it! I so get it. And I had many dormant mommyblogger/writer years (I mean in which they were the subject). But now my children are DEFINITELY readers, definitely adults with definite opinions. I am writing again, about topics much more complex than potty training and preschool, and give them free passes to read and veto anything that mentions them. Another path to take is exploring the joys of fiction writing. ;-)
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