Mommy Bloggers and Their Depiction in the New York Times

by Dagmar Bleasdale on March 17, 2010

At first I wasn’t going to chime in after reading Sunday’s the New York Times article “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.” by Jennifer Mendelsohn. Then I read articles responding to it by other bloggers I respect and the many thought-provoking comments that were left. The mommy blogging word in is a tizzy, there’s even a Facebook page set up to protest the New York Times.

The more I read, the more I found myself pondering how I would respond, so I figured I might as well put my thoughts on my blog. After all, that’s who I am, I am a writer — and a mom who blogs. (I don’t like the title “mommy blogger” — it throws us all into one pot, and we all have such different blogs, different lives, different priorities, and different ambitions).

First of all, the article’s graphic was indulgent, filling the whole space above the fold, showing women — moms? — engaged with various electronic devise: a laptop on a bicycle and while driving a car (huh?) and holding a cell phone while dragging a child with the other hand.

As an avid attachment parenting advocate, I kind of got a kick out of the cartoon mom who is wearing her baby in a sling while also carrying a computer. Is the New York Times surprised about the outrage after this obnoxious depiction of moms?

Those moms who are addicted to their BlackBerry exist, and I wrote an article about this unfortunate trend not too long ago for the New York City Moms Blog: “BlackBerry or Little House on the Prairie?” We all have different thresholds about what is acceptable to us. I personally don’t want to be one of those moms who is buried in her cell phone when I’m with my child, that’s why I choose to stick with my ancient cell phone that doesn’t have a camera or access to the Internet. I also choose not to buy my child one of those computer games I see kids trailing their parents into stores with, completely oblivious about their surroundings.

After being assaulted by the seemingly mean-spirited graphic, one finally gets to the headline of the article (in the Fashion & Style section, ha!). Ouch! Plus, it was somewhat misleading in that the article didn’t even really address branding. If anything, it should have read “…too busy blogging.” Because if you are a mom who runs her blog like any other business, you know that blogging takes up a lot of your time and that writing the actual posts is the icing on the cake — after answering e-mail requests, figuring out HTML coding, changing your blog’s layout for the twentieth time, reading up on what the heck SEO and ROI stands for, etc.

But that doesn’t necessarily have to mean taking a lot of time from your family. Again, it’s about choices and priorities. I mostly blog at night, from 10:30 p.m. until, uh, 2 a.m.-ish, but if you are running a business, you can’t get around doing some things during the day. Well, I guess you can, but then you’ll end up with a lot of Twitter followers in Australia, like me.

Was that headline necessary? I would love to know who wrote it, the writer or some (male) editor? My response: I am running a household, I am raising a child, and I am running a business from home — and if you can’t applaud me for that, then you try it for a week! I will not be made to feel guilty for pursuing my passion and doing what I love. I don’t need the extra guilt, we feel torn in so many directions already as moms and put enough guilt on ourselves.

It would be easier and more lucrative to stick my son into preschool all week so I can work full-time out of the house or without constant distractions and demands in the house, but that is not the kind of childhood I want for him. I’d rather be home with him and buy less stuff. Again with the priorities.

Other things mentioned in the article that didn’t go down that well: “minivan crowd,” “girly bonding,” and “kaffeeklatsch” (although, as a native German speaker I was impressed that it was spelled correctly). I was a professional and an entrepreneur before I became a mom, and I still am. I do not drive a minivan; I am not a girl, I’m a woman; and I don’t look for girly bonding or a kaffeeklatsch when I attend a conference. I go there to learn more about my craft and my business, like millions of men do for their professions.

Personally, running around barefoot like Tiffany Romero at her Bloggy Boot Camp doesn’t scream professionalism to me, but she surely doesn’t deserve to be called a “sorority chairwoman” or “summer-camp director.” I don’t know her, but she seems to have a thriving business, so why characterize her like this? To me, the community of bloggers is the most welcoming and helpful bunch I have ever met. We all gladly cheer each other on and help and learn from each other, and I think that is why the blogging community is thriving and growing so fast in its influence.

“Tutu-making tutorial” — another ouch. Nothing wrong with someone writing about making tutus. If this is a dig about the quality of some blog entries, that’s another issue. As a blogger who takes a lot of time to make sure my posts look and sound professional, I have to admit that I sometimes cringe at the spelling and grammar mistakes I see on some blogs — it is hard for me to ignore those as a career proofreader and editor.

But not everyone has the talent or education to write like a seasoned journalist, and there are different degrees of professionalism in any line of business. Badly executed blogs won’t get many readers, just like badly run businesses don’t get many customers. And I make mistakes as well sometimes.

About the point of branding that was alluded to in the article’s title: what’s so wrong about moms building a brand? Men do it every day and get applauded for their efforts, but as a mom I am to feel guilty if I do the same? Yet: Ciaran Blumenfeld was quotes as saying, “The brands know they need a blogger. The bloggers know they need a brand.” I couldn’t agree less.

Maybe brands need bloggers, because women buy what other women talk about and recommend, but I don’t need a brand. I am my own brand. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to promote myself as a brand. There is only one Dagmar Bleasdale, and I’m opinionated and tenacious, and I figured I might as well make a living with my inability to censor my thoughts before they come out of my mouth. That’s why I got the URL DagmarBleasdale.com, not “CuteMommyBlogNumber205/bloggysomething.com.”

I could have been a refrigerator spokesperson and a The View ambassador, but that’s not what I am interested in. I didn’t start my blog to get free stuff — not that there is anything wrong with that. The PR firms found me and started sending things. I personally don’t read review-only blogs — I’m interested in the stories other moms have to tell and am humbled every day by amazing entries like this honest, powerful birth story.

I didn’t even know that there are some moms who only review products on their blogs. I started my blog to be a resource for other parents interested in natural birth, breastfeeding, green and frugal living, and to entertain my readers with my antics. I review about one out of ten products I get approached with and only the ones I think my readers would enjoy and benefit from.

But I also see my blog as only the start of something much bigger. While I decided to keep doing reviews for free for now so not to give the impression that my opinion can be bought, I wouldn’t be averse to a company I trust and like offering me a paying job. I would welcome that opportunity just like I would welcome someone needing my proofreading, editing, or social media expertise. Someone wants to pay me to write for them? Absolutely, if it’s in line with what I stand for.

I do think it was about time for companies to reach out to moms to have more of a voice in shaping brands. Since we are the ones buying the majority of things, it was a huge missed opportunity not to ask for our input, but I’m also a little nervous about the kind of input companies are getting. I can’t influence what kind of bloggers will go for all the freebies corporations throw at them, I can only hope they are educated and tenacious to speak up when needed.

Why, for example, am I boycotting Nestle like many other breastfeeding advocates? Read up on it if you are interested. I can’t stop companies from making products with unnecessary fake colors, additives, and high-fructose corn syrup. But I can refuse to buy them and make a point to educate others with my blog to demand and shop for greener, non-toxic, healthy products and encourage and inform about breastfeeding, gentle attachment parenting, and eco-friendly behavior.

One thing mentioned in the article, that “bloggers and corporations are still forging the proper boundaries of their relationship,” is undeniably true. Many professional bloggers don’t know what to charge for their time, effort, and expertise since there are many bloggers who will work for free. If companies are smart, they won’t throw free merchandise at just any blogging mom, they’ll do their research and approach professionally run blogs with a certain page rank and number of readers and a writer behind it who has the respect and admiration of moms and other bloggers. Those blogs might even charge a little for their reviews but will be read by many and not just Aunt Bernice.

Since all those blog stats can be found out without even having to ask the blogger, I encourage companies to do more research: I don’t want to be invited to a Ham Blogger Event again when I clearly write about avoiding meat and processed food as much as possible in our household. Known for my outspoken stance about promoting (extended) breastfeeding, I was once approached to promote formula. To quote Bethenny Frankel: Holy inappropriateness!

Yes, the New York Times article irked me, but I don’t see the need for name-calling. I don’t know the writer — a fellow blogger — or the mentioned bloggers, and I don’t know their intentions or ambitions. There is room for all of us, and there will be readers elated to find a tutu-making tutorial. Less professional blogs don’t threaten me, and I learn so much from more successful, more well-known ones every day. ‘Nuf said for now.

Mommy bloggers, what do you think? Keep the comments coming and the discussion going!

{picture source}

You might also enjoy:
My first blog post: Steve Pavlina Inspired me to Start my Own Blog, DagmarBleasdale.com
My post one year later: Happy Anniversary! Dagmar’s Momsense is 1 Year Old!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Yakini December 30, 2010 at 3:22 AM

This was awesome, Dagmar. Really well-stated. I esp. loved this:

“I am running a household, I am raising a child, and I am running a business from home — and if you can’t applaud me for that, then you try it for a week! I will not be made to feel guilty for pursuing my passion and doing what I love. I don’t need the extra guilt, we feel torn in so many directions already as moms and put enough guilt on ourselves.”

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Ciaran/Momfluential March 18, 2010 at 8:23 PM

Not all bloggers need a brand to ally with, but many want one. It’s a viable relationship to seek out, that is often mutually (and professionally) beneficial for bloggers. Suave, Ford, Nintendo, even the Potato board have sought out bloggers to work with. But is that for everyone? No

I didn’t mean in any way to imply that it was an end goal for all bloggers. My point was for those bloggers seeking to work with brands, the rules are very fuzzy.

My own brand is very important to me as well. Should I ever agree to ally with another, it would be just that – an alliance. My brand comes first on my site. I’d advise the same to any blogger. After all, we put a lot of work into building our brands, and that is not a bad thing!

Just to be clear, if a brand wants a blogger and wants to take over that bloggers site and identity, it is a very different relationship. It’s called “hiring a copywriter”. Those copywriters should be paid accordingly.
.-= Ciaran/Momfluential´s last blog ..Uh Oh Graco – Harmony Recall =-.

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Sierra Black March 18, 2010 at 6:46 PM

Great to see another wise, thoughtful voice weigh in on this. I’m starting to love that NYT article simply because the diverse powerful responses to it have been so wonderful to read. Well done.

Here’s mine: http://childwild.com/2010/03/16/a-blog-of-ones-own/
.-= Sierra Black´s last blog ..Speaking Of A Room Of One’s Own =-.

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Melanie March 18, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Interesting take. It’s taken me a while to see what has gotten everyone so worked up- tbh I kind of agree with the article in a LOT of cases. There are so many women out there trying to blog just to make money, or be famous, and having it constantly shoved in my face feels like another version of spam.
I don’t fall in that category so I wasn’t offended by the article.
You ARE right though, in that there is still a HUGE double standard in the world of men and women. It’s disgusting.
.-= Melanie´s last blog ..Happy Birthday. =-.

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erin@tinytwistcreative March 18, 2010 at 1:12 PM

I’ve read several posts yesterday and today regarding this article. I’m on my way to read it now. I just started blogging a little over a month ago, and I simply adore it. However, it doesn’t consume my day, it can’t, I have two sweet ones. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning when my husband leaves for work and spend my time until the kids wake up reading blogs, writing mine. I feel that blogging helps me to be more purposeful throughout my day, because I want to put into words the thoughts behind what I am doing. As far as tutorials and every other thing… I adore them. Sure, some are lame-0, but so are some of the other articles out there. Thanks for your post.
.-= erin@tinytwistcreative´s last blog ..photography actions =-.

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Irene March 17, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Great post. You said so many things I wanted to, but never could have as well. I basically took the article with a grain of salt and then got on with my daily business. Sure, it irked me no end, and when a couple of ‘family members’ mentioned to me that there was a “good article about what I do” and that I should go read it. Blogging is a tough concept it seems for many to grasp; that it takes work, dedication and passion. Moms will probably never get applauded for our accomplishments as easily as men do….but as long as I am home with my kiddos and enjoying what I do (and hopefully making some money,) I really am not going to waste my time or energy worrying about others’ opinions of me.
Consider me a follower of your blog….and I’m off to follow you on Twitter too!
.-= Irene´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

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Steve March 17, 2010 at 8:03 PM

Bravo, Dagmar! Excellent post.

“They” say that “all press is good press” but that remains to be seen if articles like this tarnish the work of many good brands/bloggers/businesses – such as yours – as simply a hobby. It seems that the mainstream press is interested in relegating “mommy bloggers” to the sidelines, when in fact, many blogs are only growing in influence.

FWIW – you are doing it right. Thank you for that.

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Missy March 17, 2010 at 7:50 PM

Hey there! I linked over to your blog from The Crayon Wrangler’s Blogfrog Community. I just want to send a huge “huzzah!” Wonderful article. Thank you for sharing!!

My favorite:

“I will not be made to feel guilty for pursuing my passion and doing what I love. I don’t need the extra guilt, we feel torn in so many directions already as moms and put enough guilt on ourselves. ”

+1000

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Cameo March 17, 2010 at 7:50 AM

The take-home message here is not that the NYT was wrong – but that women love drama. How dare the NYT run coverage that isn’t one hundred percent glowingly positive?

All the mommy bloggers have done here is succeeded in making themselves look like a bunch of delicate flowers who can’t handle press that includes positive AND negative perceptions. Anything less than paragraphs full of pats on the back will result in rampaging, tantruming hordes of mommy bloggers.

I appreciate this more balanced post.

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Tammy March 17, 2010 at 4:08 AM

Dagmar,

Excellent post, I have added your blog to my blog roll and follow your posts on Twitter. You are definitely one of the moms that I admire, not only for your openness and opinions but for you eloquence. It doesn’t hurt that your values are similar to my own.

I think that the NYTimes article is off base, in that, the writer stereo-typed and lumped all “mommy bloggers” together. It is easier to criticize something that you do not fully comprehend. The article reminds of ones written about homeschooling and the way homeschool families are depicted. The diversity in the blogging community and homeschooling community is so varied that there is no way to put them all into one category.

Thanks again for the post, I do value your opinion.

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Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 17, 2010 at 2:58 AM

Great article Dagmar.

The whole stereotype depicted in the article of blogging as a cute hobby and of blogging moms as neglecting their kids (as per the title and graphic), just doesn’t fit the reality of what I do. That’s why I wasn’t sure if I should dismiss the article as being not about me or be offended by it.
.-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Does the world see moms the same way the New York Times does? =-.

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Dagmar March 17, 2010 at 6:01 AM

Annie, thank you for your comment! I appreciate you taking the time. People who don’t know much about “mommy bloggers” don’t get it — we are trying to be the kind of moms who are there for our children instead of sticking them in daycare all day and work outside the house. At least that is true for me. I am trying to make a decent living with my blogging because staying home with my child is more important to me than buying more stuff. I consider myself not absorbed with my own “branding;” I am an entrepreneur running a business from home. Men get applauded for this, moms have to explain themselves?

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Tracey March 17, 2010 at 1:09 AM

Well said! Intelligent, thoughtful bloggers like yourself give the term “mommy bloggers” (if we must) a good name.
.-= Tracey´s last blog ..Saturday Salutes =-.

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