Why I Don’t Like the Term Mom Blogger and Don’t Write Many Reviews

by Dagmar Bleasdale on April 29, 2011

I’m mom and a blogger but don’t like to be called a “mom blogger.” I’m a big advocate for natural birth, breastfeeding, and green living, and I want to cheer women on with my blog to go after what they want, be that finding a way to work from home or learning how to breastfeed. I’m a writer who enjoys blogging about my life and helping moms, being my own reality show on Twitter, and entertaining people with my antics.

Here is the problem I have with the term “mom blogger”: it gets applied to review bloggers and moms who mostly blog about their life and review products only once in a while, like me.

When people talk about mom bloggers, I think they lump in those review blogs that often don’t even have much personal content on them with my kind of blog, which is all about my personal life.

You know how I can tell they do put both in the same category? Despite the look of my blog and the fact that I rarely review products, I get bombarded by PR firms and companies to review their products.

I personally don’t read blogs that are stuffed full of reviews and sponsored post. I’m a very visual person and if all I see is ads and pictures of products, I’m just not interested. I’m interested in human stories, not the latest review of one more kids-clothing deal site. But that’s just me, those blogs obviously have many readers.

I wish people would differentiate between review blogs where some bloggers, let’s be real, will “review” just about anything for free or a gift card — hence all the inquiries I get to do the same — and my kind of blog that just happens to be written by a mom. Me being a mom does not make my blog a “mommy blog.”

Blogging isn’t a hobby for me. I put Dagmar’s momsense in the category of blogs written by a blogger who distinguishes herself with the quality of her writing and garners opportunities because of that skill. Think Dooce or The Pioneer Woman or PhD in Parenting or The Feminist Breeder. That’s the group of bloggers I admire and I aspire to be associated with — all of these bloggers are exceptional writers and have book deals or get invited to speak at conferences or appear on TV shows because of the popularity and success of their eloquent, thought-provoking, or hilarious blog post.

Do I have lofty goals? You betcha.

Does every mom who starts a blog have big goals to be recognized for her crafty writing or ambitions to entertain or educate people about what she is passionate about? No, and that is perfectly alright. There is an audience for both review and personal blogs. You want to write 10 post about the next best plastic toy? Go right ahead. Someone who is interested in that plastic toy is going to read it.

Making money with your blog: are paid reviews, sponsored posts, or being a brand ambassador for you?

As a writer and editor, my blog is my professional resume, and I treat it as such. If it doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing or adds something positive to my blog, it doesn’t appear on Dagmar’s momsense.

My test for all offers I get to review or endorse something:

  1. Is this a product I would use anyway or already use?
  2. Will my readers enjoy my review and/or benefit from it?
  3. Does this product work with what my blog is about?
  4. Is the product worth enough/do I like it enough to sit and write a review for it for free and take time away from my paid work and my family? (I don’t charge for reviews because I don’t want my readers to question my opinion in any way.)

If I can say yes to every one of those points, then I’ll do the review, which is very infrequent. I see it as an added benefit for brands who work with me that I don’t just write about everything I get approached with.

If I get asked by a company to be part of their campaign as a brand ambassador, I ask myself the same four questions. If I can honestly say that this product/brand fits my blog, I’d consider doing a “paid” review/sponsored post. My opinion won’t be influenced by the money I receive — I view it as payment for the time it takes me to be their ambassador (emails, calls, writing the post, etc.)

I’m a professional writer and my time is valuable. I guarantee companies a professional review that takes me about an hour to write, and I expect to be compensated for it. I don’t work for free anymore — I paid my dues in the last two years and I simply can’t afford to work for free any longer.

I’m turned off by PR campaigns that tell me to incert “this link three times and say that three time.” Yeah, no. You are welcome to advertise on my blog if my “review” would look just like an ad in the end anyway.

My new rules for giveaways:

I do giveaway solely for the benefit of my readers — they are a lot of added work for me. So far, for over two years, I haven’t charged for them, but that is about to change: I’m going to start charging a $35 fee for giveaways.

I got the idea from another blogger who started this policy to weed out all the PR requests that take me an hour a day to read. I’d be happy to never get the “Dear Mommyblogger” emails anymore or do another giveaway, but if someone is serious about wanting a giveaway on my blog, then I’ll know they are serious when they are willing to pay this small fee. This way I don’t feel taken advantage of, plus I’m hoping there will be less “junk” mail in my inbox.

The explosion of blogs written by moms is still a new phenomena, and moms are still figuring out how to monetize their blogs. I wonder if there will eventually be a clear differentiation of review blogs and personal blogs. I’d like that.

The tricky thing is that we all have different goals and ambitions for our blogs, and I guess that will never change. Not every mom who starts a blog aspires to be the next Pioneer Woman.

I do. I want it all.

I want the book deal and the TV appearances. I want to touch as many people as possible with what I’m passionate about — breastfeeding, attachment parenting, green living, and encouraging anyone to follow their dreams. Why put limitations on yourself? Your successes are as big as your dreams.

I came to America with a visitor visa, two suitcases, and an address of an illegally-run hostel in my pocket, and now I’m a UCLA graduate, got married in a castle, and write a blog that is getting noticed more and more. It’s amazing what happens when you do what you are meant to do — don’t be afraid of failure, just go for it!

Want to monetize your blog? Think again.

Making money with a blog isn’t easy, as with any entrepreneurial endeavor. For me to do a paid review or sponsored post it has to fit the theme of my blog, look good, and be worth my time. So those paid opportunities are rare. After two years of working way past midnight I now finally have an income from advertising on Dagmar’s momsense.

I’m very successful with reaching people through Twitter (13,100+ followers) but again, it takes an enormous — unpaid — amount of time to tweet that much. I wouldn’t recommend it.

I also would advise against “giving up your day jobs” to become a social media maven or blogging guru tomorrow. Money will only come to those bloggers who do it because they just have to and do it in a profession­al manner, with ethics and a lot of knowledge about their craft — be that writing, gardening, homeschooling, or putting something on your dog’s nose.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Rona August 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM

This was an interesting post on the subject of reviews and such. My son and I were actually talking about the fact that there are so many bloggers out there reviewing products and service and always respond “I love this”!
Early on in my blogging days a marketing company sent us free products to review. We shared our family’s opinions and they weren’t always good.
I do give giveaways but I always pay for them. And I’m okay with that. During our rough times people helped us out and this is our way of paying it forward. In exchange I’ll share a link to their website, Twitter and FB. This works great for the small Etsy business that’s looking for more exposure. Sometimes I’ll receive extra thank you items in our order or they’ll give me a discount on shipping. That works for me.
Thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

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Manda July 18, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Hi Dagmar,
I have enjoyed what I’ve read of your blog, and we share some of the same opinions, so I’m glad I found you on twitter (due to you following me) over two years ago. It’s so wonderful to spread correct, encouraging information about breastfeeding. I just want to say that since you call yourself a professional writer, I would like to see you make fewer spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or typos.

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Lin May 5, 2011 at 5:28 PM

I’m just going to be honest here. This comes off as very elitist to me. I’m no less a “mommy blogger” simply because I choose to write reviews or do sponsored posts. I have a day job that I love, and blogging is a hobby for me. A hobby I’m proud of, but a hobby nonetheless.

I’ve blogged for many years, mostly about our infertility journey, but recently started Mom In Orbit where I focus more on products for kids and families. I made that decision because I research things to the hilt before I buy. Offering my opinion on a product may help another mom make a decision on a product for her family. As an added bonus, review blogging has provided some unique opportunities for my family, as well. I see it as a win-win for my readers and us.

I wish you all the best with your aspirations. You work hard and clearly deserve all that and more. However, I do think there is room under the umbrella “Mommy Blogger” for all of us. I, for one, hold that title rather dear since it is only by a miracle that I am able to call myself that at all.

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Kathy Morelli May 3, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Hi Dagmar – Great post…those are the blogs I aspire to as well…..kudos to you!

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Jess May 3, 2011 at 2:20 AM

“I wish people would differentiate between review blogs where some bloggers, let’s be real, will “review” just about anything for free or a gift card ”

Because what? You’re so much better than bloggers who choose to send their spare time reviewing products they truly like because you feel they are selling out to do so? Or they are not spending enough time with their families when reviewing products? Many review bloggers select certain products so family members can participate. And this is how they grow their blog.

By saying “I want the book deal and the TV appearances.”
Aren’t you doing the same by only posting about your family? Using them and the blog stories they create for you to get ahead? Same result, different “product”.

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Jess May 3, 2011 at 2:25 AM

Corrected email

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Dagmar May 3, 2011 at 4:36 AM

No, I’m not better than anyone, review blogs are just not for me.

I didn’t say anything about review bloggers “not spending enough time with their families when reviewing products.”

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Rachel @ the minimalist mom May 1, 2011 at 7:54 PM

Easy way to avoid being asked to write reviews: write about anti-consumerism and minimalism.
I would also love another term for the smart, passionate, funny and interesting blogs by women that are mothers. And another term for review blogs. I get it, people want to make a dollar from blogging but I quickly found out that when a review blogs ask me to guest post I should politely decline. Their audience is not interested in my take on simple living – they just want free stuff.
So what can you call yourself instead of a mom blogger? How ’bout writer. I like the ring of that. =)
Great piece here and thank you for sharing your take. Keep my eyes peeled and ears open for news of your book deal and tv show. You’re a great writer – it will happen.

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Katie @Pinke Post April 30, 2011 at 2:09 PM

I started blogging in 2007 to simply share about my family on the prairie. That has expanded in building community online, sharing about food and farming. During my blogging I have given birth twice and shared a lot about raising kids, being a working mom and the chaos of it all. But still why I blog has nothing to do with reviews, giveaways or public relations. I am not a “mommy blogger”. I love the points you made Dagmar and truly respect and appreciate your writing and blog.

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Darcy @ Tales From the Nursery April 30, 2011 at 1:22 AM

(trying again – got an error trying to leave a comment on mobile version so if you get a double comment from me – sorry!)

@Katy – you can unsubscribe to those feeds without unfollowing (in case you werent aware).

@Dagmar – You make great points even if I may be viewed as selling my blog soul ;P

I think it’s hard to place a dividing line between personal and review blogs. Many aren’t one or the other – like my own. I do both. But general labels aren’t good and as long as one enjoys what they do – yay. I love sharing personal & reviewing/giving away stuff.

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Anna April 30, 2011 at 12:18 AM

it’s interesting to me to read this point of view on the sponsored post/review blogs. i rarely review b/c I won’t do anything related to commercialism, disney, or advertising in schools (which, sadly, is what the majority of kid-focused companies do) but i feel like i am doing such a service to my readers when i do find a US based or green-friendly or all around ethical company to share with readers. when i post about a new green toy or a beautifully designed dollhouse, i feel like i am sharing important and valuable information that my readers are excited to read. i’m surprised you find these types of posts not of interest – but i guess like all things bloggy to each their own :)

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Dagmar November 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Anna, actually, those are the few reviews I will write – if I find a US-based or healthy or eco-friendly product I love. I see to as a service to my reader to introduce them to smaller, eco-friendly companies and am always excited to share those, like you.

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Aine April 29, 2011 at 9:37 PM

I totally hear you! I’m new to blogging & have only been doing it for 3 months but I see myself continuing. It’s only working & increasing in popularity as I’m staying true to my original aims of promoting a culture of breastfeeding in Ireland as well as creating a network of moms for myself. I don’t care for the term ‘mommy blogger’ either. Yes so what? I’m a mom, I’m passionate about something, I blog about it. The term just sounds so tiresome and pointless, hopefully not what my blog is about. Recently I have come together with some other moms & set up an art club where we hope to promote breastfeeding in a by-the-way kind of setting. I’m not going to make any money from it. However I am going to have great experiences with my son being creative with others. Also we will be creating an environment which normalizes breastfeeding. All done via the blog. It feels so empowering. That’s not mommy blogging as I see it. Really admire your work, along with Annie from pHd in Parenting, I aspire to be like you guys. Keep it up, from newbie, Aine x

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Hannah April 29, 2011 at 8:47 PM

My blog TheOliveParent has been in existence since 2007. I started it because I wanted to share, inform and empower moms/women in knowing what options are available to them when it comes to pregnancy, birthing and breastfeeding. I’m truly passionate about it and have written inspiring posts on the subject share as well as other materials I think would be helpful.

It is only as of late, a few months ago, I started putting more more into my blog. I’m not deceived in believing the hype. Nor do I care what I’m labelled. My blog speaks for itself. In this light, I’m comfortable with writing sponsored posts, which I don’t do a lot of. I’ve decided a long time ago, I was not going to get involved in giveaways, personally, it takes too much time away from content writing. If I find a product I’m passionate about and believe in it for my readers, no doubt I will do so.

I love blog hopping! I found it to be such a fun and neat way to connect, I’ve made some friends that way, does this make me a “mommy blogger”? I don’t know. I don’t really care to be honest, as long as I can “do me” and express my passions in a way that inspire everyone else, call me what you will :)

I have to say Dagmar, you are very inspiring as a blogger, professional, mommy, or not. I admire your honesty in posting and your ambitions, lofty and all!

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Kristi {at} Live and Love Out Loud April 29, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Dagmar, I love this! Everything you touched on is on point. You are a talented writer with a clear direction in mind. This is not a hobby or way in which you waste your time. I really respect that about you. I’ve told you several times before that Dagmar’s Momsense was one of the first blogs I stumbled across. I fell in love during my first visit and I’ve continued to come back since. In getting to know you and in reading more and more with each visit, I’ve come to respect you and look up to you as a mentor.
Being selective when it comes to giveaways, reviews and even the content that you write about is so important. And you made such a fantastic point when you said that your blog is your resume. I’m determined to write and treat my blog as a resume as well. I don’t need to go on book tours or be quite so grand, but I am determined to start writing for a living. Thank you for sharing your wonderful advice and for being a great inspiration.

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Dagmar April 29, 2011 at 9:23 PM

Kristi, and I respect you so much for being the mom you are and your wonderful blog. You are an excellent writer, a much better photographer than me, and so much better about commenting on other people’s blogs! I don’t know how you find the time.

Re: the book deal, I’m actually more interested in self-publishing to keep in control of my work (thanks to Be The Media) but I wasn’t going to get into that on this post. It was more about wanting to make a point — I have a lot of ambitions :)

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Ann Douglas April 29, 2011 at 8:37 PM

I think you make a lot of excellent points. Our time as mothers/writers is worth money and it should be valued by corporations who wish to generate income via our time and our words.

I’ll be interested in reading what other people have to say about the term “mommy blogger.”

In 2005, New York Times columnist David Hochman created quite a stir when he wrote, “The baby blog in many cases is an online shrine to parental self-absorption.”

Mothers were outraged and that led to much discussion about the ways in which “mom blogs” and “mommy bloggers” were viewed in the blogging community.

At feminist/mothering/blogging conferences, there has been much debate about the pros and cons of the term “mommy blogger.” Some people love it, some people hate it, some tolerate it in context (as a shorter way of saying “mothers who blog”).

I don’t know if I think of a mommy blogger as someone who reviews products. I have fond memories of the time when a mommy blogger was someone who wrote passionately about every detail of motherhood. This was before corporations discovered how lucrative it might be to pitch their products via moms who blog — and the world of mommy blogging changed. (I don’t have time to discuss the ramifications — pros and cons — here. Besides they’ve been well debated elsewhere.)

Perhaps the term has evolved even further. I’ll look forward to hearing what others have to say. Thanks so much for inviting me to be part of this discussion.

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andrea from the fishbowl April 30, 2011 at 1:41 PM

I agree with you Ann. I don’t think that the term “mommyblogger” includes only female motherly bloggers that do reviews and giveaways. But I do think that it’s become a term that many use in what amounts to be almost a derogatory sense, not unlike “soccer mom.” There’s an unspoken tarring and feathering happening there, judgment with a big sniff of derision. You are “just” a mommyblogger, you “just” write about diapers and breastfeeding and baby poop. Although I think there is great personal value in this kind of family scrapbook (I’ve written lots about all of these topics!) I still don’t like what the word has come to mean, that’s why I don’t like being called a mommyblogger.

Dagmar, I admire that you’re thinking big. I think that’s great. :)

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Jen - Life With Levi April 29, 2011 at 7:49 PM

Yay for posting this!! I’m literally in the middle of writing my new “PR Picky” page for my blog, but stopped for a pumping/Twitter break. So glad to see you set a policy that reflects your goals for this site.

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Katy April 29, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Great post. I have only been blogging for about 3-4 months, so I struggle with this. I don’t want to be know for doing reviews or giveaways, and I’m with you on the blogs that focus solely on that-I’m not really interested either, and I think the whole jumble of ads and everything looks messy. I am trying to build up a following and doing a lot of blog hops and such, so I always see a ton of those. I feel like I need to follow everyone that follows me, and then I have all those sites that I am just not interested in clogging up my feed, covering up actual blogs that I want to read because they are personal. I think a housecleaning is in order. I would like to do some reviews or giveaways for companies whose policies/products/cause I agree with, but very few and not distract from my content, which I think is way more important-hence the struggle. I did just join an ad network and write my first sponsored post-I have no delusions that I am going to blow up as big as Dooce, but even if I bring in just enough to pay for a pedicure & lunch a month, I want to feel like I am doing something for our household since I used to work full time before having children. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t want that, lol. Like you, I have some lofty goals-right now I am just in the trenches of the social media world, trying to dig myself up higher!

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Not a Perfect Mom April 29, 2011 at 4:39 PM

yes yes yes! I love writing my blog, and though I’m not opposed to doing a review or giveaway-I’m not going to sell my soul or bore my readers with some half assed review for 25 bucks…
That being said, some people are into that, and people obviously love review/giveaway blogs…but not this chick…

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Justine April 29, 2011 at 3:56 PM

I am so with you on this. I have been uncomfortable with the term “mommy or mom blogger” because of how it lumps all of us into one general category, and like you I’m reticent in reading ones about product reviews and what I consider as topics that don’t interest me, like celebrity style, TV shows, etc. I look for quality writing and human stories and while we moms are full of them, not everyone is successful in their delivery.

I am not saying I have the perfect formula for my blog but from the very beginning, my intent is to write for my daughter (and soon to be daughters) so they will have this as a keepsake. Though my blog is small, I’ve been approached by product people and I’ve turned them all down because it would seem that I would lose track of why I did this in the first place.

I respect those who took their blogs to great heights with great PR, social media marketing, reviews, etc. But that just isn’t for me. Good for you for blogging with integrity and sticking to what you are comfortable with.

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Jessica April 29, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Great tips and so true about the “momblogger” emails. I am learning quickly that unless it is something valuable to my readers it is not worth my time or the free product.

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Annie @ PhD in Parenting April 30, 2011 at 2:55 AM

I used to do a rare review here and there. But eventually I found the e-mails to be so annoying and also hated all the time it took to read and consider each “opportunity” that landed in my inbox. So I just stopped doing reviews.

Now I just ignore most requests for product reviews. Occasionally if product/company really catches my eye, I will reply saying that I don’t do reviews, but that I do offer advertising. Some of them have taken me up on it.

On the topic of “mommy bloggers” themselves, I wrote a post a while back breaking down the different types: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/08/13/typology-of-the-mommy-blogger/

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Linda May 4, 2011 at 1:14 PM

I was originally confused by the theme of this post since you have a button in your sidebar asking for votes for your “mom blog” and a “top mom blog” button, but then I read the rest of the post I do get what you are saying. I actually embrace the “mom blogger” title. You could argue that in every niche or type (as Annie termed it) there are bad apples – people (moms or otherwise) blogging for reasons we don’t admire or appreciate – and therefore you don’t read them. So you will have great mom bloggers (including great review mom bloggers) lumped in to one demographic simply because they are “moms who blog”.

I would look at the group as YOU define them and not as marketers define them and relish in this amazing community of thinkers and influencers. I also take what news sources “think” of mommy bloggers with a grain of salt. I’d rather embrace the term and educate people on the power of moms who blog and what they achieve every day. Even if it’s letting their readers know what the best stroller is.

And as someone who in my job connects brands and bloggers, trust me, we do appreciate bloggers who have an original thought from time to time, not just those who spit out advertorials. They really are the people brands want to connect with because of the value of their word to their readers. You’ve proven your value here in your comments – people get you and trust you to be honest and real. Some companies are just taking longer to figure out the benefits of that. Great post!

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