I don't like to go for walks during the weekdays, because my small subdivision is usually deserted. It feels eerie, as if E and I are the last people left on earth. If you're a suburban stay at home mom, it can take real effort to find a community of moms (or even just one mom!) that will help alleviate that feeling of being the only one left. One of the real benefits to so-called "mommy blogs" is that they help fill the void of human interaction so many moms experience. But mothers who blog are widely ridiculed and judged, as shown by the comments on the New York Times Motherlode blog the other day.
Reading through the comments, I was really shocked, but perhaps I shouldn't have been. Women, and mothers in particular, are always judged more harshly and criticized more openly, and blogging opens us up even more to that judgment and criticism. It occurred to me, however, that aside from giving women the chance to feel connected to each other, perhaps blogging can serve another, larger purpose - bringing the experience of motherhood into the public realm.
On the surface, motherhood seems very public. Baby bumps are considered fashion accessories; books and magazines about parenting abound. But the true experiences of mothers remain largely private. Our struggles with pregnancy, pre-natal and post-partum depression, the ugly truth about recovering from childbirth, the bleeding nipples as we learn to nurse our babies, the sleepless nights, the search for the right daycare - these are all kept quiet. We're not supposed to complain. After all, we chose to have children. Real life motherhood is a lot different than it looks on TV, and blogging allows us to tell the true story.
But mothers being more honest about their experiences in a public way inspires vitriol in some, and I believe the reason is these women pose a challenge to the status quo of mother as martyr. As more and more intelligent, thoughtful women share their experiences in a public forum, gaining public voices in their roles as mothers (as opposed to their roles as attorneys, teachers, etc.), more and more women will begin to critically examine the way society treats mothers and families. More and more women will begin to question the lack of systemic support for families once they learn they're not the only ones who struggle with issues such as pre-natal or post-partum depression, or ad hoc daycare arrangements. Over time, I have to believe that this will add steam to movements focused on developing public policies to support families, and in particular, mothers. (Year long maternity leave, anyone?)
I'm not suggesting that mommy blogs are going to change the world, but I am suggesting that blogs can be a powerful public forum, and there are many women out there creating public voices for themselves. Some are focused on supporting each other through the day to day details of raising kids, some are focused on more political issues that relate to motherhood, but whether it's diaper changing or day care subsidies, blogs are a game changer, and there are those out there who like the game just the way it is and will continue to disparage mothers who exercise this public voice.
Mommy Bloggers of the world, unite!