Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mommy Blogger: Deconstructed

My brain hurts. Here I am, regularly bitching about the lack of mental stimulus in my life, and when I find a post that makes me feel like - finally! Mommies being all intellectual! - my brain fizzes, sparks, and does a little throbbing action, as if to really drive the point home that, dude, I really can't handle this.

But I insist on getting a handle on it, for I find this fascinating. Basically, some "mommy bloggers", along with the afore-linked-to GingaJoy, are going to be participating in a communications conference, and they will be presenting a panel called "Mommyblogging: Communal Activism or Self-Centered Blather?" The blog they've created specifically for this panel can be found here. It's really going to be a long-ass post if I describe what their panel is about, so here, go read about it. There are some really interesting thoughts about comments, rank and traffic that I keep going back and reading over again. (EDIT: Mad Hatter's not part of the panel, but you should go read her anyway).

To properly prepare for the panel, they're asking other mama bloggers to share their thoughts on the following questions. And since I never pass a chance to ruminate and pontificate (though that last one is actually Ben's area of expertise), and since my brain is aching for this kind of use, I'm more than happy to oblige.

1. Who are we? (Who is writing these "mommy" blogs?)

I don't know who "we" all are, but I can tell you who I am: 29-year-old Cuban-American (born in America to Cuban exiles, raised within a tight, insular community of other exiles); college-educated; working mother; writer. I since I think it would help the panel, I'm white and middle-class (now. I grew up poor and find that it still affects me on the day-today, but not in a traumatic way. O.k., not in an overly traumatic way).

As for who everyone else is, I agree with GingaJoy's assessment: white, with college degrees, and relatively privileged; mainly stay-at-home moms, although there are plenty of working moms, too. Save for about 5 or 6 other ladies (Amanda, Chantel, Jenny, forgive me anyone else I may have excluded) I've met via the "Miami's such small world" network, my take is that Hispanic women are in the minority, which sucks. What surprises me is that there aren't more Cuban-American female/mommy bloggers. From the standpoint that Cuban-Americans tend to be the most-educated and most-privileged among Hispanics, and assuming that the generalization of who mommy bloggers are is accurate, then I would think there'd be more of us. Of course, I know some pretty excellent Cubanitas who are not mommies, but are excellent bloggers.

And obviously, there are exceptions to these rules; these are just generalizations. But that said, it's obvious that many kinds of moms are left out of (or are unknown in) this community, and that says a lot to me. As it is, I myself am a minority in the mommy blogger world, and there are definitely times when I feel it. When I can't relate at all or think it's one big Anglo party. And the part of me that always wants everything to be fair feels that if I - who meet all the other presumed demographics with the exception of being Hispanic - feel this way, how must mothers who are poorer, less educated and racial/cultural minorities feel? And who will speak for them? They already face bias, judgment and exclusion in all other aspects of their lives - now in the blogging community too? This just says to me that even the Internet is not free of the same social issues that exist in the real world.

2. Who are we writing to? Who is our audience?

I'm not very clear on exactly who my audience is, which makes it very hard to write "to" an audience. So, I tend to just write about whatever's on my mind, and 90% of the time, I hit "publish" and hope someone out there will relate or like it or find themselves pondering my words of wisdom. I know other moms read me, some relatives, few friends, other So Fla bloggers and perfect strangers. Actually, I feel more connected to the So Fla blogging community than I do to the mommy blogger community. I stumbled upon some local blogs last year and realized there was a whole community of local writers/thinkers/cool people, and that I wanted in. I had actually never read a mom blog before I started this one, and I didn't set out to be a "mommy blogger" - it is what I became because I chose to write about my life, and my life is about my son and my experiences as a new mom,and so by default I am one, which is cool with me. Even so, I don't always stick to the "mom" theme, because there are other sides to me, and my goal is to successfully mesh whom I was pre-baby with the mother I've become, and then mesh all that with the woman I'm becoming. Also, I just like to write about different topics, and if I try to stick to any theme, that theme is "Tere: The Life, The Loves, The Legacy."

Actually, I would have to say that I don't feel like a "real" part of the mommy blogger community. With some exceptions, I haven't been able to connect to other mom bloggers the way I hoped I would, mainly because I feel like such a dork-ass just randomly e-mailing people. That, and the fact that when it comes to the mommy blogger community as a whole, I feel so much in the minority that it's incredibly hard to "fit in".

3. Why are we writing? What is our purpose?

Although this is true of a good number of mommy bloggers, I did not start this blog as a way to keep family posted on my son's progress. I started this blog because I wanted to write, period. I wanted an outlet to write about my life and explore a lot of the issues I'm dealing with, the path my life is taking, the random shit that floats in my head. I'm writing to be a better writer, to share something real about myself, to connect to other people on a more meaningful level. In that sense, I agree with GingaJoy's assessment and think I'm like other mommy bloggers: I want (need) a connection. I want to capture this time of my life because I've never been here before, and I'm in constant fascination with how I find myself and my life growing and expanding and evolving.

At the same time, I think a lot of the mom blogs I currently read didn't start out as mom blogs. These were women who were writing about their lives (perhaps to be better writers, for fun or to communicate with distant friends and relatives), and they became mommy bloggers as they had children and their lives naturally revolved around their kids and the experience of motherhood. I think that the proliferation of mommy blogs has led other women to start blogs when they become pregnant or have a child, because they too see the value in chronicling this incredible time of their lives.

4. What is the context for our writing? What are we saying? What is our message?

I think many of us are saying a lot of the same things: I am more than *just* a mother; I am exhausted; I want to feel like/be seen by others as an interesting woman; I have many challenges and struggles and yet my husband can't be bothered to put the toilet paper in the dispenser (er, wait, is that just me?); this mom thing is fucking hard; all the experts are wrong; why do I feel so guilty no matter what I do?; I want to be "me" again; I'm exhausted; why does motherhood obliterate any sex appeal/allure/attractiveness I may have ever had? (oh, is that just me again?); I still have a brain, you know; am I the only one going through this?; how do I juggle it all without failing?; and Jesus H. Christ, I'm exhausted.

I've seen these thoughts splayed out across hundreds of blogs now. We're trying to say that we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders and meanwhile, we look like shit.

5. How does the medium of blogging affect all this?

Basically, I can't put it any better than GingaJoy did, so I'm just going to paste her answer - "the linkages I mention above could not take place. Neither could the comments. The blog as a medium is critical because knowledge and ideas emerge as a result of conversation and interaction. You can track how a topic is discussed, how the community interprets it, and the consensus (or lack thereof) about what it all means" - and add: despite my feeling like an outsider in this mommy blogger world, for me this remains about community, which can only exist through a medium such as a blog. I love it when I read other blogs and realize that moms halfway across the country, with backgrounds completely foreign to me, are going through the same thing. I love reading about moms with kids older than my son because it's like a preview of what's to come. I love it when I do make a connection with someone, whether it's because our sons are the same age or we both love The Soup on E! I think these connections make us feel less alone, and like we have a support system.

And although unrelated, I have to add that this feeling of partially belonging, partially never being able to belong seems to be part and parcel of being a Cuban-American. I've felt this my entire life: raised in one culture while living in another, and never fully able to belong to either one. So the fact that I feel the same way about the mommy blogger community doesn't surprise me.

I don't know if I was able to express my thoughts very well here - my brain is out of practice and considering that it's past midnight, I'm damn exhausted.

My best wishes to these moms as they put this panel together; you're doing a great, incredibly impressive thing.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/14/2007   | |

11 Comments

  • Blogger Balou posted at 3/14/2007 12:21 AM  
    Aww... thanx for the plug! I actually just linked to you from my most recent post - how funny!

    Don't worry... If all goeas according to plan, hopefully I'll be a "Cuban mommy blogger" by next year and then we can compare notes!
  • Blogger Balou posted at 3/14/2007 12:34 AM  
    P.S. You expressed yourself VERY well. Your writing, as always, is incredibly well thought out and - while personal to you - still manages to connect directly with your audience.
  • Blogger Tere posted at 3/14/2007 11:28 AM  
    Thanks, dahling. We'll compare notes and laugh/cry over how we've become our own mothers!
  • Blogger Her Bad Mother posted at 3/14/2007 4:15 PM  
    I too began bloggin for the sake of writing - the sanity that it brought me, and the community, were an unexpected bonus. I had no idea about comments or commenting when I began, nor about linking or any of the community stuff. But in many respects this unexpected bonus has become the greatest reward!

    Thanks for thinking and writing about this!
  • Anonymous Jenny posted at 3/14/2007 4:23 PM  
    Oh good Lord. You're inspiring me to continue my blog!!! LOL I have MANY things to say on this and now want to write a post about it. I thought I was all done with it!! Maybe it was just ER extreme-fatigue.

    I certainly did not set out to write a mom blog, as the title of my blog suggests. I set out to write a blog about becoming an academic with a family. But my experiences with my son(s) just take over a major part of my life and my blog shows that.

    Of course, I have felt the insider/outsider identity as a Cuban American woman as well. I find it particularly interested that you self-defined as white and then sort of as a minority and then sort of not. I think that is a huge part of (at least for me) the confusion. I'm white in Miami. But I'm not white anywhere else in this country. In fact, I got into many arguments as an undergrad with white/anglos who were adamant that I was NOT white because of the fact that I was hispanic. White MEANS Anglo. Yet, that's not how it is in Miami. In Miami, we are white Cubans. And Cubans don't like being told/reminded that the white privilege does not exist north of Fort Lauderdale or west of, well, Miami. Over the decade that I've been gone from Miami, there's admittedly been an embarrassment and shame in my white identity, yet a stubborness because I FEEL white and I identify as part of the American mainstream for the most part. As a student of culture, identity, and equity/social justice in graduate school, this became a really major source of contention in my research meetings. What is a "Latino" identity and why is it so juxtaposed against a "White" identity such that I am an Other regardless of my actual experiences?

    I don't want to get off topic with this, but there is an irony that I do relate to when you identify as hispanic but then worry/care about the "inclusion" of the OTHER hispanics that are "really" the hispanics that the white/anglos call hispanic - poor, somewhat indigenous, etc.

    So who are we? And which box do we really fit in as bloggers? Are we a voice outside of the cultural mainstream that the "white, privileged" bloggers are hoping to include? Or are we part of the mainstream?

    To me, the fact that I even have this stance at all, the fact of the substance of my comment, tells me I'm the former. I AM the "other" that needs to be included. I just don't fit in the "other" category very neatly. None of us Miami Cubans do.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 3/14/2007 6:33 PM  
    Hey, being Cuban-American in Detroit in the mid 1960s was no picnic.

    -J.
  • Blogger Tere posted at 3/14/2007 7:44 PM  
    I believe it, Joke! There's more coming up on the CA aspect of being a mother. Stay tuned... I have lots to say and not much time to get it all out in a thoughtful manner...
  • Blogger gingajoy posted at 3/15/2007 10:11 AM  
    Tere, I am SO glad you wrote this post and also turned me on to a community I didn't know about. You're so right (from your comments)--it's great to fund new savvy voice, and then there's the "oh MAN, how can I keep up????" feeling. (I am feeling this one a lot lately).

    Thanks for answering our questions so insighfully. We certainly don't have all the answers. And you're right--I also did not start as a mommyblogger, but as a writer. I took on the name partly as a political gesture (i.e. to say "let's rethink "mommy" shall we? assholes") and also because it was the community I largely found myself part of--so it was a way of self-identifyng that made me belong. Without material markers, we have to find other ways to connect, and so this was one for me (not that I have everything in common with every single mother who blogs out there).

    I am definitly going to stay tuned to your space (love the design, btw--especially Orange. I dig orange;-))
  • Blogger Joke posted at 3/15/2007 3:34 PM  
    T.,

    You'd think there'd be more CAMBs. But there aren't, for some reason. This is hardly authoritative, but, f'rinstance, my wife and my sister, both of whom fit that general description of the MBs, couldn't possibly be less interested in blogging.

    In fact, instruments have yet been invented that can accurately measure how little interest they have in blogging.

    Why this is so, I have no idea.

    -J.
  • Blogger Manola Blablablanik posted at 3/16/2007 2:28 PM  
    Tere, I know what you're trying to say, but step outside and observe yourself for a moment. It's kind of like being stuck in traffic and not realizing you are the traffic. Even though you may feel like an outsider, you are part of the discourse and you are creating the community even if you don't realize it.

    As for the minority women, etc; this is perhaps due to lack of access to technology. But I also imagine that many well-educated moms don't give a hoot about blogging. They have their own "live" community and would rather spend their free time there. (I know a few.)

    This is a great post. A lot of insight on the nature of blogging. I'm going to quote you on my next piece at 411.
  • Blogger Mad Hatter posted at 3/16/2007 11:23 PM  
    Nice to meet you. I loved this post and the one above. I must say that I don't know much at all about the Cuban-American experience but what I can say is that here in Canada, we describe our country as a "cultural mosaic" as opposed to the "melting pot" that is the states. Immigrant communities do thrive in culturally distinct pockets here in much the same way you described the Cuban-American community above. As for the factor of exile playing into the mix, I find that fascinating--something I've never had to think about in terms of an entire community. My father-in-law was an exile from Eastern Euroupe after the 2nd World War but his situation was more random and isolated in comparison with the Cuban-American experience.

    I'm sorry. I'm blathering. It's just that I like learning about history and culture and what makes us who we are and why we claim the identities we claim.

    I also thought I'd mention that I'm actually not part of Her Bad Mother's and Joy's panel. I'm just someone who has been thinking a lot about blogging lately.

    Once again, pleased to meet you.
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