It's not surprising that Jim and I don't self-identify as bloggers locally. "What's a blog?" is the most common local response, and people shift uncomfortably from foot to foot and don't make eye contact when we try to explain. You'd think we were trying to explain the mechanics of the national debt. It's sad because I'm so happy to be blogging and have SOOO much to say about it and no live audience.
Some great blogging moms in Toronto got me thinking about what drives me to blog with their BlogHer or Bust "How Blogging Empowers Women" contest.
While I can't speak for all women- or at least I shouldn't- I can tell you how blogging empowers me.
My beloved baby group is full of wonderful women, but when it comes to politics and world view, this geek sometimes stands alone. I'm a charming (or so they say) eccentric who uses cloth shopping bags, avoids licensed characters and television, and hopes my son won't learn about Chuck E. Cheese until he is pushing 20 and can buy his own tokens. Online, people like Jenni and Jeremiah of zrecs.com, Asha and many readers of Parent Hacks remind me that other people are concerned about these issues too and inquiry is not dead.
As a complete neophyte in the world of parenting (I wasn't one of those girls who grew up planning to marry or have kids- so I dedicated no time to babysitting or even noticing much younger children and infants), it's nice to have a sounding board for some of the rogue ideas that cross my mind. Is it a good idea to use swim noodles to keep doors from closing? Probably. How about using an old pill bottle as a dice dome? Possibly not (as commenter Stephanie Marushia points out).
Blogging can function as a form of peer review where others in the parenting business test your ideas and issue verdicts. Sometimes professionals even weigh in on posts. It's really quite enlightening and far less embarrassing than local opinion polling. Without such feedback, I might be doing far more really stupid harmful things with the best of intentions.
That brings me to my next affinity for blogging- the complete nose-thumbing incredulity about the whole "Perfect Mom" image. Somehow, in real life groups, there is always someone who is trying to out-perfect (can I use Martha Stewart as a verb here?) her mom colleagues. This leads to some grievous dishonesty and rivalry. I think most of us aren't trying to portray ourselves as The Perfect Mom, we're just trying to stay above 50% and under the radar. Out here (in the 'sphere) people aren't ashamed to honestly discuss their parenting lows (tasting Desitin) and failings (or maybe more accurately feelings of personal failure). This honest dialog frees us from expectations (internal and external) of perfection and lets us laugh at those still clamoring toward Perfection. So what if my son is on the cracker and apple diet? Maybe he'll grow up to be the next skinny Elvis.
It's impossible to discuss empowerment and not touch on economics. While most parent bloggers aren't striking it rich and getting gold teeth and Escalades emblazoned with their kids' names, even a minimal investment into blogging can yield a teeny, tiny income for many. With free tools one can post a blog and get paid advertising posted on it. Sure, it may just be pennies a day, but they're pennies you didn't have before and (in my case at least) they're for doing something you'd do anyway for pleasure.
The most empowering thing about blogging is the supportive community it offers. While I've periodically read about inter-blog rivalry and trash talking (big versus little, corporately connected versus independent) parent bloggers have been nothing but wonderful to me. I cannot express the gratitude I have for established bloggers like Asha Dornfest who is so willing to showcase and praise other bloggers, especially new ones. I cannot think of another environment that has been so welcoming to so many. Another great parent blogger said to me that her experiences with blogs restore her faith in humanity. Maybe it's because we're all so appreciative for having a forum, but I think blogs may offer the best of us even when we're discussing our worst moments. Add introspection and hindsight, and maybe we're all a little better people.
I am about to wax rhapsodic, and no one needs to see that here.
I'll be a part of the Hostel Takeover at BlogHer so please say hello.
p.s. For others considering the hostel. I visited the hostel a few weeks ago, and for security reasons they couldn't let me see a room (which is actually reassuring because I just walked in off the street with no real reason to be there) but the public areas seem nice and very collegiate. At $30 a night in downtown Chicago I expected the building to be on fire- it's actually nice and the staff seem WONDERFUL. There are lockers for your stuff (but chances are your luggage itself won't fit), so bring a lock. There's a CTA bus that runs from near the hostel to Navy Pier [29 and 2 (peak hours)], so you don't have to spend a lot on cabs or walk great distances. Sorry, the tipster in me cannot be stopped.