Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why I Blog: A Manifesto

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, 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.


Anonymous said...

My son's playgroup is very copacetic--most of us have the same views of things like TV time and organic food, and it's the only group of real live people I know in which I can say "Hey, I trashpicked the coolest turtle-shaped sandbox the other day!" without anyone reflexively reaching for the baby wipes, like Mr. Monk.

However, like you, I never really intended to have children, so I also failed to absorb a lot of things that are apparently second nature to many women (and our playgroup is largely made up of former teachers, pediatric occupational therapists, and others who are REALLY good with small children). The blogosphere gives me the information I need to fill that void, and I like your blog the best because you use words like "quotidian" and you're comfortable with geeky things. Star Wars jokes and anything more Web 2.0-ish than, say, Shutterfly are just not part of our playgroup mothers' world (or, to be fair, MOST mothers' worlds), but there are plenty of geeky moms online. I really like that.

indywriter said...

I just started a new blog. My old one was put out of it's misery (Livejournal just wasn't right for me, I guess). I'm not sure why I feel the need to blog. I have plenty to keep me busy, but I like to write and find it cathartic to share. There's nothing better than reading someone's blog and realizing that you aren't alone. Sure other kids have barfed, but I know that if I mention the mysterious barfing flu that you would understand the full impact of the accompanying horror. Sometimes all it takes is knowing one other person out there understands what "it" is like to make you feel better.

I appreciate your blog, for the hacks and tests. I look at products in a similar way, so I like that you try everything.

Oh, and tell Jim that I liked his idea about the "dummy" computer. I haven't gotten that fancy, but I did buy a keyboard at the flea market. I popped it open to remove the cord then handed it over to the girls. Both of them love it. I should have bought 2.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Adrienne, you're so awesome!!!! I blog so I get to know people like you!

Anonymous said...

What a great entry :^) and thank you for the mention!

Anonymous said...

I hear you on the "What's a blog?" reaction. No one I know knew about my blog until a local newspaper wrote an article, and then mostly people were excited to see my daughter's photo. They couldn't remember the blog name or what I do.

We're just average parents sharing our experiences. Except you can, for example, snap a couple photos of your bathroom to illustrate how you're accommodating your toddler, and end up helping a LOT more new parents that you will ever chat with in a playgroup. As for why I blog, it feels really good when people e-mail you to say you helped them out, or they suggest an alternate viewpoint you hadn't considered.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the Parent Hacks gig! Look forward to seeing you here and there :^)

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, YES. So happy to be neighbors and friends.

Her Bad Mother said...

Restoring faith in humanity? YES YES YES.

There's so much heart here.

Jackie said...

I love your blog, seriously. And I love your layout. I am new to the whole blogosphere and aren't as high tech as some. LOL...anyways, I look forward to reading more of your stuff!