Now that I’ve drafted a substantial chunk of my book project, I’d like to start sharing little pieces of the rough, messy, but one-hopes-full-of-promise version with you. First up, a tiny slice out of my work on “mommy blogging” and other modes of parental self-expression. What are your thoughts?
People love groaning about how terribly annoying child-related Facebook updates are. I once listened to an entire academic conference paper about how distressing it is when young mothers use Facebook profile pictures that feature a baby or child instead of or in addition to the Facebook user herself. The speaker believed that everyone uses a Facebook profile picture the way she herself does: to express his or her core identity (which raises, for me, some pretty serious questions about those users whose profile pictures display dogs, cats, geographic locations, or random aesthetically-pleasing objects). And she was disgusted that, as she saw it, friends who temporarily change a profile picture to a recent baby photo or—double gasp—an ultrasound image of a fetus (presumably by way of making an announcement or emphasizing an emotionally-significant experience, or maybe as a weird joke, who knows?) have completely abandoned their own identities and are now living vicariously through their children, shells of their former (much cooler and more socially-adept) selves. In less august settings than scholarly conferences, too, people often seem annoyed when parents say much of anything about their children or the experience of parenting in pretty much any context outside a Mommy and Me or La Leche League meetup.
Many people also enjoy rolling their eyes at “mommy bloggers,” a label that some apply to anyone who writes a blog, is a mother, and ever mentions children or parenting. The stereotypical mommy blogger is a young, college-educated, white stay-at-home mom who posts artsy-cute pictures of her children, tells stories that illustrate her extreme attentiveness as a mother, and shares recipes and other evidence of her superior craftiness and housewifery. The conversation around “mommy blogging” involves dynamics that extend far beyond blogging. The bile thrown at “mommy bloggers,” the condescension and the mocking, and indeed the label itself all express a larger cultural disdain for women who A) are mothers and B) dare to talk about it in public. This distaste illustrates a larger belief that, really, mothers and children ought not to exist in public at all. We (and alarmingly mother-like fathers who actually parent their young children, too) ought not to take up public space—even virtual public space—because we belong utterly in the private and domestic sphere.