There’s been much drama in the parent blogging community this weekend following a Mumsnet thread debating mummy bloggers. The general consensus of the thread was that a large number of people didn’t see the point of them. Posters on the thread called mummy bloggers irritating and cringe-worthy. Some felt bloggers were just trying to blag freebies, that the blogs were poorly written and boring, that bloggers were boasting about their pretend lives and, my personal favourite, that we are “dull as fuck, smug and self-absorbed”. Can I get that printed on a t-shirt, please?!
Now, I’ve never had a problem with people expressing their opinion (provided it’s not racist/sexist/derogatory or prejudiced). And I do think some of their points are valid to an extent.
I’m sure there will be some kids who grow up hating their parents for plastering their faces over social media, for example. And any bloggers in it solely for the freebies will soon give up when they realise how much work is involved in writing, photographing, promoting on social media, keeping up with comments on all your different platforms. It’s all-consuming.
Of course there are differing qualities of blogs. But I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. There are also differing qualities of musicians. But just because someone is not going to be the next Ed Sheeran, why should they not enjoy getting up and singing karaoke at their local pub? Or just because someone’s paintings are never going to hang in a top gallery, why shouldn’t they enjoy painting in their spare time? If someone likes doing something, then let them. We’ve all got to start somewhere and by honing their crafts, who knows what talent may emerge?
I know a lot of bloggers have been quite upset by the Mumsnet thread. However, having been a journalist for 17 years, I know full-well that part and parcel of making a living by putting your words out there for public consumption means you’re also putting yourself out there to be attacked by those who disagree with what you are saying.
As my journalism lecturer said to me many years ago, the last thing you want is for your readers to be indifferent. If people have an opinion, whatever it is, at least they are engaging with what you have written. You want to create a response in people.
For those new to blogging, which is by and large a friendly and supportive community, reading negative and hurtful comments on your blog or social media for the first time can be like a punch to the guts. I have friends who have been devastated by comments from trolls on their blogs. Personally, I ignore most of the negative comments. I usually screen shot them and send them to my blogger friends with a crying with laughter emoji. We journalists have a saying, “never go below the line” – the line being the end of your article and the start of the reader comments. Technological advances mean people think they can say anything they like online, without consequence. Some of them deliberately say mean or hurtful things to create a response.
So, I’m not going to dwell on the negative comments on the Mumsnet thread. I read most of it laughing, to be honest. Like I said, they’re perfectly entitled to their opinion and we all have things which irritate us (in my case, it’s currently people who post a route and time on Facebook every single time they go for a run but, you know, scroll on by).
Instead, I’m going to focus on some of the positives I feel parent bloggers bring to the parenting community in general. Because I feel strongly that there are a lot of parent bloggers making a difference. Here goes.
We write honestly about the realities of parenting
Yes, there are some bloggers whose pages are filled with all the wonderful craft creations they have made with their kids, which is great, or their pristine monochrome houses and kids, and that’s great too.
But a lot of us write honestly about the tough parts of parenting too. You never see this in traditional parenting magazines. You get practical steps to weaning, baby milestones, reviews of a dozen high chairs, what to pack in your hospital birth bag, which again is great and really useful information.
But motherhood can be really isolating and it is so easy to feel like you are the only one struggling. There are amazing bloggers out there such as Hurrah For Gin, The Unmumsy Mum, Constance Hall and Brummy Mummy of Two who have numbers of followers most of us bloggers could only dream of. Because people – millions of people – relate to what they are saying. They get their fair share of criticism too mind due to writing humorously about the negative sides , but the fact that what they are saying resonates with so many readers, speaks volumes.
Even with my middle-of-the-road blog, I have lost count of the number of mums who have told me they relate when I’ve written about how I struggle to keep my house clean, how some days are so challenging they leave me in tears, how I constantly feel like I am winging it, how I struggle with mummy guilt. “It’s not just me feeling like this!” they’ll say. “I thought I was the only one.” “I needed to read this, thank you.”
Bloggers provide a voice often missing in the mainstream media. That voice you really need to hear when you are at the end of your tether and feel like you are the only one struggling. A reminder that you are normal.
We write about important issues and provide support to others
Raising awareness of miscarriage has been really important to me, both as a journalist and a blogger. When I miscarried eight years ago, blogs weren’t really a thing. I really wish they had been though because I found it such a lonely time; I don’t think a lot of people really understood what I was going through and reading blogs about others’ experiences would have really helped.
Every time I have written about miscarriage I have been overwhelmed by the response. And I know it is the same for other bloggers who have written about their experiences of baby loss too. The Dad Network’s recent vlog on how he feels about the fifth miscarriage he and his wife has experienced is utterly heart breaking, but so full of raw honesty too. It’s currently been viewed more than 44,000 times in just a few days and his social media channels are full of people sharing their own experiences.
And it’s not just miscarriage and baby/infant loss. Other mums write candidly about post-natal depression, what it’s like being a parent to a child who is autistic or who has Down’s syndrome, or diabetes. There are bloggers talking about their battle with cancer, or having a baby in a special care unit.
We don’t always have a friend or relative who understands or has experienced what we are going through. Reading a blog from someone who knows what it is like can be immensely supportive. And if you have a friend in any of these situations, it can help you understand more about what they are going through and work out how best to support them too.
We are a source of information
One of the big focuses of my blog is family-friendly days out in and around Cardiff. I spend hours and hours putting together my listings of forthcoming events and days-out guides. And I know they are useful because my statistics show me they are some of the most-read stuff I write.
Yes, my family are lucky to get invited to review events and attractions, but I also write about free places we have visited – parks, beaches, woodlands. And I always write honestly and with as much detail as possible so that parents can be as informed as possible should they choose to visit such places and, indeed, whether it is worth their money or not.
Likewise, when I’m looking for information, I often find myself turning to bloggers because I know I’ll get an honest opinion from another parent. It’s the online equivalent of asking your friends what they think. There are local food bloggers I like to read because I trust their reviews of local restaurants and there are mummy fashion bloggers who inspire me with what to wear because mums who want to look stylish but also dress practically for life with little kids are pretty much ignored by the mainstream media.
We support and raise money for charities
Just before Christmas, followers of Hurrah for Gin donated £45,000 to Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to help people living in conflict zones. The donation was matched by The Financial Times, so was actually worth £90,000 to the charity. That’s incredible.
On a smaller scale, my local blogger friend Heledd of Yummy Blogger wrote about places in Cardiff desperately in need of donations of baby and children’s clothing, toys and maternity wear. The post went viral locally and so many of the charities received donations as a direct result of her article. Isn’t that fantastic? Most bloggers I know have supported a charity in some way or other through their blog.
We make people laugh
There are blogs which have actually made me cry with laughter. Not just the obvious big names such as Constance, Unmumsy and Hurrah, but smaller bloggers, such as Big Trouble in Little Nappies and Life Love and Dirty Dishes who manage to depict parenting in all its glory and with such wit. Some days this is exactly what I need! Some days are so knackering and testing that what you really need is a good belly laugh about the whole situation, and thankfully there are bloggers who will provide this.
I’d love to know what you think, whether you are a fellow blogger, someone who enjoys reading blogs, or someone who doesn’t like blogs at all*! Do let me know in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy
*prepares to be lynched by Mumsnet! 🙂