Nataly Kogan, a former venture capitalist who very recently flew the corporate coop (yeah Nataly!) to co-found a company called Work-it Mom, recently wrote a blog post calling for perspectives on what she calls the “coming out of the mom closet.” It was spurred by a conversation with a potential contributing writer to her site who said:
“I really like what you’re doing but I try to not be associated with mommy sites. I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a mommy blogger.”
Nataly was kind of surprised by this comment, as she didn’t expect this to be an issue in this day and age when women are such an integral part of the workforce, and being a Mom is not exactly something that carries great social stigma.
She called for perspectives on this topic from working moms, including me.
I have to admit that when I read the post and the initial quote by the reticent writer, my first thought was:
I totally understand where she is coming from.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore being a Mom, and am very proud of it (not that I take any credit – the whole thing is a freaking miracle, if you ask me). But when it comes to including lots of “mom stories” in my work, I walk a careful line. What drives all editorial decisions for what I do or don’t write is a strange, intuitive compass that says “this topic would be of interest to my audience.” A lot is based on emails I get, or feedback from my monthly calls, or work with clients. But underlying that data is a kind of “hunch” that I need to write or share something on a given day. And “mom” stories raise a particular flag inside me for some reason.
The connotation, fair or accurate or not, is that “mommy bloggers” spend most of their time writing about the appropriate kind of snack to pack for a field trip, how to get spit-up stains off your suit, or the varying consistencies of baby poop.
There are some wickedly funny and smart “Moms who blog” like Mimi Smartypants (VERY rated R sometimes, but if you don’t mind well-used profanity, you will enjoy this blog) and Mom-101, who gives an eloquent breakdown of the “mommyblogger” debate here. Excerpt:
“I have never once called myself a Mommyblogger, not without a heavy dose of irony. I admit in fact to cringing when I hear myself described that way. I tend to say instead, “I have a parenting blog.” And yet, I often feel the need to offer a disclaimer. “I have a parenting blog, but…”
But…I can also discuss Bush’s heinous disregard for the Kyoto treaty and the potential impact for generations to come.
But…hey, do you like Journey? Wait til you hear my new ringtone!
Saying “while I write about my child, I think really what I do is look at social issues, politics, pop culture, and my own feelings about work and the world through the eyes of a new mother” is a wee bit verbose in most contexts. Mommyblogger it is. Blech.
It’s not that blogging about our children is such a horrible thing. I mean, Dooce can make washing a bottle more interesting than most women could make a menage-a-trois with George Clooney and Johnny Depp. But in my opinion, the diminutive, mommy, automatically demeans whatever it is the author has to say. That no matter how many degrees she holds, how many times she uses words like ostensibly and onomatopoeia, she’s still writing something trivial.”
I know that many of my readers have families and are often driven to an entrepreneurial lifestyle so that they have more freedom and flexibility to actively participate in their children’s lives. Or they work from home, so can relate to some of the challenges faced uniquely by work-at-home parents (which I wrote about.)
The rule of thumb should be similar to showing your vacation pictures to friends and relatives. Sometimes, we get so carried away by the excitement of our vacation that we forget it is much less interesting to friends who weren’t there. By the 42nd “and this is another castle in the countryside of Switzerland!” photo, they are madly racking their brain to think of ways to leave your living room, including feigning a heart attack, since being subjected to 45 minutes more of your deathly pictures would be worse than being carried out on a stretcher by emergency medical technicians. Such is how some people feel about “parenting” stories.
General “to disclose or not disclose” guidelines could be:
- What is the purpose of your blog?
- Who is in your audience?
- Is the fact that you are a Mom (or Dad) of relevance or interest to the work you do?
- Is it part of your brand? Work-it Mom, webmomz, and a thousand other sites have chosen niches that specifically appeal to mothers.
- Are you sharing because it is a bit self-indulgent, bordering on vacation picture behavior?
I have chosen to write a few posts around my motherhood experience, but keep it very limited. A wonderful, consistent blog reader (who happens not to have any kids) wrote me a note after one of my few “mommy” posts that started something like “when I started to read the post about your son, I groaned a bit since I was worried that it was going to be a “mommy” post…” She ended up liking the article because it did have broader applications to the world of work, but this definitely reinforced my reticence to writing a whole bunch of posts about my experience as a mother.
Perhaps the other side of the coin is protection. The world can be kind of scary, and sharing too much about my kids sometimes makes me a bit nervous.
Ultimately, we can all choose the amount of disclosure that is comfortable.
I am not shy to disclose parts of my personal life where it will help make a point, provide support or empathy to my audience, or add more interest and power to a story. Then there are the times when I blog on a personal rant as cheap therapy, and I reserve that right, since I spend a lot of hours focused on the needs of others. 🙂
Ultimately, I think we should each respect our internal comfort level at disclosing any number of personal details in the work environment. Be proud of who you are, and know how “open” is too “open.”
I’m curious for the parents out there as to where you fall on the “parental disclosure” issue in your work and writings. And for the non-parents, what is your “barf-o-meter” when it comes to parenting stories in business blogs?
P.S. And, yes, I did slip in a picture of my cute son for this post, since what the hell, I was taking a risk to write about Mom stuff anyway. Thanks, Dad, for the great picture!