I’m biased. I love mom-blogs. I am a mom-blogger, and some of my best friends are too. I'm convinced mom-blogging is one of the best things to hit motherhood since the invention of playdates. So, if you’re a mom, and not blogging, you should consider giving it a try. You will love it. I promise.
I started blogging for two reasons: I was desperate for community with other moms, and I love writing. I was also interested in keeping some live record of my daughter’s life, but this was secondary. I wasn’t interested in becoming a blog celebrity. If you blog primarily for the attention—to get comments and traffic—you’ll get frustrated. Blogging takes time and energy, and if you’re not doing it for some more immediate and accessible reward (making friends, finding support, venting your thoughts and feelings), you’ll burn out fast.
You have to live with it, and the more involved you get in the community, the more you will find you're identified almost exclusively by your blog name. If you’re hoping to carve out a space for yourself in the mom-blogging community, you want it to be catchy, unique, and easy to remember. I changed my blog name a few weeks into its existence, because the original name just didn’t fit. So I became Her Bad Mother, and am known by that name. You might consider doing research into your chosen name. Someone else might be using it, and confusion can ensue—not to mention hurt feelings, or worst case, trademarks get violated. A Google search of your chosen name will suffice.
The most successful bloggers have distinct voices or characters – you can usually spot their writing even without the marker of their photo or blog banner. For many bloggers, this comes naturally – once you start writing, you find your groove through the topics you write about (do you just tell anecdotes about your children? Do you tackle politics, art, culture, celebrity gossip? Do you stick to humorous topics? Do you write serious essays? Both?) Your voice emerges organically. Some actively cultivate a persona through their use of language or photographs or topics they favour. The key is to carve out a personality for yourself. Maybe this will look like your real life personality, or maybe you’ll have more fun being snarkier or edgier on your blog.
If you’re going to blog regularly, you need to be comfortable in your blogging space and blogging identity. If you’re not comfortable writing about sex, for example, don’t make that a hallmark of your blogging personality just to attract traffic – you won’t be happy, and your voice will ring false. Write about what you love, in a way that feels comfortable to you, and you can’t go wrong.
Having a distinct voice and unique stories to tell are far more important than being able to craft an elegant sentence. So when I say write well, I mean write with conviction, passion and heart. Tell interesting stories. Or, tell ordinary stories, but make them interesting by finding the comedy—or the pathos—in them. I can read a good story about poopy diapers over and over again, not because poopy diapers are anything new to me (ha!), but because most mom-bloggers writing about them find some new twist of humor in the grim, everyday chore of diaper-changing.
How much of your life are you going to reveal on your blog? Are you going to write anonymously, pseudonymously, or under your own name? Will you identify your children by name, or by pseudonym? Will you post pictures? Will you write about your extended family? Any mom-blogger will tell you that bloggers who reveal more about themselves and their families tend to garner larger readerships – the more open, honest and “raw” a blog, the more readers respond. But they will also tell you that revealing more about yourself and your family is a controversial enterprise—some people aren’t comfortable posting pictures of their kids, and some spouses just don’t like the idea of becoming a character on their partner’s blog (this is all the more true for in-laws and neighbours and friends). Your husband might hate the idea of his snoring or farting being plot points in a blog anecdote, and you don’t want to find out the hard way.
People aren’t going to read you if they don’t know you’re out there. The single best way to make your presence known? Visit other mom-blogs (and dad-blogs, and group parenting blogs) and leave comments. Comment early, comment often and comment smartly. Don’t just say ‘nice post!’—say something thoughtful (or funny/witty/touching) about what you’ve just read. Demonstrate to another blogger that you’re interested in what they have to say and they will likely want to find out what you have to say.
Make friends, online and off. Online, visit other blogs and engage with their authors. Leave comments at their posts, link to those posts from your own blog, send them e-mails if they’ve written something that touched you, or if you have some resource to offer (I recently discovered a slew of new blogs when my posts about breastfeeding difficulties prompted readers to send me links to their own posts about similar challenges.) Don’t forget bloggers are real-life moms, too: find out who lives near you and propose getting to know each other offline. If you travel, find out which of your blogging acquaintances live in those locations and propose meeting. Go to conferences (www.blogher.com), meet-ups and get-togethers. Get yourself out there, and you’ll gain friendships and readers.
Get involved in blog enterprises being spearhead by the moms you meet online. Spearhead your own blog enterprise. Volunteer to be a contributing writer on a group blog (http://www.betterthanaplaydate.com/—always looking for contributers!). Join blog networks, participate in ‘blog blasts,’ get involved in online activism (http://www.bloghersactcanada.com/; http://www.leagueofmaternaljustice.com/ ). The more active you are, the more exposure you’ll receive, the more friends and readers you’ll draw to yourself.
The mom-blogging community is big and complicated. Usually, it’s the most warm and inclusive community imaginable, but on occasion little conflicts erupt. The relationships in the community are at once intimate (we share the most important details of our lives with one another) and distant (we mostly only know each other virtually)—so there’s a lot of space for misunderstanding. If a conflict erupts that doesn’t involve you, resist the temptation to get involved. If a conflict generates discussion about broader community issues or issues of interest to you, great – by all means participate in the dialogue. But avoid being dragged into personal politics—someone always gets hurt.
11) (BONUS TIP!) Remember success can be defined in many ways.
It’s nice to start a blog and have it become popular.. But online popularity isn’t the only reward of blogging or the only marker of success. There are many mom-blogs out with a fraction of the traffic of more popular bloggers, but who have very loyal, close-knit circles of readers with whom they’ve forged great friendships. And the markers of conventional popularity can be misleading, too: some very high-traffic mom-blogs get very few comments, while some smaller blogs with active readerships receive bags of comments.
How one measures the success of one’s blog is entirely personal. Have you made friends? Have you found support in the community? Are you being fulfilled? Are you having fun? If you have, then you’re a successful mom-blogger. Congrats—and enjoy it!
Catherine Connors is a mother, writer and recovering academic. When she's not changing diapers or writing scholarly articles about the characterization of motherhood in Western philosophy, she blogs as Her Bad Mother. She's also the moderator of Her Bad Mother's Basement, a open blog-space for anonymous, confessional blog posts submitted by readers, the founder and editor of Better Than A Playdate (formerly MommyBlogsToronto), a collaborative blogzine for parent bloggers in Canada, and is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer. In her spare time, she relaxes by writing about pop culture at Mamapop and Babble - you know, for fun - and by trying to convince anyone who will listen that bad is, indeed, the new good.