I’ve always shied away from the term ‘mummy blogger’. But, as I’ve touched on before, this is entirely my problem, my bad. Probably. Well, those patronising shits who dreamt up the phrase too, it’s their fault also. There is nothing wrong with being an out and out ‘mummy blogger’, not at all. The problem is that the term is often used pejoratively, a way of belittling or trivialising of the voices that are behind these writings (indeed, I’m guessing it was invented to be such).
In her short story “Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit” (brief extracts from which I often find myself using to punctuate important times in my past, for some reason) Sylvia Plath wrote “a shadow crept up the underside of the world”. This pretty damn accurately describes the sense of foreboding I had right before and right after having my first child. Like nothing would ever be the same again, I’d never know myself as I had for the past 26 years, ever again.
We don’t need ‘mummy bloggers’, or rather we don’t need women who happened to be mothers who happened to be bloggers being blanketly labelled in this way, like in that game where everyone wearing green (for example), or something, is out. We’re not all the same – we have diverse interests, views and life experiences behind us. We need mothers’ voices, but we don’t need a cutesy, patronising subheading that does everyone who writes (and parents) a disservice. But we definitely do need mothers writing online. Why? Because until the blogging boom, a mothers’s voice was limited – for these reasons:
- Mothers are tired. And this tiredness is often if not always the product of the seemingly endless, often thankless hillock of womens’ work we have to get through each and every day: day and night, domestic and public, physical, emotional and mental.
- Mothers are busy. From the day they give birth, mothers are actively deployed in work. Work, work, work – service, paid work, instinctive alertness: several shifts that run into each other like a sometimes hellish preschool watercolour marbling activity.
- Mothers often take cuts in hours or pay to raise their children, and so end up doing the triple shift for less reward.
- Being a mother is a low-status job, and just as the suffragettes were taunted, belittled, written off by those who mattered at the time, similarly mothers experience false exhalation simultaneous with disregardation.
So the more mothers who find a voice online, the more we can write our own collective history. Sounds grand and dramatic, right? But that’s exactly what it is – writing online (but please keep a backup copy in case your webhosting goes bust), writing anywhere really, has become a way for everyone, including mothers, to write their own experience for others to read, understand, interpret – no middleman.
Trivialising literature by and for women, or texts addressing ‘women’s issues’, isn’t new – chick-lit,mommy-porn, chick-flicks – if it’s for or by women, you can probably write it off as without depth or weight or relevance to shaping the discourse of our time. Just like when Robert Burns would write in English to make a serious point, so a male voice is assumed to be an authority – someone who knows what’s up, has a story to tell that we should all sit up and listen to. But start documenting your parenting journey and everyone screams inconsequence and loses their minds to stuff that ‘really matters’.
Parenthood fundamentally changes who you are, shakes you to nucleus level, and for so many mothers in particular this sudden crumble of everything they once new can feel like rebuilding their own personhood again from scratch. It’s a massive fucking deal. You’ve got to start over somehow and you’re scrambling to put pieces of yourself that you’re finding scattered around the floor about you back together to make something that looks whole again. You feel like more is expected of you – compassion, energy, time, resourcefulness – but you have less than you ever had to give anyone, including your children. Many of us find ourselves with absolutely no agency, and we may think we’re in an A Level English study guide for a historical novel with a principal (disempowered but surrounded by status and tradition and hierarchy that they can never transcend and are destined to move within until they politely die) female character, for we may as well be in some bygone era, it may as well be us. I literally felt like I’d passed out after too much gas and air and woken up in 1952, or in The Tiger Who Came to Tea, for the way I was suddenly being spoken to by professionals, (dis)regarded, encouraged to view myself.
But birth is MASSIVE. In not only witnessing but doing birth, we’ve come as close as many of us have ever yet come to seeing how life begins and ends – we’ve touched origin, actually felt it, and thus we’ve also experienced what it is to die, in a a way.
When I became a mother, I began to relate to feminism no longer as an academic discipline, a series of rhetorical responses, a set of ideas; discrimination and the chasm between the sexes and isolation were no longer something that happened before the Equal Pay Act (1970), they were alive and fucking well.
So I suppose when I think back to when and where my blogging journey started, I must consider that whilst it started before I became a mother, my urge to document my personal experiences really kicked in when when parenthood hit me, because it was probably the first time in my life when I truly felt I didn’t have as much right to a voice as everyone else, and that I would have to shout LOUDLY to have a shot at still existing. Although I’d blogged for a few years pre-parenthood, the compulsion to speak and write and document had never before felt so intense.