Let me preface this with a little story… when I was a kid and teen there was a certain group of other kids whom I was thrown in with because we belonged to the same church. The kind of “friends” you have to hang out with because of your parents’ social circle. We also went to the same schools, lived in the same town, etc. I, essentially, grew up with these kids… and they weren’t always very nice to me. They were cool and I wasn’t. They knew what was “in” and I didn’t. They were nice when it was one of them and myself, one on one, but as soon as other kids showed up they would tease me, bait me, blah blah blah. (Anyone who has been through this knows what I’m talking about.) I did continue to hang out with them (something I would not do as an adult) because, one on one, they were perfectly OK kids and we had fun. I never baited, teased, or was snarky back. Usually when they started up I got quiet or I wandered off to be with other people.
I think, in their minds, they thought I was trying to be cool and was just hopelessly failing. That I hung out with them, tolerated their behavior, because I wanted to be like them, and that’s also why I was never snarky back... to stay in their "cool" good graces.
They didn’t get it.
I wasn’t snarky to them because I had no interest in falling to their level. I wasn't even particularly interested in being "cool". Regardless of what they thought of me, I liked myself. Part of what I liked about myself was not being a mean person. I wasn’t going to compromise who I was to fit into their standards of the popular crowd. I gave them credit for their good qualities and the times we did have fun, and blew off the rest (or tried – at 12 it’s hard). I certainly wasn’t going to emulate the behavior that I didn’t like.
But I did, often, feel left out.
Sometimes I feel there is a popular parenting crowd online. And I’m not a part of that either.
Rebecca hit a major nerve for me in her recent post, “Good Parent”… she identified an aspect of parenting, and of the blogosphere in particular, that has always bugged me. It is the proliferation of “I’m a bad mom” posts; the posts that not just explore parenting insecurities (which we all have at times) but almost seem to insist that they are crappy parents and wallow in it. And the blogosphere responds, with many supporters flocking to those who write about unhappiness, vulnerability, insecurity… sharing their stories, insisting that they are bad parents too, wallowing some more in a lovely cycle. These posts, these bloggers, are very, very popular. You’d almost think that there are no happy, confident parents out there.
But there is an unhappy in-crowd.
I don’t begrudge anyone support in their time of need. (And I’m not saying that some of the issues floating out there aren’t very serious and real.) Parenting IS hard. But that doesn’t mean some of us are unworthy of support because we are, in general, happy in our lives and with our parenting ability. Sometimes it is invalidating for me as a parent and as a writer to visit someone’s posts, day after day, all written about their fears of being a bad parent or how awful they feel for yelling at their kids the other day or the latest parenting power struggle with their spouse, and see the ten million comments and supporters they have all the time.
And for me personally (and I know this is completely selfish), I get frustrated with that aspect of the blogosphere that also rewards painful, heart-wrenching, or sentimental posts. There are the Perfect Posts awards, there are the Thinking Bloggers, there are numerous blog awards, and general love-ins, and topic circles about how being a mom is terribly difficult, and more. At times I think these awards and nominations are completely valid for commendable and inspiring writing, and some of my favorite writers have received them for very good reason. But there are a lot of times where they seem to be given as a badge of misery, a celebration of “hey, you’re insecure, just like me,” a popularity contest in the we-suck-as-parents-club.
Parenting is still hard for the rest of us, too. It is a tough fucking job and it is hard to get through a day dealing with children, regardless of your circumstances. We all have crappy days and moments when we need help. And writing like this, putting yourself out there every day in a blog is hard and takes a bit of bravery. I like who I am as a mom. I have no interest in changing myself or my writing to fit into some standard of mommy blogging (which currently involves insisting that one is a bad parent) that’s popular, to solicit more comments or readers, to fit in with the (apparent) majority. Yet, I still want to vent occasionally without feeling guilty. Like I’m whining. Because other moms feel so much worse. Because my mommy blog doesn’t measure up. Because for the most part I feel pretty damn good about the job I’m doing.
I don’t write about the deep, dark and painful on this blog (and I have my share, just like everyone else). I write satirically about some of the fun or funny aspects of parenting, or I just talk about what’s going on in my life at the moment. Occasionally I take some pot shots at pop culture. I have written my “bad mommy” posts but I think it’s obvious I use that term tongue in cheek. I consciously chose to make this blog a light, fun (for me), and goofy place because that helps ME deal with the two-year-old tantrums and I hope it brings a respite to other people as well. I AM a good mom. I feel pretty confident in my abilities so far. We all have challenges as parents but I don’t see mine as being any more unusual or difficult than anyone else’s. I’m pretty happy with my life and I’m sure it comes through in my writing. I also think that’s one of the reasons I don’t have a huge fan base and get a ton of comments. I have never been nominated for anything. Misery loves company and I’m not miserable. And I also see a lot of other mom bloggers (see blogroll stage right) who are happy, GOOD moms who don’t get a lot of comments, visitors, support either. I have, more than once, visited a happy mom blog, read awhile, commented, and then heard back from that blogger who said, “Wow, thanks, I didn’t think anyone read me!”
And that just sucks.
I often find myself relating a lot more to the blogging dads (and the other obviously happy moms) because they do not get caught up in the good/bad parenting debates. They don’t get caught up in cycles of perpetuating misery and sanctimommy guilt. Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the latest arguments on breastfeeding/preschooling/co-sleeping/Libby Lu (or whatever the hell that makeover place is called) and how that makes me “feel as a parent”. I’m going to do what’s right for MY kid and I feel confident that I can figure that out.
And you know what? Chance is happy. That more than anything makes me feel like I’m doing great as a mom.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t still sometimes feel left out.
It is a brave thing, to blog. We all deserve some accolades sometimes. For just ourselves. Even when we are happy. - wg