Mommy Bloggers Don’t Write About Mommies

Mommy Blogger

Screencaps and annotation of USA Weekend and USA Today 11/24/2013

When you have a Ph.D., have starred in, not one but two, hit TV shows, written a best-selling book, and also happen to write articles that are published on a website geared toward Jewish-parenting how should you be described by a journalist? How best to explain who you are when the article is about a charity you’re supporting? Is it relevant that you’re on TV? Maybe. It’s your career and how you’re best identified. Possibly mention the Ph.D.? Perhaps. It’s pretty darn impressive. Mention you’re a best-selling author? Not sure, since it’s a parenting book. Or, home in on your online writing presence and call you a “mommy blogger”?

Normally I don’t let stuff like this get to me, but seeing Mayim Bialik described as a “mommy blogger” in the USA Weekend and on the USA Today website in a segment called “Cause Celeb” really bothered me.  See, women bloggers have, for the past few years, tried to shed the negative moniker “mommy bloggers”. It’s not a term of endearment, empowerment, or influence.

Written by Gayle Jo Carter, the Cause Celeb segment for USA Weekend is to highlight a celebrity and a charity they support. Great idea to share charities that our favorite celebrities are passionate about. Celebrities featured in “Cause Celeb” have included other actresses, actors, country music personalities, and a pro football player. For the most part, the bios are pretty basic – actor, country superstar, actress.

Surely, Ms. Carter must know that “mommy blogger” is not really a nice way to describe a woman who blogs about her parenting as a Jewish mother, especially one who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and is a well-respected actress and author. And while I’m sure Ms. Bialik ranks parenting as her top priority, it’s not her writing for a Jewish parenting website that gives rise to the “celeb” part of “Cause Celeb”. I’m pretty sure no one calls her a “mommy journalist”, so why define Ms. Bialik as a “mommy blogger“? She wouldn’t dare call Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, a “mommy CEO”. So why “mommy blogger”? Is blogger not sufficient?

The title “mommy blogger” has never been a positive and empowering definition of who these women are. It was used as a way to let stay-at-home moms know that they’re not “real” bloggers like the millions of men writing about more important things like politics, music, art, and business, but rather someone to patronize for daring to write about something as low-brow as being a mom. Never a term meant to elevate, “mommy blogger” was a veiled put-down.

Calling women who blog “mommy bloggers” dismisses the contribution, background, and expertise they bring with them to the online landscape. It’s a cutesy way to put women in their place and remind them that while they may be writing about key issues of motherhood they’re not writing about “real” things such as tech, politics, or, well, pretty much anything else that doesn’t’ involve children and their upbringing. As if writing about parenting and women’s issues is somehow less worthy. This, despite the fact that so-called “mommy bloggers” are sought out for their expertise in parenting, dealing with and overcoming postpartum depression, giving a platform to women of all sizes to be seen as beautiful, creating communities for those who parent children with any host of special needs. And let’s not forget that these “mommy bloggers” are often the people reporters and journalists turn to when they need insider information about parenting, families, and issues affecting women and children.

We don’t use mommy as an adjective to clarify any other type of work. There is no “mommy lawyer” or “mommy doctor”. We don’t call them “mommy senators” or “mommy singers”. For centuries, women have been writing about parenting. If anything these women are parenting bloggers because “mommy bloggers” don’t write about mommies. But how else can you marginalize women who pose a threat to the traditional structure than calling them “mommy bloggers”, which often comes with a silent “just” before it.

What say you? Should we cringe at being labeled “mommy bloggers” because we are moms? Or should we just let it go, roll our eyes, and just continue to conquer the world?


Will Blog For Anything But Money

This past weekend I attended Blog World in Las Vegas. There was a lot of discussion about monetization. How, as a blogger, do you make money from your website.  It’s a common source of dialogue between and among ‘mommy bloggers’. How does the mommy blogger make money?

Well, here’s the deal. Very few jobs in this world pay with product. Utilities and credit cards can not be paid with stuff. But, for some reason, it became the norm to offer payment to women in the form of products or sometimes just a pat on the back with the hope of getting something in the future.

I went to law school. At no time was there ever a discussion about how I would be paid. When I went to business school I was never taken aside and told that instead of being paid in dollars I would be getting whatever product my employer sold. I’ve worked for myself and have never issued an invoice for anything other than cold hard cash.

So when I started to blog and learned about monetization, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the mommy blogger is often paid in stuff. Random randomness. Whatever the business sells, it gives to the mommy blogger as payment for a blog post. Some of this random randomness is pretty sweet. Who wouldn’t want to be a Frigidaire Mom? I’d like these cool appliances, I’m not going to lie. But FTC disclosures would require you, the reader, to be told if they received compensation. Did you notice there was none of that. No mention of compensation other than use of the product. Even then it appears that the products were not given to the blogger but rather only loaned for a 3-month test period.

This is more the norm. I’m cool that these women are testing these products and sharing their real in-home experiences. Knowing how products or services really work can be exceptionally helpful. But why is it the norm that mommy bloggers are not paid with cold hard cash? Why is money so taboo?

Talking about income and salary is often taboo and I respect the need for confidentiality. But I also respect the desire of women to earn an income. But, its a model we as mommy bloggers have established. Several years ago we were afraid to ask for money. It seemed easier to say, ‘Oh, just give me one of those cool widgets.’ instead of ‘That will be [insert appropriate dollar amount].’ I’m not sure why, though.

I don’t know why we, as women, felt that our time, knowledge and influence was not worthy of cold hard cash. I don’t know why we, as mommy bloggers, became the equivalent of the internet’s country doctor, taking payment in everything from chickens to cinnamon rolls and hard cider.

The problem is, now we’re trying to right the Titanic. We’ve decided now that we don’t like this ‘pay me with stuff instead of money’ model. Except that the brands and PR folks have become used to our demands for stuff. We’ve told them that we’d be happy with an invite and reception and maybe a gift bag, or a product or two. And we want to not only change the rules but also the entire game.

It’s not easy. And it’s more challenging when we’re not all in this together. As long as women are willing to operate their business of blogging as the equivalent of the country doctor, we’re not going to make the strides necessary to begin receiving payment in the form of cash.

This past weekend I met Lisa McKenzie, one of the founders of Social Media Academy For Women.  We spent quite some time talking about this topic because it’s something her organization is working to change. She is brilliant and has worked with brands and women, yet still feels the frustration in trying to get them to buy in to their worth. But she’s on a mission to change the current model.

There is more to monetization than being paid to do posts and reviews. But those are a big part of how women communicate to other women. Our opinions are valuable but we don’t see that.

We shouldn’t be afraid to ask that we get paid a fair wage. Women should not feel that they are unworthy of being treated equitably. But so long as we continue to say it’s OK, then brands and PR agencies will continue with the current paradigm. It’s no different than what happened in the workplace in the 1970s an 80s. This time, though, it shouldn’t take us a decade to effect change. If we all get on the same page it will be easy.

Will we band together for progress? I’m not sure. I would hope so, but women are not always supportive of one another. There is a lot of competition and, well, if you’re still willing to work for random randomness the brands will never accept the change to a new system.

As women we deserve to be compensated for our time. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what we are worth. Most of us have worked outside the home and have been paid in legal tender. We weren’t asked to barter. Sure, there are times we’re willing to barter. But keep in mind, you can’t pay for your child to go to college with a pantry full of cereal or a really nice fridge.

Are you ready to change how business is done?