New York Times’ Article on “Mommy” Bloggers Lights a Fire

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand

Blogging, Texting Moms Ignoring Children

NY Times Artwork Depicting Blogging Moms

The article came out in the New York Times last weekend.  Author, Jennifer Mendelsohn, attended and reviewed a blogging conference called Bloggy Boot Camp designed for “Mommy Bloggers,” interviewing several attendees and panelists for the article.  The headline, lead copy, article placement (Style section versus Business) and accompanying artwork has offended a significant number of highly-respected parenting blog writers and lit up a very heated debate of comments on numerous blog sites.

Reading the piece and some of the many reviews (PhD in Parenting, The Huffington Post and Mom101) along with several of the comments on a few sites, I’m first struck at how incredible it is that a debate can occur the way it does today thanks to the new world called the Blogosphere that inspired the article in the first place.

Like many of you, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. Our children will find it so archaic to hear about how we communicated through phones attached to the wall and that we were lucky if we had a long stretchy cord that allowed us to walk around the room while we gabbed. They’ll laugh that we wrote hand-written letters and passed notes on folded up pieces of paper in class. And the fact that we had to schlep to the bookstore or the library to research something will be our generation’s “When I was your age I walked 5 miles to school in the snow” story.

Now we experience instant conversations with multiple people. From around the world. Instant information. Instant debates. All kinds of voices expressing themselves on everything and anything. Offending. Being Offended. All in a few key strokes. I’m transported for a moment, hearing one of my favorite thick-Texas-accent lines from the documentary Hands on a Hard Body: “It’s a human drama.”

I don’t mean to make light of the debate taking place this week about the Times’ article on mothers with this movie reference either. I think it’s a shame that they published a presentation of blogging mothers that served to perpetuate the ongoing divide between women and the no-win categorizing of mothers.

We’re either brainless stay-at-home-moms who are bored, pathetic non-contributors, or we’re work-at-home-moms who can’t parent or work well because we’re caught between the two, or we’re hovering moms that parent too much, or we’re working moms shamed for “letting someone else” raise our children.

The article and its hurricane of responses — some more emotionally charged than others — highlight a paradigm of insecurity within motherhood that seems to have followed the myriad of choices available to us today.  And the anxious, “Am I doing the right thing?” question that mothers face whether they’re choosing to work or not work results in all kinds of “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not doing it right” projections onto someone else.

Why can’t every mother be right according to what works for her?

I hope when my daughters are mothers (should they choose to be), that we will have evolved enough to finally celebrate our differences and drop this polarization that fuels better-than, less-than comparisons.

My big picture opinion on the article:

Like a lot of people, I didn’t care for the title or the tone in the beginning of the piece. Or the artwork. There’s an opportunity to feel marginalized as a stay-at-home or work-at-home mother around every corner and I didn’t expect to have this experience with the Times.

“Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand” implies that the work lacks legitimacy and is self-centered and if you’re blogging, you’re doing it when you should be caring for your child.

Many people also felt offended by the article’s implication that most people blogging about parenting seek to commercialize their sites. But I would argue that this particular angle within the story is fair in light of the fact that Jennifer was reviewing a blogging conference where women attendees signed up to learn exactly that.

I also, like many others, saw the title and lead copy as a journalistic strategy to ignite debate and traffic to the Times. My hunch is that they are happy with the drama this article inspired and are loving the significant number of bloggers like myself who are writing about it, and in doing so driving more traffic their way. Controversy sells.

All that said, if you can get past the title and the first few paragraphs and read the whole article, you’ll discover a respectful tone and thought-provoking information that provides a solid window into the current world of mama blogs.

And, despite its seeming lack of respect for stay-at-home-moms, the controversial headline is sparking a valuable dialogue and creating a lot of positive inspiration and exposure for blogging mothers and the support that they provide others in their parenting journeys. Through the fire lit by Jennifer’s article women are:

  • coming together to express their unique purpose for blogging
  • reflecting on our time spent on blogging and asking questions about the personal or professional value gained versus possible time away from family
  • celebrating women who have found financial success through blogging and discovering what is possible
  • appreciating the enormous variety in topic, purpose, and desired outcomes for blogging
  • recognizing and voicing our value — something I wish the Times would have incorporated into their title instead of the “Honey Don’t Bother Mommy” choice made.

Living in a country that does not support maternity or paternity leave in any significant way compared to other countries puts us in a really difficult position. Many women yearn to be with their children during the preschool years and maintain a professional identity and an income for the family and feel forced to sacrifice something.  Making money blogging presents the possibility of having both while being creatively expressed — a dream situation for many women, including myself.

Would I be psyched to grow Attachment Mama to the 36,000 views per month level that Jennifer referenced in her article?  Um, yeah.  I think I have about 20 followers right now.

Would I welcome advertising that promoted attachment parenting related products and services?  Yes, as long as it didn’t dominate the site and/or detract from the content. And I know I have a long way to go in building up my readership to merit any ads.

Photo Credit: Felicia Kramer, Another Bright Idea

Photo Credit: Felicia Kramer, Another Bright Idea

At this point, I’d like to see audience growth happen because people are drawn to the writing and the value I seek to provide versus some product that I’m giving away. But I don’t see anything wrong with a blogger’s choice to do that. It’s all about personal preference. Heck, I might change my mind.

A mother should not be criticized, overtly or between-the-lines, for making money writing about parenting — regardless of the medium.  What a fantastic way to express yourself and make a living! I think despite the negative depiction of women blogging about parenting, the gift of Jennifer’s article and the aftermath of discussion and criticism is a beacon of light now shining on this fact.

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5 Responses to “New York Times’ Article on “Mommy” Bloggers Lights a Fire”

  1. McClain says:

    BRAVO!!!! Very well said. I love the way you say, “paragdigm of insecurity among motherhood”. That is exactly it. If you don’t have doubts or feel insecure about the way you mother then you are less likely to criticize other mothers. And yes, unfortunately, criticism and controversy sells. You should submit this as an op/ed

  2. Hi there! I just found your site on Mammy Diaries and I adore you already!! This is a very thoughtful and well-written response to the NYTimes article, which in all honesty didn’t offend me too much. I was actually kind of excited that mommy bloggers were being taken seriously as a market force. I am a big attachment parent myself and I agree very much with the way you described moms here. We are always over-judging ourselves and finding ourselves coming up short in some way or another. “Why can’t every mother be right according to what works for her?” This is exactly how I feel, but better stated than I could have ever put it. My blog is also about this same topic. Trying to find the balance between being “organic” and accepting that I am not perfect and neither are my kids. I’m so happy I found your site and look forward to reading more of your blog!! Brilliant post.

  3. Well said. I was disappointed in the article myself but I think part of it, as it is for most moms, is that most of the guilt I feel comes from myself.

    I commented on this article here:

    Is the NY Times Jealous of Mommy Bloggers? –

  4. Leenie says:

    Great critique, Monica. Extremely well written.

  5. amy says:

    you are an exceptionally talented writer. good things will come!

    it’s so funny to think about the way we receive “news”…and how that is constantly changing. for example…i never thought i would refer to blogs before books, real life interpretations of “experts” before the writings of “experts”.

    i’m hopeful that this article will, over time, just be more of a discussion starter about how informative and powerful mommy bloggers can be.

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