Baby talk: Is mommy blogging a vital support system or a virtual overshare?

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Baby talk: Is mommy blogging a vital support system or a virtual overshare?

“I am not the kind of mom who scrapbooks,” said Taylor Harris, a Charlottesville stay-at-home mom, of her blog, sweetmilks.com. “This is a cool way to chronicle what’s happened. I’m a creative type and not organized, and I try to have some sort of organization with their lives.”

Blogging is Harris’ way of creating a sort of digital look book for her two children. With the click of a mouse, she can go back in time and read her own recollections of her first-born’s birth or the onset of her youngest child’s hysterical and endearing temper tantrums.

“Hopefully my kids will say, ‘This was mom’s way of showing what we were up to and she cared and she was crazy,’” she said, laughing. “And, maybe they’ll appreciate it, and maybe I’ll have some whack scrapbook to show them, too.”

Harris—like Mary Rekosh, Kath Younger, and Whitney Morrill—are typical Charlottesville mothers. They are active, health-conscious, and highly educated. But they also do something that makes them stand out: They chronicle their lives for public consumption.

Scarborough Research, a marketing research firm that recently conducted a study on the mom blogger phenomenon, has defined Mommy Bloggers as “women who have at least one child in their household and have read or contributed to a blog in the past 30 days.” According to the study, Mommy Bloggers make up 14 percent of American mothers.

Harris, Rekosh, Younger, and Morrill all have blogs dedicated to what motherhood means to them. They write about everything from how to deal with a baby’s colic and diaper rash to losing much-dreaded baby weight. Rekosh takes a silly perspective on her blog, poking fun at herself for her shortcomings and shortcuts; Morrill addresses heavier issues like postpartum depression and feminine identity; Harris uses her humor to write self-deprecating essays about her life as a stay-at-home mom, consciously crafting a narrative in her digital scrapbook that her kids will one day look back on.

And then there’s Younger, by far the most popular (and unpopular), who attracts an estimated 30,000 unique visitors to her site per month and has even inspired her own self-contained parody website. Younger already had an established and popular food blog called Kath Eats Real Food, where she would post as much as three times a day before her son’s birth in September 2012. She started babykerf.com after the birth and now maintains both sites.

Younger’s ability to attract traffic to her sites has afforded her the opportunity to sell Web ads, making her blog commercial, unlike the other women I interviewed for this story. Last time I checked, babykerf.com was running Web ads for Google Chromebook, gDiapers, Charmin toilet paper, the fashion line Jack Spade, and an ad in Spanish for an Alzheimer’s disease treatment patch. Although the numbers are a bit hazy, big-time bloggers can make $4,000 to $5,000 per month, depending on what they charge for their placements.

The point is that local Mommy Bloggers, like mommies, come in all different shapes and sizes, and bring a range of motivations to their online storytelling projects. As a young woman and writer who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, I often imagine how motherhood will define me and what I will write in the future. Instead of packing up my laptop to head to the office in the morning, will I find myself refocusing my writing efforts on diaper bag reviews and tales of the terrible twos?

The Scarborough study attempts to define who Mommy Bloggers are.

“Their social and political influence reach far beyond the confines of the playground,” the study says, a conclusion I find demeaning but sort of funny.

And: “Among other findings, the study shows that Mom Bloggers are much more politically involved and socially minded than their non-blogging counterparts.”

It also says that Mommy Bloggers are, in general, more concerned with social, environmental, and cultural issues, more turned onto eco-friendly and organic products, and 52 percent more likely than other American moms to have completed a college or postgraduate education. The last data point definitely matches up with the local bloggers with whom I spoke. Harris has a master’s degree in writing, Morrill a master’s in architecture, Rekosh a master’s in education, and Younger is a registered dietician.

The idea of women sharing their domestic activities, family matters, and social interests on the Internet may sound liberating and empowering, creating a domestic dialogue that never existed before. But the mommy blogging culture isn’t all sunshine and cinnamon toast. A whole world of snark has grown up around it that, in its worst moments, involves cases of Internet bullying and online voyeurism.

I set out to figure out what makes mothers blog about their lives. At least in part, I guess I’m trying to figure out whether I’m destined to end up like them, detailing the challenges of motherhood in a world where status and self-esteem have so much to do with professional identity.

Virtually family
After the birth of her first child nine years ago, Whitney Morrill started noticing two opposing cultural depictions of mothers: angry mommy memoirs and saccharine-sweet magazine articles featuring blissed-out beauties. Morrill was neither angry nor blissed-out. She was overjoyed with her new baby and completely freaked out about being a new mother.

“Women are set up in a lot of ways to fail because there are so many expectations and I was experiencing all that,” Morrill said. “But being a creative person and artistic person, I couldn’t believe there was nothing in popular culture that really depicted that really difficult time in life with humor or music. There were no songs, no films about it.”

Whitney Morrill—part-time architect, freelance writer, and full-time mom—started her blog coconutgirl.com when her second child was 3 1/2 years old. The first post was a song she composed with her husband about the late night trials of her first-born’s colic phase. Photo: John Robinson

Morrill didn’t start her blog, thecoconutgirl.com, until 2009, when her second child was 3 1/2 years old. A full-time mom, part-time architect, and freelance writer, her first post was a song she wrote about her first-born’s colic phase, called “Coconut Girl.” Her husband recorded a guitar track, and she stayed up late one night to make a music video that captures the nocturnal existence of new moms. Then she clicked “publish” and set the tone for what has become a touching and humorous blog.

“Oh, I wish, I wish that I were far from home. No baby crying and no ringing phone. Oh, I wish, I wish that I were far from home just for a day./ But nobody knows my tiny babe like me, babe like me. She seems to only like me. Oh, nobody knows my tiny babe like me. Can’t tear myself away./ My body aches, my mind’s a flake, there’s dirty dishes, diapers all over the place. My man’s online, I’m always crying, there’s a tap root curling ’round me in the Dutailier.”

For Morrill, the act of starting a blog was a way to give back to a former version of herself, a way to help other young mothers answer the complex questions she asked over so many late nights.

“I made a commitment to remember that newborn time—to honor myself, and to honor other new moms who lack support,” Morrill said. “As it turns out, blogging is the perfect creative medium for me because my ideas run the gamut from writing to cartoons to videos to music. And parenthood provides an endless source of material.”

I reached out to Dr. Patrick Tolan, the director of Youth-Nex, a center started at UVA’s Curry School of Education to promote healthy youth development, for some perspective. As an expert in child development, he sees the importance of mothers being able to share information in the years before their kids interact with the school system of childcare providers.

“It gives that person a sense they aren’t alone and other people are interested in what’s going on, and also that they can learn from others,” he said. “It gives them strategies and emotional support for dealing with challenges they didn’t anticipate.”

Rekosh, a part-time children’s yoga instructor at Bend in Charlottesville, started her blog, mamasaidknockyouout.net, in early 2012. Like Morrill, she felt the need to have a forum that spoke honestly about what it was like to be a parent. On Rekosh’s blog you’ll find laugh-out-loud accounts of her teaching her children the correct terminology for body parts or cataloguing the ridiculous reprimands that have accidentally tumbled out of her mouth in the spur of the moment.

“Parenthood is stressful and challenging by nature,” Rekosh said. “If I can bring some unity and humor to other parents’ lives by reflecting on the absurdity in my own, that’s rewarding to me, and I feel like I’ve contributed in some small way to the community of parenthood.”

Tolan surmises that as people have come to live farther away from their families, spreading out across the country for professional opportunities, they lack a sense of support and community that at one time existed. The Internet, on the other hand, provides a virtual community, connecting women who discuss everything from baby bumps and breast pumps to bigger issues, such as isolation and their child’s education.

“Parenting is a very challenging task. We expect people to just be able to do it because they’ve been parented themselves,” he said. “We don’t really view anything in life like that.”

According to Tolan, people parent their children in an embedded network, which means that they don’t raise their children alone, but rely on family and friends as well. “These blogs and the Internet provide that to people who may not have their mom to call or be able to bring themselves to call their mom and say, ‘I don’t know what to do.’”

W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and associate professor of sociology at UVA, said that Mommy Blogs go beyond a supportive network for women, they also give women who aren’t in the paid workforce a sense of meaning and purpose, “online status.”

According to Wilcox, American women are disconnected from the traditions and people that used to make a vital domestic life: grandma, religious institutions, home economics classes, etc. Mommy Blogs, he says, supply women with the tools they need to create a domestic way of life fit for the 21st century.

“Announcing that you’re a stay-at-home mom in some Charlottesville settings can be met with an awkward silence,” Wilcox said. “Mommy Blogs, with their gorgeous depictions of ordinary home interiors, their celebration of family-centered living, and their recipes not only for good meals but also for good parenting, have moved into this gap with a vengeance, making stay-at-home momdom hip.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/eamckendry Liz McKendry

    Fantastic post. Very interesting to see how the other bloggers compare to Her Royal KERFness, who lost me as a reader over a year ago.

    VIVA LA GOMI

  • Nicole

    Great article. I am a married, childless woman and am oddly interested in a lot of mommy blogs. I am fascinated with how some women (Kath is a shining example) fill their days with mundane tasks that they then transform into for-profit content.

  • ThePinkSuperhero

    I’d be curious to know what KERF imagines she will do with her life when the blog bubble bursts. No blog stays on top forever.

  • Eileen

    I think the “parody” site now generates at least 50% or more of Kaths’ pageviews. The other bloggers seems very sweet and self-aware.

    • Sarah

      Indeed. Smugnom is so smart and well-written and the resulting commentary so sharp, it’s absolutely driving significant traffic to KERF. I stumbled upon Smugnom after reading a teaser somewhere about a “healthy living” blogger who puts sprinkles on half her meals, microwaves cottage cheese, and polishes off a jar of nut butter a week. After reading several Smugnom excerpts, I clicked over to KERF to see if the criticism was legitimate. Those are page views KERF never would have gotten if the Smugnom wasn’t so well done.

      PS: Not only is the Smugnom criticism legitimate, if you’ve read KERF, it’s actually kind.

      • Smilla

        The main problem for KERF is that her blog is boring and poorly written, while Smugnom converts the same thing into sharp, funny, clever writing.

        I just read Smugnom, never felt it worthwhile to read Kerf.

        • Gina

          Seriously. HLBs are supposed to be informative and Kath just tells you to google it. Her posts now are so boring she can GOMI anyday now.

  • SometimePossiblyMostCertainly

    Kath doesn’t even have enough self awareness to realize she’s the butt of a joke on the internet. Really who is interested in what kind of sugary crap she puts on her oatmeal. The people leaving comments are either trying for page views or trying to see what kind of snark they can leave without her being smart enough to realize it.

    The day Matt was back to work after the Christmas break they advertised 17 day old Pumkin O’s for sale on the fakery’s facebook. “Their a little stale” boy that sounds good. Any foodie that describes food (or cookies) as a thingy needs to have their food card revoked.

  • Rachel

    Great article! Had to go check out sweetmilks for the first time and I’m hooked.
    I must admit I enjoy GOMI usually and it does seem to be a group of bright, well-educated and hilarious ladies (and maybe men?). I’m not a fan of the body snarking that goes on there, except when it pertains to women who seem to have relapsed into eating disorders who claim to be health advisors/experts/gurus/role-models as they show photos of themselves underweight with bones protruding. My indiganation is what drew me to GOMI. There is no organization regulating the internet when it comes to health issues and I strongly suspect there are a lot of sites that cross over into the territory of Thinspiration/Pro-ana/Pro-Mia (in the form of exercise bullimia) sites, while masking as Healthy Living Blogs. Most of the HLBs I have come accross are written by women who claim to be recovered from eating disorders. At least a half dozen of these often underweight bloggers have confessed to having lost their period during the course of blogging which could be a sign of a full blown ED relapse (though there are other causes). Inevitably many of their worshippers chime in about their loss of period and other issues which can be ED red flags. I really hope you and other journalists will explore this. There was an article several years ago (in Marie Claire perhaps) which questioned how healthy and safe some HLBs were and it’s time to revisit it again.

  • Kinsella

    This is such a well-written and thoroughly researched article–I really enjoyed it. I read a lot of mommy blogs (and I have had one for years that is not well-known). I also have a guilty addiction to SmugNom and GOMI. The balance of your kids’ and your family’s privacy versus page views and profits is a fascinating one, especially when viewed over the long term. This is the first generation of kids that will grow up with their lives chronicled online in words and photos from well before the age where they could consent to it, and that content will live on the internet forever. It’s possible to have a blog read by a wider audience than your own family and friends, that is funny and interesting but doesn’t betray personal details about your kids that will be used later in junior high to ridicule them. But I think that kind of control and perspective on a mom-blogger’s part–maybe it’s respect and awareness of collateral damage– is rare. It’s even more rare among the blogs that have big audiences and make so much money that their income supports their family, so the blogger might believe that she can’t stop blogging those details even if she wants to. I’m also intrigued by just what it is that makes Kath Younger and KERF and Baby KERF so profoundly irritating, and why it’s so funny and satisfying to read good, articulate writers parody and criticize her (and other bloggers). SmugNom and GOMI go too far sometimes, but I have learned a lot there about what makes good content and how to hold an audience’s interest, how difficult sincerity and honesty can be in this format, and how much this phenomenon of using photos and stories about your kids to make money is all a grand social experiment. Most blogs start out as journals to keep track, lovingly for the most part, of the baby and kid years and keep relatives updated. I would love to read a thoughtful analysis of what changes and what is lost when the blog is monetized and gradually the income becomes essential to the family.

  • Kim

    Let’s hope this author is never blessed with a child if she thinks a baby developing (learning to use his hands/touch his mother’s face) is “banal.”

    • Onion

      Clearly you have never read kerf.

      • Samantha

        Indeed. Spend a few minutes poking through KERF and you’ll see that it’s literally day after day of sprinkle-and-cake-topped oatmeal, burnt dinners, and Kath’s desperate search for ways to fill her hours (i.e., going for walks, buying coffee as a prop for pretending to be an urban professional, and being excited about touching up the paint where her trash can lid touches the kitchen wall). Banal, banal, banal. There’s very little to be found on her blog in terms of valuable information or entertainment and I’m genuinely mystified as to why anyone would be a repeat reader.

        Kath is very protective of her privacy, but only when it suits her purpose. She’s only recently admitted to having a maid (after having been outed by her father in a comment, if I recall correctly). That’s not important in the greater scheme of things, but for someone who a) doesn’t work outside the home at all and b) has devoted a portion of her blog to sharing her tips for maintaining “home neat home”, it’s a bit of a convenient omission.

      • Samantha

        Indeed. Spend a few minutes poking through KERF and you’ll see that it’s
        literally day after day of sprinkle-and-cake-topped oatmeal, burnt
        dinners, and Kath’s desperate search for ways to fill her hours (i.e.,
        going for walks, buying coffee as a prop for pretending to be an urban
        professional, and being excited about touching up the paint where her
        trash can lid touches the kitchen wall). Banal, banal, banal. There’s
        very little to be found on her blog in terms of valuable information or
        entertainment and I’m genuinely mystified as to why anyone would be a
        repeat reader.

        Kath is very protective of her privacy, but only
        when it suits her purpose. She’s only recently admitted to having a maid
        (after having been outed by her father in a comment, if I recall
        correctly). That’s not important in the greater scheme of things, but
        for someone who a) doesn’t work outside the home at all and b) has
        devoted a portion of her blog to sharing her tips for maintaining “home
        neat home”, it’s a bit of a convenient omission.

        • SometimePossiblyMostCertainly

          It’s not burned, it’s extremely charred!

          You don’t have any privacy when you blog your every move and document your every bite.

          • Jennifer Smith-Parker

            Exactly!

      • JBF

        I’m with Kim, I work in a neonatal ward. Ask the mothers there if their greatest dream is to have a child who can reach up and touch a mother’s face or learn to use their hands. The miracle of life is not banal.

        • Josephine

          I think you misunderstood. Babies are beautiful, a miracle and should not be taken for granted, but this kind of sharing could be done on facebook for friends and family.

        • Cc

          Exactly. But kath doesn’t ever speak of the miracle of life in reference to her baby. It’s always framed by how much sleep she didn’t get or how many cold dinners she’s eaten. She even said (and was backed up by her mother) that her baby ‘chose’ to refuse his bottle in an effort to ruin kath and Matt’s evening…

          • Samantha

            This. I was thinking about this exact thing last night. I think Kath has only said something along the lines of “I love my kid” once or twice since he’s been born. There’s no feeling there. No emotion. I’ve watched the little videos she’s put up of herself and her son and they feel creepy and detached to me. I read BERF during the early days and Kath’s lack of gratitude or appreciation of the miracle of life was very apparent to me even then. It’s just got worse as time has passed, in my opinion.

            I’m pregnant and have spent a significant portion of each day of the last seven months just wallowing in how grateful and thankful and lucky I am to be pregnant. I can only imagine how much that’ll be amplified once the baby actually arrives. Now, granted, I am one of “those” women who were absolutely desperate for a child and experienced physical pain followed by a complete emotional breakdown when around pregnant women or newborns. I don’t expect (or want!) every woman to feel things to that level of intensity, but I do think that having a child should be something more than another item on a to-do list, which is exactly how Kath makes it seem.

        • leitmotif

          “The miracle of life is not banal.”

          No one said otherwise. People are criticizing a poorly written blog, not the fact that Kath has a healthy baby.

    • eeee

      I have been “blessed with a child.” Those moments were precious and amazing. And I enjoyed them all face to face with my child, not through a camera lens. I also understood that although *I* was fascinated by his development (and his obvious genius), probably no one else would be, so I enjoyed my time with him and didn’t worry about telling everyone everything he did.

      When my baby was about 2 weeks old, my mother came over while I was nursing him. I mentioned that he was making a funny face, and said, “I’d offer to let you come see, but I don’t think you’d take me up on it.” (Very repressed, my mother.) She said, “No. That’ll have to be one of those *special* memories, the kind that are yours and yours alone, the ones you don’t have to share with anyone.”

      I have remembered that comment as I’ve raised my son. Although I do take pictures on special events, I also try to make sure that when my son thinks of time he spent with me, he will remember me looking at, smiling at, laughing with HIM, not a camera or phone screen.

  • Fascinated

    I’ll be so interested to see if Kath Younger chimes in here… especially on the issue of privacy, both hers and that of her son. This is a woman who blogged about her own cervical mucus, and posted pictures of herself bent over in labor in a hospital gown and her placenta being cut up in her kitchen. Her readers know her son is uncircumsized and that her mother in law told her husband not to marry her. We’ve seen her bare belly and every thing that she’s eaten since 2007, and yet your’s was the question that was going to take that one step over the line and cross her privacy boundary. What exactly were you going to ask? :)

    • SometimePossiblyMostCertainly

      Maybe she was going to ask Kath about photoshopping her pictures!

  • Rosie

    As a new mother and a blogger who lives in Charlottesville, I enthusiastically clicked on this article this morning, hoping to read something evocative and interesting about other mothers in the city who blog. Instead I found a story that does nothing but repeat the same old trite stereotypes that were beat to death back in the early 2000s when the term was coined.

    Not only is this article poorly written (you pose a question in the headline – why don’t you answer it?) but it is incredibly biased toward one blogger in particular. What does a parody site have to do with what is presumably the point of the article, and more importantly, why are we supposed to care? This article wasn’t written for people like me who are actually interested in the intersection of motherhood and writing online; it was written for people who for whatever reason dislike this particular blogger.

    But back to Mommy Blogging: it is a shame that so many talented and creative writers have to be derided for writing about parenting online. You clearly don’t have children. It is life-changing, magical, humorous, and, at times, incredibly difficult, and if you are fortunate enough to become a mother someday, I challenge you, who I assume to be the writerly type, not to write about the experience.

    • Tues

      I just can never take anyone seriously when they bring out “you clearly don’t have children” as a line of defense.

    • Rosie

      Silly me, thinking this was a legit article exploring Mommy Blogs. Perhaps a better title for this article is “KERF Trolls: One Mommy Blogger’s following of creepy stalkers and how one alternative weekly wrote an article to feed them.”

      • Sloane

        So Rosie, are you suggesting that only mothers would be interested in/should be reading this article? What is your point exactly?

        • rosie

          On the contrary. This had the potential to be a great public interest piece about a particular genre of blogging that could be of interest to a wide audience, not just mothers. Instead this is a piece that wanted to be about one blogger in particular (Kath Younger) but she (understandably) wouldn’t give them the interview, so they went about writing it anyway under the guise of an article about local mommy blogs. This is the only reason I can think of as to why they’d include links to a couple of trashy hate blogs that have absolutely nothing to do with mommy blogs being “vital support systems” or “virtual overshares,” as the article promises.

          And instead of starting a discussion about what it means to be a mother and write about your family online, this article attracted a bunch of morons who seriously need to get a life.

          • clearly

            “You clearly don’t have children.”

            I can’t think of a more offensive, sanctimonious statement since the invention of the N word. Anyone who expresses it has zero self-awareness. Clearly you have no common sense.

      • Casey

        Rosie- I am unsure how people reading a blog and then discuss it amongst themselves (since comments on the blog are moderated) are considered “creepy stalkers” and “KERF Trolls”. Your comment is very odd and it makes me think you are actually KERF, herself.

        And yes, I do have children. I love them enough to not post their every bowel movement, breastfeeding schedule, sleeping schedule, butt rash, etc. It is our job as mothers to protect our children, since they cannot protect themselves. It seems you are being so defensive because you have neglected to protect your own from exploitation.

  • Jennifer

    Suggestions for KERF.
    Make the personal photos and diary elements private for friends and family.
    Have the food blog focus more on cooking, nutrition and fitness.
    Keep the baby items on the baby blog.
    For a for-profit ad supporter blogger who is an R.D. she comes across as unprofessional in many ways.

  • Train Wreck

    What gives the GOMI community so much fodder are the contradictions found within the daily KERF postings and the self-pity when a meal gets cold ‘because someone got hungry’ or she doesn’t get more than ten+ hours of rest. Pure self-absorption not to mention pedantic writing (and the overuse of funnnn!!!!!!!) by a purportedly well-educated woman.

  • Sissy

    I wonder if any so called Mommy bloggers consider what effects blogging so many personal details about their children’s lives in say, those nasty teen years. Peers can be brutal, and this information is out through no fault of the child. I’ve read Kerf and I feel one of the reasons she inspires some much vitriol is her unwillingness to see that by putting it all out(placenta consumption anyone?), her life is no longer private, b/c she took the privacy away. It’s her business and provides her family with an income. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  • Lisa

    Very interesting and thoughtful article. As a new Mom, I am just getting acclimated to navigating the mommy blogs. I followed Kath before we both had children. However, I’ve stopped reading both of her blogs after she mentioned having a flat stomach and being able to fit into her pre-maternity jeans. This kind of info just made me feel terrible. I appreciate honesty, candor and humor in a mommy blogger. Kath’s representation of her perfect motherhood and life is impossible to relate to.

  • Blogreader

    Loved this article. And yes smugnom and Gomi (getoffmyinternets) are kind to Kath, as she does come across as very insincere and heavily moderates her comments. As a supposed RD she eats tons of sugar for breakfast and hates to cook. She has also posted some seemingly obvious lies about her franchise bakery.

    And for a blogger, her writing skills are equal to a 8 year old. Everything is “fun!!!!! Whee,!!!!”

  • blogreadingmama

    thanks for writing this article. i’ve been waiting some time for a feature on mom blogs.

  • http://c-ville.com/ Giles Morris

    New comment from a reader called “Zoe” who had trouble posting. Please e-mail editor@c-ville.com if you have any difficulty posting comments. Thanks to Zoe for the links:

    “it is interesting that those who seem to dislike kerf so much can reiterate so many details from the blog. clearly there is some compelling reading there. personally she has revolutionized my bowl of oats, and for that i am grateful. rather than grinding kerf into the dirt, how about listing some mom blogs you do like, local or not. for me a strong visual component is important, as well as tutorials, recipes, inspiration. i don’t feel like the article was very representative of the diversity of mom blogs out there. it missed a whole movement of crafty/DIY/homesteading bloggers. i would have appreciated a long list of mom blogs to choose from, rather than just the few featured. i’ll list some that i enjoy. you can tear them apart, or better yet, share some of what you like too!”

    http://www.angrychicken.typepad.com/
    http://bluebirdbaby.typepad.com/
    http://dirtundermynails.com/
    http://www.frecklewonder.com/
    http://lifeinsugarhollow.blogspot.com/
    http://herbmother.com/
    http://publicbookstore.blogspot.com/
    http://soulemama.typepad.com/

    • Samantha

      We don’t actually read KERF. Smugnom was originally set up as a way to AVOID reading KERF. One person summarises Kath’s daily drivel to keep the rest of us from giving her pageview$.

      • Tom

        And why are you interested in doing that if it’s drivel? Why not read a good novel instead? Or spend the time sending out cards to service people overseas?

        • Janey

          It’s called comedy.
          You ever hear of a show called The Soup on E! television? Their producers spin train wrecks into entertainment.

        • eeee

          Most of the Smugnom community doesn’t read KERF – we read Smugnom, which recaps KERF. KERF is drivel. Smugnom takes that drivel, adds humor, perspective, cultural and social references (frequently high-brow enough for me to have to open Wikipedia in a side window to be able to get the joke), and then extra humor on top.

          I manage to read Smugnom while averaging three novels (or, more accurately, 1-2 novels and 1-2 nonfiction books) a week, working full time (without internet access), volunteering locally, and serving as the Primary Entertainment and Nourishment Provider for my kids/pets. The “all or nothing” argument is so silly. Please stop using it.

        • leitmotif

          Hm, if Kath Younger did the things you mention, her blog might be worth reading.

    • Mik

      Add http://razzable.blogspot.com to that list too!

  • Jen

    It seems to me that in a world where women are still regarded, some, as second class citizens and where women are subjected daily to abuse and violence, that sites like this, largely run by women, would exist.Sure, some is legitimate criticism, but the obscenities and threats and body snarking and bullying are just a few steps away from hate crimes.

    • Emily

      First of all, the way your comment is worded is not very clear, and I’m surprised your comment is focused on a very small part of this article.

      If I am to assume you are speaking of GOMI, that’s kind of like saying what Chelsea Handler or Jimmy Kimmel or Saturday Night Live or the Onion do are all “a few steps away from hate crimes”.
      This is like being mad at the incredibly smart and talented Tina Fey (who you could call a total feminist) for her Sarah Palin impersonation.

      • Bob

        Jen,

        Tina Fey is witty. Those sites aren’t. They try, but they aren’t ready for prime time by a long shot…

    • scuffinator

      Stop with the Nazi comparisons, you sanctimonious over-sharer. I’d say 90% of GOMI readers are women, and they can’t all be unwitting tools for the patriarchy.

  • Maren

    This biased “journalist” clearly had an agenda: attack a blogger she already disliked and write about hate sites she reads and likes. I just read the print version and the sidebar description of babykerf isn’t even factual. The blog isn’t a day-by-day account and in fact it IS a reflection of motherhood from what I read. I also don’t think that at 3.5 months it’s about “what her baby eats” either. Sounds like someone needs to check their facts.

    • eeee

      Yeah. That someone would be you. The blog IS a day-by-day account, it’s just not in real-time – something like blogging on Wednesday what happened on Sunday, or thereabouts. There are some reflections on motherhood in there (many of them being of the passive-aggressive “SOMEONE was too fussy to nap so I didn’t get to read my magazine this afternoon” variety), I’ll give you that one. But it is also about “what her baby eats,” in Kathy’s own terms. She refers to him “snacking” on breastmilk – for that matter, she was talking about what he “ate” while he was still in utero, saying that he was “snacking” on amniotic fluid! She also posts things like “baby and I had french toast this morning” or “we [referring to the baby, not her husband] enjoyed our dinner.”

      Even if we ignore those references as the understandable mindset of a new mother who wonders if she will ever do anything without an infant in her arms, over her shoulder, or on her hip again (I do remember those days!), there’s still no way to say she doesn’t talk about what her baby eats. A huge part of her content lately has been about breastfeeding (and how time-consuming and difficult it is, and how she can’t wait for the baby to reach the “five-minute feeding” stage).

      (Disclaimer: She is taking a slash-and-burn approach to cleaning up her archives, so expect many of these specific references to vanish. That’s okay, The Wayback Machine probably has them…)

    • SometimePossiblyMostCertainly

      I’m not sure what blog you have been reading but to say Kath isn’t a day by day account of what Kath does is really laughable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jean.burke.3 Jean Burke

    Why the hate for the mommy blogs? Don’t like ‘em? Don’t read ‘em! The ones I’ve looked at seemed like the kind of thing that only family and close friends could be even remotely interested in reading, but whatever. Their existence isn’t hurting anyone.

    That said, anyone who blogs opens themselves up for critiquing and snark. It’s juvenile to complain when people express an opinion about what YOU made public.

    And a woman who blogs about her baby and her diet but wouldn’t comment for the article because she wants to protect her family’s privacy? Best laugh of my day!

  • Courtney @ I Am A Mess!

    You have echoed just about all of my sentiments with
    this well-crafted and realistic article. I am a little bummed that I fit
    so neatly into the stereotype of woman you depicted that becomes a
    mommy blogger (parenting away from my family, masters degree, stay at
    home mom) but I do and I can accept that. I am in good
    company anyway. I have been on the smugnom and GOMI sites myself, as a
    lurker. I have been sucked into the snark that I would never contribute
    to. I often wonder how such intelligent female writers as those who post
    on GOMI justify the borderline cyber-bullying…and yet I still read.
    I am very much torn on this and think I should probably stop reading. If it makes me feel uncomfortable that is probably a good sign I shouldn’t read it anymore. I find the level of hatred directed at Kath to be completely out of proportion to the harmlessness of her blog. It may not be deep writing but its not hurting anyone, whereas the smugnom parody site is most definitly hurting her and her family (it has to be, whether they address it publicly or not). Kath has become a symbol of what smugnom commenters hate about “entitled” bloggers but she is real person and they shouldn’t be forgotten. That said, I imagine reading the snark-sites probably affects my own blogging style, for better and worse. I think
    it make me more aware and sensitive to my readers because I have the
    GOMI commenters’ perspectives in my head when I write so I try to think
    about who they are and what kind of day they might be having before I
    phrase things certain ways. I don’t know if this is good or bad,
    frankly, because I don’t know if it causes me to lose some of my
    in-the-moment realism. I like to think I can balance that and be both
    engaging, honest and respectful, but there’s no way to definitively
    know. At any rate, what I really wanted to say was that based on your
    assessment of mommy blogging and the questions you asked and answered
    for yourself, I think it stands to reason you will find yourself on the
    path to mommy blogging if you have a child someday. I only say that
    because I so related to your opinions and think you might fit the
    stereotype too! My blog is http://www.iamamess.com. Be gentle on me.

    • Sloane

      Honestly, I felt the same way you did initially – that the criticism was over the top and mean, but the more I read http://www.katheats.com the more I realized that http://www.smugnom.com may be on to something. Kath comes across as so “holier than thou” with everything: her diet, her pregnancy, her baby, but once I realized that she’s presenting the life that she wants everyone to think she has the sorrier I felt for her.

      Motherhood is so hard with all the judgement from well-meaning strangers, why on earth would you put yourself out there for the entire Internet to mock? The only reason I can think of is because there is money to be made. I would hope that all bloggers seriously consider whether the loss of their personal life is worth the financial gain. Who speaks for the innocent children of mommy bloggers whose entire life is available for public consumption and ridicule?

      Lets face it – if you put your life on display for all to see, someone is going to have an opinion.

      • Jennifer Smith-Parker

        Bravo! The sheer narcissism of kath’s blog – the comments are ALWAYS on how much she is loved- is nauseating.

  • Maria

    KERF is fascinating to many people because it is SO banal, if that makes any sense. It’s a level of self-asorbtion that’s hard to comprehend, like reports from a sealed bubble filled with oatmeal, smug, and an awful lot of carbs for a “healthy living” blogger. I think that when bloggers get a following, even if a lot of said following are not exactly fans, they truly start to believe in the importance of say, what they ate for breakfast on any given day, and it warps them into real navel-gazers. People who are truly admired usually DO SOMETHING with their days, they don’t blog about their naps and their running.

    • Kinsella

      This is a fantastic explanation of the KERF phenomenon, I can never really articulate it, but you just did.

  • Kinsella

    The peculiar medium of blogging sometimes allows an audience to grow virally until a blogger’s influence far outpaces the value of anything she has to say. (That seems to be at the root of the Kath – KERF animosity.) Mommy blogs might be especially susceptible to this. By the time you hit it big you are generating big income, often family-supporting income, and that’s when things can get crazy. Especially when you factor in how many commenters are only chiming in because they can leave a link to their own aspirational blogs. But the currency the bloggers are using–and it’s often with great writing and fantastic photography–is the intimate childhood of their children. Should that be private? Should you feel bad because you earn money from it? Will they hate you for it later? Who knows. People have been writing about their small children and photographing them forever. But blogs seem to be taking us into a different territory. That’s where sites like GOMI and SmugNom come in. They can be outrageously mean, and I’m often appalled at comments in the forums. I love to read there, but I would feel bad about myself if I commented–which in itself is a great topic for a journalist to explore. I still think the snark sites are a necessary check on a wildly un-checked medium, in the best possible way. Which is, smart and funny people read nonsense, delight in how ridiculous it is, and talk about it together. This is a great article, exploring a really interesting phenomenon. The “you have an axe to grind!” and “you don’t even have children!” comments about the writer are beyond ridiculous.

    • Samantha

      x26

      You’ve summed it all up perfectly. Nothing left to say!

  • DorothyP

    The real importance of sites like GOMI is the lack of corporate shills–Babble and other sponsored sites can drown out any voice that doesn’t follow the corporate line. I’m interested in personal, individual voices on the internet–not sponsored posts praising some doo-dad or pushing a cake mix, gluten-free or not. It’s all very well to say “Don’t like the blog? Don’t read it!” but when all that’s available are corporate-approved sites, we might as well be living in a totalitarian state, with only state-approved media.

  • Marion

    The one element that seems to be missing from KERF and other HLB’s and mommy bloggers is a bit of self-deprecation. That would tone down the arrogance and make the bloggers a little more relatable.

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