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Technology tempts mom bloggers
Online advice, camaraderie can be helpful, but how much is too much?
By Bonna Johnson • THE TENNESSEAN • February 2, 2009
The armies of mom bloggers online these days aren't just dealing with tales of potty training and soap-opera style breakups with their hairdressers.
They also have to figure out what's too private to write about when it comes to their kids, and how to balance the chores of family life when the blogosphere can be so much juicier.
"How much is too much to say or reveal emotionally?" says Tori Taff, 52, a mom blogger in Brentwood. "Do you write about depression, your child's disability, a suicide attempt — and what will you regret? Have you put something out there that will come back to haunt you? If your family doesn't know you blog and then finds out, will there be hurt feelings?"
For some mom bloggers, the notion of work/life balance takes on new meaning. "I never try to post on Sunday and rarely do I post on Saturday," says Jamie Reeves, 39, a Nashvillian who has been blogging as Blonde
MomBlog.com since October 2005.
"Just like I don't like my kids to watch TV all the time, it's not fair for me to be on the laptop all the time checking Facebook," says Reeves, whose daughters are 6 and 3.
Indeed, as mommy blogs gain influence and prominence in our tech-saturated world, one introspective mom blogger posed the question: "Does Facebook make you a bad mom?"
"Blogging, Facebooking and Twittering take away time we might otherwise spend with our kids," wrote Erica Noonan of The Boston Globe and bomoms.com. "But, on the other hand, these technologies are a lifeline and sanity-saver for so many moms."
Noonan later said that many moms believe that doing things they enjoy, such as social networking on the Web, helps them be well-adjusted mothers.
"I don't know that blogging makes me a better mom," Reeves says, "but I do think it helps me hold on to a lot of my creative energy that can sometimes fall by the wayside once you become a mother, especially with a new baby."
Blogging is big business
There are about 200,000-plus bloggers on the Web writing about parenting and family, including scores of mom bloggers based in Nashville. Most blog as a hobby, while some have enough of a readership that they're making money.
On Friday and Saturday, 250 women from around the country will gather in Nashville for seminars on designing better blogs, marketing them and making money from ad revenue at the BlissDom conference, hosted by online magazine Blissfully Domestic and organized by Nashville blogger Allison Worthington.
While most moms started blogging as a way to foster community — the kind of socializing our moms once did on the front porch or over the back fence — they have also emerged as a commercial force, courted by companies like Wal-Mart and Johnson & Johnson.
"Just the recommendation made in passing for a certain baby swing or dislike for a movie" can quickly guide a reader to buy something or not, Worthington says.
One Utah-based mom, Heather B. Armstrong, blogs at dooce.com — famously about postpartum depression — and now earns enough through ad revenue that she and her husband quit their corporate jobs. Technorati consistently rates dooce.com among the top 100 blogs.
"I was looking for a creative outlet to write about parenting," says Reeves, who started her blog the year her second daughter was born.
Since then, she has started making some money from blogging but not enough to quit her 30-hour-a-week job as an editor in the publishing field.
Is privacy at risk?
Now that her oldest daughter is 6, Reeves says she thinks twice about what she writes. "If I start to write something about her and think it might embarrass her, I don't."
Elizabeth Thielke, one of Nashville's most well-known bloggers who writes as BusyMom.net, cloaks the identity of her children by referring to them as "Busy Boy" and "Busy Girl." "I take reasonable precautions," says Thielke, who is 44 and works as a nurse.
"As they get older, it's getting more difficult," Thielke says of her effort to be sensitive to the privacy of her children, who are 14, 12 and 6. "They're doing fewer things that are cute and funny, and there's the bigger risk of their friends seeing it."
To that end, Thielke says she tries to write more about her experiences as a parent, rather than a blow-by-blow detailing of what family members are doing.
And even though reading a blog may seem like a voyeuristic peek into someone else's life, "I only share about 10 to 15 percent of my life in print," says Taff, who blogs at BabyBloomr.com.
"It's a small portion of my life that I choose to make public and make anecdotal and put out there for public consumption," says Taff, who blogged for The Tennessean for a year.
Worthington says, "Some mom blogs do tell funny stories or have photos of the kids, many others only casually mention children in passing and there are millions of blogs that are in between. . . . Each mom does what she feels to be best for her child and her family."
Worthington, 32, a stay-at-home mom, began blogging for fun two years ago at MrsFussypants.com, then launched online magazine Blissfully Domestic a year later. She also logs into Twitter and Facebook as a way to connect and promote her blog.
In the meantime, she's raising five sons, all under age 10.
"I do the majority of the work when my older children are at school and my young sons nap," Worthington says. "I also am a night owl by nature and often work after the family has fallen asleep."
Reeves says, "Some moms knit, some moms have book clubs, but I blog."
Sometimes, though, moms recognize they need to, as Thielke says, "step away from the computer."
A few minutes here, a few minutes there — "It's very seductive," Taff says.
Murfreesboro blogger Mandy Ray Jones has wrestled mightily — and ultimately successfully —with finding balance.
"I was using way more than appropriate," says Jones, who blogs under the name Bona Fide Mama at mandyray.blogspot.com.
In addition, creating a Web site for a group called Artsy Mamas meant hours in front of the computer. That and other social networking "helped me get through the day and not feel so isolated," said Jones, who has a 4-year-old, 3-year-old and is pregnant.
When she realized she was relying on the Web as a crutch for companionship, she unplugged.
"I don't think I was neglecting my children, but I had emotionally broken away," she says. The 31-year-old is back to blogging and credits the blogosphere for providing the kind of social network her stay-at-home mom never had.
"You can become so isolated when you're at home raising kids," says Jones, who home schools her youngsters.
"It's so nice to be able to type in a word in a search engine," Jones says, "and find a mom blogging about the very situation you're needing advice about."
Contact Bonna Johnson at 615-726-5990 or firstname.lastname@example.org.