Over the past week and a half I have scrutinized close to 400 mom blogs as part of a project I’m working on. It’s been a voyage of discovery, some of it selfie involved.
My mom blog investigation brought joy, recognition and moments of laughter as well as moments of cringing and forehead smacking.
I see myself in so many of those blogs. Good stuff, but ugh! I also see some totally embarrassing stuff.
Out there in the mom blogosphere I encountered my own tentative and self conscious posts. I saw my broken links and poorly lit photos. I tiptoed around those occasional self-indulgent pity-party posts that I always regret writing. I held my nose breezing by the same stinking tired turns of phrase I use when I am too lazy or burnt out to write well: “I’m so thrilled” and “I recently attended” , “Awesome” and “Amazing” and “I really can’t describe…”
Isn’t the whole point of writing to describe stuff?
One more mirror blog confession. While I’ve never pressed an offspring or a pet into service as my avatar, my kids have served as my little blog stunt-doubles on occasion. Cute kids are an excellent cover for the camera/video shy, especially on days when you feel less than attractive. It’s one thing in a review for a toy, another when the kid is pushing a vacuum. Busted. All of us.
The biggest problem I’ve had with many of the mom blogs I’ve been looking at, is the complete absence of the moms.
Once upon a time, five years and five minutes ago, mom blogs were a place where women divulged their deepest darkest parenting secrets, hopes and fears. It’s understandable that these moms didn’t spend a ton of time sharing photos of themselves and their family, because their words were enough reality and intimacy. Plus they were authors, not necessarily lifestyle role models.
The best writerly mom bloggers gave us one photo to cling to – like a headshot in a book jacket. The iconic image of The Bloggess in curlers comes to mind. That image is everything. It lets me know who to imagine while reading her words.
I will always imagine The Bloggess in curlers, holding a blowdryer, even though I’ve met her many times IRL without curlers and nary a blowdryer in sight.
Mom blogger means something different now. It might mean what I’ve described above or it might also mean style maven, food or fitness expert or DIY home design queen. Basically anything written by a mom, that touches on parenting related anything.
Some mom blogger categories are more popular than others. Especially, unsurprisingly the categories that make the most money and require the least writing skills
A cottage industry has arisen out of what I like to call the “mushroom.” The mushroom has many subtle varieties but what it essentially is, is a review/coupon/tips/frugal/giveaway site. Pick any two to three of these things and place it under a grow lamp. Mom blogging writers of mushroom sites are entrepreneurial, greedy, clever, lazy, creative, and/or industrious – depending on who you speak to.
Many mushroom sites are loaded with images, mostly of products. Most of these images are uploaded from press releases.The same exact images and spoon-fed PR content is likely to be found on multiple mushroom sites, which does little to distinguish any of these sites. That’s probably not great for business or blogging reputations, but everyone has to start somewhere, and according to my research, a whole lot of people start these type of blogs.
Little to no original content, no original photos… These so-called mom bloggers may as well be a dude, blogging from a basement in Mumbai. No wonder people are suspicious of them.
Know what allays those types of fears? A name and a face. Take note if you want your mushroom site to be taken seriously.
Not all mom bloggers are absent. Certain fashion/lifestyle mom bloggers are famous for their selfies – sharing pouty full lips and eyeshadow advice shots daily, live from the dewy morning-carpool-light of their SUV.*
As annoying and needy as the constant car selfies can get, I want to hug these women. Thank them. Bless them.
They may seem a little vain but they are bravely present. They are so much easier to relate to and connect with than a hi-res stock photo of a ham or a washer dryer.
For me, a mom blog still needs a mom.
Which brings me to the one thing I think I’ve been doing semi right.
Going over my own feed, I realize that despite the fact that I am not always so much in love with my own image, I have always managed to be present.
This isn’t by accident. It’s something I’ve forced myself to do because I know seeing my face helps keep my followers connected. Really. It’s that simple.
I won’t deny that taking and posting photos of myself feels awkward. I’m self conscious . I feel vain and ridiculous each and every time I post a picture of myself. Do people think I’m emulating a teenager? fishing for compliments? Wait, am I?
Who the hell cares…
In 2015 sharing your own image feels just as essential to the craft of mom blogging as sharing stories was four years ago. In fact, the fewer original words you have, the more critical it may be to remind your audience that a real-live actual person curates their Pinterest round ups and finds their coupons.
Bottom line: we still crave connection with a human.
There’s nothing sadder than a mom blog, missing the mom.
Selifes are not a show of vanity for mom bloggers, they are (or should be) a job requirement. You don’t have to love it, or be comfortable with it but whatever you do – don’t apologize. Try to get creative with it.
Think of it as FaceTime with your readers and followers. Selfies are not a substitute for good, original content. They just help people associate your content with YOU.
After reviewing hundreds of sites, my 2015 Mom Blog advice is super simple: Be present. Show up. Bring your words and bring your face. You’d probably be shocked by how many people blog via absentee ballot. I sure was.
So bloggers… go out and post a photo of yourself. Share a selfie on instagram and get in your own videos. All of you, not just your hands or your feet.
Do this and you’ll be head and shoulders above the rest. Literally. Because you’ll have an actual head and shoulders for your readers to identify with.
Note: morning carpool light is magical, everyone should try it.