In Defense of Mommy Bloggers

Why is the New York Times singling out one group of bloggers for criticism?

Last Updated: March 24, 2010 @ 5:50 PM

This past weekend, the New York Times published a snarky article about mommy bloggers headlined

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

The story, published in the Style section, ostensibly addresses a real issue: the perceived conflict between mommy blogging and commerce.

In doing so, however, the writer offers a snide and condescending tone, behind which lurks negative implications that mommy bloggers might be in it just for the freebies — and, more dangerously, that they’re  sidelining their children in the process.

As a mom blogger in Los Angeles, who wrote a story in January for L.A. Moms Blog with a curiously similar headline, “Don’t Bother Me, Honey. I’m too Busy Blogging About You,” I’m here to defend my fellow moms.

I also would like examine what I think is a cynical and insidious attempt to create a 21st-century extension of the so-called “Mommy Wars” — that is, the lose-lose debate about who’s better, stay-at-home moms or working moms. Now, apparently, that category has been widened to include blogging moms who get recognized by large companies.

The headline alone would be a curious coincidence if not for the fact that the story, written by Slate columnist and self-proclaimed mom blogger Jennifer Mendelsohn, quotes one of my fellow L.A. Moms Blog contributors, Ciaran Blumenfeld. She or a Times editor must have checked out LAMomsBlog.com and noticed my headline. The main difference: They added a not-so-subtle implication that we mom bloggers are also harming our children in the process of writing and garnering attention from people outside of our own homes.

Which begs the question: Is the Times trying to have it both ways, attacking a group by using one of its own, or is it a guilt-laden attempt by a writer to somehow separate herself from a community she also wants to be a part of — and reap the benefits from as well? (She discloses she has a blog but ironically refuses to name it or link to it. It’s “Clever Title TK,” by the way.)

This is also another kind of attack — moms vs. other women — or else they would bully other bloggers as well. What about moms who blog not about motherhood but instead about books, food or entertainment? They also receive comps, as do their childless peers, but where is that backlash?

(The New York Times is not alone in its digs at mom bloggers. The Los Angeles Times — a paper that recently has been criticized for publishing an ethically questionable faux Page 1 with an advertisement for film “Alice in Wonderland” emblazoned across the front — also has contributed to the conversation.)

I and other moms I know are dedicated parents who use our voices in a public forum. These are the same women who also write about changing exploding diapers, wiping urine and other bodily fluids off of the floor and themselves as they attempt to potty-train their offspring. They also ask for support and guidance when bravely tackling the challenges of raising autistic kids or dealing with death — sometimes the worst kind, of their own child.

By scoffing at those issues (“Oh, that’s so 2008.”), Ms. Mendelsohn undermines what mommy bloggers continue to struggle with on a daily basis — our issues at home. Not only that, most of these voices are ones people wouldn’t have heard a generation ago. And, no, maybe they wouldn’t have landed jobs at Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com, but Ms. Mendelsohn, don’t you think it’s condescending to add “despite her not having a resume”? I mean, maybe not bylines in the New York Times or Slate, but no resume? I’m sure there’s something on there.

Because they have a voice — one that is loud and one that is part of a growing online community. That is why they are being recognized by marketers and family-friendly companies.

And that’s exactly why papers of record are writing about them — because they’re big. If they weren’t, they would just be ignored.

In that instance, perhaps the Times should have rejigged the story’s headline to read: "Don’t Bother Me, Honey. I’m too busy writing a story for the New York Times because they desperately need provocative stories to generate hits for their site because their print publication is being kept afloat by a Mexican financier.”

When they attack just moms and not other bloggers, it must be about something bigger. And that something is fear.

Traditional media outlets have to accept that the world is changing. Because brick-and-mortar outlets have been slow to keep up with their readers, their newspapers and their bottom lines have suffered. Yet they still want to be the bullies on the media playground, using their still relatively wide reach and vast yet dwindling resources to go on the attack against smaller entities that are essentially their competition.

But in the process they are turning a blind eye to the changing media landscape.

Don’t get me wrong. Disclosure is important. When bloggers receive free stuff, it’s up to us to make that known – which is exactly what Big Media has yet to do itself. Having worked at big-time media outlets myself (including even the New York Times Syndicate), I know all about the “goodie” and “giveaway” tables and the tons of free merchandise that companies and marketers send over for possible review. Where are those disclosures?

Struggling brick-and-mortar publications like the New York Times, which feel the most threatened and want to confine journalistic perks to within their own hallowed halls, are crumbling, and those actual bricks and mortar are becoming more of a liability than a secure fortress of stability. Ask any laid-off editor or reporter.

And that kind of fear usually puts people and institutions on the attack. Where did these upstarts come from? The Times might ask. Where are their journalistic credentials?

That’s the point, Grey Lady — an appropriate moniker now more than ever — because we get it. And because we get it, we’re thriving.

Your schoolyard bullying only serves to spotlight your own tenuousness, but it also shows that you’re willing to play dirty and undercut a group of women who not only have a voice, but who also have an important role in their family’s and children’s lives.

So next time you want to write about mommy bloggers, New York Times, and lift a headline from one of those mommy bloggers, I’m offering my own suggestions:

* Don’t bother me, honey. I’m too busy getting ready for work so I can help put a roof over your head.

Or

* Don’t bother me, honey. I’m too busy staying home and making your lunch because I want to make sure you are well fed.

Or

* Don’t bother me, honey. I’m too busy writing about my adventures with you because I don’t want to forget them but, most of all, because I love you.