Her Bad Mother

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Way We Were

When I began blogging, I knew nothing about blogs or mommy bloggers. I didn't know who Dooce was. I didn't know what Dooce was. I had stumbled upon a mom blog accidentally, while searching for advice on gas and reflux and the like, and I immediately took it for a diary. A very funny and illuminating diary, but a diary nonetheless.

And I thought, I can do this. I want to do this.

I was under treatment for post-partum depression at the time. My psychiatrist had advised me to keep a diary, to vent and to sort through my thoughts and to keep track of them so that maybe I would maintain enough self-reflectivity about the depression to keep myself a step or two ahead of it (because if you actually write down the words 'bought single airline ticket to Mexico today; am abandoning husband and baby' you're more likely to recognize that that's the depression talking.) But I didn't want to keep a diary. I'd kept diaries in the past, and they always turned into the worst kind of sappy, self-absorbed rambling (ahem).

But this, this blogging thing - this seemed different. I could keep a sort of diary and have a handful of people - my husband and friends and family and the like - as an audience, or as a sort of virtual Greek chorus, listening in and commenting upon the action of my mothering struggles as I strutted and fretted these upon the stage of the blog. It would be a way of recording my experience, of articulating my experience, and of drawing a few intimates in to my experience.

So I started the blog as a sort of semi-public diary. That I had an audience, however small, was key: I was writing for that audience - for my husband and for my mom and for the circle of friends that I'd informed about the blog. I was both self-conscious about my writing and remarkably unself-conscious: I'd ramble on about spit-up and swaddling and breastfeeding and swaddling and swaddling again and it was a way of both showing off my writing and performing my motherhood. It somehow made it all easier, more manageable, more fun to work through the struggles of motherhood as a kind of performance. Spit-up is just unpleasant if it's just you alone, on the couch, wondering what the fack you did to deserve being sprayed with partially-digested breastmilk. But it's funny if it becomes a story that someone else gets to hear or read. The same is true of snot-sucking and swaddle-busting and sleep-deprivation. And once these things become funny, they become manageable.

My early posts seem, at first glance, to be just so much long-winded rambling about swaddles and sore nipples and snot-suckage and weird toys - but they're also performative rambles. They're rambly because the stories felt rambly, because that's how I would have told those stories to a friend. I would have been breathless and wide-eyed and I would have been cursing a blue streak. That hypothetical delivery made it all the more funny and - to my own mind - accessible. Because that's how I would have performed those stories, in my living room or at the dining table.

Those early posts, in other words, were just as performative as the posts that came later, once I'd realized that I had a much wider audience, and that I was performing motherhood on a shared virtual stage. In a way, I think, they were actually more performative: there was probably more exaggeration of my frustrations and of my confusion, because I was trying to communicate my experience to an audience that I felt wouldn't immediately (in the literal sense of without mediation) grasp my struggle. My husband, my family, friends without children - I wanted them to laugh and to admire my skill with the written word, but more than anything I wanted them to get that this shit was hard. That I was struggling. That I was a little bit crazy. That if I was laughing, it was through tears.

But as I began to discover that there was a larger community, out there, out here, beyond the stage and yet, somehow, still on the stage, my performances, my writing, changed. They became, I think, less self-conscious. I did not have to persuade my new audience, my fellow performers, of my experience. They - you - knew. You already knew what this whole mothering was like; I didn't have to persuade you that it was hard, because you knew that. You know that. Our common experience as parents and as writers made it possible for me to settle down and think about those experiences. Once I was freed from the perceived necessity of dramatizing my true stories - necessary, I felt, if my close circle of non-mother intimates - was to understand what I was going through - I was able to get down to the business of simply telling those stories. And reflecting on those stories, and seeking out other stories, and reflecting on those stories, and so on and so forth.


A dear bloggy friend told me, recently, that she loved my old posts - the swaddle rants, the snot rambles - and that she had wondered whether my writing was looser then because I was less self-conscious, less inhibited by the idea of audience. Curiously, the answer is no. I may be more writerly now, but that writerliness has, I think, come hand-in-hand with the loosening of my inhibitions. It was only once I became freed from the perceived need to show that I became better able to tell. And it was you - my audience, my friends, my fellow players - and my awareness of you and my awareness of myself as one of you that freed me.

Thank you.

(big hug)

This is my contribution to our first! ever! BlogRhet meme - on the question of how your blogging has evolved. You can check out the details here (and track the links to check out other posts). And because it's a meme, I need to do some tagging, and so... Redneck Mommy, Mothergoosemouse, PunditMom, Beck, Julie and Fidget? And you too, Liz. Because you need a distraction from all of that baby love. Have at it. And all the rest of you, too (MBTers? You catch that?). If you're not too busy doing this.


On the topic of bloggy love, Bon nominated this post for a Perfect Post award. All the nicer because I especially love that post, too, and am so heartened to know that it struck a chord.

A Perfect Post – May 2007


Don't forget about the BlogHer contest that MBT is holding. Just write a post on some variation on the topic of how blogging empowers women. That's all. You could win a two-day BlogHer registration package. Or, if you don't want or need the registration, you could also win candy. Candy's good, too. Deets here or here. Do it. Don't make me come find you and twist your arm.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Here is a promise that I made to myself recently, and that I will make to you, too: I will not blog, on this blog, about BlogHer, prior to BlogHer.

I am, of course, super-thrilled to be going. But you all don't want to read about that: if you're going, you already know what that excitement feels like and don't need me to deconstruct it for you, and if you're not going, the last thing that you want to read about is this Big! Fantastic! Party! that you'll be missing. So I'll desist.

There will, however, be two exceptions to this promise. The first is that I will, in all likelihood, write about BlogHer on BlogRhet, the meta-blog sandbox that Joy and I and some of our thinky friends frolic in from time to time (and which you are welcome to play in, too, if you like). Stuff about how we talk about things like BlogHer conferences, the sort of language we use, why so many of us identify ourselves, pre-emptively, as outsiders who'll be lurking on the sidelines or hanging back at the table looking for other geeks. (Word to you all - we are all geeks. Every last freaking one of us. The biggest blogger that you know is, end of the day, just some geek who writes on the Internet. In her pajamas. Nobody's a rock star here, people. ALL. GEEKS. Goin' to a geek convention. Hot geeks, at a fun convention, but still. Geeks.) Maybe a post or two about the real or perceived politics of inclusion and exclusion that flare up when virtual life hits reality, that kind of thing. And if I or any of my BlogRhet peeps do write those posts, I'll certainly mention it here and direct you to them.

The second exception: there will posts about BlogHer over at MBT. Not least, because a group of us will be minivanning down to Chicago on a bloginista road trip and we will (oh yes we will) be blogging it, with photos and video and all manner of exhibitionist performance art. Kinda like Thelma and Louise times six, but without the crime or the death or Brad Pitt.

The biggest reason, however, that there will be BlogHer posting over at MBT is this: we're going to send someone to BlogHer. Well, we're going to give away a full 2-day registration package, which is pretty good. And it could be you! The contest is open to all citizens of the internet - you don't need to be from Toronto, or from Canada. You do not - repeat, do not - need to be a mommy blogger. Hell, you don't even need to have a blog (although if you're interested in BlogHer you're probably thinking about getting one. Check MBT for deets.) You can be anyone, from anywhere - all you have to do is write a post, sometime between now and June 15th, on some variation of this topic: (how) does blogging empower women? (Variations: How has blogging empowered you? Is blogging a radical act, for women? Are women rocking the blogosphere? Is the blogosphere rocking you? How and why?) Then send your link to me or post a comment here or at the MBT post. All posts, of course, will be linked up here and at MBT (which, I suppose, means that there's a third exception to my No BlogHer Posts promise. But you'll forgive me, right?)

We've got an awesome celebrity judge (you Canadians - and Americans who lived close enough to the Canadian border to pick up MuchMusic, Canada's MTV, in the 80's - will appreciate how cool this is) who will select the winners. Did I say winners? Yep. Those of you who are not planning to attend BlogHer can still participate - we'll select the best of the submissions from those of you who are not going and the winner will receive a wonderful We'll Miss You At BlogHer prize package (the contents of which are secret, but will, I promise, include candy.)

You can find full details here. Check it out, then get writing!


You can also win BlogHer registration by doing the Parent Blogger Network Blog Blast next Friday. You see how badly we want you to come? We're giving it away all over the place.


And because that's not enough for you to do: check out the writing challenge that we've just posted over at BlogRhet. It's a meme, but you can tag yourself. Or just wait for me to tag you. Or maybe wait for OTJ to do it - she sprays a meme better than anyone I know.


And - did you know that Babble has just launched Babblepedia? It's a parenting wiki (the first ever) to which anyone can contribute. Our own little wikipedia, all about parenting and childcare and everything that you ever and never wanted to know about what to do after that little dictator is dropped from the stork's beak. And, $1000 - ONE. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. - goes to whoever submits the most posts by June 30. That's a lot of diapers. Or a lot of drinks at BlogHer (one of which you'll owe me if you win this.)

I'm going to be spending the rest of my week establishing myself over there as the resident swaddling expert. Oh, how I miss the swaddle, sometimes, and the days when WonderBaby could be contained within a thin sheet of cotton...

Those were the days, my friends. Those were the days.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Does My Blog Look Fat In These Pants?

My birthday present to myself this year was supposed to be a blog overhaul, for which purpose I enlisted the assistance of the amazing Izzy. But I've been stuck for days in an ever-worsening spiral of indecision about a new banner - do I go cheeky? serious? cheeky-serious (cherious?) urban-hipster-doofus? tweedy academic? black-beret-scotch-sipping beatnik?

WHAT is the aesthetic of Her Bad Mother?

I'm having a blog identity crisis, on a par with bangs or no-bangs, skinny jeans or no-skinny-jeans, tat or no tat. What look is right for me?

I've been seriously tempted by this banner (design by Iz)...

... but just haven't been able to take the step of committing to it (the image on the left, by the way, is a Da Vinci sketch, Virgin and Child, which, although wonderful, is maybe not perfectly reflective of the HBM ethos.)

I've also toyed with using one of the many spectacular WonderBaby images...

... like this...

...or this.


I know that most of you are currently out sipping Memorial Day margaritas right now, but please. Help. What sort of look should I be going for? What's gonna say, this is the blog of Her Bad Mother and it ROCKS?
The other thing that I want to do in this blog renovation is set up a list of favourite posts, a sort of greatest hits list. But do I go with my favourites, or do I go with the ones that have been most popular, judging by comments or awards or whatever? (Because, interestingly, what I like most and what you like most - judging by volume of comments, which I know isn't necessarily the most reliable indicator - are not always the same). One of my recent favourites disappeared into last weekend, as weekend posts sometimes do, but it is a piece of writing that I'm particularly proud of. Another favourite was well-received, but it's a particularly intimate post and one that I'm reluctant to wave around while shouting me-likey-likey! And another is really just a silly, off-the-cuff post, but one of the very few of my own that I really think is funny (notwithstanding the phallus posts.)

So how does one decide? Should it be my favourites, no matter their character? Or should it just be the popular posts? Or is it really just so much more grandstanding to flaunt old posts (hey! looky here! my ass looks good in these posts!)

Or is it really just so much more grandstanding and contrived insecurity to be asking for help in sorting out how to revamp one's look? OMG am so fat am such a bad mother should I not be wearing skinny jeans should I lose the bangs but isn't my forehead just too big omg have you seen my ass what do I do? (preen preen spin pose affect worry pose preen)

Maybe. Or maybe I'm just aesthetically stunted and indecisive and overly-reliant on peer support in making blog-altering decisions.

Let's go with that.