I started blogging in 2004, when I was a twenty-something living in Calgary in a dilapidated house with a hot rugby boyfriend. My life was nothing like it is now, the Internet was a totally different animal. I was working for a radio company, selling the emerging tendrils of digital space, and I secretly blogged in the wee hours, taking a crazy amount of thrill in each incoming comment on my free blogger.com site. Nolan did not exist, I had no idea what Motherhood meant, my priorities were corporate ladder climbing and resisting my 30th birthday for as long as possible. I took a lot of pictures of the trails outside my house and whispered in words about dating, doubt, early adulthood.
If I had a problem, the Internet answered. If I had a fight with my boyfriend, my readers usually declared him wrong. It felt like a secret club, writing for a semi-anonymous personal blog, and the space was the Wild West: the topics I wrote about were alarmingly raw and bloody. But there was little risk, and I felt safe throwing out tidbits of my personal life. Trainwrecks.com didn’t exist, the blogging space was obscure enough that the mean girls hadn’t yet infiltrated to kick at wounds and mount public shaming wars. I never used my real name and so the space was like a comforting elixir: I could write what I couldn’t articulate in small talk and anonymous IP addresses would answer back: “Yes, we get you. No, you’re not insane. Please, keep writing because you help us know we’re normal.”
But things changed. Anonymity became necessary, especially in the face of breakups and impending babies. The Internet became nasty, and blogging became a business. Words on the screen morphed from a platform for sharing our humanity into dollar signs: potential for schwag and relationships with Fortune 500 businesses.
I wanted no part of that, so I ducked and hid for a while, sticking to benign posts about the weather, childhood reading exercises, excellent taco recipes on for-pay sites where the anonymous bullies were swiftly deleted.
Here’s the thing though: I missed those raw posts.
I had used the unfiltered blogs of other personal bloggers to better understand myself and my place in the world. I devoured posts by powerful writers about cheating and animosity, self doubt and healing.
And I know that the very best posts I ever wrote were the dark ones where the emotional risk was enormous and the feedback was 100% “Holy shit, I’ve been there. Thank you for writing about being there, too.”
It’s almost impossible to authentically relay ragged, true life moments online anymore, and I am positive I’m not the only one who thinks that’s a total crying shame.
Earlier this week, my friend Holly wrote a post about the jagged edges of emotion that transpire in the weeks following the birth of a new human being. She gathered up the searing pain and the brilliant awe and she made an indescribable experience completely crystal clear.
The post soared in itsutter relatabilty: every single mother in the Universe could understand the bleeding emotion that Holly described. It’s not the kind of emotion you can read about in your local newspaper or monthly fashion magazine.
In that post, Holly wrote about the fact that she didn’t feel it necessary to share the details of her son’s life. And though I have enormous respect for her right to feel that way, I was taken aback by some of the commenters who wrote yes, thank you Holly for saying that. In fact, they said, they had to stop reading other blogs written by Mothers who relayed stories about their children. Because children deserved privacy.
The inference was clear: Moms who write about their children online are unwise, and unfair. Those children don’t have a choice in their Mother’s words, and so those words don’t have right to be written.
Bullshit, is what I say.
After almost ten years in the blogging space, I believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of the personal blog. – for the better.
We are all dots in time, and the years fly by in a blur, and entire childhoods are forgotten because we have mortgages and the economy sucks and our parents are getting older and now is so much more pressing. I think that my stories about my boys are a permalink testament to my love for them, and I hope one day they will read them and realize moments they never would have known about otherwise. I hope they will understand who I was as a person, outside of being their Mother. I would be thrilled for them to know that their life stories matter to people even outside our direct family unit.
Many of us are Gen-X Moms. We slid around in the back of our parents T-birds, no carseats, cigarette smoke infiltrating the back seats. We rode banana seat bikes with no helmets and ate bologna sandwiches with mustard and chemical bread and created fun by passing each other out in muddy school yards.
Any stories we have about our quirky milk grins and our first teetering steps and about the way our Mothers loved us exist mostly in grainy Polaroids and folded-up Raggedy Ann costumes. We don’t know who we were outside of anecdotal, spoken evidence, which may or may not have been tempered and skewed over the last 30 years.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to read about my Mom’s feelings for me in 1979. I would love to know her perspective on the world, the way things were back then. I’d love to read about her dreams, the way she saw me and our family, and her beliefs and deepest wishes for my brother and me. I can think of no greater gift than a written diary of her fears and aspirations and yes, even her best recipe for 1980’s creamy tomato soup.
Tech blogs have their very firm place in the world, and business blogs are very important. Food blogs have changed the way we set our tables, and fashion blogs have stabbed away at the jogging pant as a style statement.
Personal blogs, littered with our authentic stories and the lives of our children, are no less important. I would argue that they are the most important type of record, because they can forge bonds and remove shame and provide a living testament to who we are.
Writing about the tribulations of parenting is nothing to be ashamed if, and I think it should be encouraged rather than scorned.
I’m going to write about Nolan, and Jude, and the bumpy pathway of Motherhood, and I’m going to be unapologetic about it.
I hope you will be, too.