When major media freaked at the news last month that moms in droves were ditching TV morning shows in favor of mommy blogs, one group wasn't at all surprised – the mommy bloggers and readers themselves.
Because the reality behind the startling statistic – nearly 450,000 women TV viewers lost last season (a decline of about 10 percent) – is as up close and personal as your next-door neighbor. One reader of my blog captured this intimacy perfectly:
"I really see the blogging community, for moms, as an 'over the back fence' community. Our grandmothers would visit with other neighbors as they hung out the laundry, they would chat with the milkman maybe, or catch up at the butcher shop, but in modern times we live in a world of strangers. It really brings in a sense of community."
That's according to Lisa Stauber, whom I met at the virtual backyard fence, even though we're 500 miles apart. Lisa is a mother of six and a recent transplant from Denver to small-town South Carolina. Reeling from isolation and culture shock, she turned to mom blogs to find her bearings.
She found so much more: a vibrant and diverse community of multitasking moms who might not have time to handle an uninterrupted phone call during the day, but who've discovered they can opine on matters of worldly importance (or just their kids' latest escapades) in between loads of laundry and peanut butter sandwiches. Women who've learned, like Agatha Christie, that "the best time for planning a book [or, as modern moms have found, a blog entry] is when you're doing the dishes." Women who know that in today's world – where you might be the only stay-at-home mom on the block – you don't have to move 2,000 miles to feel isolated.
They've learned that they don't have to turn on the TV as a lifeline to the "real" world. At some point while visiting over the back fences, they've discovered that the world portrayed on morning shows is far from real or relevant anyway. As Julie Jackson, a former morning show viewer who now reads my blog, explained: "I find the big three morning shows are simply a daily PR machine designed to get me to buy new makeup, or 'the new little black dress' for spring, or to attend a movie première. I don't need to spend an hour watching advertisements posing as a talk show. Mommy blogs generally talk about what matters to me as a mom. I don't need more tips on eyeliner application – I need tips on how to keep my housework under control while I try to raise babies into adults."
Advice and encouragement in their callings as moms, with a generous dash of humor and a reassuring dollop of "been there, done that" – These are what keep most moms hanging out at backyard fences of cyberneighbors each day, rain or shine.
But it's about much more than friendships forged – which sometimes blossom into real-life regional get-togethers – as moms dig deep to share their greatest struggles and help each other in practical ways. Moms of kids with special needs find specific information they need and a sense of belonging, where they had once been on their own. Ditto with moms struggling with migraines, battling depression, dieting while trying to keep their families properly fed (as part of a diet blog community, I've lost 75 pounds!), figuring out how to train a new puppy, or learning frugality so we can stay home and raise our kids.
Broadening our horizons
While helping us transcend temporal problems such as how to get babies to sleep through the night or toddlers to eat their carrots, mommy blogs have also broadened our horizons enormously with free-ranging spiritual and political discussions as our natural curiosity leads us to back fences different from our own. One of my blog readers – Karen – posted this comment at my blog:
"Since becoming part of the virtual world, I've been able to release some of the judgment I was holding about mothers and families that didn't match mine exactly, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to open my eyes a little more and to more fully embrace all the wonderful, warm, and witty women (and men) who are out there hanging their lives out for all to see."
Blogs have become a defining and empowering tool for countless moms who've found that we're no longer passive consumers listening to daytime TV talk-show hosts, but active participants in adult discourse. The blog experience keeps us intellectually challenged as we go about our daily calling, encourages us to filter current events through our own wisdom and experience as mothers, and reminds us that being a mom doesn't mean we've surrendered all hope of making a difference in the world.
When William Ross Wallace nailed it in the 19th century with the poem, "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world," he couldn't foresee that, someday, once the baby was asleep, we'd rock the keyboard, too!
• Barbara Curtis, a mother of 12, is an author of 9 books and 800 articles. Since beginning blogging in January 2005, she has posted more than 1,600 entries at her blog, www.MommyLife.net, which currently averages 2,700 visits per day.