Moms with attitude: These bloggers don't sugarcoat parenting's ups and downs
A few weeks ago, Wendi Aarons' son uttered the one syllable capable of sending a shudder down the spine of any parent.
He had it. Aarons leapt into action (admittedly, “after a few muttered curses”) and hauled him to a lice removal salon, where a team of nurses eliminated the pests.
Rather than keeping this potentially embarrassing story under wraps, Aarons, an Austin, Texas, blogger, jumped online to tell the world every hilarious detail.
“Austin now has lice-removal salons run by nurses who know everything about those little buggers. Everything. And who also have wine on hand for freaked-out parents like me. Nothing like a little Chardonnay at 10 a.m. while your scalp is being checked for nits. Fancy schmancy!” she writes on www.alphamom.com.
Aarons is among the growing number of mom bloggers who aren't interested in sugar-coating parenthood. They tackle everything — from the gross to the great, the funny to the frustrating — with the belief that if you don't laugh, you'll cry.
“It's taught women to recognize that while we all have different challenges, we all have challenges,” says Stacy Morrison, editor-in-chief of BlogHer media company.
Morrison says women have become more “naked and honest” when discussing motherhood in the last decade, and often that means infusing their tales of woe with a healthy dose of humor.
“One the most amazing powers of humor is that it can dissipate that sense of feeling eternally frustrated,” Morrison says. “It breaks open the tension and reminds us that we're not alone.
“Moms are supposed to be saints and perfect and guiltless. Humor blogs really thumb their noses at that.”
Pittsburgh is home to several ladies who aren't afraid to have some fun when writing about their roles as Mom. Michelle Hammons, who writes the widely popular www.TheBurghBaby.com blog, calls a good sense of humor “the difference between a bad day and a hilarious day.”
“It's all about perspective,” she says. “I have survived a lot of phases by finding the humor in it all. There was the terrible Dora the Explorer phase, for example. I most definitely had a few laughs at Dora's expense. More recently, I have been finding hilarity in the fact that I somehow gave birth to a glittery, sparkle-loving, girlie-girl, while I am the furthest thing from girlie. It's funny how karma works out.”
Hammons, who sticks to more light-hearted humor, uses her blog to document her daughter as she grows, from first days of school to cheerleading practices to pop concerts.
“I want to remember all of the little moments of childhood, but more importantly, I want there to be reminders for my daughter,” Hammons says. “I want her to always have something that tells her the story of her.”
Fellow Pittsburgher Erin Kelly, writer of the hilarious no-holds-barred OhHonestlyErin.com, says women bloggers “having their own community is a huge deal.”
“It's nice to read some stranger's blog and think, ‘Oh good. Her son is the same age as mine, and he screams horrible, vitriolic things to her, too,' ” she says. “And then I feel less alone in this whole ‘Which creepy Stephen King character is my son going to turn into?' game of parenting.”
Kelly uses her blog to chronicle her day-to-day life, taking her audience along with her family as they go to state fairs, haunted houses and local diners. She doesn't shy away from telling readers if the family is fighting or things aren't going her way. Nor does she avoid using the occasional (and sometimes frequent) curse word or off-color phrase to get her point across.
“I don't regulate myself when writing,” Kelly says. “I have been criticized for being too vulgar or too honest, but this is a release for me.
“I actually regulate myself way more in my real life. I try to keep it classy (kind of?) and censored. I'm not that mom you see cussing out her ex-husband on the phone at a playground, and I definitely don't walk around smacking every single stranger who is annoying me. That's what blogging is for!”
Nicole Knepper, Chicago blogger and author of “Moms Who Drink and Swear,” says she started posting parenting stories online because she was “losing her mind” and wanted to connect with other mothers.
“There's something to be said to know that feeling, that loneliness, that despair,” she says. “We've all been in the throes when it's your second night with no sleep. We know what it's like to be that afraid, that tired.”
In her book, Knepper shares tales of commiserating with other moms in a fast-food restaurant's hell-like play area, the never-ending to-do list that keeps her from ever finishing a glass of wine and getting to the bottom of who keeps forgetting to flush the toilet.
No matter the scenario, Knepper says one theme resonates with all moms: “Am I doing this right?”
“If you're in the grocery store and see a mom dealing with a kid that's freaking out, you can think, ‘I've been there,' ” she says. “Ask, ‘Can I help you?' Or smile — that goes a long way.”
Blogging can change the way people think about motherhood in a myriad of ways, writers say. Jill Smokler, Baltimore-based writer of ScaryMommy.com, says having a blog has helped her see things, which would have otherwise frustrated her, as blog fodder, such as the time her middle child painted his brother's face with a red Sharpie.
“It took almost a week to fade, and we got looks everywhere we went, but it was also a surefire cure for writer's block,” she says. “Win!”
Sherice Torres, of TheBadAssMamaChronicles.com, says for her, humor simply helps make motherhood easier.
“Motherhood is wonderful, but hard stuff happens. You have to laugh,” she says. “You can write about the fact that your child just threw a poopy diaper at you and realize you're not alone.”
And as is the case with all bloggers, reader feedback isn't always positive. Torres, of New York, remembers an entry she wrote called “The Top 10 Things Never to Do at a Mother's House.” The list included things like “Leave dishes in the sink” (“I already have two kids. If I wanted a third, I would be pregnant by now”) and “Utter the words ‘You look tired' ” (“Reminding us that we are close to breaking the record for ‘Most Nights of Interrupted Sleep' will not get you brownie points ... but it may get you slapped”). One reader took great offense to Torres even suggesting her guests follow these tongue-in-cheek rules.
“There are going to be those people,” Torres says. “But for the one or two people who attack, there are 50 more who didn't comment, but now know it's not just them.”
The growing number of women willing to share their experiences honestly can create a sense of community among mothers, says Kelcey Kintner of Florida, who along with Aarons, contributes to Mouthy Housewives, an online humor advice column for parents. Kintner also writes the humor blog www.MamaBirdDiaries.com.
“It's so important to have a community where you can say, ‘I was so mad I threw a frozen hot dog across the room. Is that normal?' ” Kintner says. “As a mom, you're dealing with completely irrational people who you also love more than life itself. It can feel really lonely. Having an online community is an immediate way to get support.”
Oftentimes, that community leads to friendships that extend beyond the Internet.
“Most of my closest friends are people who I have met through blogging over the years,” Hammons says. “I don't really consider them ‘blogging friends' or ‘in real-life friends' because they're just friends.”
The growing collective of honest voices is also changing the way society views motherhood, bloggers say.
“The emerging trend of being funny and self-deprecating as a mom who blogs is definitely debunking parenting stereotypes,” Kelly says. “I know that some people prefer to only spotlight the perfect moments of their life, and that's fine. It's just important to remember that no one is perfect.”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.