Friday, February 15, 2008

Blogging-An Internet Trend to Bring Parents Together

This article was published in 2006 in Valley Kids. Since we're planning a blog book tour for The Baby Bonding Book For Dads (and we already have some amazing bloggers signed up), I thought I'd share an edited version of it with you here:

Blogging—An Internet Trend that Brings Parents Together

Special to Valley Kids

This month I’ve been traveling. I’ve been to about 15 different states and I’ve gone as far afield as South Africa and Western Canada. I’m even scheduled to appear in Australia before the month is out.

In my pajamas.

I’ve been on a blog book tour, traveling via the internet to promote my latest book called “Why Babies Do That: Baffling Baby Behavior Explained.” For the whole month of May I’ve been making “stops” on the tour at mommy (and some daddy) blogs.

Blogs are big. Blogs are an internet trend and a social phenomenon that is worth following. However, you may have no idea what a blog is (after all, my spell check program doesn’t recognize the word.) A short form of the words “web log,” a blog is an interactive site on the internet where people write entries and others come to read and leave comments.

Chicopee-based writer Tish Grier has been blogging since November 2004 when a friend told her to try combating her writer’s block by blogging. She rolled her eyes, thinking that writing on the internet didn’t really count as “real writing” but she was working two jobs at the time—at a machine shop during the day and a retail store in the local mall in the evenings—and she didn’t know many writers and was feeling rather lonely. So Grier decided to start a blog.

“I got tired of the isolation,” Grier told me in a phone interview from her home office in Chicopee. “I thought, let me start just throwing some things out there and seeing what would happen.”

Now the editor of Corant Media Hub and a very popular media blogger (you can find her at The Constant Observer), Grier sees that blogging—especially mommy blogging—has reached the proportions of a social movement.

“From what I see and the information that I read through Blogher [], mommy bloggers are a very powerful force,” says Grier whose job is partly to watch media trends. “They are home during the day and women are spread out and they don’t have the support systems that they used to. People get a lot of their information on-line. They go there to talk to other women, to get the information that they need.”

Grier says blogging helps parents find a community and create a support network. “You make community and connection through your blog and through commenting on the blogs of others,” says Grier. “It breaks the isolation.”

But 34-year-old Kerri Vassar, who lives in Gill and has a 1-year-old daughter named Olivia, is not convinced that blogs are an effective way to bring parents together. She doesn’t read blogs and she doesn’t have any mommy friends who do either.

“I’m not even sure I know exactly what they are,” Vassar admits. “I don’t read them because I don’t have any idea where to even find them. I’ve read a couple (at least I think I have) that just seemed confusing, outdated and hard to follow. I have no interest in someone else’s personal blog. If it’s that fascinating I’m sure someone will make a movie out of it and I can catch the ‘short version’ later.”

Grier thinks Vassar is wrong about the merit of blogs but acknowledges that Vassar’s opinion is shared by many on the East Coast (blogging is more popular out West, says Grier). “I think it’s an East Coast thing, actually … not necessarily that we’re snobs, it’s just that we’re a little bit more conservative out here, especially in Western Mass.”

Being socially conservative translates into being hesitate about the appropriateness of blogs. “The impression is that [bloggers] might be airing their dirty laundry,” says Grier, who adds that that perception has been perpetuated by the media and that blogs are more than just on-line journals, that they are carefully crafted narratives that merit attention.

“Most of us know what to say and what not to say,” says Grier. “It’s not like reading somebody’s live journal.”

Since blogs are Internet wide and not usually tagged by geographic location, it’s challenging to locate bloggers in any given region. “One of the most difficult things I think about blogging in general is finding people in your own geographic area. The search engines don’t work well for finding local people,” says Grier.

But the appeal of blogs goes beyond geographic specificity, and for many the appeal of the Internet is that it seems without boundaries. Susan Ito (who blogs here) first came to the world of mommy blogs because she suffered from debilitating preclamsia in all three of her pregnancies (and lost one baby because of it) and her doctor put her on bed rest. With nothing to do but stay lying down all day, Ito found her tribe through reading mommy blogs.

Some 40 mommy bloggers started a group blog called Dot Moms (you can find it here) to promote and celebrate the different faces of motherhood. The site was mentioned in a Time Magazine on-line article about the 50 coolest Web sites. A recently formed group Web site written by a handful of daddy bloggers called The Blog Fathers indicates a growing interest in the mommy blogging phenomenon among fathers as well.

With three small children to run around after, and a job that keeps me in front of the computer several hours every day, I don’t read blogs as often as I’d like. But some are hard to resist. Tertia Albertyn’s So Close welcomes about 2,000 visitors a day (she was the South Africa stop on my tour) and Mrs. Kennedy’s Fussy is so hilarious that many blog readers without children consider it a mandatory stop to enjoy with their morning coffee. My other favorites include Kelly Ferry’s Her Able Hands, (Ferry’s blog used to be called Baggage Carousel) and Suburban Turmoil ,which is worth visiting just to see the hilarious graphics. Grier's favorite mommy blog is State of Grace.

Although she does not see any merit in blogs, Vassar does find message boards, like the one at (maintained by Mothering Magazine) to be a useful way to communicate with other parents. “Message boards are what I enjoy and have found to be the most helpful,” Vassar explains. “They are more organized and easier to navigate. They seem to have much more variety within the site and aren’t so topic specific.”

So if you are a mom or dad with small children, should you start a blog? It’s easy, it’s free, and you can have a site up and running in a matter of minutes (visit which will walk you through the steps to starting a blog). “My first piece of advice would be to just go in and read others, maybe leave a comment if you feel like it, get a feel for what it’s like first, see what the community is, and see how you feel,” says Grier.

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