Our Love/Hate Relationship with the Term “Mommy Blogger”

mommy-blogger1Mommy blogger.

Do you love the term or hate? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone. I spent two years as a mommy blogger, during the tail end of a 20-year career as a newspaper journalist, and I went back and forth on how I felt about the term.

When I first started blogging about parenting issues for a newspaper in Upstate New York, I liked the term. It made me feel part of what was then this new powerful movement of women. Blogging felt like it gave women a voicea voice they didn’t get in traditional media, such as newspapers, radio, and television. Blogging also let me get my own voice out. I had written objective newspaper articles for years, but blogging gave me permission to insert myself into my words. Finally, I could write what I felt.

But the term also made me chafe. I had spent nearly two decades as a newspaper reporter and editor, and telling someone I was an “assistant city editor” got me much more credibility than “mommy blogger.” I was still working at the same place and making the same amount of money, but suddenly people viewed me as less. At least, I felt they did. Especially men.

As I transitioned from journalism to academia, I decided to explore the issue by analyzing every blog post and blog comment I could find online where women debated how they felt about the term. The result was a study of 29 blogs posts and 649 comments that is slated for publication in the academic journal, Mass Communication and Society. A pre-publication version is available online.  The full article, “Don’t Call Me That: A Techno-Feminist Critique of the Term Mommy Blogger,” is behind a pay wall, but you can get the gist from the free abstract on the site.

What I found in these blog posts and comments is that other women bloggers were grappling with the same conflict about the term mommy blogger that I felt. In some ways the term brings up the long-standing tension over how women fit in society. It made me think: How do I see myself? How do others define me? Why do I let them?

Mommy blogging created a new genre of media, and that felt amazing. But it also created a new way to feel like women were once again being pushed aside and told that what they were doing wasn’t that important.

In my study, women reported that they felt the term mommy blogger came with an implied “just” before it — you’re “just” a mommy blogger, as if being a mommy blogger were less than any other type of blogger. The fact the mommy blogger defines the blogger – not what she writes about – raised particular ire. Women noted that other blog types are defined by the subject matter of the blog, not by the writer. For example, technology bloggers blog about technology; political bloggers discuss politics. Mommy bloggers don’t write about mommies.

They also suggested that use of the word “mommy” was particularly diminishing because it conjures a picture of a mother of very young children, tied to their needs with little to say beyond that. Use of mommy blogger, they argued, seemed more trivializing than mom blogger or mother blogger, although I concede neither sounds as good. As blogger Nataly Kogan co-founder and chief executive officer of Work It, Mom! asserted in regard to the term mommy blogger:

“I hate that it makes me and what I do sound cutesy and childish. I feel that it diminishes the importance and impact of what I do … I do think if the term “mom” – such as mom blogger, or business mom, or mom wars – I’d feel slightly less irked. I am a mom, but why should anyone other than my daughter call me mommy?”

However, other women raised important points about how a term such as mommy blogger unites women who blog about parenting or children together as a recognizable entity. That felt good in a way, they reported. As blogger Karoli at the blog odd time signatures explained:

“The value of a term like mommyblogger is this: It defines a very powerful and voice demographic – a group of thinking, tech-savvy, engaged women … The real benefit of being part of a larger community called ‘mommy bloggers’ is the power that some with the rise of collective voice. Power to change things. Power to be heard.”

In my paper, I try to merge these two ideas, arguing that the act of mommy blogging may empower while at the same time the term makes some women feel marginalized. From the women’s blog posts and comments, it was clear that for many of them, the term re-affirmed a very traditional view of motherhood — an at-home mom of young children. I found that for some women that definition fit fine. For others, it gaped liked an over-sized sweater. And if this definition of motherhood didn’t fit, women seemed to find the term mommy blogger more constricting. As the blogger Redneck Mommy explained in a comment on a blog post at PhD in Parenting:

“I think perhaps my dislike of the term mommyblogger stems from not wanting to be marginalized or defined by another; stuffed into a mold that doesn’t fit me. I don’t need others to do that, I do it often enough myself.”

What do you think? Is this just semantics or is there a real issue of trivialization here?

417935_10200873648699568_748172552_nGuest contributor Gina Masullo Chen is an assistant professor at The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism in Hattiesburg, MS. She spent 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor in Upstate New York, including two years blogging about parenting and children for the newspaper’s website. She blogs about social media and journalism at SavetheMedia.com. Gina and her husband, Peter, have two children who call her mommy. They live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Image via the kind and gracious Megan Jordan aka Velveteen Mind. http://velveteenmind.com

  • I used to not mind being called a mommy blogger. I actually embraced it and used it in my SEO for my blog. But now, there is always that implied “just” that simply grates on me. “Mom blogger” is slightly less condescending, but it still defines me by my role as a parent instead of defining me by the body of my work – something most male bloggers will never deal with, despite the fact that they are also dads.

    • Christina, I think many of us have had that same journey. It’s actually why I finally decided part ways with the name “PunditMom.” What I thought would be a good rhetorical device eventually just held me back.

  • I’m not a mom (or a mommy) but I am a blogger. When I hear “Mommy Blogger” I assume the blog is about or related to younger kids. Before I was more entrenched in the blogosphere, I’d have thought a “mommy blog” would have been a more personal/new/not as polished or high-profile blog.

    I now know that’s not true. Mom/Mommy Blogs are a forced to be reckoned with (as are the bloggers themselves). Nowadays I would think bloggers refer to themselves based on how they want to be viewed. If they want to be seen as more cutesy/friendly or dealing with younger kids, they use “Mommy” — for older kids or less cutesy stuff, they go with “Mom.”

    I called my blog Designer Daddy because a) my son was a year old when I started it, and I’m still “daddy,” and b) it sounded better/more balanced than “Designer Dad” to me. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen the term “Daddy Bloggers” — it’s always “Dad Bloggers.”

    Double standard much?

  • This really resonated with me. Certainly, with the name “Mommy” in my blog, I fall into the camp of “mommy bloggers.” I think you have an excellent point about using “Mommy” instead of “Mom.” It’s diminutive to be called by that name by another person- sort of like I don’t like the word “panties”. Why not just underpants? I digress…

    It’s one thing to brand ourselves as mommy bloggers as part of a platform, or to connect with a community, but I too feel that the brand I chose for myself can be misinterpreted as diminishing my seriousness as a writer. I think many of us bristle when we feel that we are being put inside a box. Great article!

    • Absolutely … Would anyone call it a “Daddy Business Trip”?

  • Jonathan Menon

    Oh, this is interesting. I always thought “mommy blogger” referred to bloggers who write about motherhood and parenting.

    I didn’t realize that it is used to classify bloggers who just happen to be mothers.

  • Kim

    I’m a professional blogger by trade although I write about things like sales tax, servo motors, frozen fruit bars, and all matter of strange things. I always feel like I have to explain what I do when I tell people what I do, that saying “professional blogger” isn’t enough but my industry title of “Web Content Specialist” is confusing to those who don’t know much about the internet (which is most people, really). Blogger is a more familiar term but it comes wrapped with all kinds of things. I’m 25 and clearly don’t have children yet but feel it necessary to say I’m not a mommy blogger, lifestyle blogger, or a personal blogger but a business blogger. I think this is all part of the same issue with your change in title you felt you were less valued with.

  • This is a very interesting discussion. I’ve grappled with these very issues since I am a journalist by profession and turned to blogging as a creative outlet during the years I decided to stay home with my kids. I called my blog “Mama Without Borders,” where I “muse about my passion for design” with finds from around the world, but also write about my kids mostly as it relates to interior design. I have never felt comfortable with the term “mommy blogger” for all the reasons mentioned here and simply identified myself as a “blogger.” It seemed strange for me to go from being a news journalist writing about topics like murder and politics to being a “mommy blogger.” When I later obtained a job writing blog posts for a group of attorneys, I then began calling myself a “professional blogger.” The identity crisis continues as I have now decided to drop the professional blogger job and return to journalism.

    To answer your question, the term “mommy blogger” is clearly more than just semantics, as we can see in discussions such as these. As we word people know, words – even two little words – can carry an enormous amount of power. And not always in a positive way.

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