“What does she even do?”
“I don’t know. She has a mommy blog?”
I’ll be honest: I don’t remember which half of that dialogue is me, but I remember the conversation. The conversations, really, because there was a time when mommy blogs were a thing I made fun of. A lot. Because I was a Writer. Capital-W. An artist. I cared about craft. Metaphor. Symbolism!
What I was was a twenty-something pretentious hipster with a library card, too much caffeine in my system, and a pair of glasses that screamed: Please, stranger on the street, think I’m smart!
The idea that a woman would have a something to blog about if they didn’t even have a JOB was absurd to me. (At various times during this phase, I was: a barista, an administrative assistant, and a customer service representative, working evenings in a call center for what barely counts as a living wage.) Women shouldn’t just stay home with their kids, I thought. That’s giving up. Women fought for the right to go to work. We’re supposed to want to work. We’re supposed to keep pushing forward towards equality. Supposed to, supposed to, supposed to.
That whole thing where feminism means women were supposed to have a choice? Yeah, I kind of missed the memo. My world views were pretty stringent. I grew up with a working mom, and I didn’t really know any kids whose moms stayed home. Everywhere I looked in the media, I saw Girl Power messaging that emphasized career: Women can be doctors, too! Women can be CEOs! …I took that to mean that having a job (ideally one with some social capital— doctor, lawyer, CEO, movie star) was The Right Way to Live.
I didn’t yet know about the astronomical cost of childcare, or the fact that it can amount to so much that the family might come out ahead financially by staying home. I didn’t yet know about the second shift that leaves working mothers harried and on the brink. I didn’t know that a lot of women grow up dreaming about motherhood the way I grew up dreaming of being a Capital-W Writer, and that the thought of spending every waking moment dedicated to that dream would be fulfilling. There was a lot I didn’t know.
That didn’t stop me from making fun of it. The mommy blogs. Those women who wrote without the external validation of an editorial process, with the goal of sharing… what? What did people put on mommy blogs? Stuff about their kids? About having kids? Like… craft ideas? I had no clue. Despite my spending plenty of time mocking the idea of a mommy blog, I had never actually read one. I didn’t know that mommy blog was just another term designed to dismiss the thoughts of women who had something to share. Women writers, who, yes, had chosen motherhood as their subject— as worthy a subject as politics or war or sports or a love of macrame. Maybe more. Just look at one such blogger: Glennon Doyle.
We know her now as the author of Untamed, an internationally best-selling memoir that women pass on to their friends with a hushed and earnest, “This book changed my life.” She started as a stay-at-home mom who didn’t understand her own Facebook privacy settings and so shared an incredibly vulnerable post before going to bed one night, only to wake up and discover it had gone viral. Then she started Momastery.
When you visit Momastery now, the whole site screams: I have arrived! Links to her her latest book, interviews, events, you name it. She’s a big deal author these days, and the site reflects that. But click the link Classics and a selection of her most popular blog posts are still there. Some of the earliest entries: Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece; How to Watch Your Kid’s Game Without Being a Jerk; The Talk. The earliest remaining post is about how much she resents being told to enjoy every moment of parenting, because it just makes her feel like crap for the moments when she’s tired or worried or even just… doing it. Parenting. Getting through the day. Being a person.
Her subject is parenting, but her conclusions are universal.
She started Momastery in 2009, around the time I was mocking people like her.
Flash forward to 2018, and I was still a capital-W Writer with a day job, this time in IT, for God knows what reason. (I really wasn’t qualified.) I wasn’t a great employee. I spent a lot of time writing when I should have been data entry-ing. When I was data entry-ing, I was half-listening to an audiobook from my public library. Without knowing anything about it, I borrowed Love Warrior, Doyle’s second memoir. I didn’t like everything about the book. I didn’t relate to everything about it, either. But I saw what she was doing. She wrote, not to teach or preach or make assertions about right and wrong, which I guess is what I expected. There was no should, or if there was a should, she mostly discovered that those shoulds weren’t one size fits all. That stuck with me. Now, her third memoir, Untamed, is quickly reaching Eat, Pray, Love levels of notoriety. My Mom friends love it. My capital-W Writer friends love it. Everybody loves it. t’s a brave book, which I admire most for its willingness to look back at Love Warrior— a book already reluctant to declare itself Right— and say, maybe I got that part wrong. Let’s try that again.
She’s a writer whose work I would have dismissed a few years ago— partly because she started as a blogger, but largely due to my own prejudice against women. Now, here I am: standing someplace not too different from where she stood ten years ago. I’m married. Though I don’t have children, I invest a great deal of my time into the unpaid labor of my family. I publish a blog (admittedly, with much smaller circulation than Momastery had in its early days), because I have things to say and don’t care to wait for validation from editors and publishers. I bet there are women out there who, when they hear about Suddenly Suburban, dismiss it as some suburban housewife’s hobby, which it is, if you really want to define it that way. I think I’m doing something meaningful. I think a lot of women are out there doing meaningful things— blogging, Instagramming, starting podcasts— and I think dismissing them with a joke is all too common. I know I’m guilty of it. Just think, I was 10 years late to the Glennon Doyle party, and all because I needed to learn to stop judging other women.