Last week, I was interviewed (me? how totally cool!) for the Women's Times about momblogging. While I'd been thinking about (ask my friends, obsessing about) blogging, I hadn't really thought of myself as a MOMblogger. After the interview, I posted a question to that effect on Facebook–essentially, wondering whether I am now a momblogger–and my writing, blogging friends weighed in. Their collective answer works for me. We, mothers who write, writers who blog, are sometimes called mombloggers. We'll keep the title with pride (as long as you know that we are writers writing about other stuff, too).
Another question posed during the interview, one that I stumbled through answering, was about whether the mombloggers are sparking long hoped-for action from a mothers' movement.
I have been mulling the question ever since. As a pacifist, I do believe–at least proverbially–that words are mightier than swords, although I do not think we can blog our way to peace (yet, just this summer we saw that tweets can open windows to reveal repressive countries' practices). I also believe the personal is political and that change really does occur one person at a time. All to say, I've been thinking about how, in myriad ways, the blogosphere possesses an incredible amount of power, not the least of which is that it provides a conduit for individual voices to make sounds, to be heard, and then to connect. One voice can only be so loud. A lot of voices, harmonizing, can form a chorus. A chorus can be louder. Many choruses… (okay, I won't go all We Are the World here).
Now, the short answer is that I don't think bloggers are going to give "the" mothers' movement its final push toward changing the lot of all mothers everywhere (I could articulate and elaborate, but that's for some other time). I do think that the blogosphere has been a great platform for changemaking. And the mombloggers/mothers-who-blog/writers-who-are-mothers-who-blog are doing a great deal to help affect changes of all sorts.
To look at a mothers' movement writ large, it's hard to see change. That idea–"movement"–is sometimes amorphous (like, what falls into the category of the mothers' movement, anyway?). Focus upon issues and populations and you see how the blogging (and writing) world contributes (along with lots else) to making change.
Katie Allison Granju wrote about how a generation (ours) reclaimed breastfeeding on her Home/Work blog over at Babble. She described how not long ago, women (Granju included–baby taken from her breast in order to "cure" mastitis–and her story is not unique) were denied support to breastfeed, from health care practitioners for a start, and in many other ways, too. We have educated ourselves, organized, rallied, and pushed for legislative changes around this issue, and the world, for a new mother, does look different now. She tries to give context to the current backlash against breastfeeding by reminding today's newer mothers how different the world looked not long ago: "They (today's new mothers) take it for granted that their hospital has a lactation consultant, and that their insurance company will help pay for the breastpump needed to express milk for their premature baby. They can't imagine a world where ALL breastfeeding mothers (and there weren't that many) excused themselves to a cloistered location every time the baby needed to eat, or where the idea of continuing to nurse into toddlerhood was seen as pathologically bizarre." She's saying, we've come a long way baby, and P.S. don't forget it.
Having written–in books, articles and on her blog–about breastfeeding for many years, Granju writes: "Knowing that I truly made a difference to more than a few women in this way is an accomplishment that means a lot to me. And I also feel proud when I hear from a medical student that he took something I had published on this topic to his obstetrics department head as 'ammunition' to ask for more evidence-based teaching on human lactation. I feel like I made a difference when a state legislator tells me that something I wrote inspired her to introduce a bill to protect breastfeeding mothers from harassment or discrimination. And I feel honored to have been part of a grassroots, mother-led public health campaign that will mean healthier babies and women for the generations that follow."
Not long ago, I interviewed my friend and fellow writer (and blogger), Jennifer Graf Groneberg–the interview is forthcoming on Literary Mama–about her (editorial comment here: very wonderful) book, Road Map to Holland. I asked her about other women raising special needs children reaching out to her. She said that she hears from women regularly, who have read her book–and the writings she's done on her blog and other sites–and feel as if she has articulated things they experience. Often, she's the first person they've reached out to. She feels very grateful to be that person, and to be supportive, and she also encourages women to find real live people to connect with to help share the on-the-ground, day-to-day journey, as well. In her answer was such wisdom: finding someone, somewhere, somehow to connect with–especially when grappling with something extremely difficult–is hugely important. Amazingly, this Internet that brings people together through the ether sometimes facilitates the occurance of this first, critical contact. From there, the Internet remains, in the ideal world, an important tool, one of many in one's personal toolbox. And it should be noted here that there is an amazing network of parents with special needs children writing and sharing and advocating–blogs, websites, organizations utilizing the Internet in such important ways; Gronberg has a plethora of links to blogs worth reading on her blogroll–another example of how blogging has helped spark critical change.
My writer friend, Sarah Hoffman, wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle a couple of years ago about raising a "pink boy" (in her case, preschool son wanting to wear pink dress) and how, while he was the almost the only boy she knew in his cohort wanting to dress this way, she found a supportive and empathetic community on the Internet. Hoffman writes: "While looking for a ballet class where Sam could wear his tutu, I met another mom of a boy like Sam. She told me about a group of parents of pink boys and tomboys who e-mail every day on an electronic listserv hosted by the Outreach Program for Children with Gender-Variant Behaviors and Their Families, a program of Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C." Not only can parents to gender variant children find support, they can educate themselves about their children and the mental health care system's response and they can advocate on behalf of their children in many ways, which include getting the word out that boys do not only favor blue–and that's more than okay.
Those examples represent three tips of proverbial icebergs, quite obviously.
Via Internet (of course), a friend shared this article she came across, a piece in Newseek by Anna Quindlen (whose New York Times' columns really inspired momblogging as much as anyone else's writing, and who currently writes for Newsweek) about why we don't admit how hard parenting is. She writes: "'Parenting is a much more separate, solitary activity than it used to be,' says Harold S. Koplewicz, the director of the NYU Child Study Center, where Brotman also works. It used to take a village to raise a child, but there isn't a village anymore. Instead of extended family, there's a playground where everyone pretends everything's fine, and a computer screen behind which women can say, under cover of mommy blogs, 'How come this is so hard for me?'
Once, when asked what I did, I responded that I was a writer. The person then followed up, "Who do you write to?" At the time, I thought it was a pretty dumb question (okay, given how the question was intended, I still think so). Having said that, what we writers do with words is often to find ways to express our experiences. From here, we can better understand one another and it is with this understanding that compassion and civility and social change can occur. So, mothers (and others), write on.