Mommy blogs can be a slugfest of spite
By Georgea Kovanis
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Melissa Summers has two children.
While she loves hosting their birthday parties and makes great Halloween costumes, she also dislikes school vacations — they mean she doesn't get a break from her kids — and admits that sometimes what she wants most in the world is quiet time with a cocktail.
The 36-year-old work-at-home mom in Royal Oak, Mich., blogs about motherhood at www.suburbanbliss.net.
Which is why people she has never met accuse her of being a bad person, and even worse, a bad mom.
"It really makes me angry that somebody can be a bully and do this," Summers says. "There is a lot of anger about mom blogs and I haven't really been able to understand why."
Welcome to the ever-widening world of mommy blogs, where women bully and bad-mouth each other in posts that are personal and spiteful. Through the anonymity of the Internet, women accuse each other of hating their children for revealing that being a mom isn't all milk and cookies.
No one knows how many mommy bloggers inhabit the blogosphere. But BlogHer, a platform for women's blogs, says parenting accounts for more of its blogs — 5,819 — than any other topic.
Their reach is vast. Ree Drummond writes about life on an Oklahoma cattle ranch (www.thepioneerwoman.com). Her blog — which includes anecdotes about her four kids and the ranch, recipes, tips on home schooling, and lists of her favorite beauty products — gets 22.4 million page views a month. Published last year, Drummond's cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" (William Morrow, $27.50), became a New York Times best-seller. And just recently, her life story was optioned for a movie.
Advertisers are taking more notice of popular blogs and upping the money they spend on them — $283 million on all blogs in 2007 and a projection of $746 million by 2012.
And advertisers' real darlings are mommy blogs, because, according to studies, moms spend about $2 trillion annually.
For eons, moms have judged each other. They've whispered about who is breast-feeding, who is baking cookies, who is providing the best after-school and summer vacation options, who is the best mom. But judgments are no longer whispered. They're shouted out on the Internet.
"When I write things like how I don't want to share my chocolate chip cookie, I get people who unsubscribe to my blog, I get e-mails. They're like, 'Wow, have you ever thought you shouldn't be a mom?' " says Jacqueline Wilson, 41, of East China, Mich. (www.jackiewilson.blogspot.com)
About three years ago, Michele McBee began a blog, pooponpeeps.com, to take on mommy bloggers she thinks are changing the traditional notion of motherhood by admitting that, sometimes, being a mom is hard.
"They make it a horrible, nasty experience," says McBee, 40, of Elk Grove, Calif. "I don't think that's what motherhood is. ... I think they make motherhood seem so much harder."
One of McBee's favorite targets? Summers, the Royal Oak blogger.
McBee and her followers have criticized Summers' appearance. They questioned her husband's sexuality. (He likes to cook and decorate cakes.) They accused her of having a drinking problem. (The logo on her blog is a martini glass with a pacifier in place of an olive; she appeared on NBC's "Today" show in defense of moms who have a cocktail at playdates.) They say she spends money on herself when she should be spending it on her household. And they accuse her of not loving her kids (years ago she joked about selling her son at a garage sale because he wasn't sleeping at night) and of being a terrible mother.
"Why ... did you have children, Melissa?" McBee wrote in one post. "Why? Mostly why in the hell are you called a mommy blogger? ... Because there's really not much 'mommy' going on in your life."
Summers, who began blogging in 2003 as a way to meet like-minded moms and work through issues such as depression and abuse by her father — doesn't take the comments as personally as she once did.
"It's frustrating, don't get me wrong," Summers says. "I say and I accept that you're not going to like me." But, she adds, "disagreeing with someone is much different than calling them an alcoholic who abandons their children at night."
In March, McBee shut down www.pooponpeeps.com, saying she needed to take care of her ailing mother.
Summers, whose blog is growing in popularity and gets about 140,000 page views a month, says, "I can be a person who goes out with my friends for happy hour, and I can also be the mom who races to school to deliver cupcakes for my son's birthday. There's a certain amount of duality that isn't allowed. There's a certain amount of women who bristle at that idea."