Parenting

Mommy-blogging Basics

By Sarah Mahoney

After her daughter was born, Rita Arens was as stressed out as the next new mom. But instead of living through it in her own little bubble of sleep deprivation, she started a blog called Surrender, Dorothy. Five years later, Arens is among the best known of the millions of so-called mommy bloggers. “It was a good way to turn my frustrations into funny stories,” she says. “It helped me reframe a lot of the anxiety and pressure I was feeling as a new mom.”

Among the nation’s 22.6 million bloggers, parenthood is a beloved subject, says Jennifer McLean, vice president of marketing for Technorati, a blog search engine based in San Francisco. “The main reasons people blog are for things like personal satisfaction, the chance to express themselves and to share their expertise. That makes it a natural fit for moms,” she says.

Think you should join the ranks? Answer these five questions first:

1. How much do you want to invest? While programs like Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad are all free and easy to use, blogs with more traffic can be complex. Many popular bloggers spend considerable money on hosting and design. But even more demanding is the time investment: “A lot of people start and then fail to maintain it,” says Arens, of Kansas City, Kansas. “It's a tremendous commitment to maintain an active blog.” You have to constantly update with new posts (so readers have a reason to come back), and you also have to use other sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube to drum up readers. Depending on how devoted you are, blogging can be more than a full-time job.

2. How much do you expect to make? Many bloggers accept advertising and can potentially earn money from it. One of the most popular parenting blogs, Dooce, reportedly generates $40,000 a month for its author. And according to Technorati, the average blogger that accepts advertising typically invests about $1,800 in their blog each year -- and earns $6,000. Some use a blog as a springboard to other projects: Arens’ success, for instance, led her to write Sleep Is for the Weak: The Best of the Mommybloggers, an anthology of mommy blog entries. But those are exceptions. Most bloggers don’t make anything. “There are maybe 20 mommy bloggers who are earning more than a few hundred dollars a month from their personal blogs,” says Arens. “Most bloggers who are earning a living wage are actually freelance writers with a variety of clients in addition to their blogs.”

3. How open are you willing to be? When Jennifer James, founder of the Mom Bloggers Club -- a group that now includes more than 6,200 bloggers -- first started blogging back in 2004, she posted a photo of her oldest daughter. She was quickly horrified by the amount of traffic, especially from Europe, just looking at the girl’s picture. “It scared me to death,” recalls the Winston-Salem, N.C., mom, “so I blog mostly about products and try to give my kids, now 11 and 8, their privacy.” But anonymity doesn’t always work. “Everything is searchable,” says James. Adds Arens: “No matter how anonymous you think you are, you aren't. Never write anything you would be uncomfortable with anyone in your life reading, because trust me, it'll happen someday.”
 
4.Can you take a little heat? While you’ll be able to control the comments that appear on your blog, you’ll still have to read them, and the 77 million loyal blog readers in the U.S. can be unkind and even cruel. They may insult you -- or your kids! -- take issue with your politics or question your motives. Recently, for example, mommy bloggers who accept money from companies to write about their products have come under fire, and many of the complaints have been blistering.

5. Are you ready to be yourself? “I always encourage moms to start blogging,” says James. “Yes, there are millions already out there, but there is always room for new voices. It’s important to write about what you’re passionate about, to put your heart and soul in it and to be as authentic as you can be."

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About the Author

Sarah Mahoney is a contributing editor at Parents and Prevention magazines. Her work also appears regularly in Family Circle and Good Housekeeping.

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