If you're a mom, you probably work. But isn't there at least a little fantasy piece of you that would prefer to work when you wanted to, or from home? Wouldn't you love to have a personal brand that allows you to get recognition and respect without having to show up 9-6 in an office with a long commute? Well, according to the New York Times, if you were a successful mommyblogger, you could do just that: toddler in lap, laptop buzzing.
Smart women online are up in arms about the Times' Styles section piece. For example Joanne Bamberger put words into many mouths when she wrote in response to the piece on mommybloggers, "Was it really necessary to write a story on a professional blogging conference with the title Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. She's Busy Building Her Brand? The headline alone drips with mocking condescension that says to the world that it's perfectly acceptable to continue to belittle women for the exact same things that men are doing in the online world today. We've come a long way? Not."
This is not the first such mommyblogger story and yet it conforms to a pattern. Like the stay at home mom cum CEO of her own organic foods brand, the well-paid mommyblogger is a fantasy figure for our time. I believe the fantasy of mommyblogging (different than the reality, which is as heterogeneous and varied as the Internet itself) is part of our modern day Feminine Mystique. The fantasy of mommyblogging as portrayed by the mainstream media allows women to gain some power and recognition, but only in the safest possible way. Because after all, these moms are at home with the kids, at least when they aren't at blogging conferences. Mommyblogging is seen as safe and non-threatening (although if you actually read the best of it, it is far from safe). Women have been getting paid to write about kids stuff for centuries.
Why do we need the fantasy? Because most women feel ambivalent about the reality of our work lives, which is that we have to work, long hours usually, and we have less flexibility than we need. The truth is, we are all of us, men and women, ambivalent about the increasing financial responsibilities women face, which means less time for home pursuits and time with kids. Women earn 44% of household income in the US, and this will only increase, as we've just become half the workforce.
A Pew study finds only a small minority of Americans (19 percent) now think women should return to their traditional roles in society. But Pew also finds that most parents think that moms working part-time is ideal. Most parents experience work-life conflict. A 2002 Catalyst survey found 49% of working mothers who were not the sole breadwinner said they would leave their jobs if their husband earned enough money for the family to live comfortably.
Robin Marty writes on Care2, "The obvious problem [with the article], which Mom 101 points out so succinctly, is that it's still assumed that women who blog are a homogeneous group that sit at home and write up their day to day moments raising their cherubic cheeked progeny in between folding the laundry, making the dinner and catching up on our soaps."
The public fascination with the mommyblogger is that it's a non-threatening fantasy of successful womanhood in the Digital Age. The media likes this message too. Part of us want to go back to that life. But since we also have the pressure to use all of our education and earn money (well, in truth, most of us have to earn more than a little money, but we're talking fantasy here) what better, and more femininely appropriate way to do it than mommyblogging!
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