Moms Devoted To Babies And Blogs

For many, it's a welcome opportunity to share the pain and the joy

February 08, 2007|By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall | Sarah Lindenfeld Hall,McClatchy / Tribune

Keira McNeill has specific ideas about how to mother her two daughters - cloth diapers preferably - and specific problems, such as her struggle with postpartum depression.

With 6-month-old Campbell and 2 1/2 -year-old Teaghan to handle, she finds it hard to go out looking for like-minded moms.

So McNeill, who lives in Knightdale, N.C., has found support and advice on the Internet.

Her blog, Mom on a Stick, documents her life as a mother. The name is meant to evoke her feeling that she's flying by the seat of her pants as a parent. At momonastick.blogspot.com, she has written about her depression, her younger daughter's sleep troubles and life as a "tandem" breast-feeder, nursing her infant and toddler at the same time.

And she has developed close relationships with women in Canada and Utah.

"It's nice to hear from other moms that not everyone is sailing through this," McNeill says. "It's hard. But it's OK that it's hard."

Whether they are connecting with family, need a break or are searching for advice, McNeill and other parents see blogs as a way to reach out to a broader community. How many parents? In 2005, Technorati, the San Francisco company that tracks blogs, counted about 8,500 people writing blogs about their children. Today, that number is up to 28,000, and that's just those written in English, according to Technorati's vice president of marketing, Derek Gordon.

Mary Madden, senior research specialist for the Washington-based Pew Internet and American Life Project, says, "Frankly, blogging fulfills a very natural and strong instinct that parents have at the time of their child's birth to share every aspect of the child's development and life with family and friends, but also to be able to chronicle that time for themselves."

According to the group, about 12 million American adults keep a blog, and about 57 million read them. The average blogger is younger than 30 and lives in the suburbs, according to a survey the group conducted between November 2005 and April 2006. About a third are writing about their personal experiences.

For parents who blog, that often includes life with the kids.

It's a ubiquitous topic, Gordon says. "Almost everybody who blogs has had the experience of being a parent or is a parent."

Gordon breaks the category into three groups. There are moms and dads, usually middle- or upper-middle class tech-savvy people, who start writing blogs to record the lives of their growing families, creating a kind of newsletter. Most are written for relatives and friends. The blogs often include photographs of children, time- and date-stamped diary entries and links to other sites.

Other blogs take a wider view, looking at the art or science of parenting and offering tips and advice.

And then there's the last group, women who find themselves parenting full time who start blogging to reduce their sense of isolation. Readers start following these personal stories. Blog writers and readers talk online, providing comfort and advice.

Making friends

The Trixie Update, (trixieupdate.com), a popular blog written by a stay-at-home dad in Chapel Hill, N.C., drew as many as 4,000 readers a day at its peak. The dad, Ben MacNeill, started the blog so his wife could keep track of his daughter's daily activities, including diaper changes and nap times.

He stopped updating the blog regularly last fall as his daughter grew older and he began working outside the home more.

But readers still return, craving updates. Several wished his family a Happy New Year on the site this year. He's also among the lucky few who have parlayed the blog into a business opportunity. He's developed software, called Trixie Tracker, which he sells to parents who also want to chart poop output and sleep cycles online.

"I feel only good things have come out of the blog," MacNeill says. "It's nice to feel there is a community, around the world even, who watched Trixie grow up a little bit and send their love her way. That's nice, and I miss that."

North Raleigh, N.C., blogger and mom Kelly Swanson Turner says friends and family with young children often look for help on her blog, where she writes about her son and daughter.

"Friends will hit parenting roadblocks and say, `I wonder if there's anything on the blog about it,' and look it up," she says.

Sharing views

Blogs also come at a time when parents have more choices about how they raise their kids than a couple of generations ago, says Julie Moos, founder and editor of DotMoms (dot-moms.com), a Web site with essays written by mothers.

New parents, for instance, aren't just faced with the decision of disposable vs. cloth diapers. They also make decisions about TV vs. no TV; organic foods vs. chicken nuggets; or juice vs. no juice.

A mom might not find that fellow juice-serving-no-TV-watching mom down the street or in the next office. The only place she might find a compatriot is online.

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