A mom's life, read all about it
It started over something silly.
"Shoes, I think," says Janae Davis.
But by the time the battle between Davis and her daughter was over, a blog had been born: Diaries of a Grumpy, Grateful Mom.
"I was just having a really frustrating day," Davis says. "I needed an outlet for it."
Five months, 70-plus posts and 288 followers and counting later, the South Jordan mom is firmly on board with the hottest trend in the blogosphere: mommy blogging.
"Whatever you are struggling through, there are so many women going through something similar," says Davis, 35, and a mom of four. "I show my imperfect side maybe too much and how I'm trying to deal with it in a positive way. Blogging has helped me laugh at my crazy days as a wife and mother."
For the mommy bloggers, daily life is filled with an endless supply of blog posts: sick kids, bored kids, doting husbands, giving birth and post-pregnancy weight battles, recipes, and, especially at this time of year, the lessons they learned about parenting from their own mothers.
May 6, 2011 When I was younger I used to tell my seemingly cruel parents, "I hate you!!! And I always will!" Now I've been blessed with my own little hater. My husband just discovered this message on the back of my 7-year-old's bedroom door. I am certain this was the result of another dramatic spelling homework battle, from earlier in the week. Accordingly, I am appreciative she took the time to spell the words instead of say them. Janae Davis, Diaries of a Grumpy, Grateful Mom.
Telling it all • Salt Lake City's Heather Armstrong is the "Queen of the Mommy Bloggers," according to a recent New York Times Magazine story.
Better known by her blog handle, Dooce, in 2001, Armstrong started blogging about her life as a single, young woman at Dooce.com. She kept blogging as she married, became a mom of two and suffered a paralyzing bout of depression. Readers found Armstrong's life stories riveting, and, as her followers grew, so did her blog's advertising support. In October 2005, Armstrong became a full-time blogger; three years later, she added her husband and another employee to her payroll.
The New York Times estimated Armstrong's monthly income is between $30,000 and $50,000. At her blog and on Twitter, Armstrong draws millions of visitors a month reason enough and Forbes ranked her No. 26 on its 2009 list of "Most Influential Women in Media."
But Armstrong is not Utah's only super blogger mom. Stephanie Clark Nielson of Provo was an early entrant in 2004, offering readers a beautifully crafted blog called the Nie Nie Dialogues that chronicles her love story with "Mr. Nielson" and their four children. The blog took an unexpected turn in August 2008, when Nielson and her husband were involved in a near fatal small-plane crash. In the months that followed, friends and family kept readers apprised as Nielson made a slow, painful recovery from burns that covered 80 percent of her body.
In time, Nielson returned to blogging herself, and, in a remarkable bit of storytelling, slowly revealed her changed looks and life to readers.
And then there is Monica Bielanko, author of The Girl Who. Bielanko credits her husband Serge for suggesting back in 2005 that she try blogging.
Initially, she wrote about their whirlwind romance and marriage, moving to Manhattan, losing her Mormon faith, and even an abortion she had at age 17. At first, no one read the blog, Bielanko said, just "my mom, her sister, 12 people."
And then she got into a very public spat over the Internet with her husband's ex-girlfriend; barbs flew between the two, and there was even a competition over who was cuter. The upside: It proved a real audience builder.
Bielanko's online notoriety bounced even higher after a dust-up over a tweet and later a blog post she wrote criticizing an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for equating persecution of blacks during the civil rights movement and the backlash against those who supported California's anti-gay marriage initiative.
"The Mormon Times even counted the curse words in my blog," she said.
The Girl Who is beautifully presented, and sassy, confessional, brash and blisteringly honest. Bielanko, mom of Henry and Violet, says her blog now gets 150,000 page views a month; in the past year, her income from blogging took off and last month, Bielanko, 34, quit her job as a producer at Fox News Utah to become a full-time blogger and freelance writer.
April 28, 2011: We've been working with Henry for about a month now ever since he turned 2 months old and we have to be honest with you: We really think Henry is advanced.
He's definitely much smarter than your baby. I mean, I don't want to use the word genius, but there! I just did.
He's talking, singing even. Monica Bielanko, The Girl Who.
Don't bank on it • There can only be so many queens of the blogosphere, however. In its 2010, "State of the Blogosphere" report, Technorati said few bloggers get paid to post and of those who do, most make less than $2,000 a year. Despite that, Technorati calls "Moms Who Blog" a top trend.
The lure for mom bloggers, according to the blog-services company, is connecting with friends, family and other moms. Blogging is a form of self-expression and a way to share expertise or, at least the joys and travails of parenting.
"I am not sure what the appeal is other than having a voice and getting your opinions out there," said Cindi Braby, 35, of Eagle Mountain and author of Utah Mom's Life. "Plus, it is so easy."
Braby, who has five children, started a private family blog about 3Â½ years ago but, after several months, decided to go public with her views on kids, marriage and books.
"I didn't re alize there was such a huge mom blogging world out there," said Braby, who now has 218 followers and logs about 120 blog views a day.
She also didn't realize how much power she could wield from her keyboard. About 18 months ago, Braby began receiving blog ads and getting offers to try out and blog about services or products including Thanksgiving Point, DownEast Outfitters and the Heber Creeper.
"A lot of businesses and companies realize that word of mouth is great," said Braby.
She's also affiliated with Amazon.com; Braby gets a 2 percent to 4 percent sales credit every time a reader buys the book featured on a link in her posts. Last year, she raked in $12 worth of credits.
"I don't have any grand schemes of becoming famous, but it's a way to put my thoughts out there," Braby said.
While Bielanko writes about being a "recovering Mormon," Braby and many Utah moms promote their Mormon faith on their blogs. Nielson, for instance, offers a free Book of Mormon to any reader who requests one. Others post links to the LDS Church behind buttons that proclaim "I belong" or "I'm a Mormon" an apparently fascinating context for some readers, as Emily Matchar wrote in a Salon.com piece earlier this year.
"I'm a young, feminist atheist who can't bake a cupcake," Matchar wrote. "Why am I addicted to the shiny, happy lives of these women?" Her own answer? "These blogs are weirdly 'uplifting.' "
Dawn Dart of Ephraim follows several blogs that focus on saving money and being a better mom, including lifeasmom.com.
"Instead of reading a novel, I read blogs," said Dart, 29 and mom of three. "Reading comments on blogs like this is almost like a mom support group."
April 20, 2011: Me: (Playing the bad cop which comes naturally) Who squeezed all the toothpaste in the bathroom sink?
(Neil and Amberly drop what they're doing and go running into the bathroom to see the Ramona-style mess, thus building their case of innocence.)
Thomas: (remaining in the loft) Not me. I didn't do it.
Utah Dad: How many squirts of toothpaste is it?
Thomas: Six. Cindi Braby, Utah Mom's Life
Better than a novel • For many Utah moms, a blog is the new, easier way to journal, scrapbook and create a family history, all at once.
"I was feeling guilty because I wasn't writing down any of these things that were happening in my life," said Davis.
Now it is all there, for friends, family and even strangers to read, which seems paradoxical in an age when many parents won't let their children stray out of sight.
"I weigh that," Davis said. But, "I feel it is doing more good than bad. I try not to get too intimate about certain details of my life."
While there is little in Bielanko's personal life that she has put off-limits, she has placed some boundaries around her children and extended family.
"I don't write anything that would embarrass my kids when they are older," she said. "I don't write anything about my immediate family that would jeopardize their jobs or relationships."
Sandy Christensen, author of the blog Twelve Makes a Dozen, uses code names for her children (yes, she has a dozen), among them: Bossy, Dog Walker, Sport and Baby Doll.
"My sweetie was adamant that we try to stay incognito, so we invented some fun, descriptive names and we were off and running," said Christensen, 46, who began blogging 18 months ago. "My sweetie is always worried about our safety and security, but the blogging world feels so comfy and friendly to me."
And close to home, everyone in Christensen's circle knows about her blog.
"My friends and neighbors who know me are always talking about the things we write about," said Christensen, who lives in South Jordan. "Everywhere I go, somebody asks me about the blog."
Christensen said her oldest daughter (Bossy) thinks she's a dork because she loves watching the stats counter on her blog tick ever higher.
"The last time I checked, we had readers in 38 countries and all 50 states 51 if you count D.C.," she said. "That to me is cool!"
"The blogging world is so willing to take you for who you are," Christensen said. "It's always possible to find readers."
May 2, 2011: So on Sunday morning my sweetie asked me to cut his hair and give him a new look. As I started snipping away, I noticed that the more I cut, the more the gray disappeared. After consulting together, we decided to take it short and add bangs. Now we've been married for almost 28 years and with his curly hair, he has never worn bangs. But I have to tell you his new look took off 20 years! Sandy Christensen, Twelve Makes a Dozen
A life online
O From the famous to the fledgling, a lot of moms in Utah are blogging about their lives. Among them:
Dooce • Dooce.com (Heather Armstrong)
The Girl Who • thegirlwho.net (Monica Bielanko)
Nie Nie Dialogues • nieniedialogues.com (Stephanie Nielson)
Progressive Pioneer • progressivepioneer.com (Amy Thompson)
Diaries of a Grumpy, Grateful Mom • grumpygratefulmom.blogspot.com (Janae Davis)
Utah Mom's Life • utahmomslife.blogspot.com (Cindi Braby)
Twelve Makes A Dozen • twelvemakesadozen.blogspot.com (Sandy Christensen)
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