This weekend I attended Britmums Live 2013. What’s more, I enjoyed it. There, I’ve admitted it. Now excuse me while I watch my imaginary status as “not one of those mummy blogger types” disappear down the drain.
It’s not that I ever used to hate mummy bloggers, or even that I didn’t always consider myself to be one of them. Certainly, I have some discomfort with the term itself. Adding what Pamela Haag calls “the mommy modifier” to words like “blogger” or “porn” instantly seems to render them trivial and cutesy. While this might say more about patronising attitude towards mothers than the things in themselves it’s hard not to be affected by it. When I tell bloggers who aren’t parents that I write about motherhood and childcare, I always feel a little regretful that I’m not saying “world politics” or “art and literature”. I might write the odd post criticizing the low status of mothers yet sometimes I find I’ve bought into it myself.
Earlier this year I wrote a post entitled Why do people hate mummy bloggers? In it I positioned myself as a kind of mummy blogger lite. “I’ve never been nominated for a BIB Award or a MAD,” I wrote, pretending to be totally not arsed, nay, proud of this. Well I’ve still never been nominated for a MAD, but this weekend I found myself in the BIBs finals. It would be a lot cooler to say it didn’t, but this made me really, really pleased. Confirmation that I am legit! I always knew those pesky kids would come in useful for something!
And yes, the thing is, I enjoyed being at Britmums. Embarrassing as it is to admit this, it made me confront some of my own prejudices about “mummydom”. There’s that little part of me who’s bought into the misogynist yummy-mummy-4×4-cupcake-overprivileged-lady-who-lunches image of the mummy blogger. Hence when someone like my dad – or rather, my actual dad – says “why are you going to this? They’ll all be middle-class mummies!” the bit of me that thinks “FFS, every bloody female in our family is a middle-class mummy” is silenced by the delusional wannabe thinking “yeah, it’s just terrible. Still, I’ll try really hard to keep it real, Dad”.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that not everyone at Britmums was a white middle-class Oxbridge-educated mum of two with a job in publishing. In fact, for all I know, I was the only one who ticked all those particular boxes. I still managed the odd self-indulgent “well, I’m still quite an outsider here” thought. For instance, I noticed most of the other mummies had long hair. See? I still know how to be edgy, challenging those damaging social norms. Plus I wasn’t interested in “building a relationship with the brands”. However, seeing as I’m back home with two penguin USB sticks, four cuddly Panasonic dinosaurs, a wobbly-headed Batman doll, three Butlin’s beach balls and a lifetime’s supply of Fox’s Coffee Thins I’m in no position to judge others for the choices they make.
The fact is, in the end I had to admit that I am One Of Them. There’s no one so elitist as the self-appointed “outsider”. During the course of the weekend three things convinced me of this:
One, while in London I finished reading Gill Hornby’s The Hive, in which the self-appointed outsider mummies — the ones who even call their sodding quiz team “the outsiders” — are all really bloody annoying, especially when they’re being offset against the sheep-like background mummies who have no inner lives whatsoever (The Hive is basically Enid Blyton morality transported into the Daily Mail caricature of mummies at the school gates).
Two, while at Britmums I attended the Blogging with heart, for support session, which was moving, honest and brilliant. I have so much admiration for the four bloggers who presented it. I think there is something very special about people who are so willing to lay themselves on the line in what they write, regardless of the risks.
Three, I met some really lovely people. Some I’d chatted to on twitter before, some I’d only read, some I’d never encountered up till now, but I genuinely felt welcomed and inspired by them, however embarrassing that sounds. The whole “mummies are a bunch of competitive bitches when they get together” lie? It’s surprising how inhibiting it can be. It’s not true.
I think there are plenty of reasons why mothers who write blogs are dismissed and patronised. Much of this is sexism and an unwillingness to consider domestic life “real” life. It is of course very real indeed. Another part of it, though, is fear of a stereotype once it’s there. For instance, I so want people to like me I’ll tell them almost anything and everything, about eating disorders, mental illness, whatever I can think of. But I’m scared to tell them I enjoyed being at Britmums. Almost six years into motherhood I’m still scared of being tarred with the mummy brush.
So anyhow, I’m going to book my ticket for next year, half-persuading myself that I’ll pay for it by selling off the goody bag, piecemeal, on eBay. Everything must go, apart from the penguin USBs. They’re not exactly classy but they’re priceless.