So yeah, I, um, went to Britmums …

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.

8 thoughts on “So yeah, I, um, went to Britmums …

  1. It was great to see you at BritMums Live. The whole “mummy blogger” thing kinda drives me mad — it’s seen as a real slur. In truth most bloggers I know who are parents just think of themselves as “bloggers” or “lifestyle bloggers”. Maybe we should get rid of the adjective like we finally did with “lady novelist” or “male nurse”. On the other hand, if you’re a blogger who’s a mother who writes about parent issues, why should that be seen as frivolous or silly?

    Glad to know you are “one of us”. I’ll get in touch about the secret handshake soon.🙂

    1. There is a bit of me that thinks we should “reclaim” the mummy blogger term – as though to get rid of it would be in some way giving in to the idea that domestic life and responsibilities are trivial. But then “mummy” has been paired with so much daftness – mummy tummy, yummy mummy, slummy mummy, mummy porn – maybe it’s beyond help!
      Thanks for organizing such a great event, whatever the name of the people it was for🙂

  2. LOL. I hate being tagged a mummy blogger too especially as I too could fit lots of those adjectives you associated with it. Somehow mummy blogger doesn’t sound as serious as political blogger or design blogger etc etc. Probably just my issues. Lovely to meet you at Britmums and I too am completely smitten with my penguin USB stick. I only have one — should have snagged another as they are totes adorable.

    1. It’s a bit strange when you’re using it and poor little penguin has just his head sticking out of the laptop. But I am very fond of mine!

  3. Is it because politically or culturally you have an outsider edge but when it comes to being a mum, you fit the norms too well? I fit your mummy criteria completely but it took years of infertility and miscarriage to get there so I will always feel like an outsider (yay – silver lining!).

    Good writing does the rounds regardless of what you call it – my husband has on occasion sent me mummy blog posts that he found funny/informative because he is also a parent. Of course, sexism relegates child-rearing to the bottom of the pile but educated, considered writing shows it in a different light.

    Anyway, I think mummy bloggers are just bloggers who write about life and stuff. I second Jennifer’s proposal to get rid of the adjective.

    1. I think I possibly decide I’m an outsider if I think I’ve spotted a group in which I won’t be accepted anyhow – a form of self-protection!
      I’m quite interested in whether (and how) responses to “mummy blogging” tie in with responses to 1970s feminists writing about domestic life – this idea that unpaid work isn’t “real life” or isn’t worth discussing. I like the way these blogs undermine this (I think these beliefs still need undermining!). But yes, the adjective is a funny one – I kind of want to reclaim it but am not sure if it helps!

  4. To be honest, I’ve been thinking for a while about putting mummy blogging on the academic map so to say. Just as the whole ‘personal is political’ did for feminist artists in the 70s and 80s like Karen Finlay etc. Perhaps we should go out and get PhDs about mummy blogging. Do you think that’d validate us? And would we still be ‘keeping it real’. At first I used to hate people to think I was a mummy blogger. Now I try to say it with pride (usually on deaf ears). glad you enjoyed Britmums. Well done.🙂

  5. So lovely to get to chat with you in the ‘real’ world. I really enjoyed it too, and as someone who was bullied at my all girl school, I too was particularly delighted by the really friendly supportive atmosphere, may finally be over my fear of packs of women! I loathe being called mummy by anyone who didn’t enter the world via my vagina. I would rather the term ‘parent blogger’ or just blogger! But I am proud to be a mum, and it is a huge part of what makes my life awesome, so there are worse things to be labelled as I guess!

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