Imagine attending a dinner party where the conversation is a lively dance. One minute, you’re bantering about toilet training. The next, you’re learning about depression. Blink again, and you’re in a debate about public schooling.
Welcome to the world of mummy blogging, where technology savvy women–including a growing number of Christians – are reaching thousands of online readers with their everyday experiences as mums.
It’s hard to nail down how many mummy blogs exist in Australia, although it’s clear the genre is popular with over 2,500 bloggers – mostly Australian mums – registered with blogging network Digital Parents. Female Christian writers are also getting in on the act. Some delve into niche areas such as childhood autism; others write longer think pieces for Christian readers.
Then there are bloggers like Jess Newman. The South Australian mother of four began blogging in 2011, after a conversation with God in her church’s crèche room convinced her to write about being a stay-at-home mum. Her site, Essentially Jess, is the quintessential mummy blog; a media hub with over 1,000 Facebook followers, close to 5,000 unique visitors a month, an Instagram account and sponsored posts featuring well-known brands.
Newman’s writing style is also typical amongst mummy bloggers: conversational, humorous and authentic. She is passionate about helping people “see Jesus in everything”, making herself vulnerable through posts on self-esteem and surviving post-natal depression. “Blogging is sharing how God works through your story,” she says. “I’m happy to expose my weaknesses on the blog if that makes God look better.”
Lisa Berriman, creator of Mummy’s Undeserved Blessings, agrees. Her blog, which has over 1,100 Facebook followers, has opened up many gospel opportunities for the mother of three. Amongst posts on Michelle Bridges, her favourite brand of shoes and bedtime routines, Berriman shares how she became a Christian and her experience as a minister’s wife living in Canberra. “When I write about my faith, I’ll have questions from the Facebook community or friends who are intrigued by what I‘ve written…it’s an easy way to share the gospel with people,” she says.
This is partly due to the mummy blogging community. Berriman describes her readers as supportive and tightly connected; qualities she believes address the isolation mums can experience, as “you get to have a laugh during the day with someone you don’t even know.”
Author Cecily Paterson experienced this community while writing about her son’s autism. Her book, Love Tears & Autism, has continued as a blog (Autism. Mostly.), Facebook page and private online group – each engaging parents who, according to Paterson, “don’t want an expert’s forum on autism, but are just struggling along with (autism) and knowing what to do with their kids”.
The same sense of support is found on explicitly Christian blogs. Although faith-based sites tend to have a modest readership compared to mainstream mummy blogs, they play a key role in encouraging Christian parents to live out their faith amidst the nappies and tantrums. “I didn’t have a Christian mum growing up,” reflects one reader, a mother of four. “Reading blogs by other Christian mums equips me to help my kids live for Jesus.”
One such blogger is Nicole Starling, creator of 168 Hours. Starling’s appeal to Christians is her down-to-earth approach to gospel-centred parenting, although she is conscious of appearing to have all the answers. “Usually the topics I’ve looked at have not been things I have been particularly good at,” says the Sydney-based mother of four. “I was terrible at showing hospitality when I wrote a series about it. I was writing about it in an attempt to think through how I could be better.”
Another well-known blog in Christian circles is Jenny Kemp’s quirkily named No Reading at the Breakfast Table. Although she favours a more haphazard blogging schedule, Kemp’s posts – which challenge commonly held worldviews – often spark online debate. “My most read post was one I wrote on our decision to send our kids to a government high school,” says Kemp, who has five school-aged children. “I can find it exhausting managing a discussion like that…but I haven’t taken the post down (it still gets a lot of hits every day) because I think these are the kinds of discussions Christians should have more often. Sometimes they are hard to have face-to-face because they are such sensitive topics, but online it can be easier to express an opinion.”
Using one’s personal life to spark online discussion can be a precarious business. Privacy is a constant concern for mummy bloggers – most don’t share names or any specific details about their children. Julie Miller, a Sydney mum who wrote articles for big name bloggers as a speech therapist, made her blog private once she found the content becoming “more personal”. “I wanted to protect my family and not second guess myself all the time, thinking is someone going to figure out where I live? Is this going to be embarrassing for my kids in the future?” she says.
Balancing online time with other responsibilities is another issue. While people vary on whether they see blogging as ministry (Newman feels it’s an area of ministry God has given to her; Kemp views it more as a hobby), most implement restrictions such as blogging only when kids are asleep, limiting time spent responding to Facebook comments and only writing posts on certain nights of the week.
Far more difficult, says Berriman, is dealing with negative comments, even though readers are fairly respectful. “My insecurity is the hardest part. I invest a lot into my blog and for someone to hate it, pull it apart or not even read it…you’re really putting yourself out there and I guess I get scared I might say the wrong thing,” she says. Starling battles similar thoughts. “When I first started blogging, I noticed that I’d get really down if no one commented on a post, and I’d get a real high when I wrote a post that got lots of attention. This is all pride.”
Their words are honest and raw, which is precisely what makes blogging so powerful. Amongst the online chatter, we see glimpses of a real Christian life, with all its frailties and triumphs. Now that’s a conversation worth joining.