2 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

August 04, 2009

Mom 2.0: Meet the Mommyblogger: An Overview of My Essay in Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog

My essay "Mom 2.0: Meet the Mommyblogger" appears in Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog, edited by May Friedman and Shana L. Calixte (Toronto: The Association for Research on Mothering/Demeter Press, May 2009). Here's a brief excerpt which highlights some of the key points raised in my essay.

MotheringandBloggingLg "The online world of mothers is being transformed by marketers with their own specific agendas. These marketers—who are eager to tap into the $1.7 trillion market that mothers represent—have the budgets to ensure that they are able to tap into the conversations of mothers, wherever those conversations happen to be taking place online. Web 2.0 sites are eager to find ways to generate revenue from their operations and marketers are the source of that revenue, so their needs will often eclipse the needs of mothers in online communities....

"Moms have always been generous about sharing their wisdom and ideas with other mothers, but now a third party is privy to those conversations. In the world of Web 2.0, there's a third party sitting (or eavesdropping) at the table—a marketer who is taking notes and looking for ways to use mothers' ideas to sell products back to mothers. More often than not, moms are not being compensated for these intellectual property contributions in any meaningful way. Rather than paying cash -- the traditional currency of business -- marketers and the mega-corporations that they front for offer fleeting fame and freebies. On a per-hour basis, these 'pay rates' can amount to lower rates of compensation than the rates paid to workers in third-world sweat shops --working conditions these mega-corporations to go great lengths to distance themselves from.

"Horizontal violence* between mothers online is the result of the lack of respect shown to mothers by other online users. This type of hostile activity is at its rawest in the blogging community ("the wild west") as compared to in the highly moderated (and much less authentic) world of social networking sites aimed at mothers. When horizontal violence does occur on social networking sites, the social networking tools that are built into the site architecture can be used with merciless effectiveness (at least until a site moderator steps in). Rumors and misinformation can be forwarded to an entire network of contact and on-site and off-site site a mouse click. Deleting someone from a list of friends can be accomplished with equal ease (and, in many cases, that former 'friend' won't even realize that they've been de-friended).

Perhaps the most important conclusion that web-savvy mothers must keep in mind is that horizontal violence will become less of a problem when the status of mothers and women is improved both online and in the real world. Until this happens, it's important for mothers to acknowledge its existence and to work towards collective solutions. In "Horizontal Violence in the Workplace," Carolyn Hastie recommends a series of strategies that appear to be just as practical and relevant to the world of mothers: recognizing and acknowledging that horizontal violence occurs between mothers and using the term 'horizontal violence' to name the problem; raising awareness of this issue and addressing the cultural issues that allow horizontal violence to continue to be a problem between mothers and women; speaking out against instances of horizontal violence whenever they occur; addressing individual attitudes and behaviors; and practicing self-nurturing and self-care so that each woman ins able to 'do the things that help [her] to be healthy and happy in all aspects of [her] human-ness.' Once she applies that age-old common sense to dealing with a computer-age online problem, Mom 2.0 will have more to give her Web 2.0 girlfriends. And it's a 100% product-free solution to boot."

View the full Table of Contents for the book.

*Note: The term horizontal violence is used when members of groups with low status display hostile behaviors toward their fellow group members as opposed to lashing out at their oppressors.

Related:

Mom-101: The Year that Shame Died: Mom-101 writes: "Much to my surprise however, what turned out to be the problem at BlogHer was not how the marketers acted, but how so many bloggers acted. Without pulling punches, I will say it was shameful...I am in no way saying that popular bloggers don't like free stuff or that you should be ashamed for wanting some free dish soap. I publish a site that gives away products daily and I love how happy it makes people. What I'm saying that blogging 'success' shouldn't be defined by the amount of stuff you get. It's about what you put out, not what you take in."

Mom-101: Blog With Integrity: We're Taking Our Community Back: Mom-101 writes: "We've put together Blog with Integrity, a voluntary pledge, complete with blog badge, for any and all bloggers (not just parents) who want a way to show their readers, marketers, the PR community, and certainly the press, that we are committed to integrity, responsibility and disclosure, and that a few bad apples do not speak for all of us. Not even close."

Mom-101: Yep, I'm a Mother. Got a Problem With That?: Mom-101 describes the disrespect that mothers have been receiving from certain members of the marketing community post-BlogHer'09.

July 30, 2009

Back to School Guide: A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Season of Shopping for Hot Gadgets, Cool Clothes, and School Supplies

The back to school countdown is officially on.

Hey, moms and dads, it's back to school time again -- that crazy time of year when you might as well just camp out in the mall parking lot rather than driving back and forth across town in some unending quest for all the back-to-school essentials. (Of course, if you've got a kid in that delightful "I have to visit all the malls in town before I purchase a single item of clothing" stage, you'll have to rethink your strategy a little to allow for multiple treks to multiple mall parking lots.) Just remember to pace yourself, folks: we've got the entire months of August and September ahead of us.

(Forget what T.S. Eliot said: it's not April that's the cruelest month -- it's September!)

Here are some tips on surviving back-to-school time as a family.

Trafficjams Rethink school-year routines. We may celebrate New Year's Eve on January 1st, but it's September that marks the start of a new year if you've got school-aged kids. So take advantage of that new school year's spirit to renegotiate chores, allowances, extra-curricular schedules, clean out your kids' closets, and so on. You might also want to think about whether your own routine could use some tweaking. (As your kids move from stage to stage, your day-to-day routine generally needs to evolve with it.)

Get your kids back on a school-year sleeping routine before it's time to head back to school. Otherwise, your kids will end up suffering from what back-to-school "jet lag." (It's not exactly reasonable to expect a kid who's been sleeping in until 11:00 a.m. all summer to be functional at 7:00 a.m. on the first day of school!)

Establish the shopping ground rules before you hit the mall. Your negotiating power goes down the drain after a couple of hours of shopping. At that point, you're willing to buy just about anything your kid wants just to make the pain stop. That's why it's important to establish your kids' clothing budget long before you leave home and to mutually agree on the number and price of outfits to be purchased beforehand. Oh yeah, one more thing: avoid spending for the sake of spending (an easy trap to fall into at back-to-school time). Only buy what your kids genuinely need. The Center for a New American Dream and its sister site IBuyDifferent.org provide practical advice on living consciously (according to your values), buying wisely (buying green whenever possible and trying not to get sucked into the vortex of over-consumption) and joining with others who share your commitment to working towards a new North American dream. (Remember the old one? It was all about acquiring more stuff.)

Keep your schedule as free as possible during the first week back at school. Not only will you want to leave time in your schedule to squeeze in all those unpredictable errands that have to be run that first week -- like dashing out to pick up whatever school supplies you missed from the teacher's must-have list, or spending an hour in line (or online) trying to sign your kids up for swimming lessons -- you'll also want to be available to listen to your kids as they bring you up to speed on all those exciting first-week developments.

Keep things simple on the mealtime front. You have enough other things on your plate without having to worry about, well, what's on your plate. Order in pizza, pick up subs on your way home from work, or reheat that mystery casserole that's been languishing in the back of your freezer. The nutrition police won't book you for cutting corners in the kitchen one week of the year.

Take time for yourself. It's easy to spend the entire month of September running around at breakneck speed, picking up school supplies, signing your kids up for extra-curricular activities (here's why you might not want to overdo things on that front, by the way), and making the rounds of school open houses and picnics. Don't forget to take time for yourself during this crazy time of year. Otherwise, you could find yourself feeling supremely grumpy by the time the month draws to a close.

Set some goals for yourself as a parent. While your kids are busy setting some school-year goals for themselves (or perhaps simply starting school for the very first time), take a moment to set some goals for yourself. Maybe you want to play a more active role at your kids' school or make contact with their teachers more often -- or figure out ways to ensure that your kids have lots of time for fun and relaxation during their non-school hours? Make sure your goals are something concrete enough to be measurable and that you put your goals in writing so you can refer back to them during the school year.

Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Parenting Books, The Mother of All Pregnancy Books and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting. She is frequently featured in the print and broadcast media.

Photo Credit: Ann Douglas, 2009.