Why I Left Mommy-Blogging, And Why I'm Now A Daddy Blogger
I got into mommy blogging in an accidental kind of way. After I was let go from The Dissolve I was adrift professionally and in desperate need of a way to support myself and my family. So when a friend asked if I’d be interesting in contributing to the mommy blog she wrote for, I said yes.
Having spent the previous two years writing almost exclusively about movies, which are extraordinarily important but not the entirety of existence, as it sometimes felt when I worked as a film critic, I was excited about the prospect of writing about something that had nothing to do with film, or pop culture.
As someone who has historically loved writing about depression and mental illness and my emotional life, I was psyched about the prospect of writing about what had quickly become the most important, satisfying and rewarding thing in my life: being a father, and having my life utterly transformed, in profound and soul-enriching ways, by being a dad.
The mommy blog I initially wrote for did not pay terribly well, and nobody other than my mother-in-law ever seemed to read them (I’m exaggerating only slightly, some of my pieces were read fewer than 200 times) but they paid consistently, which is important in a way only fellow freelancers can probably appreciate. That 500 bucks a month would be in the mailbox of my in-laws’ home like clockwork in the middle of every month, and I was grateful for the gig and grateful for the money.
For a while, things worked out pretty well. I loved the work, and I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with four usable posts about parenthood every month. It was difficult but manageable until my pitches began being rejected en masse. Of course, constant, brutal rejection is a constant and seemingly unavoidable aspect of being a freelancer but I enjoyed mommy-blogging in part because it was a relatively low-stress, low-pressure gig that allowed me to write about something important to me.
At a certain point my editor conceded that they would have to be a whole lot pickier in the future, and that unless a post was highly clickable and likely to go viral, they would have to say no. The rational, compromising part of my brain understood that the email just reflected the brutal reality of the business, because if you don’t get clicks and you don’t get ad dollars, then you don’t stay in business, and that’s kind of the whole point of capitalism.
But the stubborn, proud part of me felt like I was too goddamned old and too cranky and too particular to devote myself to trying to figure out what headline, premise or idea would resonate with a large number of suburban mothers. As the page-views for my article painfully illustrated, I had no idea what mothers wanted. I could only write about parenting from my perspective, and try to write about things that are important to me in a way that hopefully will resonate with other people.
So I semi-retired on theoretically good terms with the site that brought me into mommy-blogging and tried writing for a different site suggested by the same friend. I had hoped that things would be different there, as the idea of getting paid a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five dollars to write about parenting still appealed to me but this time I had an even shakier grasp on what the website, and by extension its readers, wanted, ,from me or from writing about parenting in general.
Things ended dramatically the Friday of the week Donald Trump was elected President. Like all good people, his election had thrown me into a horrible funk. But in every trauma there is a pitch so I pitched this new site on an article about the importance of staying strong for your children’s sake in the face of the Trumpocalypse.
The editor enthusiastically okayed it but when I turned it in, literally twelve hours later (because Christ knows you need to be preternaturally timely to make it in freelancing), she said that she’d seen so many pieces like mine, and had published and okayed so many pieces like mine, that my article was a total no-go unless I wanted to re-write it completely as a list of concrete things parents can do to fight Trump.
Usually when I get asked to revise a piece extensively, or start from scratch, which honestly does not happen very often, I experience a brief surge of egotistical anger before I settle down and realize the recommended edits make sense and will improve the piece. Then I revise exactly according to my editor's suggestions.
That’s not how it felt this time, however. It felt like I’d written a good, personal piece and now I was being asked to turn it into a hacky, mediocre piece I had no emotional connection to. But I really needed that one hundred and twenty-five dollars so I rewrote the piece in its entirety and the editor came back and said that the new draft was even less publishable or useful than the previous one, but that it was great that I would be contributing my voice to their site.
At that point all I had left was my battered dignity. My emotions were still raw from Trump’s election and the last thing that I needed was to end this awful, awful week with a pair of rejections for a deeply personal piece from a site I’d never heard of before I was asked to write for it.
So I emailed the editor that I was not going to write for her, and was going to get out of the whole mommy-blogging racket in general. It just got too mercenary and tough.
I understand why I was not successful as a mommy blogger. I have a tremendous home field advantage here at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place in that you all theoretically know me, and like me, and are familiar with my career and my curious obsessions. As a mommy blogger, however, I was just another content provider, and the quality of my writing or the impressiveness of my resume didn’t matter anywhere near as much as the number of page-views each of my pieces received. And I never did particularly well in that respect.
So I have taken a step back into writing about parenting with Big Nate Dogg’s Big Daddy Blog here at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. It feels good to divorce my parental writing from the corrupting influence of chasing page-views and and clicks and shares and money. Now I can write about some aspect of parenting because it's important to me, or I feel like I have something worthwhile to say, not because the piece is guaranteed to get a lot of Likes and re-Tweets.
I think of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place as my professional baby, so it seems like an appropriate home for my writing about my actual baby. Besides, ain’t nobody trying to pay Nathan Rabin to write about parenting, so that makes the decision to go independent with my daddy blogging a little easier. Like so much of this site, and my career at this point, it’s powered by a strange combination of professional desperation and genuine, soul-consuming passion and idealism.
Support the daddy blogging of Nathan Rabin over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace