A year ago this month ChopperPapa was birthed from my literary womb; in the months leading up I had toyed with another blog called Project Fatherhood, which served as my ‘toe in the pool’. With its minuscule success I felt it was time to move into snazzier digs more in line my personality – and not a copyright infringement of a non-profit in Los Angeles.
I have never been considered nor am I currently a writer. I consistently struggle with word choice and wish I had the snarky wit of a true wordsmith. But my shortcomings come honest; my disdain for English and reading in general was legendary in school. I’d have much rather spent my time dissecting Economic theories or sitting atop the roof of our fraternity house knocking back a cold one – or twelve. As I trudged through those highbrow courses I could never have imagined one day baring my soul to strangers through the written word.
The inspiration behind this blog was and remains simply to share ‘high octane’ observations about the world around me through the eyes of a divorced-single-father treading the waters of the modern family. Because I went through the divorce process alone and came out only missing a few limbs I’ve always been the go-to person for other divorcees who keep saying I need to write a book – you’ll have to settle for this blog instead.
If I were to put myself in a category it would be ‘parenting’ and specifically a ‘single dad’ blog. Assuming that I would be the only single dad blogger in existence I fully expected my phone to ring within days of my first post with requests for interviews and my own reality TV show – I was wrong on all points. Soon enough I learned that not only were their parent blogs, there were countless numbers of them. Some appeared widely successful, others had a smattering of attention, while many more looked as if the only readers were the blogger, their family, and me.
In the last twelve months I’ve learned a great deal about blogging and particularly the parent blog niche. I’ve come across some parent blogs with massive followings that candidly defy explanation – as they rarely talk about parenting or anything similar. Then there are parent bloggers who have such rich content I’m surprised they don’t have a book contract – yet they get no attention. I finally decided there is absolutely zero rhyme or reason to why some blogs go big while others languish in obscurity.
One has to assume that if the word mom, dad, parent or similar reference is in the URL it’s a blog about parenting or, at least, the blogger is a parent. Yet some of the most followed ‘parent’ blogs on the web are hardly distinguishable from a random pop culture, fashion, sports, or worse celebrity blogs. Their content brings nothing to the parenting table other than to discredit spouses, whine about kids, or droning on and on about potty training debacles. But being an uber- competitive person and seeing the way these ‘big’ bloggers did it led me to question my own strategy – should I be doing more of what they do? This forced me to look at changing the way I write my posts in an effort to match theirs and maybe gaining more readers. I decided to start writing based on what I thought the reader might want.
It’s when I began trying to grow readership that I headed down a path I didn’t want to go. No sooner had I started writing posts to appease the audience than I was confronted by a great friend who asked “dude, what are you doing?” He pointed out how my content suddenly went against everything I was or wanted to be. Through his critique I toned down my ambition and remembered once again why I started this in the first place. And finally it occurred to me if being successful meant forgoing principles and my faith that’s not the way to win. If I was going to misrepresent myself for the sake of readers – then I should just close the laptop now. A bit disappointed by my actions I forged some blogger guardrails to make certain I never got outside the lines again.
While I could go into monotonous detail regarding my do’s and don’ts for blogging, much like the The Dark Lord Sauron’s One Ring this guideline rules them all.
Write as if your kids will read it.
I’ve read plenty of parent bloggers who clearly haven’t grasped this fact. Whether it’s overly colorful language, taboo topics, lewd images, or self-aggrandizement in revealing fashion I’m convinced these bloggers are writing for the pure shock value and the hopes of attracting a few eyeballs. While far from being a Mother Theresa if it embarrasses a 41 year old man imagine what a kid might think. I’d like to believe that my children see their father as an admirable and respectable man worthy of emulating. How distressing it would be for them to learn, through reading my own words, that I’m actually a resentful, disrespectful, and obnixious jerk.
Every post I write is then first sifted through the filter of a question.
Would I be embarrassed if my kids read this?
The way I look at it, I can’t have certain expectations of them while acting differently – last I checked that’s hypocrisy or maybe a personality disorder. What kind of father would I be to live one way in front of them and another way when they aren’t looking – just to win a virtual popularity contest. Should they choose to do so, I hope they can look back on these pages and get different glimpse into the mind of their father. And after doing so still be proud to have me as their dad.
Besides shouldn’t that be our desire anyway? Parent blogger or not?