The first commandment for parent bloggers.

rule for parent bloggers

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.

1991ish – bakin’ and drinkin’, check out those guns.

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?

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30 responses to The first commandment for parent bloggers.

  1. I always looked at my random blog traffic as a daddy blogger as a consequence of living way out in Sweden.  Why would some posts do well and others not?  And how does that crappy blog with nothing but wet dog pics get 89 comments on every post?  But I now realize that it is all a mystery.  Great summary of the blog world, and also good inspiration on keeping true to yourself, as the rewards are never going to be big money or fame here.

  2. Sjhigbee

    Another thought provoking article… I really enjoy your writing and – like you – often wonder what it is that makes one blog so much more popular than another.  It isn’t always about the writing…  I certainly endorse your decision to choose your writing over the ratings pageant.  What a lot of folks seem not to have grasped about this biz is that once it’s out there – that’s it.  You cannot undo it! 

    Best of luck and keep going – you’re certainly worth reading.

  3. I can certainly relate. As a new bloger (2 months), I find my blog evolving over time. It has become something different than what I had envisioned.  But this has not always been a bad thing.  Just as I have read some horrible blogs, I have also read some blogs that are so well written that I am encouraged to write better content and really stretch myself and my blog. Regarding readership, sometimes I find myself spending more time social networking than blogging.  

    I love your advice to “Write as if your kids will read it.”  Who knows, someday they may read it. That reminds me of something I read by Pat Conroy (my favorite author). People were encouraging him to write more explicit sex scenes in his books.  He told them he could not do that because his grandmother was still alive.

    Great post! I can’t wait to read more!

  4. I was/am in the very same boat, so I appreciate seeing this post! I feel like I was a happier blogger before I discovered Google Analytics. The times when I have written some of my very best work, I was disappointed to see that traffic seemed to stop dead in it’s tracks. Conversely, when I phoned it in and embraced the genre people seemed to place me in… the numbers were a lot (shockingly) higher. It’s disappointing. Sometimes it hurts actually. 

    I am so very glad I followed you! 

  5. I am a parent and some of my posts are about my child or about being a parent, but I don’t consider myself a Mommy Blogger nor would I consider my blog a place for parents to go for advice. My blog is my outlet, my place to write whatever I want, even bad words that I choose not to say in front of my son. So, for me, your logic doesn’t apply to me because I’m not having some sort of debacle in trying to figure out a writing style or how to gain readership. I’m simply writing to write. If I get a comment, GREAT!  If not, GREAT! I’ve at least put my words out there and I feel better doing so. 

    As for being hypocritical, I think a lot of parents do things as adults that they don’t want their children doing as children. That’s not being a hypocrite, that’s being age appropriate. It’s all in how you explain it to your children. Adults have sex, but it’s not OK for your children to have sex, right? Are you going to stop having sex as not to be a hypocrite to your children? No! There is a time and an age that’s appropriate for kids to do things and it’s our job as parents to explain that to them.  

  6. Erica M

    My kids used to read my blog because they thought it was funny. They’ve moved on from the novelty. I think, however, when they were reading it at 12 and 6, they enjoyed seeing their mother as a person, as a writer, someone with friends and something else to do besides clean up after them. I didn’t write any differently just because I knew they were reading although I did warn my readers about my school aged lurkers. But I’ve never been a mommyblogger, so maybe I get to follow different rules of blogging.

    I’m now following April. I loved her comment.

  7. Keep on writing my friend. As long as you feel good about your blog than you are getting it done and anyone who says different simply doesn’t understand.

  8. Closeenoughblog

    I agree with your rules.  It also makes it difficult to blog honestly while following those rules.  But it’s worth the questions – it makes writing authentic and shareable.  I also was nodding along as I read your lament about parenting blogs with such great content that surely they must have book deals, and blogs that are SO BAD you can’t believe they have so many readers.  

  9. Wow. Since I’ve written so much about my divorce, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want my kids reading it. Not that the subject matter is for adult eyes only, but since they don’t need to hear anything negative about their mom, I probably will not tell them about my blog.

    And quit with this “I’m not a writer” crap. Yes you are. Anyone who can transfer their thoughts onto paper (so to speak) in an orderly fashion, to which people come back to read, makes them a writer.

  10. I completely agree with you on this! Even if I may enjoy reading some Mommy/Daddy-blogs that don’t follow these guidelines, this is not the type of blogger I want to be or the type of person I envision myself as. Putting things out on the Internet means that we can’t necessarily restrict who reads it and who doesn’t. This means co-workers, bosses, husband, parents, and eventually children can and possibly will read the things that I write. Although I may hope that my writing introduces these people to another depth of me, I don’t ever want someone to see my blogging as an alter-ego. I want to be the same person in behind the screen that I am to the people who know me personally, and this includes being the same mother I am to my child and the same mother I am as a blogger.

    I loved, loved, loved this post! So glad I stumbled upon it via Twitter.

  11. April, I love it with you comment – I really do. You always have a way to poke holes in my argument and I think it’s awesome. I agree that parents will do different things than kids because they are adults. But I think you’ll also agree that if the parent has done the right thing they have created an image of themselves, intentionally or not, and in an effort to get reader they may go off the reservation…and eventually the kids will read it. 

  12. I’ve made it a point to NEVER talk bad about the ex. It serves no purpose and makes me look like a whiny cry-baby. I keep it to the facts and let the reader make up their minds about it. 

  13. I think it’s what makes blogging so fun, at least for me. It’s the challenge of living within my limits and still getting my message across – it also means that I leave some topics off the table. 

    Thanks you for reading and taking time to talk to me. 

  14. Erica, everybody has their own style. I just decided early on that I wanted to set some ground rules – that may be to my long term detriment and if so that’s fine to. 

    Thanks for talking to me and thanks of reading. 

  15. that happens to me all the time Angie. ALL. THE. TIME. I stopped trying to figure it out, just isn’t worth it anymore. I write and people like it or not. It’s kind of life douche bag guys…:-) 

    I’m glad you followed to. 

  16. Tiffany, chances are that someday your kids will read it if you stick with it. In fact, I’d argue that you want them to. It’s part of who you are. 

    Thanks for talking to me and good luck with your blog. 

  17. Thank you so much! It means a great deal to read that. And you’re right. Once you say it you can’t take it back. 

  18. The wet dogs or posts about mutant zombie robots. Go figure. Humans are strange little creatures. And daddy blogs are still the minority in the blogosphere. 

  19. Laura, I couldn’t have set it better myself. I think that I have an obligation to live somewhat transparent to you and to my kids. 

    Thanks for stumbling over. Come back anytime. 

  20. Aww, I feel bad now because I don’t try to poke holes in your argument. I just feel that occasionally we disagree on some things. And you know what? That is OK! I still love reading because we do agree on a lot and the things we do disagree on we can talk about in an adult fashion. 

    Anyway, yes, I do agree that if a parent has done the right thing, they have created an image of themselves. However, the “right thing” seems to be very subjective. I might go out one night when my son is as his dad’s house and have a little too much to drink. (this doesn’t happen often at all, I’m just using this as an example) Am I not supposed to do this because I’m a mom and it’s setting a bad example for my son? Even though I’m not getting in a car and driving, he’s not at home to see me and I’m not putting myself in any dangerous situations.  I just interpreted your comment to mean that parents cannot do anything they wouldn’t want their children to do, as that’s being hypocritical and I completely disagree with that. And I also disagree with not being able to write about it on your blog merely under the assumption that one day your kid will read it. Maybe they will, but that that doesn’t mean you should censor yourself for fear that one day you’ll have to face your children and their questions. 

    I do not believe that my identity is defined as being a parent. Being a parent is part of who I am, but I also have to be me and enjoy the things I do that don’t involve being a parent. For example, playing pool, Texas Hold’em tournaments (in person not online) and scrapbooking. I recently read an article that said a lot of couples lose their marriage after having a baby because they lose their personal identities and only focus on the baby. The article said that the marriage comes FIRST then the kids. It also said that if you’re a single parent, you need to come first, then your children. People need to realize that they’re people, too. They have interests outside of their children. 

    Anyway, I was kind of getting off topic. I was using this to relate to the fact that blogging is also a hobby that I have that doesn’t involve my child. It’s something I enjoy doing, where I can be me. Not that I’m not me around my son, I just don’t use bad words around him. But, he sees me drink a glass of wine in the evenings. Should I stop doing that since I don’t want him drinking now? I don’t feel that I’m setting a bad example for my son. He knows that alcohol is for adults, because I am an adult and that’s what I teach him. 

    Wow, I’ve written a novel and it’s bed time. You have a great night! 

  21. The less I look at my blog stats, the happier I am. I figure I’m writing for my son. The stories I tell are for him. Someday, maybe after I’m gone, maybe he’ll want to read what I’ve written there. Sort of like how Superman keeps getting messages from Jor El. So I keep my judgments about him to myself. If there’s any advice about anything, it’s between the lines. 

  22. Although the content of my site is extremely inappropriate for my daughter to read now; that does not mean that I write without integrity. When she is more mature, I will have no issue with her reading the articles I have posted. Whenever I write and post an article I assume that everyone I know may read it…if not today, years from now. I know I will be embarrassed if/when my children read some of my articles, but when they are adults they will be able to comprehend that I more than just ‘mom’. They will be able to appreciate that I am a human being with thoughts, feelings, needs, desires, fears, and experiences of my own.
    Your decision to return to your founding principals is to be commended. Many bloggers lose site of who they really are and get lost in their on-line persona. The world has enough fakes. I am thankful to know that you’re not one of them. Happy writing!

  23. It depends on the goal for the blog and the blogger. If you only write for yourself and don’t care what anyone thinks or if anyone reads it you’ll look at it differently than if you are an actual freelance writer or if your blog is connected to you or your brand professionally. I look at quite a few inappropriate blogs and wonder what the goal is. Sure you can get sex toy sponsors and coupons for free DVDs etc etc, but THAT doesn’t put food on the table nor does it help me provide a better lifestyle for my daughter. And yes, I do take into consideration who may or may not be reading my content. It is ALL me, if you aren’t true to yourself you may as well be writing someone else’s blog however, you can be all you in a professional manner. Most of the time the crappy bloggers that are screaming they don’t care if anyone reads their stuff specifically post content that is literally begging for attention. As parents, we need to think about this stuff. Write what you want to, but figure out what your point is and make sure in the end that you’re actually saying something.

  24. Christina, very insightful. I would argue that most bloggers, parents or otherwise, don’t have any actual goal other than their idea of an easy way to get rich. Failing to realize that they have very important readers that will likely read what is written. No parent blogger claims to be a bad one, at least legitimately. But c’mon…you talk like a sailor, reference sex more than Hustler, and complain about their spouse. ….how do they think that’s going to go once little Cindy Lou is old enough to find out what a blog is and starts reading…somebody will have some explaining to do. 

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