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Voices of motherhood

Last year I received an email so hateful that I felt sick for weeks. It was an email criticising that fact that I wrote about my son and about his illness on my blog, how I wrote about parenting instead of actually parenting and how I was doing that for money and pageviews and links and because I did that, I was a greedy, selfish, moneygrabbing bitch.

After I read it, I had a knot in my stomach all the time for weeks and weeks, even when I couldn’t remember (momentarily) why I felt that way. I thought about deleting my blog. I questioned everything I had ever written about my son. I questioned everything I had ever written about motherhood.

Today Catherine at herbadmother, a blog I’ve been reading since it started, posted this and I urge you to go and read the rest of the post and the email she received that prompted her to post:

Our voices aren’t free so long as we’re subjected to hate when we raise them. But I don’t know what to do, other than to keep writing, and to keep taking the blows, and to hope that I – that all of us – can outlast and outspeak the hate.

Because, it’s true, our voices -  the voices of mothers that write about motherhood – are not free when someone else feels it’s okay to dump all over them.

16 comments… add one

  • Littlemummy March 19, 2010, 1:50 pm

    Don’t listen to the voices, they’re in the minority. Sometimes as a stay at home parent you *need* to vent and share and receive support and you more than anyone Ella.

  • ella March 19, 2010, 2:15 pm

    I tried to tell myself that they’re in the minority, and that if you do something public someone will always have an opinion about it.

    But it still feels so wrong that mommyblogging/ mummyblogging is attacked with such startling regularity and with such venom both publicly at us as a group and at individuals.

  • Dara March 19, 2010, 2:32 pm

    I’ve had this over and over again not so much directed at my blog, but from the weekly parenting column I write. I’ve been told I’m wasting my time, I’m wasting their time, I’m a bad mother for staying home; I’m a bad mother for not working . . .
    I’m learning that such people are just quick to attack and don’t know or understand anything. How is blogging different in terms of time taken and attention than keeping a journal? Would someone attack a mother for journaling? And yet, unlike journalling it’s public and thus provides an engaging and enlightening platform for other women who might need to hear these voices of women bloggers.
    You have no idea, Ella, how much your blog has helped me AND my husband in our struggles with our son’s illness and our parenting and our relationship.
    But I know that knot in the stomach feeling and the best thing is to do like you’ve done here: let us know so we can support you. Whenever I get an especially evil comment after one of my columns I let all my supporters know so they can go on and defend me. Not only does it drive up my column views and comments – which the papers love – but it makes the person who was mean feel like they really are in the minority. And sometimes – this has happened twice now – it has actually engaged them in thinking more about what they wrote and they leave a positive comment after a future column.
    So I hope whoever wrote you that email reads the comments today. And I hope he or she realises that hatred and vehemenence is not what’s needed by anyone.
    Maybe we should have a Celebrate the Parent Blogger day where we all post about why we post and we all commit to leaving lovely comments for each other.
    Now I’m going to go read your friend’s post and leave her a nice comment too!

  • Lorna Harris March 19, 2010, 3:53 pm

    I heard such a good quote from someone last week. It was Heather Gold and she was talking about coming out and the abuse she would get from people. Heather said ‘Someone else’s anger doesn’t have to be my hurt.’ I thought that was a great way of describing how to cope with someone and their issues.

  • Donna March 19, 2010, 3:59 pm

    You are such a beautiful writer. I bet you get 50 positive comments for every one that is negative or hateful – yet those are the ones we take to heart. Don’t ever let the bastards silence you. Yours is a voice we need to hear.

  • Rosie Scribble March 19, 2010, 4:03 pm

    Gosh, that is shocking. I wonder what makes people think it is acceptable to compose such nasty emails and then hit send. I’d happily send you a positive email every day about how wonderful your blog is, if it helped. I am sure there are many of us that would. That one email last year has to be in the minority.

  • Her Bad Mother March 19, 2010, 4:19 pm

    That Heather Gold quote, that Lorna cited above? ‘Someone else’s anger doesn’t have to be my hurt.’ THAT. Yes. Perfect.

    Thanks for keeping the discussion going on this.

  • The Mad House March 19, 2010, 4:56 pm

    The only way I can compartmentalise these shocking people, is that they must have so little in their real lives that they feel the need to criticise others and invent a persona online to do so.

    Why oh why else would they hurt people in this way. So I fear they are often bitter, little people with no excitement or fulfilment in their real lives.

    If blogging helps you get through this hard time and maybe if one person who child also has the same son can benefit from your beautiful, eloquent and moving words then bravo to you and shame on them

  • Magic Mummy March 19, 2010, 8:32 pm

    Some people are just bitter, twisted and mean!

    The only nasty comment that I have had on my blog was when I posted about what I was buying the kids for Christmas and someone left an anonymous comment saying I was wasting my money and my spending was hardly frugal (my blog is called the diary of a frugal family) but if they had bothered to read anything else they would have seen that the reason that I try to be more frugal is so that I can give more to my children!

    I just deleted it but in hindsight, I wish I had left it on there because I shouldn’t have to justify myself!

    Neither do you x x

  • Nova March 19, 2010, 9:12 pm

    I just cannot understand what people think they achieve by doing that. Very sad. They really must be lonely twisted people.

  • heather gold March 19, 2010, 11:26 pm

    Thanks Lorna and everyone for your kind words. The SXSW talk that I said that in is up on my site http://heathergold.com if your’e interested. I was talking about coming out as a model for the social web.

    Ella, I’m in the process of trying to conceive and one of the things I want most to be able to do as a mother is not take my future childrens’ anger at me personally. That’s part of healthy parenting. I bet you’re great at it.

    It’s kind of the same skill with others who aren’t children but who vent rage at you. Their feelings aren’t the same thing as you. In a way when you own yourself and your ground it gives other enraged etc people a chance to feel their own feelings since you don’t take them on.

  • Brit In Bosnia March 20, 2010, 7:20 am

    Like the others have said, what does that person hope to acheive by emailing you? It says far more about them than it does about you.

    I think you do a great job in educating people particularly about your sons illness. Someone else will have the experience of being told by Doctors that their son has it too, and they will find your blog and it will be the most helpful thing that they find on the web. If only for that one person, the writing of your blog is valuable and worth all the venomous comments from unkind, unhappy people. Big hugs. xxxx

  • Deer Baby March 20, 2010, 9:58 pm

    Hi Ella

    I too read HBM every day and was just shocked to the core that someone could write that email to her. And to hear that someone has done that to you too – what drives these people? What mean spirited, time wasting, bitter and twisted people they must be. I can never decide whether it’s better to ignore them completely and starve them of the oxygen of attention, which they must crave, or to ‘out’ them as Catherine has does this time. It was great to see people rallying round her and the love far outweighed the hate.

    I agree with Brit in Bosnia – if someone were to find themselves in the same situation as you, with a child newly diagnosed with this rare and little known disease, then finding your blog would be invaluable, as well as having intrinsic worth in its own right.
    Down with the trolls!
    Hugs to you.

  • Mums Are Important Too March 21, 2010, 4:33 pm

    Hi Ella, I know too well how it feels when somebody criticises what you do, or gives you negative comments. It used to upset me and I had pretty much the same thoughts as you did. You start to negatively question yourself about what you are doing. I have now learnt not to let any negative comments bother me. Whatever we do in life, there will always be somebody who doesn’t like what we do. When somebody gives me a negative comment about something, I give myself a positive thought about what I am doing. I agree with the other comments about the good you are doing.
    Best Wishes, Suzanne

  • Nickie March 21, 2010, 5:43 pm

    I detest the way the there is a general consensus that it’s ok to “judge” mothers, no matter what they do.

  • ella March 22, 2010, 11:31 am

    Thank you all so much for your comments. As time has passed, I have barely given that email any thought but when I read Catherine’s post and the email she received it brought back all those emotions and I don’t think anyone should be made to feel like that, ever.

    Despite the email, it’s the bigger issue that some people feel it’s ok to belittle or attack or marginalise mummybloggers/mommybloggers for writing down our experiences, for making our voices heard, for grouping together, for making money that bothers me most.

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