Lactating on Air

This time, my son is the man who yells at me

I am so sorry to tell you all this now: But for many years, I was a mom blogger. If you want to unsubscribe, I understand.

Mom blogger is a neutral genre of non-fiction writing. There are some good. There are some bad. Sadly, I think the “bad” gets more press, because it’s a gendered thing. America loves a messy bitch. And if that bitch is a mom and drinks some wine and talks shit about her family online, then yes, please, dish away.

But really, mom blogger is no different than political blogger or money blogger. But it’s a writing genre we sideline women to when they use their uterus once or twice and want to write about it. In so many ways, mommy blogging made me the writer I am. But I am also very glad I no longer do it.

The other day, a very fancy and accomplished writer paid me a compliment (right, #humblebrag, I’m insufferable) and I told her, “okay but five years ago I was just a mommy blogger!” and she was like, “any man would use that as a point of pride: as in, look at how I leveraged up my career.”

I think about that a lot: The way we view “women’s writing”—domestic writing. In some ways, it’s a genre that is very lucrative and has existed since time immemorial. So many famous women have written their “mom book” as it were. We read them. We value them. And of course, it’s a genre that is dominated by the voices of white upper-middle class women—you know, “the book buyers.” And you can always go viral writing your, “Why won’t anyone think about the moooomsss?!” essay. Which, come on. But, okay, there is something there. Let’s just say, John D’Agata doesn’t even talk about mom bloggers in his “The Art of the American Essay.” Even though, mom bloggers have in many ways informed the essay and non-fiction in ways that are too complicated to even begin to unravel.

But I think at it’s core is what we allow women to make money at writing. I was a mom blogger, because no one else would give me space to write after I had my kids. I lived in Iowa. In many ways, it felt like I had to do everything a normal writer did, but backwards, in high heels, in a cornfield, and breastfeeding. So, I started a blog, started writing, and it grew from there.

I became a mom blogger after having kids. Which is a very obvious thing to write. But before that, I was just a writer. I worked for a marketing company, writing and proof editing proposals and marketing copy. And then, I worked as an editor for a love and relationships website. I left that site, after I had been working for them for five years. What happened was, I had kids, asked for a raise and a promotion was told “lol nope.”

So, I left. And for many years, just cobbled together a tiny bit of money from ads on my site and writing for sites like Babble, Mom.me, Disney Baby, and others. I syndicated my blogs on the Huffington Post. A couple of them went viral. I was featured on Good Morning America! And I often did HuffPost Live! segments.

Any woman who has ever tried to quit a full-time job and just focus on the kids and writing will laugh hysterically when you tell her that writing is so flexible. Then she will sob. Then, she will punch you in the genitals.

For six years, I took care of children full-time and would write at night or early in the morning. Basically, anything I wrote between 2011 and 2017, was written with one child around me, begging for fruit snacks.

I remember transcribing interviews for the profile I wrote of Pamela Colloff and hearing “Frozen” blaring in the background and being really embarrassed, because I thought that I had been so stealthy. When in reality, the people I interviewed probably knew what I was up to: Actual parenting.

And I should have known, because I believe it was Skip Hollandsworth, who at one point during our interview said, “How many kids do you have?” And I was like, “Oh two, how did you know?!” And he was polite enough not to say, “Because, I hear ‘Curious George’ blaring in the background you idiot.”

Here are two of my favorite stories about writing and parenting:

In 2016, I worked for Daily Dot. While there, I was working on a story about a Facebook group that was being harassed by trolls who thought they were all cheating military spouses. It was a weird story and I did a lot of interviews with the women in the group. For one interview, I had the brilliant idea to take my kids to the park, while I had the call. I live near a park, so I loaded up the double stroller with a lot of fruit snacks and I told a friend what I was up to. She met me there with her kids to help distract mine. It felt like a brilliant idea. My kids would play. I would talk. If someone got fussy, I’d toss them a fruit snack, and my friend would help. But children are not trained seals. This did not work. Instead, my small toddler son, would take his fruit snacks, dump them on the ground and yell, “MO MO FWUIT! MO FWUIT!” and so what I ended up doing was lightly jogging in a circle to get away from him, while tossing out opened bags of fruit snacks, which he’d pick up, dump out, then continue to chase me. My friend chased after him at a slow pace, calling his name and waving apologetically at me.

My other favorite story is when I was on a internet live-streamed segment with Anderson Cooper. My son was a baby then. So, I planned it for the evening, when my then-husband would be home. He would watch the kids. I’d talk on the internet. Done and done. Genius, right?

*Laughs hysterically, sobs, punches you in the genitals.*

What happened was, five minutes into the talk, my infant son started screaming. At the time, he did not take a bottle. And he also loves his mom more than anyone. And when he gets worked up, neither his father, nor the Holy Spirit can calm him. Since the entire segment was fifteen minutes, I thought maybe my husband could just hide him away for ten more minutes. I mean, the house we lived in at the time was THREE FUCKING FLOORS! This was not so. My husband brought the baby to the door of the office where I sat talking to Anderson Cooper. He proceeded to stand outside the door with the screaming baby, looking at me plaintively. You may not know about the miracle of the human body. But let me tell you, if a breastfeeding mom hears a baby cry, she lactates. So reader, I began to lactate and slowly, slowly, scrunched down in my chair to keep the evidence from showing up on air. I did that for the rest of the segment, scrunching down, calmly talking to Anderson Cooper, while my boobs leaked the elixir of life.

Sadly, the video is no longer around, but here is a CNN write up of the topic.

I remember telling this story to a journalist, who in turn told me about her first reporting trip postpartum. She was working on a story about a suspected murderer and was on her way to interview him. He lived in a small town and she wanted to pump before she talked to him. You know, to avoid lactating while she talked to a murderer. So, she had to drive to the next town over, where no one would see her. There she pumped in a parking lot. Drove back, then knocked on the man’s front door.

WOMEN REALLY CAN DO ANYTHING!

*laughs hysterically, sobs, punches the world in the genitals*

I really, really hope, my next newsletter is about Nazis. But that will be a premium one. So….