There was some talk last week about mommyblogger bashing. I don’t think the bloggers in question need any help defending themselves, but hearing that these entertaining, engaging writers are being criticized for the perceived triviality of their subject matter has got me thinking about what it is that makes this type of writing worthwhile.
While we were visiting my parents I went through some boxes of my old stuff and found a book I read as a teenager, Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience. I don’t remember the specifics of the book, except that as I read it I had the strong sense that every detail of life was full of something transcendent; that the mundane tasks of everyday life were much more important than you’d think.
I’d kind of forgotten that this book existed, and I haven’t re-read it yet, but I bet that when I do, I’ll find that over the past 15 years a lot of its ideas have gotten rolled into the way I look at the world. (Also,as always happens when I re-read something like this, I’ll find plenty of drivel to be embarrassed about having swallowed uncritically as a wide-eyed youth.)
Which is a roundabout way of saying that I think this kind of writing (blogging about personal life in general and conceiving/adopting/raising kids in particular) has value of a kind that I don’t think people talk about much. It is important in a way that goes beyond entertainment (a fine reason for blogging if you’re funny and a good writer) or community building (a function for which I’m also grateful).
What I want to say is that by noticing and writing about the daily details, we are getting at something transcendent. I don’t exactly mean that I think an image of the Holy Virgin is going to appear in the swirl of leftover peanut butter on my kid’s high chair tray. But sort of like that.
It matters that you know about my ugly dishrags and I know that your kid pooped in the tub and your babysitter quit and what wore you out last week and what you’re scheming to do next and how little you’ve been sleeping. Not just because these might make good stories, and not just because we are getting to know each other, but because the tapestry of all this together has beauty, the kind of beauty that gets us all a tiny bit farther toward figuring out what it’s all about.
The cheese cubes and the hostas and the stain removal and the cute toddler words are not all there is in the world. Writing of all sorts is better if we keep some kind of broader context (like, one that includes all kinds of people not exactly like ourselves and not even like our audience) in mind. The world would not get any better, and would probably get much worse, if no smart person were writing anything but mommyblogs. But also, the world would be worse—for me, and maybe for lots of others not quite like me—if no one were writing them.