Monday, March 3, 2014

Popularity and Choosing a New Blog Template

This morning, I went looking for a new template for my blog. I wanted something minimalist and trendy, something with cute graphics that look like stitching. I was beginning to feel dated and that is death to a blog, right? I fear I'm falling off the social ladder in the world of mom blogs.

Seriously, sometimes the arena of mom blogs reminds me of a high school popularity contest.

You remember, I'm sure. At the top of the ladder was the girl whose parents had lots of money and lived in a big house in the part of town that boasted the clean swimming pool. She always had the brand-name clothes, the right hair (for me in the early nineties, that meant a spiral perm) and the right friends. Her parents threw lavish birthday parties, and she led every major school club and committee. Heads turned as she passed in the hallway at school, and everyone knew her locker number.

On the second rung were the "right friends." A small, elite circle, these girls weren't the very top but they were close enough. They hung out in tight bands and laughed loudly at the inside jokes that nobody but they knew. They organized prom. They had cute boyfriends with whom they publicly flirted, and they vied for homecoming court. They showed the whites of their eyes to anyone trying to enter their circles.

Then, there were the rest of us. In a big school like mine, you could organize yourselves into the band geeks, the theater nerds, or the jocks to try to scrape together an identity. Sometimes, like me, you felt completely invisible as you walked down the hallways of the school.

Now, we don't have high school; we have mom blogs. At the top is Pioneer Woman with her book deals and her appearances on the View. Next, there are blogs like Jen Hatmaker, Vitafamiliae or Rage Against the Minivan. Instead of the right hair and clothes, they have to use purchased domain names, templates costing thousands to design (made by "my good friend so-and-so") and photos from pro photographers. It's important to have a large, crazy family, to homeschool or work from home, and it helps to have adopted transracially. They measure success in pageviews and ad revenue. They write witty, self-deprecating guest posts for each other about how we need to go easy on ourselves as moms and what peanut butter looks like when smeared on the walls. Their photos show lavish birthday parties lighted with hundreds of tea candles. They attend BlogHer conferences.

Then, there are the rest of us. The bloggers using free templates that haven't changed since 2004. The ones who post five posts using the last 48 photos taken on our iPhones and then don't post again for three months. The ones whose birthday parties involve getting a balloon at the Dollar Tree.

I've been having quite a few internal conversations with God about this issue. They range from "Why, God? Why can I never make it? Why do I have to scrape for grocery money when I could have a few viral posts and make a couple of hundred dollars? I have a trendy transracial adoption, you know, God. I have a special needs kid too. That helps. I can write witty posts if I bother to try. Why not me, God?"

Then I swing to thinking that the last thing I need in my busy life is fame! I wonder if it's just reactionary, since everybody likes fame, right? Everyone wants to come across Facebook posts sharing a blog post and commenting, "Oh, I love her blog!" But I get to thinking, do I really want to work that hard? Do I want to come up with "content" for my blog in order to maintain a crazy high stat count? Do I want to deal with the negative comments and criticism that inevitably comes with media attention? Do I want to worry about keeping up with the trends of a fast-changing internet social elite?

No. In a word.

I used to tell myself in high school that I probably could be popular if I really wanted to. Maybe. But who wants to work that hard? I'd take the moral high road in my mind and call the popular girls petty. After all, I was raising my little sister, a noble work indeed.

In moments of despondency, I knew I probably couldn't be popular even if I tried, and why try only to fail? It was hard enough work just to be average, with an unnoticed eye condition, a family life that was difficult at best and a determination to get good grades and escape to college.

In blogger-land, I find myself reacting in a similar style. I have a lot to do without playing the blog popularity games. I don't blog in order to save other disabled people from utter despair. I don't blog in order to beat the other mom bloggers in page-hit numbers. Last year, I made two cents in ad revenue.

Gently, as He does, God started speaking to my heart. He has given me a glorious vocation; even if I still feel invisible, He sees me. Even if only a few friends read my blog; even if I get no comments, my blog is a record of that occupation, that calling. I write for me, because I want to record these precious, beautiful days. I share it because I have read other blogs that I find encouraging or delightful or insightful, and I want to be friends with other moms out there who walk a parallel road.

Will I ever be the popular mom blogger? Doubtful, and I'm actually totally okay with that. I'm learning that I'm not invisible, but neither do I need to resent those higher on the social ladder than myself. I am loved, and I matter, if only to a meaningful few.

Lately, I've taken this beautiful verse about contentment as my own:

Psalm 16:5-6 (NIV)
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I decided to leave my blog template the way it is, because it makes me happy when I log into my blog and see it. :)


  1. I LOVE reading your blog. You provide me with inspiration and friendship. Don't become so popular that you forget me (us) in the mix :)

  2. I also enjoy reading your blog, and it has provided me with food for thought as well as teaching me through your shared experience. Also, though I read one or two of those higher profile blogs you mentioned, they don't have the personal aspect that yours does for me--because I know you. And I am happy you left your template as is. It makes me happy too. I love the verse you posted. In short, please don't stop sharing, and yes, you are loved!

  3. This Anna agrees with that one.^. Of course I love me some Jen Hatmaker and Pioneer Woman really does have some great recipes. Wink. I don't know. I've settled into a comfortable place of blogging when it works out. I am glad you are working though your feelings and want you to know that, well, you do have important things to share and I know I could never call Jen or Ann or Pioneer woman a friend, but I am pretty sure I can call you a friend, and a girl can never have too many of those now can she?

  4. I came to your blog because I saw from a comment you'd posted elsewhere that you were another Suzuki mum. And then I kept reading because you had an authentic voice that wasn't writing competitively. I'm in the UK, so I'm unaware of the other blogs you mention, but I find that sort of uber-perfect blogging style and presentation very offputting.
    I do find your writing inspirational.