- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 21, 2005

Cecily Kellogg was carrying twin boys last fall when she became very ill, eventually losing both babies. Concerned people checked on her and spread the word of her condition, and she received hundreds of supportive e-mails.

Most of the sentiments came from people Ms. Kellogg had never met in person, but who felt as if they knew her as they checked in with her almost daily on her Web log (blog), called … And I Wasted All That Birth Control (http://zia.blogs.com/wastedbirthcontrol/), or read about the tragedy when others in the blogging community wrote about it.

“When it happened, I was getting about 3,000 to 5,000 hits (people accessing the log) a day on my blog,” says Ms. Kellogg, 37, of Philadelphia. “I was really touched by that.”

It was the latest in a chain of events that made Ms. Kellogg’s story compelling reading. A former substance abuser, she often writes about her past, her tattoos, her struggle with weight loss, her husband (who now has his own blog), politics and her hope to become a parent.

Blogging — already a force in media and politics — has found a solid place in the parenting community. Parents (and would-be parents) have yakked for years — over the back fence, at the neighborhood coffee shop, at the corner playground. Society is moving at such a fast pace, parents sometimes don’t even know their neighbors’ names, let alone their thoughts on Montessori schools or their ambivalence over having a third child.

Enter the Web log, where for a low or no cost, you can have your own forum. Call it a catchy name — some of the most popular are Zero Boss, Chez Miscarriage and This Woman’s Work — and write some short, insightful or funny observations, and you might find yourself with a following.

For the uninitiated, bloggers put it all out there, warts and all. Raw emotions in real time often make for dramatic, explicit reading. Bloggers swear, admit they may not love their husbands and detail bouts with postpartum depression.

“Blogging is a way for parents to share experiences at their own convenience,” says Julie Moos, a managing editor at the Poynter Institute, a journalism education organization in St. Petersburg, Fla. Ms. Moos is also a blogger (http://roughdraft.typepad. com/mominthemirror) and the founder of Dot Moms (http://roughdraft.typepad.com/dotmoms), an online digest and directory of parenting blogs.

“I have found it a great tool to connect with other parents,” says Ms. Moos, who is married and has a 9-year-old son. “I work long hours. I’m not home a lot. Our neighbors don’t have kids. Blogs are an interesting balance of intimacy and anonymity.”

Dot Moms links to more than 600 mom blogs and 70 dad blogs. That is just a small portion of what is online. Dave Sifrey, chief executive of Technorati, a San Francisco company that tracks blogs, says there are about 125,000 parenting blogs — up from 80,000 a few months ago.

Mr. Sifrey says blogs are a natural growth from parenting sites that feature chat rooms and message boards.

“The main difference with chat rooms and blogging is with blogging, you have to have accountability,” he says. “On a bulletin board, who knows who you are? A blog is your personal space. That URL is yours, and you start to build an identity.”

Searching some of the most popular parenting blogs has revealed some surprisingly good writers. Some are writers by trade, such as book author Jennifer Weiner (http://jenniferweiner. blogspot.com). Most blogs, however, are written by men and women with a decent command of the English language and a good story to tell.

“Blogs are definitely more interesting if someone has overcome a struggle,” Ms. Moos says. “The writer is honest about things everyone struggles with.”

Making connections

Dawn Friedman of Columbus, Ohio, is one of the parenting blog pioneers. Her blog, This Woman’s Work (www.thiswomanswork.com), has been online since January 2001. Ms. Friedman has written about her pregnancy losses, her career as a free-lance writer, home-schooling her son, Noah, and the adoption of her daughter, Madison, a year ago.

“It helps to have a plot,” Ms. Friedman says. “My hits were much higher leading up to Madison’s adoption.”

As on most blogs, Ms. Friedman has space for comments. She has heard criticism of adoption and home-schooling, but she also has made great connections with mothers who live nearby and prospective adoptive parents who live all over. She says she is surprised that some of the people with whom she has connected aren’t necessarily the type with whom she would bond in real time.

Ms. Kellogg says the same thing. Liberal politics are a popular topic on … And I Wasted All That Birth Control, but Ms. Kellogg recently polled her regular readers and found that many of them are quite conservative but like the blog because they enjoy her wit and honesty.

“That is one of the coolest things,” Ms. Kellogg says. “People of different backgrounds can come together. I’ve ended up becoming friends with right-wing, pro-life people.”

Ms. Kellogg’s pregnancy loss connected her recently with a Catholic home-schooling mother of three in Minnesota. That mom, also a blogger, made the painful decision to terminate her pregnancy after learning that the baby had severe birth defects that meant the baby couldn’t live. Ms. Kellogg was in a similar situation when, after losing one twin, trying to sustain the pregnancy with the surviving twin put her own life in danger.

“Connections like these are a testament to the amazing ability women have to overlook issues and help each other,” says Ms. Kellogg, a regular reader of about 100 blogs. “Infertility and parenting kind of rise above politics.”

People definitely are looking to make those personal connections, says Mary Chayko, assistant professor of sociology at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J. and author of the book “Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communities in the Internet Age.”

Take a general feeling of isolation, the lack of time for deep conversation and the shifting identities that parenthood brings, and you have the blog phenomenon, she says.

“Keeping a blog enables you to reveal and express your humanity to a potentially infinite number of people,” she says. “Blogging can help you understand your changing identity. It makes sense as a creative outlet.”

Blogs also make sense in the age of reality TV, Ms. Chayko says. This is an era when people enjoy both eavesdropping and self-promotion. That is why someone will readily read a blog entry on the mundane details of life such as carpooling or ear infections.

“There is this curiosity about how other people are doing things,” Ms. Chayko says. “That is why talk shows and reality TV are so popular. We’ve also become more comfortable with public displays. The private individual who stays out of the spotlight is becoming somewhat rare.”

Dads blog, too

Dads have a voice in the blogging world as well. Ben MacNeil, author of the Trixie Update (www.trixieupdate.com), has logged every detail of his toddler daughter’s life — from minutes napped to diapers changed. Jay Allen, author of Zero Boss, (www.zeroboss.com) chronicles life with his four young children.

Laid-Off Dad (http://laidoffdad.typepad.com), a 40-year-old New York City man who only gives out his blogging name, has been writing about his life with his wife and preschool-age son for about two years. He says it gave him an outlet when he was between jobs after a layoff.

Laid-Off Dad, whose blog was voted best dad blog last year by readers in the Best of Blog Awards, has since gone back to work but is still blogging. He and his wife are celebrating the home birth of their second baby, which, of course, was chronicled on the blog.

Laid-Off Dad says he has remained anonymous because he thinks blogging should be a free enterprise. He says he does not want to hold something back for fear of offending a co-worker or boss.

He has had to use similar sensibility in respecting the privacy of his young son, Robert.

“I want to have fun, but respect his dignity,” Laid-Off Dad says.

He also says that dads offer a unique perspective to the parenting jungle. Though exponentially more moms than dads are blogging, the dads still have something important to say.

“I love to write, and I love being a dad,” he says. “It is absolutely important that dads have a voice in the blogging world.”

Laid-Off Dad says any good blogger should try not to get “too narcissistic and write about ‘what I did today.’” Even if they do, however, there still will be people who will read.

“Blogs can be dull,” Laid-Off Dad says. “That’s OK. It’s all subjective because there are so many people trapped at home and doing this.”

More info:

Books —

• “Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communities in the Internet Age,” by Mary Chayko, State University of New York Press, 2002. An assistant professor of sociology at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., Ms. Chayko writes about how the Internet fosters bonds between people who have never met in person.

• “The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog,” by Rebecca Blood, Perseus Books Group, 2002. This book will help beginners set up their own blogs, touching on blog etiquette, attracting readers and making a blog stand out.

Can’t find what you’reseeking?

Check out these blog search engines:

• www.blogexplosion.com

• www.blogwise.com

• www.bloghub.com

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