Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
Earlier this week Babble released its list of the Top Mom Blogs of 2011, and my email inbox has been abuzz ever since. My friends and I have been reading mommy blogs since we first became parents, and so we took great interest in this collection. First, we all agreed that Babble did a good job: These are definitely the most popular “mommy blogs” in the English-speaking world. But then someone pointed out: Hey, wait a sec, there is not a single Catholic blog on the list. What’s up with that?
Now, by “Catholic blog” we weren’t thinking of any blog by someone who was baptized in the Church, but a blog whose author is a practicing Catholic whose faith informs her worldview and her daily life. I wouldn’t expect for these kinds of blogs to dominate any list created by a secular site, but there are devout Mormons and Protestants in Babble’s Top 100, so you’d think there’d be at least one token Catholic. Female readers tend to enjoy hearing from people who have counter-cultural lives, and/or who are good writers, and/or who recognize beauty in daily life—Catholic moms have all of those things in spades, which only deepens the mystery of why there are none on the list.
I have wasted an embarrassing amount of time analyzing this situation this week, and have dragged friends and fellow internet nerds into the discussion as well, so I thought I’d put our efforts to good use and lay out our top theories as to why there’s so little overlap between the Catholic mom blogosphere and the general blogosphere:
Theory #1: It’s impossible for women who talk about their faith to have a large audience
There may be some truth to this, but it doesn’t fully explain it. Stephanie Nielson (#37) regularly encourages her readers to learn more about the Mormon church, and Ann Voskamp (#85) writes only about her Christian faith. Takeaway: Obviously Catholic mom bloggers shouldn’t hide their beliefs even if it would keep them off of top blogger lists, but I don’t think this would dampen the appeal of their blogs anyway—readers often find it interesting to get a glimpse into the lives of people of faith.
Theory #2: Catholics have their own language that’s confusing to others
This remains one of my top theories. When I was first exploring Christianity, I didn’t read many Catholic blogs because I could never figure out what they were talking about. These Catholic women were great writers, but when they’d do a post talking about seeing the sacristan in the narthex while praying a chaplet for the novena to St. Philomena, I would scratch my head and move on to find a blog that spoke English. Takeaway: Any Catholic blogger who’s interested in reaching out to people outside the Faith should take this into account when writing posts, and explain any terms that might be unfamiliar to non-Catholics.
Theory #3: Catholic moms are too busy to have top-quality blogs
This might have been true back when a lot of technical and design knowledge was required to have a nice-looking website, but these days there are tons of free or cheap options out there for creating beautiful blog templates in no time at all. I also don’t think it takes much longer to write posts that people will enjoy; in fact, internet readers seem to prefer posts that have an informal, rough-around-the-edges feel. Takeaway: If you have time to blog at all, then, these days, you have time to have a top-quality blog. I don’t think this is a factor for the absence of Catholics on the list.
Theory #4: Catholic moms are less likely to let it all hang out
This is undoubtedly a big one: Catholic moms have actual confessionals, and so they don’t use their blogs as confessionals the same way some of the top secular bloggers do. And, let’s face it, you’re going to get a lot more traffic by dumping all the skeletons out of your closet and onto your blog than if you hold back some of the gory details of your life. Takeaway: This is one of the reasons I doubt we’d ever see tons of blogs by Catholic women on a list like this. However, there is still a place for blogs that appeal to readers for reasons other than being extremely confessional.
Theory #5: Catholic moms don’t drop as many f-bombs
This one rang true at first, since quite a few of the top mommy bloggers are known for using language that would make a pirate blush. But when my ragtag group of blog analysts and I took a closer look, we were encouraged to find that there seems to be a trend toward readers favoring bloggers who keep it clean. Pioneer Woman (#8), Kelle Hampton (#24), Design Mom (#34), Dawn Meehan (#40), and Tsh Oxenreider (#84) are just a few of the many bloggers on the list who create fabulous posts with nary an f-bomb. Takeaway: I see a trend of readers coming to associate constant profanity with weak writing, and I think that clean language could actually be a boon to Catholic mom bloggers.
Those were the top theories we came up with, but I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think that any of these quite explain it. I mean, I look at sites like Light and Momentary; Testosterhome; Barefoot and Pregnant; House Unseen; Our Mothers, Our Daughters; Milehimama; and In the Heart of My Home (to name just a few fabulous sites by faithful Catholic mothers), and I end up just scratching my head about why there aren’t more sites that break out of the Catholic blogosphere and appeal to a wider audience.
When you are a blogger, a Catholic, a mother, a nerd, and a person who has far too few opportunities to put that college degree in internet marketing to use, this is the sort of thing that keeps you up at night. So I ask: Anyone else have any theories?
And for those of you who are wondering, “Who cares?” (yes, I heard that!), here’s why it matters: Many women feel lost and confused when they first have children, and often don’t have an extensive network of fellow moms in their local area. The blog world has become the new “water well” where women gather to share stories, make connections, and offer one another support, and thus it ends up being a big influence in terms of how modern women perceive motherhood. Here in our culture that is so confused about what motherhood—as well as marriage, and womanhood in general—are all about, I think it’s of the utmost importance that we have at least a few Catholic voices in the marketplace of ideas.