Swag, Drama, and Claw Marks: The Truth Behind Mom Blogging and The Type A Mom Conference

NOTE: This post is long and may be upsetting to some

ASHVILLE, NC—The world of mommy blogging has gained a great deal of attention, while launching the careers of many successful women in a wide range of fields. But underneath the glitz and glamour is a rumored pile of dirty laundry that all the free washing machines and detergent samples these moms receive can’t scrub clean. Stories of illegal underground cat fights, swag addiction, blogs-gone-wild parties, and brand blackmailing are just a few of the allegations that have turned up like loose change in a lint trap.

To investigate this murky underworld, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, the site of the Type A Mom Conference where hundreds of women would be gathering in the name of professional blogging. Interestingly, this event also offered sessions for dads who have the url’s and balls to show up, which I assumed to be a trap given that the spotlight had recently shifted from the moms after Jessica Smith, now Director of Social Influence at Planit, predicted 2010 to be “Year of the Daddy Blogger.”

Not wanting to end up stashed in a dumpster full of discarded, second-rate swag after being hammed to a pulp by a vindictive, man-hating mob wielding the latest in meat tenderizing technology, I disguised myself and joined fellow dad blogger and #DadStalking proprietor (formerly DadsTalking), Jim Turner (@Genuine) to root out the seedy truth. What we witnessed was shocking.

I anticipated that the first opportunity to observe trouble would occur during registration since long lines, paperwork errors, and swag envy are perfect for setting off a tinderbox of flaming emotion, pushing women to claw each other’s eyes out. After loading my purse full of gauze and Neosporin helpful in treating the cuts and scratches, I adjusted my sock-stuffed bra and headed downstairs to check in.

Sadly, the Braveheart-esque scene I imagined, with female web-warriors, faces streaked with blue paint, pummeling their foes in a swag-gasm induced melee was nowhere to be found. Instead, I waded through a lobby full of ladies who were laughing and hugging like girls in a yet-to-be filmed, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants reunion. I might have fallen for the sincerity of it too had it not been for the mother who was offering to give away the free Build-A-Bear being handed out, to anyone with two kids. Oh, right. Like that would ever happen for real.

Obviously, this Mother Teresa of Swag was a plant meant to instigate conflict throughout the entire three-day, wild rumpus. However, when she couldn’t get the job done, I decided to do it myself by throwing a hissy fit after being told my name badge couldn’t be found. This earned strange looks promising confrontation, but this inevitability was stymied by a young lady who congratulated me on being “a survivor,” a remark that confused me until I realized my left “breast” had slipped out of place and was now lodged in the elastic waistband of my dress. These women were tricky.

Registration may have been uneventful, but I was confident the breakout sessions, often considered to be fluff at many conferences, would prove true to form. I also expected the content of these panels to be tailored specifically for moms and laced with feminist rhetoric. In order to quantify this, I tracked the number of times words like “women,” “moms,” and “bastard men” were used by the speakers. Yet, to my dismay, the sum total of these utterances proved to be scant, and the information presented was anything but fluff as experts sharing tips on topics ranging from putting together media kits to avoiding legal complications associated with blogging.

Wait. Doth mine eyes deceive me? Is that an entire track meant to educate brands and small companies on how to effectively use social media and work with bloggers? (See a full list here)

What’s more, 99% of everything I heard directly applied to dad bloggers, causing me to wonder why those of us on a broad scale who are serious about blogging, whether for business or otherwise, have not yet reached the level of savviness exhibited thus far at the Type A Mom Conference. Regardless of my search for the sordid truth behind mommy blogging, I had to admit, these topic were exactly what should’ve been covered at the dad-specific event held two weeks earlier. (To be fair, however, it has recently been discovered that the Atlanta conference was actually a front used by Sheik Dawid Tali to funnel money through a Colorado-based business into an account funding the controversial Ground Zero mosque in New York City.)

Preparing for next day’s sessions, I shared these thoughts concerning this knowledge gap between dad and mom bloggers with my bosom buddy, Jim Tuner as he painted his nails with a clear coat of polish and I duct-taped a fresh ball of socks into the wireless cross-your-heart on loan from my wife. We talked about this issue for hours, yapping awake until 2 a.m. like a couple of girls at a slumber party, and arrived at several workable conclussions.

Despite being thrown off guard by what I had observed during the early part of the conference, I felt sure day two would play out differently, especially since the Dad Track sessions were on tap. Slated for discussion were matters dealing with quality content, blogging basics, the state of the dadosphere, and a presentation I was particularly keen to attend, "What Daddy Bloggers Can Learn from the Moms."

This was the session I expected would erupt into a man bashing free-for-all, given the logical animosity moms harbored towards dads for stealing their thunder this year. The probability of this happening only increased when, hours earlier, CNN aired the interview Josh Levs conducted with over half the dad bloggers at the M3 Summit, all six of whom were featured in the nationally televised segment. That Levs opened up his report by referring to dad blogging as a business venture, only upped the odds of bloodshed that much more.

Representing the mom side of the topic was respected blogger and frequent speaker, Megan Jordan (Velveteen Mind / @Velveteen Mind), who is well-known for her clear platform of moms owning their blogging efforts rather than complaining about unfair business practices and petty differences. Joining the Velveteen Mind was some pompous jerk with bad hair and a Clark Kent fetish, an assessment vindicated by his arrogant declaration that 2010 was not the Year of the Daddy Blogger.

From here, this “Clark Punk” elaborated on his premise by questioning whether the growing number of dad bloggers have, with a few exceptions, squandered their time in the limelight because they have expected opportunities and demanded attention based on the credibility of Jessica Smith’s prediction, rather than taking the initiative to make this happen on their own.

Co-panelist Jordan followed this point by comparing dad bloggers to virgins looking to get laid (figuratively) in the blog world. Her hilarious metaphor drew big laughs, and made things memorable especially when she likened moms to VH1's The Pickup Artist. Building on this, both speakers pointed out that if dads wanted to get past third base, they needed to dress the part (have professional looking blogs), exude self-confidence (a clear purpose for blogging), know the dating scene (be savvy to blogging issues), be able to talk to “the ladies” (deal with brands, PR, marketers, etc), make their move (achieve their stated purpose for blogging).

The presentation droned on, but frankly, Clark Kent, the token Y-chromosome, was so boring I tuned him out (knowing he’d post the slides on SlideShare later next week anyway). Still, it did spur a lot of discussion amongst the large audience which consisted primarily of moms but only five dads—Jim Turner, Clay Nichols (DadLabs), Ryan Boyles, Adam Reich, and Megan’s father who was really just waiting for her to finish up so they could go to dinner afterward. (It should be noted that the last three on the list didn’t consider themselves to be dad bloggers.)

Throughout the conference, whenever the topic of daddy bloggers came up, either in a panel or in individual conversation, so too did the suggestion of using the more inclusive term parent bloggers. Regardless of my real opinion, I had no choice to but to agree publically when asked. I was, after all, wearing a large blonde wig and size 17 dress. Still, I thought it suspicious to hear so many mom bloggers—the business-minded ones—so receptive to collaborating with their dad counterparts.

This has to be an act. Where was the pettiness and corruption said to go hand-in-hand with this racket? Where were the snack-cakes-for-blog-posts deals supposedly going on under the table between desperate moms and big name sponsors like Little Debbie, My Little Pony, and POM? I had expected to see The Real Housewives of Mommy Blogging, but instead this was turning out to be some positive combination of Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal, and Lipstick Jungle sprinkled with a pinch of Parks and Recreation.

It was time to get the real story. It was time to go to the woman behind this nonsense, Type A Mom founder and organizer, Kelby Carr. Luckily, I was able to sit down and talk with her, giving my swollen ankles a rest from the new heels I bought to show off this weekend.

From Carr’s laid back and very un-type A demeanor, I could tell she was going to be a tough nut to crack, and my Spidey-senses started tingling (that or it was my thighs chaffing from the Spanx I was wearing under my outfit) whenever she made reaffirming comments concerning the potential of dad blogging.

"I wish more dad bloggers would get involved because it would encourage moms to not be afraid to treat their own sites as a business," Carr claimed as we wrapped up our discussion.

But if Carr thought the nearly two hours she spent discussing the dad-o-sphere with me would convince me of her genuineness, then her modem must have been offline. Given the time Carr afforded me, I could tell when she was giving me the blog’s rush, and I wasn’t buying the act.

Nor was I buying it when others like Carol Cain (NYCity Mama), Anissa Mayhew, (Free Anissa), Jennifer Miner (The Vacation Gals), Ilina Ewen (iFactor), Sarah Bockenek (Sarah and the Goon Squad), Heather Solos (Home Ec 101), Laurie Smithwick (Kirtsy), Deb Ng, Patti Hosking (both from Blogworld), and, web-woman pioneer Aliza Sherman (Conversify) all engaged me on the topic.

Considering the amount of insights these (and many other) smart, fun, and intelligent women shared, it was clear they were under the impression that they were helping a fellow sister out which I took as a great compliment to my skills at hiding five o’clock shadow with the right application of foundation and rouge. In fact, I did such a good job, Love That Max blogger, Jane Smith* (pseudo-name used for privacy reasons) included me in her photo story celebrating women and body image.

To close the Type A Mom Conference, Aliza Sherman told the inspiring story of her career and experiences, which even I had to applaud and not because of the get-up I was using to conceal my true identity. Sitting back down, I reviewed my notes from the past few days, and contrary to my original expectations, there was little if any evidence that could be used to expose these mom bloggers for what they supposedly were.

There was no visible drama, no amateur antics, no bland content, no blogger exploitation—far as I could tell anyway. Could it be that these aren’t the mommy bloggers I’m looking for? On the surface these ladies seemed to defy the stigma often associated with the mommy blogger moniker, and instead they were simply moms who blog as part of a larger professional endeavor.

Assuming that’s the case and for as much as this cynical investigative reporter hates to admit, then it would be true that a distance gap exists between mom bloggers and dads. There are exceptions to this, but as a whole, it appears dads need to play catch up.

Maybe that little Clark Kent bitch wasn’t far off when he concluded his panel by saying dads—the serious ones—have treated The Year of the Daddy Blogger like a twelve-month long, blog-world version of Father’s Day, where they sit in front of their monitors watching the “game” and holler for someone to bring them a beer in the form of brands because they feel entitled to it. 2010 is nearly over, thus, if we dad bloggers want to be recognized by companies, (become a consultant, get writing gigs, land a book deal, etc) then using the above analogy, we should treat 2011 as the Monday following the holiday and get to work.

Whatever the case, I walked away from the conference without the story I had planned. By now, though, it really didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was get out the skirt I had on. It was too tight, and I kept getting my panties bunched up in a wad.

UPDATE: Two minutes after this post dropped, Clay Nichols (@DaddyClay) of DadLabs published a related post entitled "Do Dad Bloggers Suck?" It's a must read.

UPDATE 2: @Backpacking Dad has also added to the conversation with his post "Why Don't Dads Read Dad Blogs."

Photo credit: CK_Lunchbox and VelveteenMind courtesy theRab

*** Upcoming Post – Type A Mom Conference Takeaways (much shorter) ***

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