As you may have heard, I attended Brit Mums Live over the weekend. For those who don't know, it's a massive convention of parent bloggers where there are presentations and panel discussions on various topics, as well as lots of brands, competitions etc.
There has been a lot of talk of "our voice" - both during the convention and since. Parent bloggers, as a group, do have a massive voice - and when they campaign, either for or against something, people sit up and listen. Parent bloggers are no longer just "mummy bloggers" seen as droning on about dirty nappies and daytime telly; the media and wider society have recognised that actually, parent bloggers often have a lot to say - a voice. Bloggers are regularly invited onto chat programs and even into TV news studios to offer their opinion on all manner of subjects; people care what they have to say, as much as any pundit or talking head.
Someone like Hayley from Downs Side Up, who has worked tirelessly to change media portrayals of people with Down's Syndrome and raised thousands for related charities through the platform blogging has afforded her (and by the way, she's bloody lovely too and completely unassuming, considering what she's achieved). Or Jennie from Edspire, who has turned unimaginable tragedy into massive fund raising and awareness of SIDS. Many more besides have used their blog to campaign and to raise awareness for conditions, situations, illnesses and charities.
But what about me? What's my voice?
Obviously, this blog is about being a single parent. When I first started out, I would write a great deal about my life with S and what we got up to, alongside dealing with my thoughts and emotions concerning my relationship with her father. As much as anything, it was just a place to try and sort out how I was feeling.
These days though... what is my blog actually about?
I don't actually feel like I fit into the "parent blogger" category; I blog about parenting, but also about lots of other things. Lately, I've been writing a lot of book reviews - many of those books are nothing to do with parenting. My most popular post is one that - although about childcare - is arguably more of a political nature than a parenting one.
I am regularly asked to contribute to radio shows about parenting issues; my local BBC station has me on several times a month, and I've also been on BBC London, Five Live and LBC talking about various issues related to parenting. The last time was more about education and Ofsted, but still very much parenting-related.
But still, I don't feel like I fit into the parent blogger category.
When I think of at whom my posts are aimed, I don't think of other bloggers. Of course, I like it when other bloggers read my posts - but I don't write with them in mind.
I don't write for other bloggers to read what I have to say on the same subject about which they've already written their own post.
I don't write for my family and friends to keep up with mine and S's shenanigans - they do that via Facebook or in person.
I try to aim my blog posts wider, at people who aren't bloggers and have never met me. Not necessarily parents, not necessarily women, not necessarily people living in social housing in a situation similar to mine. I'm not sure if that's who I always hit, but that's who I'm aiming at: just people.
I suppose really, that does make me a parent blogger - but I don't feel like one. When I went to Brit Mums Live, I didn't feel like I fit in, amongst all these women who know each other's lives through their blogs. I don't actively follow many blogs; I dip in and out of those whose Twitter feeds I follow, depending on whether the links they post catch my eye. I may well find myself ex-communicated for admitting this but to be honest, I'm more interested in ranty posts about big issues, rather than what anyone's child has been up to this week. I have nothing against other people's children; I wouldn't expect other people to be overly interested in what my child is up to either, to be fair.
While I was at Brit Mums Live, I heard one person comment, in what sounded to me like a slightly exacerbated tone, that there are just so many "new" bloggers out there these days. I think that's a great thing. I think it's great that so many parents - men and women - are finding a voice, and using it to speak about whatever the heck they like. After all, we all have a Facebook and a Twitter these days; why shouldn't we also have a blog? I've been blogging since 2000; I've found blogging to be a great way of ordering my thoughts and keeping a record of what I've been doing. It wasn't until I started this blog though, that I found my voice and what I wanted to talk about.
Perhaps this is just me having a bad case of the Groucho Marx, not wanting to join that club, wear that label. Perhaps it's just the plain and simple fact that I've never really felt like I fit in anywhere; old school playground insecurities thrust to the fore when confronted with a room filled with chatting and ebullient bloggers who all seem to already know not just each other, but each other's children's names, dates of birth and favourite places and toys.
Because really, I'm a parent and a blogger. So whatever I write about on a day-to-day basis, I'm still a parent blogger. I have a voice, and sometimes people listen to it. I suppose real question here isn't whether I'm a parent blogger, but what I want to use my parent blogger voice for. What do I want to say? And why do I think people should or would listen to me?
I would love to know your thoughts on this: what do you think of your voice? Do you feel like you fit into the parent blogger category? Are you someone who reads my blog but isn't a parent or a blogger? Do please leave a comment and let me know!