Having a bad day in the parenting trenches? Yeah, been there; done that. But as bad a day as any of us has had, we can take huge comfort in the fact we're not having the day Bethany Kriger Thies had at Walmart recently. (Spoiler alert: It involved blood and vomit. And Thies may have accidentally flashed the cashier.)
Talk about a less-than-ideal mom moment. But public humiliation is just grist for the comedic mill that feeds Thies' blog, appropriately titled Bad Parenting Moments, where she has chronicled her life for the last two and a half years as mom to three girls and a boy, ages 8, 6, 4 and 2, who provide endless "inspiration" for her occasionally harrowing and typically hilarious tales. Proof positive that, as Nietzsche might have said had he been a blogger, "that which thoroughly embarrasses us, makes for a helluva good blog post."
"No harm can ever come from laughing," Thies says from her home in Brattleboro, Vermont. "As bad as something is, if the silver lining can be laughing at yourself, then that's a great silver lining."
A hefty stock of those "silver linings" is what keeps her readers coming back to her essay-filled blog, which grew organically (this is Vermont, after all) out of a secret Facebook support group for moms that Thies formed shortly after her fourth child was born.
"I wanted a space where I could say, 'Listen, I just told my son, "Outside Is Closed," because I couldn't get myself together to face the world with my little children.' And where I wouldn't get 'You're an awful mother!' but rather 'Oh, we've all been there,'" Thies says. "I wanted a space to help build up mothers in their weak moments."
Thies still moderates the secret group (where posts are visible only to group members) that birthed her blog, even as its ranks have swelled from 20 moms to 750.
"They're really so good to each other in there," Thies says. "People can say anything and get nothing but love and encouragement and support. That is rare on the Internet."
These days, Thies gets her fair share of Internet meanness mixed in with the "Hang in, girlfriend" comments on her blog. But she continues, undaunted, to post her writerly takes on the good, the sweet, the real and the occasionally ugly stuff of child-rearing, marriage and family life.
"I love parenting," Thies says. "I wouldn't want anyone to think otherwise. But I don't love every moment of parenting. Parenting is wonderful. It's also terrible. But isn't life like that? That's what I try to write about. I feel that the more transparent we are, the more connected we are. If more mothers were brutally honest about the minutiae of motherhood ... if we gave each other that gift of honesty, people wouldn't feel so alone. Putting everything out there makes us human. And I don't think we can be too human."
Thies is all about keeping it real, so it's no surprise that she seeks out other bloggers who do likewise. Three she has bookmarked are:
Wondering what those numbers in this blog title mean? Blogger Janel Mills, who works as an academic librarian, plucked them from the Dewey Decimal System: 649.133 is the number for books about raising girls. And she's raising three of them—Phaedra, Surrey and Bellatrix (Bella for short, and, yes, she copped that from J.K. Rowling). A contributor to several anthologies, a regular on NickMom and a member of the 2014 Detroit cast of "Listen To Your Mother," Mills is a smart writer and a consistently excellent read. She writes funny pieces and rants, and posts funny videos about her "Mom Hauls" from Target. And she curses a lot. And then she turns around and pens these beautiful, introspective essays, like the one about how raising Bella, who's on the autism spectrum, has taught her to stop caring about what strangers think of her parenting skills and be the parent her daughter needs. That's such an amazing message for parents to read. You never know what you're going to get when you go to Mills' blog. It's like a Cracker Jack box. But you don't have to dig for the prize. It's all wonderful.
Along with her beautiful writing, what I love most about Emily Ballard's eponymous blog is that she's inspirational ... without making you feel bad about yourself. I love coming back to the posts where she talks about how she handled her son's epic tantrum or goes off about not prefacing mommy rants with "I love my kid, but ..." or acknowledges that the joys of parenthood don't stop once the kids are grown up, so we shouldn't feel guilty if we're not savoring every single second of every single day. She's always like "I'm flawed. You're flawed. Let's try to get better." She makes you want to do better—without rolling your eyes, which is difficult to do. She's a master.
Jenny Isenman, aka Jenny From the Blog, is flat-out hysterical. A humor columnist for South Florida Parenting magazine, a featured writer on The Huffington Post, a columnist for The Stir, and a regular on-air contributor for NBC, CBS and Fox, Jenny has the most irreverent sense of humor. Check out her "advice" on how to screw up your kids (No. 8: "Tell the kids to sleep with their mouths closed; the Tooth Fairy is a kleptomaniac"). Or the time she went just a little berserk when her daughter got lice. And her reports from sleep-away camp, where she tagged along with her kids this summer. I mean, who does that? You won't want to miss her showing off her mad swimming skillz in the Swim Test Video! ("OMG! How do kids do this?!? Uh-oh, my boob just came out. That's not good.") But one of my all-time favorites is Things We Did in the '70s and '80s That Would Horrify Us Now. I love "look-back" pieces. This one just nails it for '70s and '80s culture. Using SPF 4 "sunscreen," driving without seat belts, playing outside till after dark, buying cigarettes for your parents ... oh, the list goes on. Funny!