As one of the early blogs to strike a chord with exhausted new moms who were baffled by why motherhood didn't feel like the best thing ever, Scary Mommy originally started in 2008 as a way for Jill Smokler to track all the adorable things her three children would do — things she'd never remember to scribble down in those baby memory books.
"I am terrible about keeping baby books," Smokler admits. "I could never get myself to commit to doing any more than shoving the well-baby check into a shoebox — if I happened to remember that."
In fact, Smokler had zero expectations that she'd even stick with the blog. She'd started it on a whim after another friend began blogging, and she fully expected she'd eventually lose interest and move on to something else.
"I am a serial starter of a million different pet projects," she says, laughing. "I started a graphic design company. I started a line of bath products, pretending to be a chemist and mixing things on my kitchen table. I had an online kitchen store. I've had a million different things. My first blog post was an apology to friends and family for one more thing they had to follow along with that would inevitably peter out."
Fortunately for the legions of moms gobsmacked by parenthood, Scary Mommy didn't peter out. Instead, Smokler's funny, sarcastic, occasionally poignant, always honest blog has become a beacon of sanity to every frustrated mom who's ever wondered, "Is it just me???"
"With each of my three kids, I always felt like I was the only one who wasn't doing everything right and wasn't just happily experiencing motherhood every step along the way," Smokler says. "It's the worst feeling and so isolating because everyone else always seemed hunky-dory all the time."
But you know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention. Needing a place to feel OK about how she was going about being a mom, Smokler pulled herself up by her nursing-bra straps and created it herself. She penned the Scary Mommy Manifesto, a long list of I Shalls that starts with the promise to "maintain a sense of humor about all things motherhood, for without it, I recognize that I may end up institutionalized" and concludes "I shall remember that no mother is perfect, and my children will thrive because, and sometimes even in spite of, me."
Very quickly, Smokler realized she was on to something much bigger than a blog about her own ups and downs. Other moms wanted and needed a place to share their stories, too. She opened her blog up to guest bloggers in 2010 to better reflect the broad range of mothering experiences. A year later, she added message boards so community members could interact with each other, and she added The Confessional, where readers vent anonymously about their "mommy sins" in 225 characters or less (and where confessions can range from one mama's worries that her baby will be ugly to another's concern that someone will guess her husband is not her baby's daddy).
"It's very therapeutic to get something off your chest and know that it can't be traced back to you and you won't be judged for it," Smokler says. "When you feel like you're the only person in the world who's ever experienced something, having people say, 'Me too,' can be very helpful. There's always someone who's done the same thing — or worse. You're much less alone than you think you are."
That sense of greater community extends far beyond her blog. After seeing a flurry of messages on The Confessional from members worrying about having food for Thanksgiving, Smokler formed her nonprofit Scary Mommy Nation to help provide dinners to those who were struggling. The first year, she fed more than 400 families; last year, her third, she and her supporters provided dinner for nearly 3,000 families.
And somehow along the way from baby blogger to philanthropist, the Baltimore dynamo also managed to write two books: the bestselling "Confessions of a Scary Mommy" and "Motherhood Comes Naturally And Other Vicious Lies." So what does a Scary Mommy read when she finds herself with a rare quiet moment? Though she likened choosing her favorite blogs to "choosing a favorite child," Smokler says these three writers are always top of mind:
Allison is one of my favorite voices. I pretty much love everything she's ever written, and nothing makes me happier than when she emails saying, "I have something for Scary Mommy." The way she writes about her kids, her point of view, the lessons she's learned, like the Five Inevitable, Slightly Harrowing Truths of Parenting, is so relatable. I think they're the commonalities that bond all mothers. And I just loved Five Reasons To Have One More Baby because up until two years ago, I was very much on the fence about whether I wanted another baby, and many of my friends were asking themselves the same question. I ultimately decided I didn't, and I'm 100 percent committed to my decision, but Allison really captured the idea that "Yes, it's more stress, more money, more responsibility. But it's all good because it's a baby! So, yes, you should have another!" I loved that.
I found Australian blogger Shannon Meyerkort when I was trying to write a post on the benefits of having three kids. I got to No. 8 and couldn't think of anything else. When I Googled "Why have three kids" to see if I could get some inspiration, I came across Shannon's blog post The Truth About Having Three Kids. From there, I fell in love with her writing — about the frustrations of being a middle child and who she was before she had kids. She writes the way I wish I could write these days. She's so prolific, and everything she writes, I believe too. I wish I could just slap my name on her posts. But the next best thing is being able to post her on the site, so I do that.
I don't follow many dad bloggers, but I follow Jerry Mahoney. Jerry is so funny and so charming, even when writing about a daunting topic like explaining gay parents to your kids. It's impossible not to fall in love with him through his writing. With posts like Five More Secrets I Keep From My Kids and The Five People You Meet As A Gay Dad (and his new book, "Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay SuperDad"), he reminds me how similar the parenting experience can be. I'm always focusing on how different my husband Jeff and I are; how I do everything better and he does everything worse. Jerry writes about things that I write about or could write about, but his perspective is entirely different. It's nice to be reminded that the sexes can be much more alike than I think.