"Photographer by trade, mom by surprise" is the tagline on Brenna Jennings's comically honest parenting blog. But she might as well add "mommy blogger by default." Most mom bloggers have a baby and then start blogging about the funny things that happen along the way from birth to college. But not Jennings. The displaced New Yorker had been blogging about life in coastal New England for two years before she discovered she was pregnant with her daughter Anna, now 6.
"I suppose I shouldn't say I was surprised since I know how biology works, Jennings deadpans. "But Anna is a third-generation accident."
That is classic Jennings—wry and dry. Just like her blog, Suburban Snapshots, where she posts such writerly snark about the frustrations of parenting that even when she's schooling us on why a particular stage of childhood is absolutely miserable, her rants—er ... rather, her observations—are eloquent, courteous and riotously matter-of-fact.
Take her 2010 post 10 Reasons Having A Toddler is Like Being At A Frat party, a spot-on comparison that includes such gems as "It's best not to assume that the person closest to you has any control over their digestive function."
Pretty polite, eh? Every parent blogger who's ever gone big can tell you the post that put them on the proverbial map, and for Jennings, that one was it.
"I wrote that in 20 minutes, sitting on the couch," she remembers. "When I posted Toddler/Frat Party, I had 32 fans, and most of them were family. I didn't even have a Facebook page. The next day, people were texting me that friends of theirs had posted it and that it had showed up on their neighborhood moms board."
"I don't think I'm very original," Jennings demurs (all evidence to the contrary). "The stuff that hits me is usually based on somebody else's funny creation, and I think, 'Oh! I can turn that into a mom thing.' I'm just not disciplined enough to sit and think these things up. But I do have fun with it."
Indeed, Jennings is all about the fun. Not surprisingly, the blogs she seeks out are heavy on the wit and sarcasm as well. A few of her favorites:
" 'Dad and Buried' blogger Mike Julianelle and I were following each other on Twitter before we realized we knew each other. We'd worked together back in our 20s in Boston. I like having a dad to read who has a similar attitude to mine on things like avoiding most parenting advice and not freaking out about not having a life after kids. But Mike, who's really upfront about being 'a 30-something Brooklynite ... bitching about the ways the existence of his son ... is destroying his social life,' is a little more cutting than I am. He'll write, 'My kid's an a------.' I'm terrified to write that. If I don't hear about it from my mother-in-law, I'll get 15 comments about it. Maybe it's because he's a guy or it's his writing style, but his audience expects that, so he has the liberty to do that. But then he also has really touching moments about his son that are very much in the voice of 'I'm a crabby a------ with a heart of gold' that are nice to read as well."
"Meg Ables found me after my Toddler/Frat post took off and started commenting frequently on my blog. She's a funny, down-to-earth, early-40s mom of three, and she appeals to me because she has no agenda. For instance, I love how she takes a story we've all lived some version of—throwing away a beloved something because the kids at school said it was uncool—and brings it back to parenting. Or how she compares what a girl looks for in a guy when she's dating to what she really values in a husband (in Meg's case, the willingness to don a rabbit suit and play Easter Bunny to 20 munchkins). And because I'm guessing lots of husbands think we mom bloggers just revel in husband-bashing, I love her adoring post about how quick-thinking Dad saved the day when their son's cherished Blue Bear was AWOL at nap time."
"I've been following Bridget McCarthy for about four years. She can write an entire post about how the mere possibility of sex can miraculously cure the 'man cold,' or the time she had to explain to a dietitian why she doesn't eat most fruits and vegetables ... sounding pickier than the pickiest toddler in the process. But blogs are a weird way to follow someone's life. You get it in these tiny bits of time, then all of a sudden, a big event can happen. Two years ago, Bridget lost her 11-year-old daughter, Avery, in a car accident. Her post about getting the news, the way she writes about the police coming to her house, just crushes your soul. I remember reading on Facebook, 'We lost Dotter last night.' (Dotter — Swedish for daughter — was the blog name she used for Avery.) But your brain does that weird thing where it tries to buffer terrible news. I thought, 'I must have been reading her blog all wrong; Dotter must be a pet, not a girl.' Because you just don't want to think the unthinkable could happen. Avery's death echoes through the blog, though there's still humor too. I was drawn to Bridget because she wrote what she was living, and she still writes what she's living. After watching someone's life change so abruptly, I want to stay around with her to see how it changes now, more slowly, and where she takes her life."