“I’m Ready To Move On.” Rebecca Eckler On The “Mommy Mob” And Starting A More Private Life
As popular columnist and author of nine books, Rebecca Eckler has spun a career out of writing about being Rebecca Eckler. Now, 20 years later, 10 spent chronicling the travails of parenthood, she’s ready to leave the public eye. But first, she has a few choice words for all the nasty trolls.
In 2005, National Post ran the headline "Rebecca Eckler is Pregnant," effectively launching her career as a “mommy blogger.” But Eckler’s articles on motherhood tapped into a vein of angry commenters -- an online community of disapproving fellow moms, many of whom Eckler skewers in her latest novel, “The Mommy Mob: Inside the Outrageous World of Mommy Bloggers.”
Who are the Mommy Mob and when did you first come across them?
The Mommy Mob are mothers who transform behind a computer screen. They become judgmental, insane sometimes, and really, REALLY rude.
Ten years ago, when I had Rowan, I felt that mothers were much more compassionate. When I started blogging about motherhood and parenting, they were really happy to hear my thoughts. It's very isolating in the first year. And people were very supportive, especially when I admitted to Post Partum and The C-Section.
Then, slowly, over the years -- and especially in the last couple years -- with so many mommy bloggers and commenters, it was like watching "When Animals Attack!"
We need better etiquette, and with this book I'm hoping that mothers can see that there's no right or wrong way to be a parent. Unfortunately the Mommy Mob does believe there is only one right way: their way!
Do you think your experience is different because you’ve made yourself into a media personality? Wouldn’t it be different if you were just some random mom typing away on a personal Wordpress blog?
I think [I get a strong reaction] because I focus on little things, or things people think but don't have the platform to write. Many mothers, obviously, aren't writers. But I do know for a fact that when I talk to my girlfriends, we all laugh at everything that is in the book, and all the topics. They are not media people.
It would be a sweeping generalization to say ALL mothers are judgmental and maniacal. But with the Internet, it's like they are two people: In real life, and behind the screen. I think, also, in this day and age, everyone wants their '15 minutes of fame.' For some, that’s commenting on a mommy blog.
I'm sure most mommy bloggers do want an audience. They just have to work it! Or why else put it up on the Internet? Keep a journal!
But when you make yourself the subject, you are asking for personal feedback, right?
Feedback, yes. Conversation, yes. Disagree? Fine. But to go out and call me a 'slut' because I'm not married, or that my daughter is going to FAIL at life, because I help her out with homework? It's just not nice. It's not common courtesy. And that is what amazes me. There's a way to disagree without attacking.
People are just awful on the internet. Someone actually commented that my son should be eaten by an alligator because I took a vacation.
That vacation story was interesting because you seemed to be writing it because you knew that leaving your 10 week-old to go to Mexico for a few days would be controversial.
Actually, it's really interesting. I didn't mean to cause so much controversy. And the truth is, I was already back from my vacation when that was posted. A lot of people don't understand the media as well. So I had to laugh, because I had been back for almost a week, and then the sh*tstorm came. But I was already home. Baby was still a lovely blob.
But you sound so surprised when people react that way -- aren't you trying to start a debate with your pieces?
Of course I want responses, I suppose. What's the point of writing if no one is reading, if you are a writer? But I really only want to start conversations, not roll with the trolls!
Also, I just want to point out that the Mommy Mob, or a lot of moms these days, think they are experts...just because they had children. No two children are alike, just like snowflakes. What works for you may not work for me. What works for me, may not work for your children.
You write a lot about outsourcing parenting or doing things that have a significant price tag such as trips to sunny resorts etc. How much of the reaction to you is the GOOP-effect -- readers feeling like you are describing privilege as though it's commonplace?
Yes, I do write about trips. But, hey, I don't tell others how to spend their money. And, as we all know, money really only buys things, not happiness. I am so far from GOOP. I don't have personal chefs etc. But I have to say I did love "consciously uncoupling!"
Also, I do outsource, as you say. But I do not believe, as The Mommy Mob does, that diaper changing is a 'bonding experience' nor do I think my daughter is going to need therapy because someone else taught her how to ride a bike!
Do you think your daughter is going to be mad that you write about her?
I've been asking Rowan for a year, every time I write about her, if it's okay. She LOVES it. I actually have a very hard time being 'public.' People think I like it. I hate it.
But you seem to own it!
In fact, I am dropping out of public life very soon. Time to move on! I'm of the firm belief that if something doesn't make you happy, or you're not that passionate about it, the party is over.
You have always excelled at telling your story, pushing buttons, getting a rise out of people, making them laugh. It's not making you happy?
Its not making me unhappy but I've now been writing for 20 years. I feel good about what I've done/accomplished.
I could write about parenting forever, I guess. But really the arguments/debates are always the same, just like Halloween comes every year. Also, I don't know what social media holds in the future. So I do have to think about the safety/comfort of my children
Also, I'm not sure what else I have to say! I don't want to be 75, either, and writing about my 45 year-old daughter...although that would be kind of funny!
She'll probably write a book about you!
She probably could. I pray daily that she doesn't become a writer, only because it's a hard life.
What do you think future Rowan would call her book about you?
Let me think...."My Mother is Awesome!" ??? She loves when I read to her from my books. She thinks it's hilarious. Or maybe the book will be called, "Can Someone Get My Mother Out of My House?" Ha!
It's a new world in parenting. I actually say to Rowan, "Now I am your mother." Then, "Now I can be your friend." Then, "Now I'm your mother." On and on....
Interview has been edited and condensed from original length.