Andy Hinds insists that while may not think it at first, parent blogging is exactly like punk rock… without the mohawks.
When you hear the phrase “punk rock,” what do you think of? Mile-high multi-colored Mohawks, safety pins and chains, stage dives and mosh pits? Relentless screaming accompanied by high-volume, high-velocity, low-virtuosity instrumentation?
Well, that’s part of it. Or at least it was fifteen years ago, when I last attended a punk show.
How about when you hear the term “dad blogger”? What do you think of then? Some schlub in sweatpants with a beer gut and a dingy, mustard-stained t-shirt, pecking away at a laptop while his kids run amok, his wife toiling at some thankless job to put food on the table?
That’s also just a part of the picture.
Not too long after I got into the dad blogging racket, I started joking that parent blogging was exactly like punk rock. The juxtaposition was incongruous enough to get a laugh from anyone who pictured just the outward trappings of either of these subcultures; and simply getting a laugh is almost always a good enough reason to say something. But also, in doing so, I was signaling my awareness that dadblogging didn’t seem particularly anti-establishment or counter-culture, and thereby inoculating myself against critics who would call me a dork.
Lately, though, it’s a comparison that has seemed apt in a number of situations. And in general, it’s not that ridiculous of a premise. Hear me out:
When I got into punk rock as a kid, it was because I was looking for something weirder and more marginal than mainstream rock-n-roll. By the time I was twelve, my tastes had moved from Kiss to Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Zappa. But it wasn’t until I heard the Sex Pistols that my mind was actually, irreversibly blown. I had heard about them, and hated them on principle because the music press had portrayed them as sworn enemies to rock-n-roll. But when a kid who had lived in London for a few years played “Never Mind the Bullocks” on a tinny tape deck for me, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I couldn’t fight it. They were not only anti-establishment in the standard rock-n-roll sense; but they were anti-rock-n-roll establishment as well. The only use they had for rock clichés was as fodder for mockery. I had been looking into increasingly complicated and elaborate variations of rock-n-roll, but the Sex Pistols had created something completely new by keeping it simple and cranking up the volume and the attitude.
In my punk rock journey, I found myself seduced from time to time by acts that relied upon outrageous stage stunts or artsy pretension. But I would always return to the stripped-down, raw energy of bands like the Pistols. Eventually I went from just listening to records in suburban basements to actually attending shows of local punk bands in D.C., where more revelations awaited me. Despite the mythology that has arisen about the early 80s D.C. punk scene, these bands weren’t all great; but the close-knit community that coalesced around them made me feel for once that I might want to be a member of a team or a club or a church. I never quite made it into the inner circle of the harDCore scene, for a million different reasons, but I realize now that its ethic (my interpretation of it, anyway) has influenced my judgment ever since my first stage dive.
When I became a stay-at-home dad and, shortly thereafter, started blogging, I didn’t think of either of those as being particularly punk rock undertakings. I posted cute pictures of my kids, told funny stories about what they were up to, and sometimes wrote essays about parenting-related issues. I read other blogs and commented on them, eventually becoming a member of several different circles of bloggers.
Along the way, I got familiar with the loosely defined subtypes of parent bloggers. Some create an idealized digital portrait of their family life. Some vent about the frustrations of parenting. Some seek fame and fortune by clawing their way into the rarefied atmosphere of the superstar bloggers. Some write nothing but reviews and giveaways and are rewarded with gift cards and swag.
So who are the punk rock parent bloggers?
Although I’m sure many of them would not identify as the punk rockers of parent blogging, the bloggers I respect the most and am most drawn to are those who follow what I consider the punk rock ethic. First off, they do it themselves. Maybe their blogs lack bells and whistles, but the important part—the words—make readers want to stage-dive into the comment thread. They are fiercely independent, resisting the temptation to sacrifice their voice in order to attract more money or followers. They are social critics who challenge conventional wisdom not only in society at large, but also within their own communities, virtual and otherwise. They are smart, funny, and talented, but steer clear of sentimentality and self-indulgence, the ten-minute drum solo of parent blogging.
Of course, there are very few parent bloggers who satisfy all of the above criteria. Most of us have written reviews and sponsored posts (ahem), for instance, to try and eke a tiny profit out of this labor-intensive hobby. We have probably sucked up to more successful bloggers behind whose backs we scoff in disdain. We may have self-promoted in ways that made us uncomfortable, or even embellished our stories in hopes of going viral. But when it comes down to it, the hard core of parent bloggers I hold in highest regard, like Sweet Juniper , Black Hockey Jesus, Mom 101, and Mocha Momma, are the ones who create content that’s insightful and provocative, and just weird enough to be outside the margins of the mainstream.
Photo of baby mohawk courtesy of Shutterstock