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Monday, June 29, 2015

Are We, As Women, Only as Good as Our Relationships? or The Quandary of Mommy Bloggers

As women, we are often not defined by our accomplishments or career, but instead in our relationships to others. Recently, I read the biography of Eva Schloss (a fascinating read, total aside) and she talked about how during the 1950s it was expected for a woman to quit her job once she was married and focus solely on her newfound role as a wife and later a mother. In those days, it was expected for women to see themselves through their relationships, but has much really changed in that respect?

For most people, two incomes are necessary to bring up children, so despite the feelings of many young mothers, there is no choice but to continue working after the birth of a baby. While quitting a job when a baby comes to spend more time at home seems like a viable option for many women, it is almost an entirely foreign concept for men. Though there are some men who pride themselves as stay-at-home dads, they are few and far between. As the man is defined by his role in society, a woman is defined by her role in the domicile and rarely is that ever interchanged.

Though the idea of quitting your job upon marriage seems totally antiquated, it is quite clear that women have come to view themselves and their worth contingent upon their relationships to others. Recently, in the UK, it was reported that if a woman didn’t have a baby before age 30, she would become a burden on the National Health Service (NHS)*—thus reinforcing that even in her 20s a woman should be partnered and a mother. Even though there are a few studies that claim that men’s age can hamper the health of a baby, there is rarely the same pressure on them to step into the role of a husband and father as quickly as humanly possible.

Nowhere better does the idea of women’s definition of themselves by their relationships to others play out than in the blogosphere. Even if you’re not a blogger, chances are you’ve read one once or twice (you're here, right?) or caught the by-line of someone on HuffPo. Women commonly name their entire blogs (aka their entire brand or even career) based on their relationships to others. They cease to become themselves and instead often assume the role of “Johnny’s Mom” or “Wife to Kyle.” Not only are their blogs named things like “Mom of 3,” but often their Twitter handles are devoid of their own names and are replaced by the names of their children or husband. Taking an interest in this topic recently, I perused a few men’s Twitters and blogs. Occasionally, a man will describe himself as a dad or husband, but it is very rare for his entire online existence to be based on those two facets of his life. Instead, men focus on their hobbies and other special interests, leaving their family life off the ‘net.

But it isn’t just the blogosphere. You can see it in real time on your Facebook newsfeed as people start to have babies. Women will often replace a picture of themselves with a picture of their child or children whilst this is markedly less common (though not unheard of) in men. Although I can’t find the specific article, I remember once that someone called the phenomenon of women’s vanishing identities on social media “erasure.” Erasure of the original woman in favor of her progeny.

As women, why are we defined and choose to define ourselves by our relationships to others? What is it about our society that encourages us to think of the achievements of those around us as our own whilst not seeking our own glory? The answer, of course, is very complicated, but worth contemplating none the less.

How do you define yourself? How does your partner define himself? How do other women around you define themselves? 

**PLEASE NOTE: This is not saying it is wrong to identify in a particular fashion, it is just worth thinking why, as women, we rush to this and put our worth on how important we are to others. 




  1. Thank you for this post! I too have noticed this on the internet in regards to blogs and it really, really, really bothers me. Partly because as a single woman with no children and without a 'career' job, it almost feels as though I don't have an identity or don't deserve to have an identity. I too now define myself by my hobbies and interests (mainly fashion, in relation to my blog) and much prefer that. I'd hate to be known as someone's mother or someone's spouse. Even if I was really really proud of them and proud to be their wife, first of all I am myself.

    The worst case that springs to mind is a book blogger I have followed for more than 5 years. In her description of her blog (on the front page of her blog when you visit) is an outline of her being a wife, a mum, etc. What upset me is that for years (and still to this day) she announces her husband's profession, but not her own. The wording has changed over the years - her husband has gone from a medical student, to a trainee doctor, junior doctor, and now just a normal doctor I think. So I was reading this lady's blog for years and I knew what her husband did but not what SHE actually did. That is just insane. Because I was reading her blog and following her for so long, eventually I did discover that she actually had a career of her own after all. And it was something really awesome - she founded an artisan bakery with her sister. I mean seriously! How cool is that! To this day though, there's no mention of the bakery or her job on her blog - only that her husband is a doctor. Groan.

  2. Societies views on women is still incredible inaccurate, even now! Although I am married, it doesn't define who I am as a person, and people need to realise that! I identify myself based on characteristic, beliefs and personality.

    Kirsty xx

  3. Gosh there is a lot food for thought on your post. I need to go away think and come back with answer. R

  4. I think society definitely tries to define us as that, and lord knows I have a hard time not slipping into that when I start to joke about being a spinster or an old maid one day. But we shouldn't. It should be about us, not our partners.

  5. I am disabled, have two teens still at home, have one grown son and grandson. I do not work but blog. I am married but been separated since 2009 (long story). I am living with my boyfriend. I have in my opinion a sad life which tends to depress people and turn them away after learning of it. I really don't know how to define myself online. How would you suggestion in doing so?

  6. I've never defined myself by my relationships to others (sister, daughter, wife, mom, etc.)--they are very important to me, but I'm more than just those relationships. I'm a traveler, a reader, a friend, an Anglophile, and so much more! Like everything else in life, relationships change, so if you base yourself on your marriage or your friendship or whatever, and then you get divorced or fall out with your friend, who are you? Great post--it sums up so much that I've thought about for a while!

  7. I definitely think it's true that women feel a lot more pressure to be everything - aka "supermom" all the time. Guys don't apologize for focusing on their careers, but after I had my daughter I felt like I had to be a great mom, keep up my part-time career so I could contribute financially to the household, take care of the baby and the household on my days home, be a good wife, continue running my blog...I felt so stretched thin! But for me it's important to blog, even though I don't always have time for it, because I do think if I'm only defined as a wife and mother it's not enough for me personally. So I feel like it's a big juggling act but I keep trying!

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