My husband and I are getting a divorce. It’s really hard to write this for a lot of reasons, but the one that comes to mind this moment is that it’s so crappy to be in the middle of a divorce when I make a living telling people how to run their lives.
-Penelope Trunk, February, 2008
When your blog is about poop and boogers and how happy you are to have finally become a mother and the cute little cloth diapers you made by hand and the conferences you’re speaking at and the other bloggers you love and the giveaways and the brand sponsorships and the happy happiness that keeps on happening…what do you tell your readers if you get divorced?
In this age when “transparency” is a buzzword, a public blogger can face a dilemma when her private life is in turmoil. Some embrace whatever happens in their lives and make every event into art, including the breakdown of a marriage. But some women, when they go through a divorce, choose not to address their private struggles as they consider their children, or the legal issues, or the feelings of the husbands they are divorcing.
So what happens to a mom blogger’s online personality – her brand, even – when something as central to family life as marriage goes away?
Depending on the type of blog, the divorcing blogger doesn’t necessarily have to go into it at all. A craft blog, for example, might skirt the issue entirely. Meca McKinney, who blogs about creativity as a complement to her handcrafted goods business, only mentioned her divorce on her blog once, and that was years after the fact.
Although I am divorced and a blogger, I didn’t see any real reason to share that info. After all, I am a handbag designer/artist. People don’t look to me for divorce advice per se, just creative inspiration…Most of my posts are fashion/culture related since that is the premise of the blog. I leave the divorce out of my online work. I did get several emails from that post though, thanking me for sharing my experience.
For the mom blogger who regularly writes about her personal life, her online disclosure might mirror her IRL activity. Laura Campbell, a “divorce and life reinvention consultant” who publishes the site Discover the D Spot, says you’re going to have to tell people eventually.
In my opinion, you have to tell, pro-actively with courage and confidence. This is a personal life transition and stating it with clarity and your intentions for what comes next, will ultimately give your friends, colleagues and raving fans (audience), the confidence and comfort that “they” need to adjust to your situation.
Because yes, your audience might indeed have to adjust. Especially if the marital strife you suffered leading up to the divorce is news to them. Amanda P. Westmont, who writes the mom blog Mandajuice, hid it from her blog as best she could, for a while.
I used to do this thing where every time my husband hurt my feelings or upset me, I’d go out of my way to say something nice about him on my blog. It was a coping mechanism, since I figured if I couldn’t change him, I could at least change my reaction to him. That REALLY backfired when I announced the divorce. Some people thought I was playing a cruel joke on them. Others admitted having seen my marriage as an example of what they wanted in their own relationships and they were crushed.
For many bloggers, writing about their divorce struggle equals admitting defeat. “I struggled with sharing on my public blog because that would be like admitting it was really happening,” says Lexie Esparza of The First Girl. “At the time, I just wanted my marriage back. As dysfunctional as it was, I didn’t want to let go.” On the other hand, everyone who contributed to this article felt a sense of empowerment and freedom from censure. Erin Mantz, who dealt not only with disclosing her divorce, but also a new same-sex relationship, says “Once I read about my feelings, situation and experience on paper, it seemed to kind of justify why I had to get divorced.”
At the same time, bloggers tend to work through their emotions through their writing and gain support from their communities. For that very reason, Westmont wanted very much to blog about the decision to divorce.
My ex-husband wanted me to wait until he was ready and I respected that. But those weeks were very long and difficult for me. I remember using writing prompts during that time just to give me something neutral to write about when I couldn’t write my own tragedy.
Esparza benefitted from sharing her story on a protected account during her divorce.
I had supportive comments. People suggested books and shared their own trials and triumphs with me. Some days it was that support that helped me keep from just dissolving into bed. Emotionally, I was a mess. Through writing, I had encouragement that I needed. Better than the therapist I saw once a month.
Once the divorce is made public on the blog, writers say they are careful about what they include. Once Mantz opened up about her divorced life online “I was a bit nervous my ex-husband would be mad but I knew I wouldn’t reveal extremely personal details about him or our marriage in a blog. Just sort of personal.” Esparza says:
When I publicly wrote, I centered on how I was redefining my happiness. I stayed away from any negativity regarding my ex. I was careful to consider what would happen if people I knew in my day to day life read. I would never want my family to be affected by my words online. I still keep that in mind today.
Jessica Bern of Bern This was already divorced when she started her blog. She tempers what she writes not for her ex-husband’s benefit, but for the story. “ I…try and keep the bitterness and anger about it to a minimum, especially because I’m a humor blogger” she says. “My ideas may start from a place of anger but I tweak it to make it funny and more palatable.”
So have their divorces changed who these women are online? Westmont thinks so.
The main difference for me since the divorce is that I am absolutely DONE faking it. I faked my way through 12 years of marriage and steadfastly refuse to ever do so again. My readers get a lot more ugly truth than they got before and some of them have complained that I “used to post recipes, share party ideas and cute photos of [my] kids!” Well, those days are over. I’m not happy Suzy homemaker anymore. I’m just me.
The freedom from censure is a recurring theme. Campbell says there can be a backlash against a mom who goes through a divorce, in which people doubt her skills as a mother. “Instead of addressing the lack of confidence others may have in your ability as a result of the divorce, if you remain focused 100% on your role as parent/mother and on the relationship you are building with your children, the results will speak for themselves.” Westmont says “Not having a disgruntled husband sitting over my shoulder has freed me up in ways I never expected. I finally feel like a writer.”
In fact, one of the main reasons people read blogs is to learn from the experiences of others. Why not turn your divorce experience into something that helps people? That’s what Erin Mantz did:
I read Huff Post was starting a Divorce blog and I thought I might as well use my personal experiences again and maybe I could make people think and laugh through my writing. Plus, it helped me gain extra visibility as a writer, for my name…
And Esparza feels that by writing about her life on her blog, she has gained and given back.
On Twitter, I followed and was followed by single parents. And I read a lot more blogs by single parents than I used to. Now that I have love again in my life, I think I’ve come full circle. But with a lot more friends that I made along the way. Some of my single parent friends have commented that my new love story gives them hope.