This Sunday is Fathers Day here in Australia and to celebrate my first one as a Dad I thought I’d do a little post on why having a blog is like having a baby.
Disclaimer – yes I know having a blog is nothing like having a baby – for every reason why they are similar there are 10 why they are not (for instance it’s difficult to put advertising on your baby…. so I’m told….) but I thought I’d have a little fun with it anyway to mark the occassion.
So here are my 8 reasons why having a blog is like having a baby:
1. Everyone has advice
It’s quite amazing to experience the attention that everyone gives you when you’re pregnant or have a newborn baby.
This attention comes from everyone from family and friends to complete strangers who will walk up to you on the street to ‘ooh and aah’ at your little one. Oh course with every interaction with people comes advice ranging from – ‘I think he might have a little wind’ to ‘don’t let him sleep for more than 2 hours at a time’ to ‘let him sleep as long as he likes’, to ‘have you tried taping his ears back so they don’t stick out’…. etc
Much of the advice you’ll get is well meaning, most of it is conflicting with other advice you receive and in the end you learn to take it with a grain of salt, nod as if you’re going to do exactly what they say and then go home and find your own way.
When it comes to advice about blogging the story is very similar. Every blogger and their dog has a tip on what makes a good blog great and how to do everything from find readers, to climb the search engines, to choose a blog platform, to have a sexy design, to writing compelling content.
Much of the advice out there is good advice from well meaning people – but perhaps the best advice I’ve heard (and passed on) is to be yourself and find your own way. Every blog is different and for every rule or tip you might be given there’s an example of a successful blog that has done well despite breaking that very rule.
2. Short Attention Spans
I saw a really helpful video in one of our pre-natal classes that talked about bonding with a baby. It said that many people say its not until a month or two of age that babies connect with those around them – however they showed a few examples of how even a few minutes after birth a baby will be having short moments of concentrated connection with others. The problem isn’t that the baby doesn’t connect – it’s that the parent doesn’t look for the connections.
I’ve come to value those short moments each day when Xavier and I ‘connect’ with a look, a smile (I refuse to believe it’s just gas) or a touch. The key is to look for these moments and to take advantage of them.
Web readers have notoriously short attention spans also and while they do read longer articles from time to time, mastering the art of writing concise, attention grabbing and compelling posts that worth with the short attention span of readers is important.
3. It’s an Investment of Time
A good friend of mine who became a Dad for the first time a few weeks before me told me one night that the biggest surprise for him was how much time it took to do anything with his baby.
Getting ready for a walk, giving a bath, feeding, changing nappies – all of these activities took considerably longer than he expected and when you put them all together they can become quite consuming. In fact a few days after Xavier was born I asked ‘V’ if I’d ever find time to work again as my life was quite full just being a Dad.
Blogs – like babies – take a lot of time to get off the ground. While most bloggers find that writing and posting content gets quicker over time, it still can become quite time consuming.
4. Long Term
It’s just starting to sink in that being a Dad means my life is irreversibly changed.
I’m sure that there will be elements of my life that will return to some level of ‘normality’, but there are other things that will always be different now (some of them good and some of them difficult). Having a child is a life long commitment and something a parent needs to work on on a daily basis over a very long time.
Blogs too need a long term effort. While it might not be a life long commitment that is needed (and the seriousness of the commitment will of course be lower than one to a child – one would hope) – too many bloggers don’t take into account that the setting up and sustaining of a blog is not only a lot of work initially – but it’s something you need to put continued effort into over time.
I know this from personal experience this week after trying to clean up after being hacked on top of my normal blogging load. Blogs have a way of presenting you with a challenge just at that moment that you think you’re cruising – something I’m told kids do too!
5. Sometimes it’s a Smelly Business
Someone told me that newborns don’t do smelly poos…. and while I’m sure they’ll get worse – I’ve seen my fair share of messy and smelly things in the past couple of weeks.
Often having a baby can be glamorized – all the baby product ads show serene scenes of smiling or sleeping babies who smell wonderful, never make a sound (other than a cute giggle) and who look just perfect.
The reality might include such moments – but they are also mixed up with a lot of noise, smell and sights for sore eyes.
Sometimes I think people talk about blogging in such glowing terms that I hardly recognize it – it’s like the baby ads that only show one side of the equation.
The reality is that having a blog is a wonderful thing (otherwise no one would do it) with many benefits – but it can also get messy. Dealing with trolls, comment spam, being attacked by other bloggers, having servers crash, deleting long unsaved posts just before hitting publish, being hacked, accidentally posting your bank account details….. all of these things (and more) can – and will – go wrong when you blog. Sometimes it’s a messy business.
6. It’s Fun
– amidst the smells, late nights, worry and moments of terror – having a baby in the house is fun – a lot of fun.
Each day is punctuated with all manner of moments to look forward to – morning cuddles while he wakes up, watching his eyes roll back in ecstasy when you rub his feet, the satisfaction of settling him at 3.37am after three hours of screaming, watching the look on his face when you put him in a nice warm bath, getting one of his cheeky smiles and holding him when he’s in one of his milk-drunk floppy states after a feed (I could go on). I wouldn’t swap the last two months for anything – anything at all.
Blogging can be hard – but it can also be a lot of fun and is punctuated with a variety of moments which you come to look forward to – seeing another blogger link to you for the first time, checking your stats and finding that you’ve had a record breaking day for traffic, getting your first comment ever, the satisfaction of hitting publish on a post you’ve been working hard on and are proud of, being quoted in the NYT as an expert on a topic you mentioned once in passing in a post (I’m an expert on the spiritual motifs in the Lord of the Rings apparently!), the rush when you see a post you’ve written rising up the front page of Digg and the elation at the 8000 visitors an hour that can follow etc etc
7. You Need Time Out
Even after just two months at this parenting game I can see how important it is for ‘time out’. In fact I just packed ‘V’ off in the car and told her to go shopping (something I rarely encourage!) while Xavier has a sleep because I can see already how all consuming babies can be. Even when they’re asleep your day revolves around them and to have even just an hour or two away is like a mini holiday in the middle of the day.
As I’ve already said above, blogs take a lot of work. They are also a little addictive and new bloggers can especially be tempted to spend every spare moment they have on them.
While it is fun and addictive – it’s important to take time out from a blog from time to time.
Doing so will keep you fresh, stop you from burning out, keep your life balanced and mean you are healthy (body, mind and spirit).
I try to take time off in different ways – daily (I tend to take a couple of hours off in the afternoons), weekly (weekends) and yearly (I take a number of week to 2 week holidays each year).
8. Finding a Rhythm
– 48 hours after we got home from the hospital with Xavier V and I looked at each other and said ‘something’s got to change’.
Amidst the chaos of birth, visitors at the hospital, learning the basics of nappies and feeding etc we’d enjoyed our stay in hospital but hadn’t really established any kind of rhythm or routine with Xavier.
Of course in the first few weeks I’m told you should throw routines out the window – but we were in a pretty chaotic lifestyle and we needed something to at least give us a starting point for what a normal day would look like. Luckily we were recommended a great book which suggested such a daily routine which has been a great thing for us to have.
While Xavier doesn’t stick to it down to the minute – we’ve found it helpful to at least have a little structure to our day (and it does seem he’s responding to it too).
I write quite a bit about blogging rhythms and how each blog will have it’s own. I think it’s important for a blogger to find his or her rhythm for each blog that they write and to attempt to stick with it. From my experience – finding a rhythm is not only good for the blogger but readers seem to respond to it pretty well too.
I’m sure I could go on and round this list out to 10 reasons why having a blog is like having a baby – but as I write this the man of moment is waking up from his nap an it’s time to go be a Dad again (I still havn’t mastered the art of blogging one handed).
To those of you celebrating Fathers day (I know in some parts of the world it’s in June) – have a great day.