“I live for the gritty and unfiltered realities of what is actually going on behind the scenes, in motherhood and otherwise,” the central Pennsylvania mom of four told TODAY Parents. “Women want to feel seen in their own bodies, in their own marriages, and in their own lives as mothers.”
Baer’s debut poetry collection “What Kind Of Woman,” which released in early November, dives headfirst into the intricacies of motherhood against the balance of what is expected of women.
“I had to sit with a lot of discomfort over who I was and who others wanted me to be,” she said. “There is an expectation for American mothers to act like Deborah in Everybody Loves Raymond but look like Betty Draper from Mad Men. Instead, I found myself looking more like Deborah, but feeling like Peggy.”
Though Baer has been a writer since childhood and majored in English literature, she never intended to write a book of poetry.
“It wasn’t until after I had kids when I started to put my work out where people could read it. I started with a small blog which grew to a bigger blog and then I started putting pieces out on Huffington Post,” she said.
Baer admitted that over time the mommy blog arena felt saturated and she became disenchanted with blogs and ‘mommy social media’.
“After that, the internet kind of changed and I did, too,” she said, sharing that she was contacted by an agent after a piece she wrote went viral and the pair came up with a plan to move Baer’s work forward.
When it came to poetry, Baer said she always read it, but felt like she couldn’t write it.
“I thought I had to be some grad student smoking a pipe wandering around Venice,” she joked. “Then I just kind of just went for it.”
And she took 92,000 Instagram followers along for the ride as she peeled back the raw layers of motherhood in a new format exploring relatable topics like cracked nipples and post-partum body image.
“We live in a culture where a mother’s pregnant body is beautiful until the moment she gives birth. That’s when it was time to wrap things up, tuck away the evidence, and apologize for the mess,” Baer said. “It has been empowering to walk alongside other women over the years and realize so much of what we were experiencing is not only okay, but normal.”
But Baer’s popularity didn’t come without critical response.
“I was deleting unkind messages for a long time,” she shared. “But then one day I had the idea to do a black out piece and flip the narrative which ended up being pretty life giving. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep up with it, but for now it feels like a powerful way to turn something hateful into something worth reading.”
This spring, Baer found herself hitting a parental wall when coronavirus quarantine compounded her depression.
“Like many mothers, I struggled with depression pre-pandemic,” she said. “And now, when mothers are largely ignored and expected to shoulder the brunt of childcare and domestic responsibility, it feels like an extra kick to the shins — and to mental health.”
Baer says the animated character Daniel Tiger articulates it best: “You can feel two feelings at the same time, and that’s okay.”
“You can love being a mother and also want to be away from your children. You can love your husband selflessly and also desire independence and equity in marriage,” she said. “Motherhood often asks us to choose either/or, but I’m learning I can have both.”