They say time flies when you're having fun. Last week, a notification popped up on my Facebook feed that reminded me it was the five-year anniversary of my Run-at-Home Mom blog for Today's Parent. To celebrate, I asked for an anniversary gift only a blogger could truly appreciate: memes and GIFs of The Rock.
Five years ago, I'd just quit my job and moved across the country, from Winnipeg to rural Ontario. I was essentially a shell-shocked new stay-at-home mom—Gillian was a shy infant and Isaac was about to start junior kindergarten (it's crazy to think both kids were still in diapers!). Today, my five-year-old Gillian is a spirited kindergartener, and eight-year-old Isaac is a confident Grade 4 student. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out this stay-at-home mom gig (ironically, I've been a stay-at-home mom longer than I held down any one job). Here's what I've learned over the years:
1. There will be trolls My first brush with online trolls came when I wrote about Gillian being bitten in the face by a dog. It was a traumatic experience, and one that I chose to blog about to help me cope. However, comments, phone calls and emails from readers telling me I was a careless and neglectful parent swiftly followed. It hurt and made me doubt my parenting skills. It also wasn't the last time I was called out publicly for my choices, either. After each controversial post, I think (hope?) my skin will get thicker—but it doesn't. What has changed, however, is that the village of fellow parents supporting me is bigger, greater and louder than any troll.
2. Staying relatable is difficult As my kids have grown, my biggest challenge has been staying relatable to all of you. Now that my baby years are long behind me, connecting with new moms is sometimes hard for me. But there are a few universal truths that I feel keep us connected: my kids still don't sleep through the night, I still have no real clue how to parent my kids, and we're all in this together. I always hope that's enough to keep us connected (because, I'm sorry, I still don't understand Snapchat).
3. Blogging has changed over the years Five years is a long time, and if there were such thing as blogger years (like dog years), I would be considered a dinosaur in the industry—or, even worse, matronly. I blogged from a desktop, downloaded images from an SD card and social media was still in its infancy (Today's Parent had less than 1,000 Facebook "likes" and Pinterest and Instagram had just launched as beta apps). Parents not only read their favourite blogs on the go, but now I'm often writing on the go as well—several times a month my posts are written on my phone. So yes, I'm that mom at the park on her phone. And, no, I'm not sorry.
4. Kindness matters This summer, I wrote that parenting bloggers needed to be the steward of their kid's digital footprint: the words you share online are there forever. They're a reflection of you and they reflect on your kids. Sure, you thought that time you tweeted about being an a$$hole parent was funny, but it's not. Being a jerk online is never funny.
5. You can create change I breastfed both Isaac and Gillian, but by no means do I think that everyone should breastfeed and I would never dare force that opinion on another person. But last year, when it was revealed that British Columbia's Fraser Health asked new moms to sign a breastfeeding contract, I spoke out against it and, thanks to the support from readers, the health authority pulled the contract after my post went viral. Find a cause, stand behind it and be loud about it. I'll be right by your side, cheering you on.