I’ll never forget how it all started. I had been working at Today’s Parent as our web editor for a few years when an edict came from above that we needed to incorporate blogs into our website. Blogs were the new thing then, usually created in a news context. My manager, Kathy (a mom of two), said something like, “Who would want to read moms blathering on about life with their kids?” As a non-parent at that time, I wholeheartedly agreed. Who indeed?
Later that year, I got pregnant and as soon as Kathy knew (she guessed almost instantly, before we’d had the chance to tell anyone except our parents), her second sentiment after “Hooray!” was “Now you can write our blog!”
That was in the summer of 2005. I could never have imagined that, nine years later, I’d still be blathering on about life with my kids a couple of times a week. I figured I’d chronicle my pregnancy, announce my baby’s birth (that was my sweet Anna in March 2006), then say farewell. But Kathy said, “Why don’t you keep going? People really enjoy your voice.” So I did, and discovered that kids are amazing for providing an endless stream of perplexing, hilarious and heart-wrenching blog material. I also loved that I was writing regularly and finding new ways to tell stories. But more than anything, I was thrilled to create a record of my kids’ early years. Lord knows I never would have remembered this stuff.
Blogging changes you, especially if you’re writing about your own parenting. In the beginning, every little thing feels post-worthy, but eventually, you realize that you’re searching for material in the everyday, pinning ideas in the back of your mind about the perils of potty training, that harrowing trip to the mall or the hilarious conversation you had with your toddler. It’s like you’re a field reporter, constantly taking mental notes. You find yourself pondering posts in the shower or at swimming lessons. It can sometimes take you out of the moment, or urge you to manipulate things in some way to make them work for your blog. But I think blogging has made me a better parent simply because I’ve had to think so much about my parenting as I translated our experiences into words. There’s a lot of reflection. Sometimes I spurred my family to do interesting things because my blog made me realize we’d been slacking it in the fun department. And that was good for all of us.
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It hasn’t always been easy for me, this parenting thing. And it was when I found the courage to write about some of the not-so-great stuff that I realized the true power of blogs. I remember writing about my struggle to breastfeed Anna and my decision to stop, which had been tough on me. The people—so many complete strangers—who wrote supportive comments brought me to tears. The people who loved me most had said many of the same things, but somehow, it was my readers who helped me feel like I was not alone. I’ve encountered this same amazing support during many of my darkest times. It’s so nice when you see proof that the village is real.
While I’ve never been anything but genuine here, I’ve certainly made choices about what I publish. Every blogger does. Things have happened in our lives that I desperately wanted to write about, but I drew a line way back in the beginning, and tried very hard to not cross it. There were a few times I may have stuck a toe on the other side, and as much as it might have been good for traffic numbers, I would later regret it. It didn’t feel right for me. You can become a successful blogger in many different ways, but I think the most important thing is to find your voice and be true to it. I’ve always looked at this blog as a chronicle for my kids—sharing things that were personal but not necessarily private. Someday, they will read every word of this, and I let that knowledge guide me.
It’s a body of work that I’m proud of. Not every post was a masterpiece, but each represents a snapshot of our life, which makes them all so valuable to me now. I hope that Anna and Avery will also be proud. I hope that, through this blog, they will learn to see me as not just “Mom” but as a woman who had her own things going on—a career, relationships, dreams, struggles, goals—as I was wiping bums and making dinner and gently (oh-so-gently) brushing knots out of hair. I hope they’ll see the value in taking lots of pictures and marking special moments. I hope they’ll understand that parenting is really hard and also has great rewards. I hope they’ll see how much fun we had. I hope they’ll see that I recognized and appreciated their many beautiful, individual gifts, even if they thought I wasn’t paying enough attention at the time. I hope they’ll see how hard I tried. I hope they’ll see how much they were loved. I hope they’ll see how proud I’ve always been to be their mom.
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It isn’t easy to say goodbye. But I’m doing it for a few reasons. About a year ago, I felt a shift happening in terms of my blog. I was encountering things that were fascinating and challenging, but it didn’t feel right to share them here. They no longer felt like my stories to tell. I know many people would never put their lives out there the way I have and I’ve been mostly comfortable with it, but am growing less so as my kids get older. I knew this day would come, I just didn’t know when. Now feels like the time.
It’s also a lot of work, and I’ve recognized that I’ve lost my drive. Everything in parenting feels so intense and relatable in the early years that ideas flow out of you fast and furious. But when your kids are six and eight, there’s a different rhythm. You realize that you’ll all survive, no matter what the latest calamity. And how much more do I have to say about the first day of school, the dreaded lunch box, my parenting shortcomings and discipline struggles? I think it’s time to leave these discussions for those who can bring new passion to them.
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Obviously, Kathy and I were incredibly wrong back in 2005 and “mom bloggers” became a huge phenomenon. I feel lucky to have been one and this has been a surprisingly emotional decision. After owning a tiny corner of cyberspace in this social-media-driven industry, it’s hard to know if it’s just plain dumb to close up shop. But as with all things, I just have to follow my heart. Hopefully this move will open up my mind and my schedule to new creative pursuits.
I know I have some readers who have been sharing our journey from different stages—some from the very beginning. I want to say thank you. I have loved getting to know you and hearing from you through the years. I’m not under any impression that anyone will miss this blog in a world of thousands and thousands of amazing writers. But I will miss it. Sharing our stories and learning from you over the years has been a great privilege. Each Christmas, my husband prints out and collects my posts into an album and it is one of my most precious possessions.
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And, you know, I may pop in from time to time. Because writers have to write. My former manager, Kathy, passed away in 2008 from cancer when I was mid-way through my pregnancy with Avery. She was a follow-your-passion kind of person who had become one of my dearest friends. Her urging to start and continue this blog changed the course of my life. “Did you always know you had such a gift for writing?” she once asked me. I hadn’t ever been bold enough to think that I did. But today, thanks to her and many others who have encouraged me and provided opportunities along the way, I have the confidence to move on to the next creative adventure, whatever that may be.
Maybe, in the way that songwriters say they have trouble getting inspired to write when they’re happy, being in this “golden age” of parenting makes it harder to blog, but easier to enjoy living in the day-to-day. It’s a welcome trade-off. So I’ll play, chat, argue and laugh with my kids, without thinking twice about how to frame it for a mass audience. And that feels good.
(And yes, family and friends, now you’ll have to call to see what’s going on with us! xo)
Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005. Read more of her Tracy’s mama memoir posts and tweet her @T_Chappell.