I’ve been blogging for Mombian, a lifestyle site for lesbian moms and other LGBTQ parents, for 12 years. It’s evolved over the years. Facebook wasn’t even around when I started it! It’s become very different. I think a lot of people use Facebook now instead of blogging. There are a handful of us who’ve been blogging since the time I started but there are also new waves of people who become parents and decide to start blogging about their kids. It’s been a wonderful journey for me to dive into this one area that is both rooted in my own experience but also encompasses so many other experiences. It’s made me feel more a part of the community.
Before the election it crossed my mind, “is there still a need for this or are we heading into this glorious future where we have marriage equality and we might even soon have better protections for adoption rights?” Then the election of Trump happened. And there is still a need. Even if Hillary had won, I probably would’ve kept blogging because there is still a need with things like the so-called “religious freedom” bills in many states that are threatening our rights. I also think there is still a lot of need for continued communication with perspective parents. I’m on a couple of Facebook groups for queer moms and there are questions that come up every few weeks from new people to the group: “Do I still need a second parent adoption even if we’re married and both on the birth certificate? Where can I find books that are inclusive? What are some names that your kids call you?” I see the same questions coming up over and over so that tells me there is still need for this information to stay out there and to evolve. I’m writing about second-parent adoption a little bit differently now after marriage equality.
I’m doing this for my son even though I don’t write a lot about him. I think every parent blogger has to decide how much to reveal about their kids and how much to let their kids come out about their family, as they get older. I tend to not write a whole lot about him but I’m absolutely doing it for him because I want the world he grows up in to be a better place. I want him to feel accepted and welcomed, regardless of who his parents are.
I also do the annual Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day that has been going on for 12 years now and happens in June. I invite people to post at their own blogs or through public Facebook posts on anything in support of LGBTQ families, however they define it. They submit the link to that to my site and I gather all the links and showcase it for people to come and read. And it’s always a great event because people are writing across the spectrum but you could come to the site and just read a whole bunch of posts by people who are like you, by people who are different from you and get a sense of the breadth of LGBTQ families. I try to use it to raise our visibility. I’ve worked with some of the LGBTQ national organizations to promote it as well. So it’s a chance for visibility and it’s always a lot of fun! It’s been a lot of fun over the years to see people’s different stories.
I’ve always been interested in the places where technology and society intersect. As an undergrad I doubled majored in astronomy and medieval/renaissance studies. It seems like an odd combination! Originally I did both because I had an interest in both but then I went on in graduate school at Oxford to focus on the history of science looking at how people viewed the world and how they tried to make sense of the world. But as much as I loved that, I got to a point in grad school where I decided for a number of reasons that academia wasn’t what I wanted to do. I got an M.Phil at Oxford and then I was working on a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when I decided I didn’t want to be an academic anymore. I felt like it was a little too insular. I wanted to do something that I felt like made a little bit more of a difference.
I ended up getting hired at a dot-com during the dot-com boom. That job was sitting at the intersection of technology and people. In that job I worked in a number of roles in product management and marketing. My focus and strength was that I could interpret between the business and the technology side of things. From that job I ended up getting a job at Merrill Lynch, big financial firm in 1998. Getting this job surprised the heck out of me! I hadn’t ever had any interest in finance per se and it was only the fact that I was working on a number of their online products doing strategy and marketing that really interested in me at all. I had no background in econ. But I helped Merrill to launch its first online financial service where people could do their own trading. Prior to that people had to work with an advisor who would execute all the trades. I was hired to work on the platform that let people access their accounts online and after that we launched the stand-alone self-directed service.
And then my spouse and I decided we wanted to have a child. She was going to be the one who stayed home initially but there were some re-organizations at Merrill and I decided to leave the company. We both threw our resumes in the ring. I think perhaps one of the nice things about being a same-sex couple is you feel a little less bound by traditional roles in terms of who goes out there and gets the job. She ended up getting the better offer so I started staying home. It was a couple of years into that when I really wanted to make sure my professional skills didn’t decline. Blogs were just starting to come onto the horizon in about 2005. I decided to launch a blog that both kept up my professional skills but also didn’t involve me having to do something entirely different. As much as I’d love to cook, I’d never have done a cooking blog because I would’ve had to cook extra and take photos -- too much extra work and research. But it made sense to do a blog about parenting because that’s what I was already doing. I wouldn’t have to do any extra research because my life was the research.
At the time there weren’t any websites really just for LGBTQ parents. The LGBTQ media wasn’t covering parenting and the mainstream media wasn’t covering LGBTQ issues much less parenting. So there was a niche. That led me to launch the site as more of a newsy information site rather than a personal diary. Another reason for that was protecting my son’s privacy so there weren’t embarrassing stories about him floating around the Internet years later! But also I’m a middle class, white person and our family hasn’t had any particular issues and nobody really needs to hear my story! I’ve tried to work on elevating other people’s stories and be a good ally to people who for whatever aspect of their identity haven’t had their voices heard as much. But also just putting information out there I found useful and covering things like reviewing LGBTQ inclusive children’s books, a big component of the site.
I launched the blog in 2005 but as my son got older I decided it would be better to have more income than blogging can provide, especially in a niche field like this. I did go back to work part-time in outside employment in 2012. Until 2012 I had my son’s naptimes and evenings to write. And then when he was in preschool and kindergarten for half a day I’d use that time to write. In addition to the blog, I was asked by Bay Windows, the New England LGBTQ paper to write a bi-weekly news column in 2007. That column has since been picked up by a number of LGBTQ papers around the country.
When I first launched the blog, my typical day was finding the time when my son was in preschool or on a play date or otherwise occupied when I could write. Blogging time now becomes evenings, a few hours in the afternoon when I work from home in the morning and some catch-up time on the weekends. It’s not regular, but I try to fit it in when I can. I work on the blog almost every day during the week. I try to keep weekends free when I can.
For the job where I get most of my income, I go into the office maybe three times a week. I also put in some hours working from home. My job is online content manager for a professional development program that works with educations and others training them on how to lead conversations in their community about diversity and privilege using various techniques getting people to reflect on their own experiences but also to learn about the experiences of others. They got a big grant to build a website a few years ago which is why I was brought on board. Now I run all the content for the website and social media. In part I got the job because I had not only the technical experience and the background in online services, but I’d spent the years doing my blog and basically writing about social justice.
I’ve always got my antennae up about things to blog about. As I’m looking at news headlines or Twitter or newsfeeds of other blogs I save and mark stories that seem interesting. Then I’ll go back and looks at the things I’ve marked over the past few days to see if there’s a pattern, see if there’s a trend in things people are talking about to see if I can connect stories to see if they’re making either the same or complimentary points. I also keep my ear to the ground for new books that are coming out relevant to LGBTQ parenting. Doing book reviews is something I really enjoy and that’s a separate process from doing a news or current event post. At this point the blog is going on 12 years so one of the changes is that I check to see if I’ve already written something related! I’ve often already written about the topic or about something that provides a contrast to the topic.
Most posts I write are between 250 and 500 words. My newspaper column tends to be a little bit longer. Sometimes I’ll start a post and I’ll realize it’s getting a little bit long and I’ll decide to make it into my newspaper column. The column tends to be a little more thought out. The blog posts because they’re shorter can bit a little more off the cuff. I make sure the posts are accurate and there is substance but I also like to do more light hearted things sometimes too so people don’t feel like they have to commit 20 minutes to reading a blog post! Some blog posts are a little bit of context and then a link, which I think, is perfect for a blog but doesn’t work for a newspaper column. Sometimes I’ll blog about things in a quick way where I’m just looking to someone else’s piece and do a few of those over the course of a week or so and then realize there is a pattern emerging I want to talk about more at length in my column.
In terms of audience I’m writing the column for about half a dozen print columns now. I don’t have any direct evidence for who reads what but I’m sure there are people who pick up the columns who never read blogs and aren’t online. But at the same time, the blog hits people in places and cities where my column doesn’t run.
Finding the time. Balancing between blogging and my day job is a challenge. If I see some bit of news breaking while I’m at my day job I can’t just go and write about it for my blog. Because I’m also trying to keep track of social justice news and issues to share with my colleagues at the job I’m in the same newsfeeds that I might also be for the blog. The job is broader, it also looks at race and gender and other aspects of identity, but LGBTQ issues are certainly among them.
There is a synergy between my day job and the blog. Even though I’m not working on my blog for my day job, I’m thinking about issues that do reflect on my blog like trying to give voice to people’s experiences that might not otherwise be heard. I work in a very supportive environment with people who know my blog and appreciate the work I’ve done there as well as in the office. It doesn’t feel like I’m in two completely different worlds.
That you can make a lot of money! I make more from my newspaper column than my blog. But then again, if it weren’t for the blog, I would’ve never had the newspaper column. I’ve also done some general legal and political news writing. Mostly the newspaper column but other paid gigs but the blog underscores it all and keeps my name out there.
For my paid job, the dress code is very casual. The project I work for is at the Wellesley Centers for Women, a research and action institute that’s part of Wellesley College. We get our infrastructure from the college and most of the projects are soft money. When I’m home it’s as casual as I want it to be!
I’ve been part of group blogs before including the Bilerico Project, the LGBTQ group blog that has since closed down. It’s a lot of work managing a stable of bloggers. I’ve seen the work it takes to manage a group blog. If I’m going to do something I want to be able to do it well and not feel like people can’t get in touch when they want to or rely on me. I’ve kept the blog mostly a one-person operation but I’m open to guest posts.
In the parenting blogger world, a lot of people start when they have kids and they want to write about their kids. And that’s great! Some people do it when they take time off to have their kids. But I think there is a drop-off after the first two years. I see these waves of parenting bloggers who blog for a while and then drop-off and a new wave who just had kids – that’s blogging! I think some people do make it work and leverage blogging into other writing gigs. There are a few who have launched bigger endeavors and who are able to promote it full-time, but I think for the most part it tends to be a part-time gig.
Get on a regular schedule, whatever it is. Even if you write a blog once a week as opposed to everyday. It makes it easier for people to know when they’re going to be able to find content. Try to fill in on the off days with social media sharing.
You don’t have to be profound all the time! You don’t have to write epic pieces all the time! Occasionally a small, light piece will keep people coming back to your site. The posts don’t have to transforming their life every single time.
Enjoy the journey. Don’t worry too much about setting some distant destination!
I started out at a small dot-com, then I went to this big Fortune 100 firm and now I’m in a very academic environment. I’ve seen a lot of different things!
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.
Martha Graham, choreographer
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