So when I moved to the suburbs last summer, and subsequently quit my job, giving up on a 1 hour commute to stay at home with the kids, I thought "Why not?" The first month home was a blur of sleeping and netflix marathons. And probably too much wine. Was I making the right decision? Would I regret losing my job? How would I keep busy in an intellectual satisfying way? Because any mom knows Caillou can drive you batshit in about 3 days.
When I then lost touch with a great friend (see: things I don't want to talk about) who has always been my outlet, in a way, for writing - I found myself incredibly bored. And also something like a shaken up bottle of soda. I never really acknowledged how much it meant to get everything out so often, and have someone to listen. What I learned though, luckily, is that it wasn't specifically who was listening, but simply the act of spilling out all the constant thoughts that live inside my head 24/7. So I began to blog.
Every teacher and boss I've ever had insisted I should make something of my writing skills. I know how to use this internet thing. I tweaked my myspace html enough to give me some kind of credibility, I thought. I have networking skills and I've been on the backside of PR and marketing for years now. And I've definitely watched enough housewife-daytime-tv to garner the attention of mommy blog readers, right? I've totally got this, I thought. How hard can it be to start a blog? Post a few recipes, cute anecdotes about our children's milestones, chat with a few people on twitter here and there = poof, instant e-celebrity. Book deals, partnerships, but what will I wear for my Oprah appearance?!
If you write a blog, I apologize if you are doubled over in laughter at the moment. Because of course I quickly learned, like many I suppose, that this is no joke. Blogging is somewhat like motherhood in that sense - very underrated. Creating, and maintaining a functioning blog alone, is enough work for one fulltime job. Then comes SEO, and social media networking, and growing your contacts, and newsletters, and fancy widgets. Whoa my head is spinning AND wait .... I still have to write creative content?! Are you kidding me? Who has time to spend 4 hours a day in the kitchen and timing your brownie photos for perfect afternoon lighting and editing photos at a laptop uninterrupted each day!?
But even through all that, I was extremely excited. When asked "What are you doing now?" I no longer had to answer "Oh, just staying home with the kids...." and brace that look. I was a writer. I owned a piece of the internet. I was official. I started out with Blogger, then quickly moved to self-hosting because, dream big, you know. I ordered custom designed logos, custom website templates, and for at least three months I spent HOURS of my day living and breathing recipes and posts. Somewhere along the line, or perhaps from the beginning, I knew this was not going to just be a hobby.
But how do you create and monetize a brand? Especially a brand that has been seen SO many times. Every mother with kids does these things. Every person with a life at all EATS. Why would people care what I do? I like to think I've found my niche, and also I'm pretty confident that being on my third belly pop around, I've got this mothering thing down pat most days. But even with dozens of friends turning to me for advice anyway, how can I convince brands to endorse me? Because sure, my clicks and likes can generate Google adsense like every other startup page, but come on honey - pennies don't pay bills.
I should stop here and say this: this is not something that can be done if your only motivations are financial. You must truly like to share your life, ideas, and experiences with others in an engaging sense. Which I thankfully truly do. But let's be real - extra income for doing what you love is a dream right? I recently read that more and more women are taking on unconventional freelance jobs as a career, and I understand why. Flexible schedules, managing your goals, and not rotting under fluorescent lights are all reasons that top my list.
So after hours and hours poured over my laptop reading up on brand ambassadorships and learning what programs are available to bloggers, I began to apply. A new opportunity to review diapers? Yes, please, sign me up! A free box of beauty supplies in exchange for two posts? Sure! I was so eager to get any legit sponsored posts that I stretched myself too thin. But even then, I was still excited. This is real work, I thought. Then came the bigger jobs. REAL, household name brands were choosing little old me to represent their products. Each project came with five page pdfs of instructions. You can't use this term. You must include this disclosure. Use these hashtags only. I felt so important. Too important. I thought I could take on the world, all from the comforts of my dated little laptop.
What's really interesting to me is what I learned about my work ethic. My friends and family that know me well have always known I am a bit extreme when it comes to interests. I find something I love - a new job, a hobby, a diet, a lifestyle - and I run with it. I dive headfirst and as deep as possible, and I make sure everyone knows about it. But give it a few months, and never fail I am bored. I've always known this. It is the reason I could not focus in honor school and AP classes. It is the reason I've excelled in, and quit, over 10 jobs in 4 different fields in 10 years, and the reason I quit school early to move to Hawaii for a random job on a cruiseship. It is the reason I've had so many relationships, and traveled so much. I can't sit still, mentally. It's not that I couldn't complete tasks or understand subjects - just that I often mastered things so quickly that I was deathly bored. Burnt out, I suppose. I can credit all of my career knowledge to this trait of mine. I learn quickly, and partnered with my being responsible and reliable, I've always been the perfect employee (Perfect student, perfect girlfriend maybe?). Until I wasn't.
And I mean really, really wasn't. Everything I've ever done, or loved, has mostly ended abruptly. Maybe I like to keep people guessing. Maybe I like to do what's totally unexpected. I've been promoted twice and never been a minute late, WHY would I just decide not to show up one day? Why not. I've grown up in a small town with rural roots and a great local community, why would I just decide to move across the country and give up my school dreams? Why not. I've climbed my way to the top of a soon-to-be international corporation, with a salary twice the amount I could imagine, paid college training, healthcare, childcare - WHY would I quit and decide to stay at home and bake cookies? And post pictures of said cookies for you people? Why not.
So I shouldn't have been surprised by my crash into the blog world. Since my son was born 6.5 years ago, I've been struggling with the idea that I really needed a part time job (which is all I've ever initially accepted), but that every position I landed quickly turned into overtime. I was either promoted, or asked favors to take advantage of my natural work ethic. Being a people pleaser, I've never been able to say no. What I've learned in the past year though is that it's never been the jobs - it's me. I throw myself at full speed, and I don't slow down until I'm burnt out. And that's exactly what happened with my blog.
Four months in, several skills and successful brand partnerships under my belt, and a brand new camera my husband bought me for Christmas and suddenly I realized I was no longer excited. Post deadlines that I had set myself became dreaded, and postponed. Getting out of bed in the morning, I began to stall before sitting at my screen. I redecorated an entire room into a beautiful home office, and couldn't find motivation to work in it. Photos were sitting on my camera roll for days that turned into weeks, unedited and just a thought bubble in the process of creative writing. My kids were watching way too much tv and beginning to complain that I was always on my computer, not playing with them enough, as I was frustrated and procrastinating everything. Things I wanted to write about were moved to the backburner to keep up with sponsored opportunities. And worse, some of the sponsorships I took on were not brands I truly stand behind. In fact, one of them (not going to throw myself under the PR bus here, but it's a little obvious) is a brand that I would NEVER buy for my family and household. And yet here I was promoting it because they chose me and my persona as an "ideal fit." I felt like a fake.
At one point, I felt like I had written myself into a corner. Each post started to sound like an ad, with a cookie cutter template of big photo here, quirky sentiment here, etc. Engagement on social media was hard, because my words sounded generic even to my own ears. This was not my voice. I am outspoken. I am sarcastic. I say the word FUCK way too often. And I was censoring myself to fit into some preconceived mommy blog bubble that was my idea of how "we" are supposed to write.
My blog, which has started as an outlet - a safe haven - to vent my sometimes unconventional mind, showcase my overflowing creativity, and connect with other real people, had become just another job I loathed. And frankly, I felt like I had failed. People started asking me when I would post again. My husband started nudging me at each meal, "Will this be featured on your site?" and I started finding reasons to keep myself busy in the home and running errands to avoid coming up with yet another cheesy storyline for some product I frankly couldn't give a shit about. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Even a path I chose to take, doing something I love, had failed to capture and maintain my interest and attention.
Emails began to go unanswered. Sponsors had to be informed I would not be completing the last few projects I had agreed to post. And to be fair, I was newly pregnant. On New Year's Eve, a little pink plus sign popped up on that peestick, and although planned, still spun my world upside down. Pregnancy fatigue is no joke. And posting about food when I spent hours hurled over the toilet just wasn't on my radar. (I was even hospitalized last pregnancy from severe morning sickness. My babies kick my ass.) So maybe I had an excuse for a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two. But I milked that whiny little excuse dry.
After I passed the nausea stage, suddenly I immersed myself in vacations. Oh no, I can't just pack last minute and enjoy it. I need to write a list two weeks before our departure date and make sure I have every perfect little item purchased beforehand and no errand left behind. And so it went on. No one asked about the blog again for awhile. I continuously said "When I start blogging again..." and each time I think my husband believed me less. Inside, I knew I would, but I just couldn't put my finger on why I grew to hate it so much.
Even this post has been on my mind for weeks. And it's such a relief to get it all out. And move forward.
I feel focused and refreshed, and ready to take things slow.
This is my personal space I choose to share. Extra income is nice, but not necessary. Readers supporting what I do by clicking on affiliate links is greatly appreciated, but not why I want you on my blog. I want to connect on a real basis, with real people who remember above all else that I too am REAL. Products and services I promote will often be sponsored, but more than just the generic disclaimers claim, opinions really will be 100% my own. If I cannot believe in the company and the values behind it, it will not be here. And if I want something here, if words I choose to say may be considered offensive to a mega-corporation's image - guess what? They will stay anyway. Because deep down I believe being genuine is more important than being popular. And if both of those things can coexist, even better.
'Beautiful, useful, or loved' is the motto for my home. If it is not one of those things, it does not stay in my life. This now applies here as well. I hope I'm welcomed back, and I hope someone else can learn from my experiences during my first year of blogging.
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