Blogging made me the mom I swore I would never be

I’d just hit 20,000 followers on my blog, when I decided to leave blogging for good. With each new follower, I was becoming the mom I swore I would never be: the one who cared for strangers more than her own family.

It started over cocktails with my newspaper editor. “You should write a blog to say all the things you can’t say in the paper,” she joked.

She was right. My humor wasn’t always appropriate for the traditional newspaper column I wrote, especially the one I wrote about parenting. It would be really nice to have an outlet for writing that wasn’t what other people told me to write about, but rather what I decided to put on the page.

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For weeks, I heard her advice echo again and again in my head. And after creating numerous pro and con lists (which, of course, were pointless) I took the plunge. I purchased a domain, set up the skeleton of a blog template and created Martinis and Minivans.

I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to write. To get out all the stories, experiences and hilarities of being a parent who struggled every day to understand the complex world of parenting.

I set a goal for myself to write a blog post every single day. I set up a Facebook page, a Twitter profile and even a Pinterest account, though my crafting abilities bordered on catastrophic.

It felt exhilarating to build an audience, to have more and more followers relating to my words and sharing their thoughts and comments. I found myself wanting to soak up as much information as humanly possible about the world of blogging. How could my site look more appealing? How often should I be posting on social media? What topics would cause people to stop and read?

More and more of my day started to focus on the blog — the fun little side project I was supposed to be doing as an outlet of creativity. And less on the life around me. My children were 5 and 2 years old. I wasn’t outside playing ball or working on puzzles with them. I was in front of my computer, connecting to a group of strangers instead of my own family.

After participating in a blogging contest called Blogger Idol and surprisingly winning it, I suddenly went from a few hundred readers, who were mostly family members and college friends I blackmailed to read, to thousands of strangers that suddenly were part of my everyday world.

I was checking my social media constantly, often ignoring my children to run to the computer so I could slap a post up. I ended every night falling asleep to the glow of the computer monitor.

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I said no to social engagements, put on the television or iPad for my children when I swore I wouldn’t, got take-out more times than our budget allowed, and basically lived and breathed the blog.

And my efforts showed. I had over 20,000 combined followers, I was being asked to freelance for amazing sites like The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune and my following was growing by hundreds every week.

But I was miserable.

Every night I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I felt like all these people were counting on me to provide humor and heart to them, when all I wanted to do was pass out on the couch.

I was creating “made-for-blog” moments just so I had something to write about. I could turn the most boring afternoon into something fantastical for the blog. Every cute thing my children said or did, I quickly exploited through the blog. I tried to convince myself that I was doing it for a visual baby book for them someday, but the truth was, I was addicted to the attention. I got a rush to see 1,000 people like a post or comments telling me how funny I was. It was the biggest ego boost you could ask for as a writer.

I was shifting into a world that started to consume me. Every time my followers significantly increased, I found myself on my phone and computer more. But with each post, my writing was suffering. I was putting out crap just to put something out. I was writing instead of living.

And then my daughter told me something that changed everything.

She told me that she had a field trip coming up. I asked her excitedly if she wanted me to chaperone. She said, “Yes, but I’m sure you’ll be working on your computer and won’t be able to make it.”

Her words stung like a knife. The whole reason I became a stay-at-home mom and freelancer was so I wouldn’t miss opportunities like field trips and classroom parties. I stayed home so I could be involved in my children’s lives more.

I decided then and there to end the blog. It would take a few months to wrap things up, but I knew in that very moment that I was walking out instead of crawling up the blogging ladder.

When the day finally did arrive to say goodbye, I didn’t feel sad. I’ve stayed on social media because I find it fun and it could be on my terms. It gives me an outlet for sarcasm and observations. But I no longer wake up to the marks of keyboard keys on my face or listen to stories from events I had to miss.

I no longer say no to my daughter when she wants to play dress up. I no longer make excuses for why I can’t read in my child’s classroom or chaperone their school field trips.

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And my family is better for it. I’m better for it. I’m back to being the mother I always wanted to be. And as any mother can attest, every day we feel guilty for something we should be doing. But this was something I could control. I could walk away from blogging and not ever have to feel guilty about this again. And the effect was instant. I was back, and they embraced me with open arms. Proud of what I had done but happy to have their mother and wife back on the inside more.

And now when I write, it is for me or for my freelance work. Whether it is a novel I’m working on or a piece for a magazine or site, it’s because I want to. And that’s the gift that leaving blogging has given me. A chance to truly be me.

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