Why Blogging Isn't Dead for Me: Parent Hacks Then, Now, & Ahead
This is a continuation of my attempt to tell you what's next for Parent Hacks. Thank you for indulging my need to talk things out in order to get them clear in my head.
If backstory's not your thing, feel free to skip to the "What's Ahead" section. But if you're interested in one writer's changing relationship to her work, read on.
I'm trying to write a "What's Next for Parent Hacks and Me" post and I can't seem to help but start at the beginning of time.— Asha Dornfest (@parenthacks) May 9, 2014
In the beginning
In December 2005, I stayed up late 10 nights in a row and launched Parent Hacks.
Here's how my life looked then:
- I had a six year-old son and a two year-old daughter.
- I was on a break from writing to focus on the kids.
- I was new enough to Portland that I didn't have much community.
- Books and magazines were the main source of parenting information, and very little “expert advice” seemed to apply to my experience.
- Parenting blogs were fairly new, mostly personal journals, and not widely read, except for Dooce.
- There was no Facebook, Twitter or social media.
- As a parent I felt in over my head, and, at times, lost.
Parent Hacks was my way of asking a simple question:
Is anyone else having a hard time with this parenting thing?
I hoped for a response, and maybe even other (wiser? saner?) parents' suggestions for what was working for them.
I got a response. A big, smart, generous response.
Over the next several years, parents sent in their tips, ideas and questions. We talked, sometimes in the blog comments, other times via email. Friendships and mentorships were born here.
Parent Hacks allowed me to be a part of an ongoing conversation that was practical, personal, and often about more than parenting.
I came to understand that we all feel in over our heads at times. And, that we also have moments of genius and ingenuity. Sharing those moments made us all a bit smarter and helped us all breathe a bit easier.
This blog opened professional doors I never even knew existed, and introduced me to people I now consider some of my closest friends.
At the same time, my life got more complicated. My son's school experience and health skidded off the map. My husband founded an Internet startup (anyone with startup experience will deeply understand the demands this places on a family). My daughter, while healthy and happy, had developmental question marks of her own.
I hit some scary lows while navigating that time. Doctors told us my son’s challenges were lifelong, and for a time the future was pretty murky.
(Guess what? Those challenges are so far behind us it's hard to remember them clearly.)
The Internet changed as well. How we use it, what we expect from it, its role in our lives.
In short, everything changed. But I kept writing, not always sure what I was doing. Sometimes this blog would go dormant for weeks while I wrestled with my offline demons. Your advice and companionship often kept me steady.
Here's how life looks now:
- In September, my son will start high school; my daughter, middle school.
- My kids are thriving in school and life.
- Portland is Home.
- Startup life led to jobs at several fabulous companies and organizations for my husband, Rael.
- The Internet is many parents' first stop for information and support. We can now look to each other as easily as we can look to "professionals."
- Parenting conversation is happening in many forms (tweets, posts, articles, books, videos, podcasts) and on many levels, from individuals to media companies, from first-time parents to medical experts.
- I feel grounded as a parent.
In 2005, Parent Hacks gave me the community I wished I'd had as a new mom. Today, the feedback and connection I longed for is available all over the Internet and social media. New parents can reach out, ask for help, share an idea (theirs or someone else's), and get a response. Parent hacks are circulating everywhere, even places like Mashable and Buzzfeed.
Isn't that amazing? And wonderful?
Sure, the Internet and social media can be the source of overload, drama and plenty of crap. But we spend time here because we can share something real. The roles of writer and reader -- speaker and listener -- are more flexible than ever.
THAT'S why I'm letting the "blogging is dead" funeral march pass me by. Blogs may no longer be at the cutting edge but the spirit behind them is alive and well.
I've never been good at envisioning a plan and BOOM executing it. My entire career, including Parent Hacks, has been one intuited leap followed by another. Luckily a stepping stone always materialized before I fell into the river. ("Fell into" is the right phrase, because it describes pretty much every job I've ever held.)
It's been quiet around here because I wanted this next step to be more intentional. This site contains more than my words -- it holds years' worth of your contributions. I don't take that lightly.
Here's what's ahead.
More Parent Hacks: #parenthacks
The conversation we started nine years ago could only live on a blog, but today it can happen anywhere in social media. Parents are swapping ideas all over the place which is just what the Internet was made for.
At this point, asking you to submit your hacks to me just creates a bottleneck. I want to enable conversation, not choke it.
Social media is the perfect place to share hacks, so let's do it.
Post your hacks on your favorite social media profile and tag them with #parenthacks.
Facebook updates, Instagram photos, tweets, pins -- whatever -- if you include the #parenthacks hashtag in your update, I can find it.
As always, I'll curate and share hacks on the blog, but this way you can also follow the #parenthacks hashtag wherever you like to spend your time.
If you're not a social media user, you can still submit your hacks using this form.
Here are all the details about how and why to use #parenthacks, plus 6 reasons I think it's a very big deal.
More writing: a Parent Hacks book
I'm a much better writer and conversationalist than I am a "problogger" or entrepreneur. These last nine years have taught me plenty about my strengths and weaknesses. Much as I admire the women and men who've run with the business opportunities that have grown with the blogosphere, that's not where my passion (or skill) lies.
Writing is my foundation, and conversation is my fuel. And so:
I've started writing my next book: a Parent Hacks book.
It's more than a "best of Parent Hacks," which could be accomplished with a series of blog posts. This book is going to be something beautiful, something only possible with a book.
Over the years, I've had a number of opportunities to write a Parent Hacks book and I've always declined. This site represents much more than a pile of tips and distilling it into a book felt both static and redundant.
But the life of books has changed dramatically in the last couple years. I'm not just talking about the move toward ebooks; I'm talking about how books and the resulting Internet conversations now go hand-in-hand, each strengthening the other. Writing Minimalist Parenting with Christine showed me that in a powerful way.
That's just the beginning of the story. There's more, so much more. About why I'm doing this now, about the publisher and the amazing set of circumstances that brought us together, and about how I hope the book and this site will do something together neither could do alone.
I'll tell you everything in future posts. (This is already too long.)
I'm both excited and intimidated. In some ways this feels familiar, but it's also new territory. There's a lot for us to talk about.
More me: ashadornfest.com
Parent Hacks opened the door to friendships across the country. Isn't it funny that I feel like our kids have grown up together? And that we have, too?
The reason I've been able to do this for so long is because Parent Hacks isn't solely about me; you have more good ideas than I could ever have by myself and anyway the whole point here is collective wisdom.
And yet I find myself wanting to share in a more personal way than I have in the past. I want you to know me, and I want to know you -- as families and as people.
My kids are older now which means three things:
- They can give their input and permission about the stuff I write about our family. In fact, they're asking to be more involved in my online life. This excites me no end.
- I have a longer-term perspective on parenting than I did when I started blogging.
- I have space in my life to explore new things.
Rather than clutter this site with my personal experiments and family photos, I'm rebooting my personal blog at ashadornfest.com.
That's right, old school blogging! Back to the future!
Let me tell you, setting up a blog today is way different than it was 10 years ago. I'm a little out of my depth, but it's totally fun to be a newbie again.
I'll invite you over as soon as it's live.
Is she done yet?
Phew. I hope I haven't completely exhausted your patience. Thank you for putting up with my wordiness and need to process.
If you have questions, thoughts, musings, memories, suggestions, concerns, ANYTHING -- even if you just want to go BLAAHHHHH like I just did -- I'd love to hear it in the comments. If you've never commented before, now's the perfect moment to start.
Here's to the next thing together. Thank you for this. I LOVE YOU GUYS. *sigh* *ice cream for everyone*