04 June 2014

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.

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.

Then

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.

Now

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. 

What's ahead

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*

Your comments

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*jumping up and down, clapping wildly*

So glad you concluded blogging is not dead! I think that it is a great form of expression but some of it has become this commercial vehicle. It is kind of like how Pinterest had this great community feel and then advertisers got a hold of it. So many blogs exhaust themselves with sponsored this and that and it isn't just a space to share. Can't wait to read more. Best of luck, Asha, and I hope your Parent Hacks book tour brings you here to Las Vegas. Would love to give you a hug in person someday. THAT is what blogging has given us, so many wonderful friends and connections that we get to someday meet in person and feel like we've always known one another.

I am wholly behind the "blogging isn't dead" thing, as you probably know. I love that you're sticking around and allowing your conversations to happen where they're best had. And a book, too! A whole new season has shifted into place :)

I'm so glad to see this! I am not a huge user of social media, though I do use Facebook a lot. I look forward to your emails and to seeing what you post on Facebook. I'm glad to hear that with this change, people will be able to post to you very easily, but also that I am not going to miss out on great ideas just because I'm not really in Instagram. I'm looking forward to so many more ideas as mu kids get older and I find myself always needing new insight!

Asha, we must be tuned into the same cosmic channel lately. I'm going through my own blogging renaissance (of sorts).

It's smart to give ourselves permission now to expand beyond just parenting talk.

If you ever make it to the middle of the country, I will do my best to meet up.

Magnificent. I am so happy for you and so eager to know the parent behind the hacks ;)

I started my blog a year after you. Your plan sounds fabulous! Glad you're sticking around!

Mary, momma to many

I've still got your back and I'll follow you wherever you go. (In a not-stalking kind of way!) I still appreciate the nudge you gave me to encourage me to blog. I've lost my initial umph with the site, but I still post things every few weeks.

Your daughter looks just like you btw- lovely!

I didn't realize we were blog-twins as well as soul-sisters--my first blog was born the same month. Wow, can you imagine if we knew then where those first steps would lead us? It kind of blows my mind.

We have talked about this so much, but I'm so glad you are articulating and affirming--for all of us who have seen the "goldrush years" come and go--that the essence of personal and community blogging is evergreen.

Now to make sure ashadornfest.com is in my RSS! Hope you will offer an email subscription? xo

Congratulations! I am so excited for you and CANNOT wait to hear more :)

Congratulations! I'm already looking forward to reading and re-reading your yet-to-be published book. And, as for your newest blog, I'd follow you anywhere. ; )

So, so wonderful my friend!

I am so inspired by you, proud of you and thrilled to see what unfolds in the days ahead! xoxo

It so funny how 9 years can pass by so quickly. We tuned into Parenthacks after our son, Ranger, was born. It was so funny to find I had another mental association the name Dornfest because I had been reading Rael's thoughts on tech stuff online a few years before. When Adrienne brought up your name in relation to this cool new parenting website, I was surprised and happy to see the connection. Finding this place and sharing ideas about keeping this new family train on the tracks helped keep us grounded, confirmed our instincts, and guided us out of trouble in those early, sometimes scary, days.

I'm glad you're not giving it up and I'm happy that there will be more in the future. I look forward to continuing to check in every now and then to see and share how we all succeed and fail and pick ourselves up to try again together. You've carved a nice space out here and I'm happy to see it continue.

Love.

Whatever you put your mind to Asha, will be a wonderful success. Enjoy writing your next book and I'll follow you over to your new style old-skool blog! Mich x

You are going to do even more amazing things! Here's to the next 9 years!

Thank you for all you've shared with parents everywhere! Congratulations on your new endeavors ; looking forward to it all!

Congrats Asha. Just came across ParentHacks (oh where have i been!)- you've done a fantastic job. So glad to hear that your son is thriving now. Good luck with the book and your personal blog.

Well-written. I just want to add that the connections are international. I actually came to Parent Hacks in 2008 via the blog of an American ex-pat (I'm in Italy, I think she was in Estonia). I think we needed the "hacks" because they gave us a way to bring a bit of American ingenuity to our foreign lives. Thanks for being (and staying) around!

Thank you for all these lovely replies, here and on Facebook. Stories of years spent together, of feeling connections on the other side of the WORLD...I can't tell you how much this means to me. I can't ever properly thank you enough.

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Asha's Book

  • At Amazon: Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less

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    Minimalist Parenting is an encouraging roadmap for decluttering your schedule, your home, and your vision for family life. Reviewers call it "a much welcome alternative to the usual parenting advice."

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