On this Journey of ours, there have been plenty of turns in the road, and with each step, we’ve never stopped believin’.
2004 – Cooper and I were writing a book on parenting in the big picture, doing tons of research talking to other parents, when we started our blog, Been There. This was back before ‘mom blogs’ even existed and from the start, we were captivated by the moms we met online, the subculture of women who were writing about their lives and motherhood in the most brilliant, real, funny and moving posts and comments imaginable. Back then, parenting magazines gave the impression that everything about motherhood, raising children, running a household, caring for parents, holding down a job, etc. was just blissful, so when it came to figuring out the tough stuff, moms were pretty much on their own. Mom bloggers changed that.
We shifted our research to include moms online and the stories we collected were laugh-out-loud funny, inspiring and full of incredible ideas. Here are our first posts on Been There.
Believin’ Lesson #1 – Moms are each other’s best experts. On the web, we can talk to each other and get advice, a shoulder, ideas and be heard in ways that have never happened before.
2005 – Katrina hit New Orleans, the levees broke and Cooper and I were yelling at our TVs because no one was helping the people who were stranded on the roofs of their homes, surrounded by filthy, swirling, snake-infested water. We decided to create a Clearinghouse and asked our blog readers to post the supplies they could send directly to people who had lost their homes. Moms jumped on board. They wanted to do more than just send a donation to a big relief organization, to get involved in real ways and to involve their kids. The New Orleans Times Picayune picked up the link, as did Hurricane Housing and others and the Been There Clearinghouse was born.
Through our digital community corkboard, people sent clothes, airline miles, refurbished Mac computers (hundreds of them), beauty salon equipment, a used Audi, and so much more – all directly to people who had lost everything. The packages were lovingly assembled with handwritten notes wishing people well. People also used the Clearinghouse to tell their stories. Many wrote about how, in the past, their neighbors had come to their aid when tragedy had struck and now they had a chance to pay the good deeds forward. Others wrote about how meaningful it was to receive packages with their names on them with exactly what they needed and handwritten notes of encouragement from people they did not know and might never meet, but who cared about them.
Believin’ Lesson #2 – Follow your gut. We put the book on hold, found ourselves in the relief business for a time, and were moved beyond words by the incredible ways moms got into action.
Believin’ Lesson #3 – Moms online are powerful beyond measure. They want to use the web to make each other’s lives better and we don’t necessarily need big organizations to act as filters. We can connect online, one to one, and magic shows up – with mom bloggers leading the way.
2006 – After running the Clearinghouse, we couldn’t pull away from the moms online. We were hooked. We really wanted to create a place where we could gather, talk, commiserate, and make things a little better for each other every day, so we created themotherhood.com.
Believin’ Lesson #4 – Jump in and don’t be (too) afraid.
2007 – 2008 – We immersed ourselves in The Motherhood and mom bloggers, and loved it. Our first editors, the incredible Becki and Brandie, joined the team.
Believin’ Lesson #5 – When it feels like the world is shifting in huge, historic ways, pinch yourself and go with it.
2009 – The big question: How to cover costs and earn a living? Answer: We could stay true to ourselves and our community, keep our site ad-free and create a new business venture by working with brands to help them reach moms online in creative, smart, real and value-added ways. At the same time, we could come up with programs and events for moms and brands working together to give back to their communities. Cooper and I had met working in PR and communications strategy years before, so we went back to our roots, with a wholly new twist.
That year our community and hundreds of mom bloggers also got behind Mom Sends the Msg, The Motherhood’s campaign to reduce distracted driving (thank you Christine Koh, for the beautiful designs). Oprah’s producers picked up on it and invited us to the taping of her show on the topic.
Believin’ Lesson #6 – The web opens up endless possibilities.
Believin’ Lesson #7 – It’s not the Mad Men model anymore. We can craft ways for brands and moms to interact directly so everyone wins. And when we engage social media moms to work with brands, we can help them create value for themselves and the communities they’ve worked so hard to build.
2010 – The Motherhood Talks are our live, interactive, all-text events that got their start years before when Deborah created ‘Moms Big Night In’ and invited us all to pull up a chair with a cup of tea or glass of wine and have a chat on Monday nights in The Motherhood. By 2010, the Talks had taken off and we were seeing first-hand how moms talking among themselves and with experts could make real headway together.
Believin’ Lesson #8 – We are surrounded by amazing women whose huge hearts, great ideas and initiative are changing our lives.
2011 – We created programming in The Motherhood that was all about adding real value to moms’ lives, but the site was crashing at every turn. The conversation would get going on the website with people streaming in, adding their thoughts and insights, and then suddenly, we’d all get the spinning ball. Everyone was there but we couldn’t talk. It was time for a rebuild. We found the most wonderful design and tech team out there, Red Antler and Pixafy, and with our great Erin and Kayla, got to work.
Believin’ Lesson #9 – Just keep swimming. When things get challenging, don’t give up.
Believin’ Lesson #10 – Website makeovers take forever. And, with the right team, we can create a place that reflects who we are to the core.
Believin’ Lesson #11 – Breath. Enjoy the process. We get to take all the lessons with us.
2012 – We’re starting the year with our new look and engine, a site we’ve always dreamed of, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
Believin’ Lesson #12 – Here in The Motherhood, what’s in our hearts will always lead the way.