Monday, November 27, 2017

Why I Started The Jersey Momma Blog

Why start a blog? I hear this question often, and many people are curious about how I started the blog and why. My friend over at Theresa's Reviews recently posted an article about why she started her site, and it inspired me to do the same! So here's the story about why I do what I do, and how The Jersey Momma was born.


I was a school teacher for about 15 years before deciding to leave the profession when our son was born. I was excited and grateful to be home with our son each day. Now I had the most important little student of all! But I was surprised to find that it wasn't all sunshine and baby powder after I left teaching. I was lonely and it was a huge adjustment for me to be home every day. Don't get me wrong, I chose that route and I knew how fortunate I was to be able to stay with my son every day. But I can't deny that the transition was challenging- I missed my students, I missed being with my colleagues, I missed the creativity and energy in my classroom. I spent a lot of time alone in our little living room (pictured below - with those ugly pillows!). I couldn't find many other moms where I lived, but I was fortunate that my parents kept me company and went on fun adventures with me (and the baby!). These trips and excursions would later help form the article topics for my site.


When I was teaching, I kept a classroom website that I would update monthly, so I decided to create a similar website from home. I thought I could keep in touch with my former students while still feeling like I had a connection to the world of education. I also began freelance writing for The Education Center's Mailbox Magazine, and an awesome site called Yahoo Voices. Look below! One of my pet posts even made their front page at the time! Best Grooming Tools for Pets- wowee!


Yahoo Voices gave me newfound confidence as a writer, and their online training academy taught me important information about writing online and how search engines work. I 'met' many other writers through Yahoo and I was proud of the work I accomplished there. I also felt like I was helping other teachers by creating lesson plans and ideas through The Mailbox. I was honored when they published my name on lesson plans in a resource that I once used as a teacher.


Eventually I changed my site to a blogspot address at Blogger in hopes of making things easier on myself (I found it challenging to maintain the domain on GoDaddy). I called myself The Jersey Momma because that's literally who I had become. I liked documenting the places we visited and the crafts we made at home, but at that point, I didn't have much of an audience. Yahoo Voices suddenly closed its doors to all writers, and I stopped receiving jobs at The Mailbox. Around this time, my two year old nephew, Joey, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was The Jersey Momma's Boy's only male cousin, his little buddy.


In 2013, my beautiful nephew passed away at the age of three (just a month short of his 4th birthday), leaving behind a great big hole in the world. I can't even put into words what that was like, or what it was like for my husband's family, and my nephew's parents. It was devastating, and it changed everything. I was terrible at expressing my feelings about it, and I felt like I failed Joey in the end because I was too afraid to go see him in his final hours. What a coward I was! I kept it bottled up because that was the easiest way to deal with it, and I felt like I needed to put on a strong face for our son.


Our beloved doggy, Milo (my best friend and companion for 15 years), also passed away shortly after we lost Joey. Then The Jersey Momma's Boy started Kindergarten and he hated it, especially since he was still dealing with the loss of his cousin and his dog (disliking school might not sound like a big deal, but do you know what it's like when your child hates going to school every day? When they come home sad and miserable and don't want to be dropped off there? It's beyond stressful).


It was just a tough year over all, for so many reasons. I felt like everything was upside down. My website was a good way to keep busy and distracted, but I'll be honest, it needed work!
Fortunately, I met some wonderful moms on the playground after school, and I told them about the website I had started. They read bits and pieces of it and offered me advice, and soon I started to believe that I could make it into something special. I wanted it to become a helpful resource for families. Working on it enabled me to channel my grief and isolation. I will always be grateful to those mommas. I hope they know how much their support meant, and still does mean to me.


I also use my site as a way to honor Joey's memory now. You can read about some of the activities I do to remember him here. And I devoted many articles to my Milo over at The Jersey Doggy, a pet spin-off of this site.

People often referred to my blog as a 'hobby.' They told me I should go back to teaching- 'that website is nice, but...'  But what? After a few successful posts, I realized I was reaching thousands and thousands of people. I could no longer doubt if my audience existed because I had the analytics to prove that they most certainly did.

In retrospect, I think the naysayers fueled my desire to make the blog even better. I didn't want to fit into a mold that someone else expected of me. I wanted to pave my own path. When someone tells me, 'this is how we've always done it,' I often respond with, 'but I don't want to do it that way. Is there a different way? Is there a better way?' which I suppose can be quite irritating if you know me. But that's how I am. And, essentially, that's what The Jersey Momma is all about. When I take a trip or visit an attraction, I tell it like it is. I share my experience with others so that they can form their own opinions about whether or not to visit, or what to try. When I find a fun, useful product, or a new business just starting out, I want to work with them and help them get the word out, too.  I love meeting new people and attending shows where I can collaborate and share with others. That's one of the best parts about what I do.


There is always room for improvement, and I know I will continue to grow and make things even better here at The Jersey Momma. But, for now, I look at my articles with pride, knowing that some of them alone have already reached over 100,000 people. I used to tell my students that written words have power, and now I'm living proof of that.


I hope that my site is a place people come to for advice, information, and ideas. I hope when they visit, they feel like they're chatting with a friend. And most of all, I hope that my site inspires other people, especially those who doubt themselves and their abilities.

When someone tells you that you can't do something, find your own way, and create what you wish existed.