Every Monday, Momstamp features interviews with women that inspire us. Discussing the impact becoming a parent has had on their lives, we find out what tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way to help them manage their lives more effectively.
As we know at Momstamp, there’s no one right way to do anything, there’s the right way for you. We hope the range of these interviews offer helpful glimpses into other parent’s processes.
Today, BuzzFeed’s Associate Parenting Editor, Morgan Shanahan talks with Momstamp co-founder, Julie Hermelin. Morgan is a blogger and screenwriter living in Los Angeles with her five-year-old daughter, dashing hubby, and two disparately sized dogs. Shanahan is also a United Nations Social Good Fellow, and frequently speaks about the intersections of social media, parenting, career, and society in general. She also Instagram’s like a boss.
What are your top five parenting hacks?
- Baking vegetables into breads, has been a great way to get my daughter to eat her vegetables. It’s a constant struggle. She’s a carb eater, so we try to make things as healthy as possible, simple things like oatmeal-zucchini bread and calling muffins cupcakes have helped.
- Local consignment shows: Every six months we go to a massive local consignment show. We take all of the stuff that our daughter has out-grown or she’s too old for and sell it. Once we buy her the new/used stuff we just about break even for the next 6 months. Kids go through clothes, toys and everything else so quickly, it’s insane to buy some of it new. It really got me through being unemployed and having a newborn. For the first year of life, I kept thinking, “What am I going to do?” and I realized, “Oh, wait, I got all of this great stuff from my baby shower, and I can just keep turning it over into new stuff.”
- Small Bounce House: For the first five years of my daughter’s life we had a really small backyard. We didn’t have room for a swing set, instead, we spent about a hundred bucks during a sale on Amazon and bought a small bounce house. Depending on what your budget is, you can get them with slides and different pieces, and it’s still less expensive than a swing set. It comes with it’s own blow up equipment. It was a great way for to get her energy out when we didn’t have much of a yard for her to run in. She would jump her her heart out.
- Sharpie Phone Number Tattoo: I write my phone number on my daughter’s leg in Sharpie when she goes on field trips or if we go to Disneyland, or anywhere where there’s a crowd, so that I can be easily reached if we’re separated. Sometimes, I do the arm, but the arm, seems like it rubs off more, because sometimes kids rub their head, or, face — I’ll put wherever it can be seen, whatever’s showing.
- Shock-proof, Water-proof case for your SmartPhone: If you’ve invested any kind of money into your phone, just suck it up and spend the extra 80 bucks to get the serious case, because it will save you in the long run.
Find more helpful recommendations from Morgan on Momstamp.
How has being a parent influenced your professional life?
Being a parent profoundly affected me, I had severe post-partum depression which changed my outlook on the world. I also was pregnant and unemployed, having been laid off the same week I conceived my daughter. I was looking for a job while trying to decide if I should look for a job, afraid that taking maternity leave might affect my career. I had this paralyzing fear of being “mommy-tracked.” I was also pitching open writing assignments, hoping to get jobs before I was showing, so that people wouldn’t know that I was going to expire at a certain point.
So, being a writer, I started a blog and over the course of the next year, that turned into a viable job. I had written fiction for a long time, screenwriting, commercials, but I had never written about my own life. I took those skills and shifted my focus into personal stories that ended up finding an audience. It launched me into a career that didn’t even exist when I was deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Suddenly, I had a career writing about parenting, discussing parenting issues and really trying to bring the parenting community together to have the conversations that needed to be had. It’s not really something I ever anticipated doing.
As a Parenting Editor, what’s the line between being a “professional” parent and just a parent?
At BuzzFeed, I’m focusing on the “parenting experience,” so obviously I draw on my own life but I don’t have to tell my personal stories. Which makes it easier for me to draw the line between my professional life and my life as a parent. The line was much more blurred for me as a personal blogger.
What has it been like to be part of the wave of people that created the business of parent blogging?
Blogging, and especially parent blogging or mom blogging, has provided an income stream for a lot of people who otherwise, may have had to sacrifice their career in order to raise their children. It’s been a bit of a revolution specifically for moms, which has led to society slowly reframing how we look at moms and the issue of why being a parent becomes a primary identifier for women but not for men. Women seem to become mom-hyphen-whatever. I am averse to being called a “mommy blogger”, because in actuality I’m just a blogger with a vagina, a child and area of expertise that happens to be “parenting”.
Have you seen a rise in “dad bloggers?”
Absolutely. I just spent the weekend in San Francisco at an event called The Dad 2.0 Summit. After speaking, I got to stay for the whole event and spent three days with hundreds of dad bloggers, who have their own incredible community. It’s a very different community than the mom community.
These men feel incredibly passionate about looking at fatherhood from the lens of a partner and caretaker. They are writing every day about it, and some of them have left corporate careers to focus on it full time, and there was a room full of sponsors there who seemed to very much think that it was a viable business. There was conference full of attendees, many of whom are making their living, very much like me, talking about the experience of parenthood. Our senior parenting editor here at BuzzFeed is a dad, Mike Spohr, who does tons of content not only about the experience of parenting, but also fatherhood specifically.
How has your co-parenting relationship with your husband evolved?
My husband and I have both been the primary caretaker at different points in our daughter’s life, so we’ve shifted back and forth to support each other’s careers, health, mental health and all of the other things in life that pop up. We are really 100 percent partners when it comes to her. We try to communicate with each other as best we can. We’ve really had to work together to figure out our tag team situation and when we needed child care.
How is that partnership raising your daughter impacted your relationship as a couple?
It has definitely improved our communication as a couple but, it’s also forced us to deal with each other in a really not-romantic way. We’ve scheduled the hell out of our lives. It’s added a whole other aspect to our relationship. We have our relationship and our marriage and now we have this almost business — horrible as that sounds — of raising our child. We really have to think a lot about all sorts of un-sexy things in life. But, I wouldn’t say that it negatively affects the other part of our life. I think it’s just, you know, a whole new aspect that we have to take into consideration.
What are some of the practical ways you are balancing work and family life?
I think work-life balance is one of those incredibly elusive things. It’s really hard. For the first five years of my daughter’s life, my husband and I were both self-employed and working from home, which was both a blessing and a curse. We were able to be there for our child, and I wouldn’t have traded it back, but there were downfalls. It was hard to draw lines. When every minute counts towards paying bills, you end up working a lot more. So, for me, moving into a more corporate structure – which was weirdly counter intuitive – has worked. There’s a lot more structure. I’m able to turn off the computer, leave work, and not turn it back on until I’m back to in the morning. That’s helped a lot with being able to focus on my family.
Also, not having a TV in our living room has helped a ton.
How has not having a TV in the living room helped your family?
We would frequently put it on in the background. I think, as a parent, you get home, especially as a working parent, you get home from a long day, and your kids have gotten home from a long day, and I certainly was guilty of turning on the TV to buy myself a little bit of unwinding time. Which had its benefits. But then the TV would sort of stay on for the rest of the evening, and no matter what we did, we would end up getting sucked back into a show. It was just default. We didn’t have to engage.
Now we have a TV in our house. It’s not in the living room. It’s not on the main floor where we do our cooking and our relaxing, and it’s made a huge difference. We’re finding ways to unwind as a family, instead of feeling like it’s something I need to do separate from my child.