LM: Great Moments in Parenting is a website full of photos, essays and “moments” that are submitted from other moms and dads. Tell us how the site came to be.
Virginia: I had the idea to start a blog that anyone could submit to, women and men, that focuses on short “moments,” like Facebook posts, and to make it open to all moments of parenting—not just the good ones. Thus our “no judgment” motto. The stories serve as group therapy (“I feel better because that happened to someone else, too.”) Thus our other motto: “Share your stories–it’s cheaper than therapy.”
LM: Have you had any online experience prior to launching Great Moments in Parenting?
Virginia: This is my first online venture, and I admit it’s been a big learning curve. I’d written and edited before, but I had zero experience with websites or social media. Luckily I have a great developer and the advice of several Austin moms who are experienced in these areas (Cindy Brummer, Nicole P. Basham, Jennifer Hill Robenalt).
LM: Let’s say I have an awesome essay that I want to submit. Take me through the process.
Virginia: You go to the site, click on the big yellow “Submit” button. You can log in with Facebook or Twitter or register independently. Then you upload your essay. I edit everything and publish according to our waiting list.
LM: Do you then own my essay once it is printed on your site, or can I print in other places as well?
Virginia: We do not own the rights; you do. Submitting just gives me the opportunity to use it on the site and to promote the site. If you’re worried abut privacy, we only display a Username for “moments,” and you can use a pen name for an essay. I worry about privacy myself so I’m very protective of people’s information.
LM: How many children do you have and what are their ages?
Virginia: I have three kids: a boy who’s six and twin three-year-old girls. They keep me pretty busy.
LM: Do you work from home? If so, how do you manage to keep the work separate from home life?
Virginia: Good question. This is always a juggling act. I find I really can’t work form home when the kids are home, because they like to come in and jump on my chair and hit keys in my computer and I end up shouting. I try to work when the kids are in school, and turn off the computer before I drive down to get them. It’s not always possible to get it all done before 2:30, though, so sometimes I pick it up again after their bedtime. I try to be “present” with them. Sometimes I leave my phone behind so I’m not checking it every two minutes at the park. I find that aspect of modern life really sad.
LM: What has been one challenge that you have faced and overcome as a working mama?
Virginia: The challenge is to learn how to switch back and forth between my own ambitions and my adult time to the full-on mom role where I’m actively listening to my children. I think that’s the big balance for our generation of parents–we are more invested than ever in our children and our child-rearing style. How do we maintain that level of participation while re-stocking with our own mind and marriage and health?
LM: Are you originally from Austin? If not, where are you from and what made you move here?
Virginia: I’m originally from outside Philadelphia, and have lived in many places, including Austin (for graduate school), before spending a decade in LA. But Austin kept calling me back with its siren song. We used to vacation here pre-kids. Finally my husband and I realized we didn’t have to live in LA–we could live happier and better in Austin. We haven’t regretted it once.
LM: What do you love about living in Austin? And what is one thing you would change if you could?
Virginia: I love the pools and the parks. What I appreciate most is the attitude of acceptance. Come as you are. Compared to the anxiety of LA, where “you are never _____ enough” (thin, rich, famous), living in Austin is like slipping into a warm pool of happiness. The thing that took getting used to was one of the things that make it great—the slower pace. When I first moved here I just want my coffee in a shop without a conversation; now I look forward to one. It’s like we had to be deprogrammed from the cult of LA and relearn actual human contact.
The one thing I could do without in Austin is the mosquitoes. I am mosquito bait and we live next to a creek, so summer sunsets are difficult.
LM: If you had one day all to yourself– no husband, no kids– what would we find you doing?
Virginia: Walking the Town Lake trail, getting a massage, having a tomato bisque soup and reading the paper (I really miss having time to sit down and read through the Sunday New York Times).
LM: As a family, what are some of your favorite places in Austin to hit up?
Virginia: We spend our free time at the SW YMCA, Big and Little Stacy pools and walking the Town Lake trail (that’s how I got the girls to nap for many years—if you saw a sweaty mom pushing a double stroller with two sleeping towheads, that was me).
LM: If you could give out unsolicited advice what would you say, and to whom would you say it to?
Virginia: Lowered expectations are the key to happiness. When someone first told me this, my instinct was to debate it, but as my motherhood experience has grown in years and children, I’ve come to see the wisdom in it. I tried to “do it all” when I had my first child and was so frustrated. When I had my twins, the only goal I set for the first six weeks was to feed them and myself, and I was much happier. But even this is something I strive toward; I’m not perfect about trying not to be perfect.