Offbeat Mama turns ONE: what I’ve learned from 12 months of working on this website

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So, Offbeat Mama launched exactly one year ago yesterday! WHEW. What an intense year of learning it’s been — of course Offbeat Mama is all tangled up in my own experience of my first year of being an offbeat mama (Tavi’s birthday is coming up in a couple months) but it’s still been a pretty twisty turny learning experience.

Here are four lessons I’ve learned from publishing Offbeat Mama for a year:

You CAN have a low-drama parenting site

One of my biggest concerns with starting Offbeat Mama was that it was going to be non-stop drama. I’ve seen what the comments look like on most parenting websites. I’ve read mommyblogs since before they were called that. I’ve peeked into parenting forums. I know what happens when sleep deprived women get online and start debating parenting issues and the next thing you know it’s ALL CAPS YOU ARE AN AWFUL PARENT AND I HATE YOU. When I announced the launch of Offbeat Mama on Offbeat Bride, one of the first comments I got was from a reader saying, “Yeah well, be ready for lots of drama. You’ll seeeee.” And you know what? Like most people touting “you’ll seeees,” she was thankfully wrong. (This is mostly thanks to a commenting policy that’s fiercely enforced, and an attitude that if you don’t like the policy, don’t let the door bump ya on the way out.)

A mothering blog doesn’t have to be about one mother

I worried a lot when I started Offbeat Mama that people would expect it to be about ME. Thanks to privacy and stalker concerns, I knew I wouldn’t be writing that much about my personal experiences here … and I worried that the result might be off-putting and confusing. But you know what? Offbeat Mama is 10 times awesomer than Offbeat Ariel’s Mommyblog ever could be. I’ve only got my one experience to share. Y’all have such a wonderful wide, deep, delicious well of knowledge to tap into. I love sharing your stories on this site!

I can’t do it alone & a good managing editor is EVERYTHING

There have been a few editorial fits and starts with the site, the worst being when I spent the winter trying to manage it myself while also dealing with a newborn and running Offbeat Bride. Things were gruesome, and while I did the best I could, things improved 500 times over once a Managing Editor came on this spring. Have y’all noticed?

Business-wise, the mommyblog market is over-saturated and this website doesn’t make sense

From a business perspective, Offbeat Mama has had its challenges. This corner of the web is pretty well over-saturated, mostly by hobbyist bloggers who are willing to trade ad space for, like, a sample of laundry detergent. Not gonna lie: Offbeat Mama barely breaks even. I’ve had some very serious moments of wondering whether I could financially justify continuing to publish it. The Offbeat Empire is my full-time job. It’s how I support my family. And if a site can’t pull its own weight, then I have to cut bait. There were some dark times when I looked at the financials and shook my head and thought about tossing in the towel. But I told myself I’d give the site all of 2010 to start earning its keep, and you know what? It’s alllllmost there. It’s close enough that I’m calling it good, and looking forward to 2011.

So, what’s next?

Well, I’m embroiled in several big Offbeat Empire projects these days, including trying to get Offbeat Home launched in a few months. I’m aiming to do an Offbeat Mama reader survey posted soon so I can get a feel for what kinds of content y’all love best.

Mostly, here’s to another year of big lessons and big love. Thanks for being a part of the site, and a part of my learning process! 🙂

Comments on Offbeat Mama turns ONE: what I’ve learned from 12 months of working on this website

  1. “You CAN have a low-drama parenting site” <— And as a result learn a ton from other Moms without having to necessarily agree with them. Sometimes all that drama can get in the way of the learning from each other process. I still have some other fave mothering websites, but I love being able to come here, disagree/agree but everyone is still so open-minded!

  2. I’m so glad you decided to keep the site up! I was (and still am) a faithful reader of Offbeat Bride, and now that the wedding’s over and the baby’s on the way, it’s wonderful to have another site with such great Offbeat flavor. Thanks, Ariel!

    • Aww, thank you so much for asking. Here are a few things you can do:

      1. Support Offbeat sponsors
      Sponsors keep Offbeat Mama online. Obviously, not every sponsor will be a good fit for each reader, but when you see a business featured … take a second to click through to peek at their stuff. “Support” doesn’t have to mean buying stuff — if you like a sponsor but can’t buy their product, send ’em a message saying “I saw you on Offbeat Mama — you’re awesome!” Sales are great, but everyone likes getting nice emails/comments, too.

      2. Purchase books linked on Offbeat Mama
      Whenever we talk about a book, we link to its page on Amazon. If you buy the book after clicking the link, Amazon gives Stephanie a small percentage of the sale. Actually, Stephanie gets a kickback no matter what you buy on Amazon, so if you’re going to buy something over there, click a book link from our resources page, then buy whatever you want on Amazon. It’ll help pay Stephanie’s salary! 🙂

      3. Encourage your favorite businesses to advertise
      Have a favorite Etsy store? Know someone who runs an offbeat mama/kid business or organization that you love? Tell them about Offbeat Mama and encourage them to advertise with us!

      4. Share Offbeat Mama links on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, etc
      We live and die by our traffic, so if you read something here you like — SHARE IT! Look for the share links at the end of every post. If you enjoy a post, send it and share it.

      Mostly, thanks so much for asking. It’s very much appreciated. 🙂

      • Thanks for letting us know about the amazon thing. I’ve bought two books I learnt about here, but through an australian site instead. Next time I will buy through Amazon!

      • I buy a number of things off Amazon (it counts as shopping local since I live in Seattle, right?) I will link from Offbeat Mama from now on. Thanks for the tip, what a great way for non business owners to help.

      • You know lady, I get the feeling you provide a really valuable service here. If you get to the maybe-I’m-gonna-have-to-pull-this-down point, asking for reader support might not be a bad plan. I think people would happily throw in.

        Hell, I’d happily throw in for OBM. I’m not a parent or planning parenthood by I swim by every week or so to see what’s going on. I think it’s an important thing to exist, and a hard thing to support with ads, and something I’d throw in some money to keep online. Not really for me, but just for the community in general.

        So! I know that hasn’t been your MO, and I know there are plusses and minuses with this stuff, and um pride (pointing at myself). But I’ve been pondering a lot these days about how being a good community leader sometimes means asking for help. More on that from me on Monday, but I’m just sort of throwing that thought out there. OBM is low drama enough for it to work really well.

  3. Steph, you are AMAZING and it has, indeed, gotten so much better since you joined the team. Thanks for all your hard work and doesn’t Ariel have great taste in Manging Editors? 😉

  4. Your website punches holes in every assumption about parenting and loving that I’ve ever had. I come here not to be reassured about whether what I’m doing is “right”, but to learn how to parent better, how to be a better person to other parents, and how to believe in my own sense of right. Serious high-fives all around. Thank you Ariel & Stephanie for propping up this corner of the web!

  5. I don’t have kids either, but I added Offbeat Mama the day it launched and have read every post. I’m so inspired by all of the different ways that moms love their kids – from hippie to punk rock and everything in between! And even if I never get to be a mother (we’re trying, but nothing’s guaranteed, right?), I’ve learned a lot from the other mothers here about the type of woman I want to be – comfortable with myself, strong, bright, and courageous. I love the acceptance of the community here, and I’m glad the future is looking good. Thanks Ariel (and Stephanie)!

  6. Its my little monkeys birthday too! Thank you to the whole team for Offbeat Mama. It is a cool drink of sanity in the wild desert of the “mommy internet”. I love that you feature the view points of a wide spectrum of Moms and I love that you keep it 100% drama free. To have a place where we as Mamas (and women) can uplift each other is priceless (but I understand doesn’t pay the bill so i will get to clicking) Thank you again and Happy Birthday!

  7. Thanks to both Ariel AND Stephanie, for the hard word and dedication and not closing the website; I love it here. 😀

    I’ve read a handful of things on Offbeat Mama that I disagree with, but I’ve found every single post to be a testament to parenthood as a living entity, rather than a box we’re dropped in upon conception.

    Thanks for showing us parents unboxed! 😀

  8. You have no idea how glad I am that this blog is still running!! This is the only blog (parenting or otherwise) that I read religiously and the only place I feel like I learn something new or look at something in a different way every time I visit.

    Thank you so much for creating this space! (And yes I definitely noticed the improvement when Stephanie joined the team. Go steph!)

  9. I agree – this is a great, drama-free zone. I love that I can come here and see all sorts of moms’ stories and input – things that I would never find otherwise, since I’m not much into searching out/reading mommy blogs. This one rocks.

  10. This site is honestly one of the only “mommyblogs” I read. When I first got pregnant I signed up for the usual, What to Expect and The Bump, and the viscous drama was more stressful than helpful. It is only here that I feel like I am getting honest, good information.

    Your “Offbeat Empire” is a blessing to me. Thank you for doing what you do.

  11. Prior to reading Offbeat Mama I was regularly freaked out by the prospect of ever becoming a mother in large part because of mommyblogs, etc..I had a lot of issues with what I perceived to be a loss of identity in order to become a mother and “do it right”. The commenting policy here AND the wide range of topics (INCLUDING Identity… probably my favorite posts) have gone a long way in making me realize that in fact, becoming a mother can be just another part of who I am (when I have kids, currently in the planning stages) instead of consuming me. OBM is such a balanced, amazing place and I hope it continues to persist.

  12. I love both offbeat bride and offbeat mama, even though I started reading both before I fit into either of those categories. I liked them because they discussed issues that were important to me.
    I wish there was a blog that was for Offbeat women in general so that you don’t have to be planning a wedding or a family to feel at home. I hope that Offbeat Home gives cool, offbeat women a way to express their personalities and to get support from other women who also live offbeat lives. : )

  13. It’s funny, because I was at lunch with someone the other day and I was telling them how much I liked you (or the web perception of you) because I feel like you stick to your ideals and vision. You’re not a sell out in any way, shape or form.. and you believe in what you do. I think you are awesomesauce X 1000. Good job!

    • Thanks for the sweet words, Brandi. The funny thing is, in some ways I’m the definition of sell-out … as in, Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama have ALWAYS been for-profit websites. But I’ve always been very clear about the goals and intentions of the sites, and I truly believe that you can run an advertiser-supported website and still have it be a site with a lot of integrity. 🙂

  14. I wandered over from Offbeat Bride and love it here. I’m a maybe-someday-mama and I think this site is great for scoping out parenthood without being subjected to preachiness.

    I do not feel excluded even though I don’t have kids. Instead, I feel like I’m being gently introduced to the myriad ways people can raise their children with love and make life work for them.

    …and sartorially speaking, some of the maternity wear you’ve advertized has left me with a vaguely irrational desire to get pregnant just so I can wear it *blush*

  15. I’m so thankful for all the hard work everyone does on this site. Even when I disagree with someone or something on Offbeat Mama, I can still learn from them, especially because the no drama commenting policy keeps the tone of the conversation open. When ideas are presented as fact or the only way to do something, it’s hard not to get defensive. I feel like Offbeat Mama does a wonderful job of keeping this from happening.

  16. I don’t have kids. I don’t even want to have kids. But I visit your site religiously and am REALLY looking forward to Offbeat Home. Can’t wait! Thanks for all that you and everyone involved with the Offbeat Empire do!

  17. OBM is so, so saturated with positivity and open mindedness… i really believe that the wide variety of postings and the tolerance they exhibit inspires all the OBM’s on here to be just as tolerant and open minded in their comments. Ariel, whether it be OBM or OBB, you are an absolute champion of tolerance and choice for women and families.

  18. I’m yet another faithful reader who is not a mama but I do look to the Offbeat community as a sort of mentor and model for the type of parent I want to be. The abundance of different choices and lifestyles available to all mamas seems so evident here and it is a completely welcoming place (which is probably why I’m on here every day!!) Thanks for having faith and keeping the site alive.

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