I recently came across a link to my old archive, which I thought was completely lost. I'm feeling quite nostalgic for my kids when they were little after reading those old posts. I do not miss the stress that came with my husband's deployments, but that has been interesting to remember as well.
For those who don't know, I started blogging at Babble.com back in 2009 with a personal blog called Holding Down the Fort. Babble was a new kind of parenting site when it started a few years earlier, and my dad had sent me an article about it. After reading that article I contacted them about writing an essay based on my experience as a parent whose husband was deployed. My piece, called The Home Front, was rated their most inspiring in their first year online. I did a followup piece when my husband came back from Iraq called Return to the Home Front, which got picked up in various places.
It was a good experience getting paid for my writing and interesting getting feedback from people in so many places. Babble was quirky and surprising at the time, and the editors I was in contact with originally were great.
When my husband was called up for a second tour in Iraq I approached Babble about blogging my experience during that deployment. The first deployment was incredibly isolating, and I thought blogging the second time around might help. It did. I enjoy the discipline of regular writing, and the personal nature of blogging and direct contact with readers is satisfying. I loved my blog at Babble, and I'm still grateful for many of the contacts I've made through that site.
Although it started out fine, working with Babble was frustrating. I was one of about a half a dozen personal bloggers at first. The bigger names (such as Rebecca Wolf with her spinoff blog called Straight from the Bottle, and Katie Granju) didn't really involve themselves with our little community on the site, but others I felt close to, the way you do when you regularly follow a parenting blog and reach out through email. Jane Roper I still actively follow on her new blog, and others like Dawn Meehan and Oz Spies are still at Babble in some capacity. One of the best blogs I've ever read was Divorced with Kids, which was a spinoff of Irretrievably Broken, whose anonymous author is now one of my most cherished friends. Our little corner of personal bloggers at Babble was a special place for a while.
Then the Voices started. In preparation for the Disney buyout, Babble decided to create a wall of big name bloggers who were supposed to attract big numbers coming over from their already popular blogs.
The rest of us were blindsided. Our little column of personal bloggers was not included in the overwhelming Voices promotion. We'd been struggling for months to get the editors to include more of our pieces on the homepage, but our requests for better exposure had gone unheeded. They changed our pay based on our numbers and then put us in a ridiculous Catch-22 where we couldn't get promotion unless we had good numbers, but there was no way to get good numbers without promotion.
Once the Voices hit the scene we were ghettoized into our own corner of obscurity. For a while even my own mother could not find my blog at Babble. Only the most dedicated readers could search it out, but search it out they did, and I always appreciated it.
When I first started at Babble they were interested in decent writing. By the end all they were interested in were numbers. It's a business, so I
get it. The number of page views was how they made money so they, in turn, could pay me. They
never seemed to care about content, except to tell me I needed to make
more slideshows (because each slide was another page view).
But the numbers they wanted at Babble then were insane. We got a chart of goals at one point that was laughable because it was just random big numbers pulled out of nowhere. When I started I got a flat monthly rate of $250. Then they switched to pay based on number of hits, and different bloggers were offered different levels of pay. They buried my blog which killed my traffic, and by the time they let me go in April of 2012 I was averaging about $15 a month, which apparently was too great a drain on their resources so I had to leave. (Disney literally said maintaining my blog would make it hard for them to "make ends meet.")
got very messy and impersonal over at Babble toward the end of my time
there, and I
find very little reason to try to navigate that site since Disney bought
it. It's a blogger mill. I miss the community it
originally was, and the closest thing I can find to it now would be
Mom.me (which I have done some writing for and I hope is able to stay on a better path).
Babble is currently unsearchable. There is no real "contact" link over there anymore, either. (When I was hoping to get answers about my archive at one point I kept getting directed toward how to apply for a Disney credit card.) For a while all the writing I did there appeared to be gone, but I recently did a Wayback Machine search to find something for a friend, and found some semblance of my old archive.
I took an afternoon and transferred links to this blog. Most of the photos don't work for some reason (except on the thumbnail page), and some of the posts were jumbled with other people's writing so I left those links out. The comments are all gone, too, which is a shame because there were some really good discussions in those threads. I have no idea how long any of these links to Holding Down the Fort will last, but at the moment I'm glad to be able to access them.
I still have moments of bitterness when thinking back to the end of my Babble days, but overall I appreciate the opportunity that I was given to develop an online presence in the writing world. I love blogging in general, despite how often people want to declare the medium dead anymore. (Classical music is always on the brink of death, too, and has been forever, so apparently that's how I roll.) I don't get to write on it as often as I would care to, but a blog is still an amazing resource.
The best part about going back through those old Babble posts again was just having a chance to remember the past. I was fascinated to revisit my old life and those struggles. I'm stunned at how much I've forgotten. It's good to have a space in which to capture what you can as it's going by because it all goes so quickly. There were things about each of my children that I didn't remember at all and was grateful to revisit.
I was mostly bowled over by how different our lives are now. When I was writing for Babble I had little kids. I no longer have little kids and that part of my parenting career is over. I have new challenges and other struggles, but they crept up on me under cover of general chaos. Yesterday doesn't look that different from today or last week, but go back six or seven years... Wow. Mona in kindergarten, Quinn on my hip, little Aden before she was biking off on her own across the park to meet friends to do group projects for school. I'm so glad I took the time to write as much as I did. I should make more time to do that now.
Which brings me to this blog. I love this blog. The original vision for it was as a refuge for myself along with other personal bloggers at Babble, where we might become an "anti-Babble" collective--a "Quiet Corner." In the end it made more sense for us to just go our own ways, and I've come to rely on this platform as a personal space to write in when I can.
I like that here the numbers don't matter
to anyone. I don't have nearly the size of the audience I had at
Babble, but my readers are loyal and thoughtful. I've always tended to
be more of a blogger's blogger, which is fine by me. And at least here my mom can find me again. The only posts here that ever got big numbers were the gun control posts that went mini-viral, and inexplicably this one, about "throwing" my brother's Riddler doll out the window. (That post got hits every day for a year and I have no idea why.)
Soon I plan to put up links in a single post to a handful of old pieces that I know people still share. (Or maybe I should just cut and paste them, because as much as Disney has trouble "making ends meet" maybe they don't need me generating hits for them.)
Thanks for reading. Writers need to be read, so I couldn't do this without you. (Now I'm off to feed my not-little kids. And wonder how these days will seem to me in another six or seven years.)