Blogging provides a community — or a paycheck — to Idaho Falls mothers

Idaho Falls Moms Blog MAIN

Every detail of Valerie Illguth’s life is potential fodder for her blogs.

She started her travel blog, 51 Cent Adventures, six years ago to write about all the unique and under-the-radar places her family visited on vacations. Over the last few months, she has been writing about all the details of Yellowstone National Park that they encountered while living in an RV near the park last summer. In December she joined the newly started Idaho Falls Moms Blog as one of a team of volunteers writing about her life and the area. Her most recent post talked about the effects of her son’s autism.

Why did Illguth enjoy blogging enough to write for two sites?

“I don’t know,” she laughed. “It’s a good hobby. I don’t need to have any other items around than my laptop.”

It’s easier than ever to create a website and share your writings online. WordPress, one of the world’s largest blog-supporting websites, sees more than 70 million new posts every month.

Not all of those blogs will draw in a ton of traffic or earn their creators money — the average WordPress post gets fewer than six views a month— but most bloggers aren’t looking to make it rich as long as they attract some community of readers.

In the last year, a handful of new blogs have started adding their content to the web out of Idaho Falls. One is a collective effort from more than 20 women looking to help local families, while the other is one woman’s attempt to expand her platform to speak about her disease.

The Moms Blog

In August, Idaho Falls became one of the 92 cities represented by the City Moms Blog Network. Idaho Falls Moms Blog, staffed by nearly two dozen volunteers from in and around the city, is the only city in Idaho, Utah or Wyoming to join the network.

Idaho Falls Moms Blog
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Heather Jarrell speaks to a Post Register reporter about the Idaho Falls Moms Blog on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

“We’re kind of a dot on our own over here,” Idaho Falls founder Heather Jarrell said.

Jarrell started the blog as a one-stop location for parents like her to see what the opportunities are for families in the city. The blog gets a lot of traffic from its roundup of the weekend events that will be happening and the guides offering advice on where to find splash pads or host a kid’s birthday party.

“I felt like I was hearing about all these great things that were happening in town and wanted to get all that information in one place,” Jarrell said.

The blog is run by a team of volunteers, many of whom only post once a month. It gives them freedom to write about any subject, whether it’s recent things that happened with their children or advice on what to do during the summer. Some posts are sponsored by local businesses — Jarrell said health-related events have proven especially popular.

Some of those contributors also manage blogs of their own outside the Idaho Falls Moms Blog. Valerie Illguth started her travel blog six years ago while her husband was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. She said her friends enjoyed hearing about the unique places she would stumble across with her husband and children, so she began writing about them online to get a wider audience while her husband was serving.

“He was deployed to Korea and I was at home with four kids. I would turn on ‘Toy Stor,’ and I would sit and write so I would feel like I was communicating with the outside world,” Illguth said.

The Illguths live outside Pocatello and she isn’t the only mother from outside the city limits writing for the Idaho Falls Moms Blog. The blog posts generally shy away from controversial topics or politics but the differing ages and experiences of the writers allow for some variety in the writing styles. Contributing writer Kim Lewis thought that style combined with the local focus of the blog has helped to grow its audience.

“It’s validating to hear from others in the community that are dealing with the same things,” Lewis said.

{strong style=”font-size: 1em;”}Hailey and a Spoon{/strong}

{p dir=”ltr”}Hailey Williams has been managing a YouTube channel for five years, since around the time her second daughter was born. Her videos were focused on parenting and her family life until she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2016.

Blogger two
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Hailey Williams enjoys the freedom being a blogger provides. Williams is able to work almost anywhere and that allows her to spend more time with her family. She often blogs in her garage so she can be near her two daughters Khloe, 7, and Kaelyn, 5, while they play outside.

{p dir=”ltr”}She switched the focus of her channel to gluten awareness and advocacy. She cut back her number of videos to just one a week but saw her subscriber count rise from just over 1,000 people to nearly 6,000. Last month, Williams used that momentum to launch her own blog called Hailey and a Spoon. She admitted that, before she had launched a blog of her own, she hadn’t been that interested in reading food blogs.

{p dir=”ltr”}“I know if I was going to do blogging it would have to be my style. If I’m not going to like writing that, why would anyone want to read it?” Williams said.

{p dir=”ltr”}That shift in the focus of the blog is not unique to Williams.

{p dir=”ltr”}Former Post Register commentary page editor Katie Stokes ran her own ‘mommy blog’ in Idaho Falls for several years, around the time that blogging first peaked early in the days of the Great Recession.

“It was an easy way to women who were staying home with their kids to pick up some income,” Stokes said.

{p dir=”ltr”}Since then, Stokes said a lot of parents have dialed back on the details they shared about their children. The blogs would stay online forever, meaning an embarrassing story from when a child was 3 could follow them for the rest of their life. Stokes deleted her blog a few years ago in an attempt to remove some of the more personal details she had shared.

{p dir=”ltr”}Williams’ husband recently earned his technical degree and began working as a mechanic in town, but her YouTube channel and blog has become her main source of income. She runs the occasional sponsored video reviewing a gluten-free product and works with the local gluten-free store Mom’s Place. Last month, she traveled to Utah to create videos and meet representatives from celiac-friendly brands at the Nourish Festival.

{p dir=”ltr”}Traveling to Utah also allowed her to connect with other people who blog about the same subject. Gluten-free recipe blogs are much more common in Utah than in eastern Idaho, which has made it tougher for her to befriend other local bloggers.

{p dir=”ltr”}“There’s not a lot of what I do here. I have a niche, so it’s harder to make an acquaintance or friendship easily,” Williams said.

{p dir=”ltr”}Creating a website over the last month and becoming a blogger has led to changes in Williams’ life. She had to learn about website design and coding without any formal training on the subject. Her schedule moved around to let her post regular weekly content — Monday nights are preparing for her YouTube videos to post the next morning and Friday nights are the final touches for her Saturday blog posts.

{p dir=”ltr”}The trade-off for those nights of work, however, is that Williams can easily spend time with her kids at home or take them wherever they need to go without worrying too much about her schedule.

“I can work from the house, the park, the garage. I like being able to work from anywhere,” she said.


How “Blog Mothers” Became The Unsung Heroes Of The Blogosphere

 Mothers keep the best secrets: They have the ingredient that completely transforms the family red sauce recipe, and are inherently aware of when any child lies. The best mothers know the power of secrets, too, and just the right moment to share them. And in the blogging community, there are plenty of secrets, and “blog mothers” are the keepers who pass down the keys to success — sometimes for a price.
“I didn’t really have any mentors as a blogger at all, which is why I feel strongly about being that person now,” Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy told us. Though Smokler doesn’t personally identify as a blog mother, she is part of a new class of mentors in the blogging community.
Blog Mothers are sympathetic — they too have been children of the industry, scared and naieve. They understand how hard it is to start without a clear picture of what the future holds. They are more than mentors, more than coaches; they are a guiding light offering support and guidance for young, aspiring bloggers.
“Even in the few years since I have been blogging, the industry has changed a great deal.” Jessica Smock, founder of School of Smock and co-founder of The HerStories Project, says. “Even the idea of a blog mentor is totally different now.” Five or six years ago, bloggers built communities through their sites. They read each other’s work, commented on posts, and created friendships through that continued interaction.
“I used to have two hours a day where my commitment was to comment on other people’s blogs,” Smokler explains. “I guess I kind of understood that if I’m expecting people to read my shit then I have to read their shit now.” But, blogging is different today. It’s faster, and there’s more to do beyond maintaining a website: There’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts, and a whole lot of money at stake. It’s become a business.
“I had a full-time job —that’s where my income came from initially — and blogging was just a hobby,” Brandi Jeter Riley, of MamaKnowsItAll, says. Like Smokler, Riley helps mentor many young and inexperienced bloggers, and she’s found that the industry change has also changed the way people approach their work. “When I started, lifestyle bloggers weren’t making money off their work, they were just doing it for fun. But bloggers starting now are starting because they know they can make money.”
And because the community has changed, there are fewer and fewer blog mentors who work one-on-one. “I think it’s switched a lot into groups,” Smock explains. “Blogging Facebook groups are more popular and common than the relationships I had early on in my career.” It’s that type of group setting that has allowed these Blog Mothers, women mentoring five or ten or even dozens of other bloggers at a time, to become an integral part of the industry.
“In terms of blog mentorship, a friend and I started a local writing group,” Nina Badzin, a freelance writer and blogger, says. In the group, Badzin and her friend help new bloggers learn the basics: how to use Twitter, how to set up a WordPress account, even how to hyperlink a phrase. “There isn’t an exact process,” she says. “People just kind of find us.”
A Blog Mother often provides practical advice to her children on how to make their blogs operate more professionally. Because the industry is more financially-driven than it was in the early days, Riley says, “finding a good mentor can be really difficult. Established bloggers don’t want to share their trade secrets.” Riley, because she started her career in non-profit jobs and working for a shopping networking company, understood more about the business side of the job. “I started coaching bloggers who had ten times as many views as me and weren’t making as much money as me,” she says. “I feel like it’s my job to help them. To give back.”
Maybe Blog Mothers exist because blogging isn’t a standard industry. From the beginning, it’s been a place driven on relationships. “You’re part of a bigger community,” Badzin says. “If you act like you’re above all that, you’re not going to survive.” But the thorn in the side of that community, of course, is jealousy. Someone has a viral piece and it feels unfair, gets a sponsorship that feels misplaced, or makes more money per piece. “I think it’s very easy to get jealous,” Smokler adds. “It took me a long time to be able to realize that the Internet is a really big place, and I think that there is enough room for everybody to have their own space and their own story.”
In other sectors of the blogging world, like cooking and fashion blogging, there’s a perceived weakness in needing a mentor. Bloggers I spoke to in those fields preferred not to be named, because they felt the need to maintain a kind of independent success spirit. “I feel like everyone I know has an older woman helping her figure things out,” one told me over the phone, “but there’s kind of a shame about not being able to do it yourself or whatever.”
Unlike in many careers, where a mentor’s focus would be exclusively on the business aspects of a job, a Blog Mother must be able to look beyond profit margins and site traffic, to meet the blogger where they are. She must help them not only reach milestones, but grow as people along the way, which might be why most of them only charge a rate for skill training, which they consider separate from mentoring (Smokler notes she does not get paid for her assistance at all).
“What I have found is that mentoring is not even so much about the content or the technical stuff, the number one thing I have to work with them on is empowering them to recognize their value,” Riley says. “The foundation of if you want to be successful, you have to believe in yourself. I’m the person that’s going to remind them that you need to believe in yourself.”
Sure, mentorship looks different now, but the mentors are still trying to accomplish the same thing: “At the end of the day it’s still about connecting with people,” Smokler explains. “The biggest joy of the Internet for me is that it brings us together.”

Kanhaiya pens open letter to Smriti Irani for Mother’s Day, calls her anti-rational

Kanhaiya writes open letter to Smriti Irani

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar used the occasion of Mother’s Day to pen an open letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, calling her the self-declared mother of all university students and wondering how a mother can let her children suffer if she cared so much.

Kanhaiya addressed Irani as the “anti-rational” mother of “anti-nationals” and extended Mother’s Day wishes on behalf of students.

The letter:

Dear Madam Smriti Irani – self-declared mother of all varsity students,

I wish you a happy Mother’s Day on behalf of all university students.

We are trying hard to study in the warmth of your motherly love. Under your reign, we are learning how to study despite police canes and hunger.

Today, a friend sent me this image and asked how under Mr Modi’s regime – where besides our own mother, we also have Mother Cow, Mother India, Mother Ganges and Mother Smriti – could Rohith die? I am asking you this because I have no answer. The same anti-national friend also said that Mother Smriti’s ministry sent several letters to punish Rohith and was also responsible for withholding Rohith’s fellowship for seven months.

In a great country like India, can a mother force drive her child to suicide? Can a mother accept punishments on her children based on doctored videos and a biased probe? Your children, starving for 11 days, are asking you this question. Please reply, if you find the time. The friend who sent this image calls you the “anti-rational mother of anti-nationals.” I hope you will prove this allegation false in your factual reply.

It is a mother’s duty to teach her children to call a spade a spade and raise their voice against injustice. That’s why several mothers of JNU have come out to encourage their children on hunger strike today. These even include an 80-year-old mother in a wheel chair. We are waiting for you.