Allison Mack takes phone calls from her car, checks emails when her boys are in preschool and stays up late to edit and strategize for her growing company. She’s a full-time mother of two little boys under 5 and the owner of the popular Austin Moms Blog. Her work and home life are interchangeable. The blog started off as a hobby — a friend approached her with the idea in 2011 — and it quickly grew into a full-time endeavor.
Austin Moms Blog is part of the City Moms Network. It’s a franchise business with nearly 40 locally focused blogs across the country. Last year, Allison became the sole owner of the Austin blog. That’s when she hired her sales manager and social media coordinator. “I realized really quickly that I can’t do it all and be a good mom or even a good person,” Allison told me.
The blog started to take off after that, right along with their Facebook and Twitter followers. The blog pulls content from a team of 30 contributors and shares pieces published by other blogs within their network. Topics tend to range from parenting tips to “best of” lists, and even personal essays.
Allison thinks of the Austin Moms Blog as a tool for moms to connect with one another online, but there’s a lot more going on here than just a comments section. There’s also a social component with organized events, such as Moms Night Out. “One of the biggest things we hear from moms is that it’s like dating, trying to find new friends,” Allison said. The “dating pool” will be the biggest yet with 250 tickets sold for her next event on April 30. The Kentucky Derby-themed party will include a lineup of trendy food, beverage, and merchandise sponsors.
Allison is the kind of person that when you meet her, you can guess that she’s probably pretty comfortable hosting these parties and standing up in front of people. She’s easy to talk to and energetic, which might help explain why she was crowned Miss Austin Texas in 2007, and competed four times in the Miss Texas USA pageant. She also placed in the top 15 during her last two years, from 2007 to 2008, and remains involved in the Miss Austin Texas Pageant organization as the modeling and stage presence instructor. “I loved it. I feel like it shaped who I am,” she said. “You don’t always know why you are doing what you are doing or why things happen in your life the way that they do, but eventually things come full circle and you are like ‘ah-ha.’”
An excerpt from our interview follows…
Q: What is your intention with Austin Moms Blog?
A: It’s my hope that we are empowering moms and really building a sense of community, so they don’t feel alone in this journey of motherhood. It can be a really isolating feeling, especially if you are a new mom. You are going through sleepless nights or breastfeeding issues, developmental milestones. All of these things can make you feel like you are the only one. We are writing about so many personal things – so many different things to make moms realize you are not the only one.
Do you follow any other blogs?
I make it a point to stay off anything that is not City Moms Blog related. Huffington Post and Scary Mommy (blogs), that’s about all I check. I can’t get caught up in what other Austin sites are doings. City Moms blogs is such a valuable resource, because we work off each other. If someone in New Orleans has a really great subject, I can spin it in Austin.
Why do you think your writers – or mom bloggers in general – are willing to be so open about their lives?
I think people are becoming more open-minded. For so long, a lot of these things weren’t talked about, like marriage struggles. One of our contributors announced her divorce to the world via our blog. It touched so many people far outside of her social circle who were dealing with similar issues. I don’t know where it stems from. I think moms want to be helpful.
Are the pieces on the blog encouraging of discussions amongst your readers?
If we aren’t writing about rainbows and butterflies, we definitely have people on opposite sides of the fence and things can get very heated and negative with comments going back and forth. Things we have written can be misconstrued. A lot of the times people haven’t even read the article. They are just going off of the title and basing their whole opinion on it and then the mom shaming begins.
Do the negative comments ever cross a line with you?
We have had to take posts completely down, because it was just too much and we can’t control everybody. We want to have a supportive environment but at the same time have real conversations. We just hope that people can have those real conversations and not take it to the place of supreme negativity.
What are some of motherhood’s current challenges for you?
Trying to balance getting work done and the kids need me, too. I feel like that’s been the hardest part. Juggling both and trying to find my place in this world of I have to do both. At the end of the day, being a mom is so much more important than Austin Moms Blog ever will be, but it’s hard to tell yourself that in the moment. I close my eyes and think about them being little. They’re not little anymore. I think about what I did for them during this time. What have I done that was impactful? Sometimes I fear that I haven’t done a good enough job in the time that I’ve had with them.
What do you worry about regarding your kids?
I worry about my kids being bullied. About their differences, their personalities, what they look like. That’s real and it’s changed so much since I was little, because now we are dealing with cyber bullying, which I get to see first-hand as a blog owner. I try to put a lot of my fears aside of whether they are going to be smart enough, because you can’t control it. One of the things a guest speaker, Carrie Contey, Ph.D., said at one of our functions was “it’s a state, not a trait.” I try not to worry about the things they are doing – sucking their thumb, having a tantrum – they are not going to do these things forever.
Describe your parenting style.
I don’t think I could put a label on myself. I’m sure other people would love to label me. I’m a little on the stricter side. Structure, lots of structure.
I’m a relaxed mom – even with my first. I will give anything a try. We did the cloth diapering thing. I made my own laundry detergent. I will try anything once to see if it works.
You look so put together – do you always look like this?
My husband finally understands why I have to have my hair and makeup done. My pageant experience started at 14 lasting until I was 26. Those years shaped who I was as a woman. It’s important for me to look good. When you look good, you feel good. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I’m wearing yoga pants right now. This is what I looked like going to Barre 3 today. You just get so used to how you look when you’re made up.
What else did you take away from your time in pageants?
I feel like I can represent Austin Moms Blog because of the experience and the tools that pageantry set up for me early on. I can have a good conversation with you or go on the news and present my brand. Most 14-year-olds don’t have interview opportunities. If you are starting at that age, you get good at talking to people.
Is there a story on the blog that has particularly moved you?
One of the stories that got the most response was a ‘forever loved’ wall. It’s a page on our site dedicated to all the little lives that were lost too soon. Whether it was a still born child or a baby that was miscarried. We wanted to honor the moms and their children. We had so many moms reach out to us. They were so happy that they could share with someone their pain and struggle. It’s something people don’t want to talk about. Having had three miscarriages myself, you feel like a failure and you don’t want to tell people that part of your journey. As a woman, it makes you feel that something is wrong with you. We are trying to empower moms and say it’s OK to talk about this and remember those losses.
To learn about some of Allison’s favorite spots around town, follow Abby on Twitter @AbbyRoedel.