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Thursday, December 3
The Evolution of a Blogger: Owning the Lifestyle Label
I've heard many times that a blogger should let their blog evolve with them. Inevitably we change, we grow up; we have new circumstances, locations, and people come and go. Get married? You should include your spouse. Decide you like fashion? You should definitely start doing OOTD posts. Blogging changes too after all. Remember those first years of blogging when everyone was HisNameandHerName.blogspot.com? Fashion blogging emerged around the time of the couple blog, and that was what we saw in the market. Then those couples had babies and the mommy blogging genre was born. Food blogging happened, and a before we knew it everyone was leaving Blogger for other platforms and any genre you could think of was born. Suddenly blogging became a job, and a viable one for many, instead of a hobby or a weekend update. Then social media blew up all the more and the two became both intertwined and separate entities. This Internet and social business has been quite interesting to watch since the first time I heard in an education class, "This new thing called a blog made by Google was released this week." So yes, change is the only constant we can count on.
While I love the industry evolution, I've kind of had a hard time with the concept on a personal level. I started this blog as a project to keep myself accountable to date my spouse every week. I really had no intention of anyone aside from my husband and maybe my mother reading it. She doesn't for the record, she's a saint who spends her time teaching special needs students and maybe after retirement she'll find time to read about our shenanigans. Pinterest happened around the time I started this blog, and suddenly I saw these numbers and these people finding me out of no where. I was flattered, in fact I still am. I still shake my head in disbelief people spend minutes of their very busy lives reading the words I write, viewing the pictures I take, and sharing their own thoughts and experiences with me through comments and email. I've loved that part of this ride, I love meeting people, and people who come up to me and tell me they read my blog and talk to me like we've been friends a long time mean the world.
I didn't actively pursue blogging as a part-time job, but I feel lucky every day that it found me and I get to call it a hobby as well as a piece of my resume. What a cool thing to do, and I truly enjoy that this online journal has been a part of my life so far.
In 2012, one year into this blog, I decided it was time to share the first personal post. It is a scary thing to write about love and marriage and blog about divorce and abuse. Something pretty awesome happened, I had the first really real connections I've had blogging. I had people send me so many emails thanking me, wishing me well, and many sharing their similar stories. Maybe the best thing that has come from this blog is the connection I've made and the people I've been able to try to help and talk to during their lowest moments of losing a spouse. It's rock bottom, and hearing one story of hope and moving on can make all the difference. I'm grateful to those who did that for me, I'm honored when I get to do the same. I've had random phone calls, in-person meetings, and email exchanges that have truly been on a heart-to-heart level.
Not long after this I decided maybe I should share a few more personal things aside from just our weekly date. It was scary to add a recipe here or there, or to share job losses, and to open up a little more. In all honesty, I still kept things guarded and didn't share a ton.
In 2013 I decided to see if I could learn how on earth bloggers make money and maybe get some of our dates paid for. I always had the goal that if enough could come in to pay a babysitter and maybe a few dates, it would continue to be a hobby I could always justify! Thank you readers for reading the occasional sponsored post and clicking the occasional sidebar ad- it really has helped us keep dating and afford some awesome experiences! Our neighbor girl also thanks you for helping her college fund as our babysitter!
I also realized something else around this time, there was more to me than just that weekly date that I wanted to share on a more regular basis. I think I made the choice (with a lot of friend encouragement) to jump into lifestyle blogging, but I've mostly stayed true to the purpose of this blog and why it was started in the first place. I've progressively added more and once again, been flattered people have stuck around and let me know they like the posts about our life. I've had so much encouragement to evolve with my blog. I thank everyone who has given that encouragement!
And here's my confession, this isn't my first blog. I had the couple's blog with my ex husband that would have turned into a mommy blog had our fertility treatments worked almost a decade ago. I know I'm lucky I don't have a child with that man, but that was always what I thought would happen. I deleted that blog shortly after he left. I started a new one to focus on the positive in my life, and it evolved into sharing the hilarious dating stories I encountered single. I also found myself running a lot to ease the emotional pain of divorce. I got in shape, I had some money for the first time in my life not paying his debts, and I lost enough weight I needed a new wardrobe. Fashion blogging happened. It wasn't pretty my friends- a point-and-shoot in my florescent lit classroom on my prep later, I posted my weekly teaching outfits just as fashion blogging became a thing. Just as some companies started to contact me I started grad school and let it take the back-burner. I've always loved fashion and always will, but I sort of outgrew wanting to only share my clothes and I let it die down completely about a year after I got married and started this blog.
Around this time Jacob and I started a cooking blog, in hopes that we could document our favorite recipes and family classics somewhere. It just seemed to make sense to keep fashion in one place, food in one place, and dating in one place. It was also exhausting and not something I could do regularly. However, we still have it as a private blog we still reference and love!
Fast forward to today. When I first started this blog I had so many people tell me in not so kind terms the moment we had our first baby this blog would die. We would no longer care about dating each other, we would no longer have time for it, and we would care a lot more about our kids than our precious time together. I felt the same way I felt when someone told me butterflies die the moment you get married and you have to work for any spark at all. I get what both comments mean now, I do, but I also choose not to believe them. We are still going to date. We have always had plans for how this blog would evolve and what type of dates we would do post children. Our #1 most requested item is ideas for non-cheesy dates to do at home. We can't wait to share the many we've thought up over the years and plan to do! I think after two months of parenthood we're realizing more than ever how important our original mission is, and how much we want and need to date each other still! Even though there's a huge obstacle and money is much tighter, we're still committed! We aren't planning on quitting or changing our date posts. In fact, I like to believe we're going to be more relatable as parents trying to date instead of DINKs (Double Income No Kids) trying to date.
We are, however, planning to have our dates evolve with our life that has evolved. It's time I take that advice to let my blog evolve with my life as well.
I don't plan to be a full-time mommy blogger, or to share every detail of my son with the world. I do however, find that this is what is on my mind most right now. If I'm owning the lifestyle blogger title, I have to admit that as much as I never planned to be a mommy-blogger, that's going to be some of my content since that is the biggest and most exciting part of my life right now. I still have days I hold him and tear up thinking of the miracle he is two months later. Clearly I'm a little obsessed with that little person and I'm going to include that piece of my life from time-to-time.
Maternity leave has reminded me how much I love cooking! I'm a planner through and through and I've been taking a lot of food pictures and writing down a lot of my tips for being efficient in the kitchen/with budget and making wholesome food. I have plans to start sharing something weekly- so brace yourself, there will be food!
I still love fashion, and I dabbled in it again with my pregnancy updates. It was fun! It's awesome to indulge in that form of art and creativity now and again. There's a chance I may go back to the three years I spent fashion blogging and incorporate some more of that here. Don't worry too much, I'm well aware I was born with large thighs and hips, so I won't do anything too crazy here.
Business, current events, and digital marketing are still loves too, and those may appear now and then as well. I'd love to add some new things- I focus on the positive a lot, but I often receive emails asking how I overcame abuse and learned to love again, how to approach a topic during divorce, what to do if you find our your husband is addicted to porn like my ex was. There's a lot of deeper issues, and I may pull in some of those topics from time to time. They are deeply a part of my life, and although I'm so happily married now, it feels like a lack of authenticity to deny my past.
I guess what I'm trying to say is today, I own the title of not just a "date night blogger" but as a "lifestyle blogger" who still has their niche in date nights. It's still our mission, it's still our tag line, and it's still the purpose. However, there will likely continue to be some other content arise as it slowly has been creeping up to be this way for a while. And those who are happy to stick around with me for the ride, I sure appreciate you! Thank you for your time, thank you for your support, and thank you for letting me share pieces of the highlights and loves of my life in their many forms.