Tuesday 29 January 2013

Far From Home Mama - Real life goes on...

I am really pleased to have Rachel here today to kick off New Bloggers Forntight. She is someone whose blog I always find to be warm, friendly and authentic. I'll let her share a little about herself -

Lost in Switzerland, with a toddler and newborn in tow, Rachel spends her days trying not to eat chocolate and macaroons for every meal. She blogs at Three Years & Home, chronicling her family’s adventures and counting down the days until they return home to North Wales.

You can also find her on twitter as @farfromhomemama

I started blogging in January 2012, for two main reasons. One, because we live abroad and I wanted to chronicle some of the ups and downs of our expat life, and two, because we live abroad and I often get homesick and thought that writing might help me through it.

Initially, it felt like I was talking to myself but I found the exercise of putting my thoughts in to words hugely therapeutic. I joined twitter and found others in a similar situation or with similar interests and slowly but surely built up a readership for my blog. A handful of daily readers turned in to double and then treble figures and a few even started leaving comments for me. It felt great … even for someone like me who rarely craves attention, preferring to hide away behind the scenes.

With a husband who often works long hours and a son who can’t keep his eyes open beyond 7pm, it means that I spend a lot of evenings by myself with just a computer, television or book for company. My blog and the online community served to fill a somewhat lonely void and I felt like I always had friends to call on. A problem, a question, a thought … ask and countless people will answer you. Share a photograph or a pleasant memory and you’ll receive a lot of ‘awwwws’.

The instant feedback is wonderful but it has a strange way of drawing you in and becoming addictive. Writing two, three, four, or however many posts a week can quickly turn from an enjoyable hobby in to a feeling of ‘must’ or an obligation, wanting to keep your stats up and comments coming in. Half an hour on twitter once that kids are in bed can turn in to a whole evening passing before your eyes before you remember to look up from the computer and blink.

In my case, it got to the point that on the nights when my husband wasn’t working, I found myself continuing with my blogging/twitter routine when I should have been catching up with him instead. And when in the summer, I suffered from horrendous all-day morning sickness, it was my blog that I felt more worried about neglecting rather than my home. I think it was only because the sickness lasted for a couple of months and by that time I was exhausted with juggling home, work, a toddler and an expanding bump that it finally sunk in that something had to give … and no … that wasn’t my husband ;-)

In June and July, I wrote a total of just ten posts and rarely spent any time on twitter. I still continued to receive lovely supportive comments from my new online friends but being forced to take that break helped me to realise that real life goes on and it was my husband stepping in to keep everything going, nobody else.

We hear lots of talk about a work/life balance but I really believe a blog/life balance is essential too. Here are my top five tips:

1. Your blog/your rules. You’re under no obligation to post a certain amount of times per week so keep it fun and just post about something when you want to or have something to say.

2. Your audience has no set expectations. If people find something in common with you and enjoy what you write, they will come back to visit your blog whether you post every day or just once a week. Personally, it’s rare that I will subscribe to a blog where the author posts every day. As a reader, two to three times per week works best for me as there are quite a few blogs that I like to keep up to date with but don’t have the time to be continually reading.

3. Don’t let statistics rule you. Notice that your visitor count drops if you don’t post for a day or two? Don’t let this be the reason to post something new. Forced posts often take a lot longer to write and I think readers can tell if your heart isn’t in it.

4. You don’t have to be like anyone else. Some people have thousands of followers, post more than once a day, and are offered hugely exciting opportunities by brands courting them. While I sometimes think this sounds wonderful, my main thought is that this takes time … time to build up that kind of reputation … and time to maintain it. Think things through very carefully if you want to take this path. It will inevitably be at the expense of something else.

5. Virtual hugs are no substitute for real-life ones.

..... and how right she is. Now go on, go and hig the ones you love. The blog will still be here when you get back!

Tomorrow we have Rebecca from the Beesley Buzz blogging for New Bloggers Forntight, she'll reveal how she never imagined the support you could receive from the blogging community.