by Amy Venzke October 29, 2016 11 min read
They started blogs to share baby photos, date night details and travel stories with friends and family. Along the way, the blogs became something more: a business, a creative outlet, a place to connect with other moms—and a modern-day scrapbook of their children's earliest days.
Strolleria talked with seven Arizona mom bloggers who share their photos, their stories and their lives with thousands of readers. Here are their thoughts on blogging, baby gear and motherhood.
Camille Whiting kept a blog during her first marriage, the kind where she was always happy and life was Pinterest-perfect. When she announced her divorce in ending the blog, readers were shocked, saying they believed her ideal marriage was something to aspire to.
Whiting had never been willing to share the true purpose of the blog—her attempt to see the positive in her marriage to an unfaithful and emotionally abusive man.
In 2011, Whiting started a new life with now-husband Jacob, as well as a new blog: Friday We're In Love, named for their standing date night and a song by The Cure. The blog gained popularity as she wrote about date ideas and the importance of continuing a romance through marriage. Still, it didn't represent the whole story of their lives.
Three years later, on Mother's Day, Whiting shared the rest—writing about years of infertility and the heartache she had only discussed with her mom and a friend. I've stayed strong for so long, but I guess I needed to let out that my heart feels like a big piece is missing, and today is a day I yearn for that piece, she wrote.
Honesty and vulnerability gained her more readers than ever before. "I couldn't believe the response; I had so many readers who had been in the same boat open up," she said. "I wish I had shared it earlier."
For Whiting, writing about her pain has made it even more rewarding to now share her joy: becoming a mother to Mack, her "miracle baby" who is now almost 1.
Since the response to Whiting's personal story, Friday We're In Love has evolved from a date-night blog to a lifestyle blog, on which she writes about motherhood and marriage in addition to date ideas, recipes and fitness tips. Whiting, now blogging for a career after leaving her digital marketing job, is grateful that people around the world are reading.
"You'd think at this point on the internet that everything has already been said and every story has been told," she said. "Every time I open up, people seem to resonate with some of the experiences."
On baby gear
As an engineer, Whiting's husband immediately appreciated the Orbit Baby G3 stroller and infant car seat, both of which feature a circular dock that allow the seat to be rotated 360 degrees. "The more we looked at strollers, the more he was so impressed with the Orbit Baby design," she said. "It's great to flip [Mack] around to make sure the sun is never in his eyes."
The Whitings, both marathoners, also own a BOB Revolution Flex for running and walks on rougher terrain. "Some people might think it's excessive to have two strollers, but they're completely different," she said. "One's great for dates out on the town; the other is great for running and being active."
In the years Whiting struggled with infertility, she heard countless complaints about kids and the work they require. Despite the challenges, she knew she wanted a child more than anything—a feeling that has been more and more confirmed now that she's a mom.
"I've been really amazed by how positive and happy it is," she said. "Yes, there are some crying nights; there's a lot of poop to clean up. I spend my life wiping food off everything. But I don't think you can even imagine the joy you experience when a child comes into your home."
The blog Sidney Hambsch started as an Arizona State University student, not long after she became engaged to Zak, has followed the couple as they became college graduates, newlyweds and, now, parents. Since the arrival of Liam in February, Hambsch—a former TV reporter—has aimed to post every week, seeing the blog as a diary for her son. "Being a journalist, I want to record everything," she said. "They grow so fast."
Newlywed Diaries has become even more of a creative outlet for Hambsch since she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. "Someone told me to make sure to stay creative and find happiness outside of motherhood. I think this blog is that," she said. "I can still do videos and photography and write, and also incorporate what's going on in my life, which is being a mom."
On baby gear
Planning for Liam to have siblings someday, Hambsch purchased the Baby Jogger City Select, a stroller that converts from a single to a double. She likes using a bassinet with the stroller and thinks Liam does, too. "He loves being able to lay on his back and look up at the trees when we go for a walk," she said. "It gives him a lot more freedom and room versus a normal seat."
Another favorite: the 4moms MamaRoo, an infant seat with four sounds and five motions. In addition to finding it soothing, Liam seems to have fun sitting in it and practicing his new favorite hobby: kicking. "It's not just a seat; it's somewhere he can play," Hambsch said.
Feeling love for her son is even more rewarding for Hambsch now that Liam is now old enough to laugh and smile back. "You can see his little face light up when you walk in the room," she said. "When you start seeing that love come back to you—oh my goodness, it's like an explosion."
Mandy Roberson was pregnant, and none of her friends were—or had ever been. Feeling the absence of community, Roberson started her own online. As it evolved from an Instagram account to a blog, Momma Society has become "a community of modern moms," with conversations taking place on social media and in a private Facebook group.
Momma Society has become Roberson's business, thanks in part to her previous experience with social media marketing and the blog taking on relatable topics like breastfeeding and postpartum depression. "Every mom has a very different view on motherhood, but there's so much similarity through anybody's choices they make as a parent," she said. "When people can say 'me too' to something, they really feel a connection, and they feel obligated to follow."
Roberson counts many of her followers as friends, regardless of whether she has met them. "I never would have imagined that you can be friends with people online," she said. But online conversations have been perfect for new moms who can't always leave the house. "It takes so much energy to meet somebody for coffee," she said. "You're on your phone a lot, so it's natural to look for a support group online."
On baby gear
Roberson was drawn to the maneuverability and aesthetic of the Stokke Xplory, a stroller with a modern design and elevated seat that brings the baby closer to his parents. "I really liked how it looked and how streamlined it was," she said. "And once we pushed it around, it really pushed."
Roberson started Momma Society in her excitement about entering motherhood—but when she actually became a mom, not every day was joyful. She struggled with anxiety over being a good parent and found herself missing her old life, when she could walk out to the mailbox or go to a movie without worrying about Brody.
Roberson had never heard anyone discuss postpartum depression, though it affects one in seven women. After a few months of struggle, she decided to open up on Momma Society. "When I finally posted about it, so many people said, 'Me too,'" she recalled. "It was such a relief. You think you're the crazy one, but it's normal; it's part of the process."
And now that Brody is 17 months, motherhood is "amazing—it's so much more fun than I expected," she said. "Every day, he's learning something new."
In the past year, Paige Rangel has transitioned from California to Arizona and from fashion-industry veteran to stay-at-home mom of three. Her blog, The Love Designed Life, has helped her find creativity and connections through both changes.
Rangel was a technical designer at Monique Lhullier when she started the blog two years ago to share advice with new mom friends (and photos of her daughter modeling baby fashion). When her husband accepted a job in Phoenix, Rangel decided to stay home with their three kids (ages 5, 3 and 1) and focus on exploring fashion, styling and motherhood on her blog.
"In some ways, I miss the structure of having a job ... but what I do now has complete creative freedom," she said. "It's very liberating, and I love that part about it."
Rangel has made the blog her business, along with her personal and photography styling work. She earns her income through sponsored posts and affiliate links, yet she's careful to retain a balance between professional and personal. "I've tried to create a good amount of me and my family on the blog," she said. "I want to remain true to myself and be authentic."
On baby gear
"When I was first stroller shopping, I thought I wanted a Bugaboo because that was the 'it' stroller," Rangel said. "But I really liked UPPAbaby, and it was substantially less expensive."
Rangel's UPPAbaby VISTA stroller has since endured through three kids (and it can also carry all three with the addition of a second seat and a glider board). "I'm still obsessed with it," she said. Rangel also owns the UPPAbaby G-LUXE, a lightweight stroller she uses when traveling. "It's pretty lightweight, but it's still sturdy," she said. "Some umbrella strollers are pretty flimsy."
Rangel is also a fan of babywearing, so much so that she teaches classes about it at Modern Milk, a community center and boutique for moms in Scottsdale. Her favorites: the Ergobaby 360 structured carrier, the Solly Baby Wrap and Sakura Bloom baby sling.
Rangel remembers being two weeks away from her due date and commenting that she was over being pregnant. Another mom launched into a series of cynical complaints, telling Rangel, "It gets so much harder—you just wait."
That isn't the message that Rangel shares with other moms when they ask for advice. "It can be exhausting to have these little people who need you so constantly, but it's also the best feeling in the world," Rangel said. "Someday, they'll grow up, and they won't need you that much. Try to be in the moment as much as you can."
Katie Stauffer became an unintentional blogger when she joined Instagram, experimenting with creative photos and hashtags. To her surprise, strangers started liking her photos—especially the ones of her son, Finn. Likes grew into advertising requests from companies, who offered gifts in exchange for photos of Finn sporting their clothing or products.
Now, Over Our Wall is Stauffer's side business in addition to her full-time work in real-estate escrow—and raising five kids: her nearly-two-year-old twin girls, two sons and teenage daughter. "I didn't really mean for that, but that's what it is now," she said.
Stauffer's main muses are her twins, Mila and Emma, often photographed getting into mischief (and sometimes falling asleep in the process). In addition to creating sponsored posts for family-related companies, Stauffer also works with interior-design companies in posting photos of her well-styled home. Along with the work comes pressure to make each post as artful as the last, but collecting likes from her more than 88,000 Instagram followers is rewarding for Stauffer. "As lame as it sounds, it's like a confidence booster," she said. "It felt good to know I'm good at this."
On baby gear
Stauffer owns the Baby Jogger City Select convertible stroller, which she used with two infant car seats when the twins were young. "It's super easy to take apart; it's not crazy heavy, it's not complicated to open—and it looks cool," she said. Another favorite is the Nuna SENA, a portable playard the twins still use for sleeping together.
Stauffer experienced plenty of parenthood before having Mila and Emma, but having twins allows her to witness two emerging personalities and development paths. As the twins took turns hitting milestones like walking and talking, Stauffer said, "You realize that you don't need to worry that they're not doing this or that at this age. They're two different babies."
Before having her first child, Alyssa Watters was a different type of mom. Having adopted two rescue pitbulls and fostered more than 45 others from animal shelters, she began blogging about the intersection of dogs and babies. As she wrote about preparing her dogs to meet her son, Carter, she realized that readership of The Prince and the Pitbulls extended far beyond her family, as she originally intended. "I was getting bombarded by people who were so interested in how I transitioned from being a dog mom to a real mom," she said. "I never thought anyone would read what I wrote."
As Watters becomes a stay-at-home mom and prepares for the arrival of Brody, due in September, blogging has helped her connect with other moms about the joys and challenges of parenthood. "I don't know what I'm doing 99 percent of the time," she said. "I'm using my network and my mom tribe to find the best products, the best sensory activities, advice for whatever stage I'm at in motherhood."
On baby gear
For Watters and her husband, hiking with the dogs in the nature preserve near their home has always been part of the daily routine. That didn't change with the arrival of Carter, who went hiking within the first two weeks of his life. As an infant, Carter joined along in a Lillebaby or Boba carrier. Now 16 months, he rides in the BOB Revolution FLEX jogging stroller. "I love it," Watters said. "I don't think there's anything I don't like about the BOB."
As Watters prepares for her second baby, she's most looking forward to seeing her two sons interact—especially as Carter as become a loving boy who hugs other kids at the park. "He has turned into such a sweet toddler," she said. "I'm really excited to see Carter as a big brother."
Ashley Sterusky was a hairstylist who loves fashion, writing and taking photos, especially of her daughter. With friends often asking about her hair, clothes or motherhood, she figured she'd put all of her pictures and thoughts in one place on a blog. But now, Sunshine and Lullabies has a following that extends beyond friends.
"I've met so many people from doing it and have gotten some really good opportunities to work with brands," Sterusky said. "It's been way more than I had anticipated."
Sterusky has met moms who already know her—from Instagram. "That's the weirdest thing in the world," she joked, "but it's fun." She's found fellow mom bloggers, many of whom are now friends, to be more supportive of each other than outsiders might realize. "Everyone's super, super helpful, and there's kind of a niche for everyone," she said. "There are so many readers out there; no one's really competing."
On baby gear
Sterusky owns a Baby Jogger City Elite, a stroller that has been discontinued (The City Mini GT is similar). The stroller's larger, all-terrain wheels can tackle the neighborhood dirt roads where Sterusky, her husband and two daughters—Harper, 2, and Indy, 4 months—go on nightly, after-dinner walks. "If everyone has a good walk and there are no meltdowns, it's a win," she joked. "I don't go looking to get a killer workout; I try to get out and have a good time as a family."
With her best friend expecting her first child, Sterusky has been giving this advice: Don't do it all alone. Find a community of moms, accept help from those willing to give it—and don't forget your sense of humor. "You're going to be so exhausted," she said. "You have to laugh, or you're going to cry."
Amy Venzke is the co-owner of Strolleria, along with her husband. Together, they have a mission to make the gear-buying experience easier on parents. Contact the Strolleria team with questions at email@example.com or 480-442-9433.