In 2011, when Melissa Cook’s son, Jaxon, was 18 months old, and she was pregnant with her daughter, the Bemidji, Minn., mom realized she needed an easy way to update her friends and family—many of whom lived half a world away—on her family’s adventures in Vojens, Denmark.
Cook’s husband, Brendan, is a professional hockey player and played with a team in Denmark last year. This year the family is headed to Germany for the season.
Cook, 31, didn’t want to use Facebook for updates because it seemed impersonal and didn’t paint a picture of their family’s experience. She shied away from Flickr for her photos because her story was more than a photo stream. Her solution: create a blog that allowed her to share her adventures with relatives and friends.
A blog—short for “Web log”—is an online personal journal hosted on a website on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc., on a regular basis. The blog can feature personal information about interests and hobbies.
Cook’s friends and family members love her blog, aptly named “Another Place Called Home” due to her effort to cultivate a home no matter where her family travels.
“I want my children to know that they’re home wherever we live. As long as the four of us are together, we’re home,” she says.
How to Start a Free Family Blog
Creating a family blog is a fantastic project for the whole family. One advocate of family blogging called it an “evolving keepsake.” Blogs are great places to share family milestones, your kids’ achievements, fun photos, and artwork. All you need is a computer, an email address, and an Internet connection to get started. If you don’t have a computer at home, a public library is a great place to access one.
STEP 1: Choosing a Platform
Cook chose to use WordPress.com for her blog, which currently has the largest number of users and the greatest variety of themes for displaying blogs. In addition to WordPress, other popular blogging platforms include
Blogger.com, which is owned by Google. Blogger.com is very easy to use but has fewer themes to display words and pictures. For those who’d like to share fewer words, Tumblr.com is a good choice to display pictures and graphic art. All of the platforms have social networking features that allow you to share blog updates.
Photo-sharing websites Shutterfly.com and Flickr.com also contend in the blogging arena. This choice is a great option for family members who have shared a family reunion or holiday together where many pictures are taken. It is an effective way for a variety of contributors to add and view content in one place.
Most platforms have a variety of privacy settings, so consider who you want to have access to your blog when making your selection.
STEP 2: Set Up Your Writers
Though Cook is the only contributor to her blog, many families choose to share login information, which allows multiple members of the family to contribute posts and pictures to the blog and stay connected with family news.
“I like that I can control the amount of information about our lives that everyone sees,” Cook says.
When allowing multiple authors, everyone should be clear on what information is fair game. Maybe your son doesn’t want the world to know the story of how he was sleepwalking and ate from the family dog’s dish. Be sensitive to your child’s needs and get permission from school-age or older kids first as to whether or not they want their art or funny stories posted on the family blog.
STEP 3: Naming Your Blog
Once you and your family have chosen which blogging platform to use, and who is going to author it, it’s time to name your blog. Do some family brainstorming. Get creative. The name will be part of the blog’s Internet address, so be sure to use a memorable name that isn’t too complicated.
STEP 4: Designing Your Blog
Depending on your skill level, and the skill level of the family members contributing to the blog, make the blog as straightforward or sophisticated as you’d like. Most platforms walk users through the process with videos and forums so you can quickly get your design questions answered. You’ll need to choose a color scheme, font type, and layout. Once you get the hang of it, try adding a “widget”—a tool that allows you to display an archive, photo stream, traffic counter, calendar, or countdown to make the blog more interactive with your audience.
STEP 5: Posting
The final step in getting started is to post the first entry to your blog. Cook used her first post as an opportunity to introduce the purpose of the blog, which was to keep friends and family updated on their adventures on the road.
Posts can include text, photos, and even videos. Don’t forget to involve the kids! Try scanning in your children’s drawings and post their art to your blog—show them how others can now view their accomplishments online, potentially all over the world. Remember, nothing should be posted that could embarrass or offend anyone, or jeopardize your career or future aspirations. Think before you post.
Your Family’s Life: Private or Public?
Not every blog needs to be available to the public. Some families choose to password-protect their blog so they have more control over the viewing audience.
You can make your blog interactive by allowing viewers to add comments, or close the comments section if you don’t wish to moderate comments. You’ll have the capability to delete any comments you deem inappropriate or unnecessary even if the comments section is open.
Lindsey Groettum, 31, a special education teacher in Denver, Colo., with ties to family in Minnesota started a blog on
Blogger.com as a way to open up about the struggle she and her husband endured in their quest to start a family.
Groettum searched online for support to find others who wrote about the private, physical, and emotional experience of miscarriage but couldn’t find what she was looking for. That was motivation for her to share her story.
“I posted my first blog entry on the one-year anniversary of trying to conceive,” she says. “When I originally signed up for the blog, I thought I’d be sharing pictures and stories about traveling with my husband, Andy.”
One of the initial roadblocks to contributing to the blog for Groettum was choosing a theme.
“When I found myself feeling hopeless after two miscarriages, I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore because it was becoming difficult to find the good in anything,” reveals Groettum. “I found myself using small milestones to measure my day and it helped me stay positive. That’s when it came to me…the little things. ‘The Little Things’ became the theme and name for my blog.”
The response Groettum received from that first post revealing the couple’s struggle was overwhelming. Friends and family showed support for the Groettums and what they were experiencing. Groettum heard from women from all different parts of her life that could relate and were thankful for someone who spoke out about the true and honest feelings that go along with the experience of miscarriages.
Since beginning her blog, Groettum feels more confident, less stressed, and calmer. Her husband has even noticed the transformation and sees the blog as a great accomplishment for her, an outlet for her and her feelings and stories. The Groettums are now excitedly expecting their first child in November.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Family Blogging
Rachel Blumhardt, an outpatient mental health counselor in The Village Family Service Center’s Fargo office, agrees with Groettum and believes there are definite benefits to blogging, but also some negative aspects.
“I have often recommended as part of therapy that clients keep a private journal as a healthy outlet to express feelings and process problems,” shares Blumhardt. “The difference, of course, is that a written journal is typically private and blogging is often a very public experience.”
Blumhardt believes the unfiltered views of others in response to one’s blog may be affirming at times and at other times detrimental. She feels the overall psychological well-being of the writer doing the blogging is very important in how beneficial the process can be.
“If you are emotionally sensitive and the subject matter is such that certain feedback would upset you, then a private journal might be a more appropriate avenue,” says Blumhardt.
“Blogging is a great way to document our life,” adds Groettum. “The blog will be a living photo album of sorts for us to look back on and a way to share our life with our children.”
Both Groettum and Cook agree that there is one disadvantage to blogging. And that is, communication sometimes slowed with friends and family once they launched their blogs. “Sometimes my friends think that what I post on the blog is the only thing that is happening in my life,” shares Groettum. “I get fewer phone calls and emails because friends and family think they’re keeping up with me by reading the blog.”
“What I share on the blog isn’t the complete picture,” she says. “It’s still important to stay in touch, and my blog doesn’t replace that. Skype is now filling that gap for us when we’re overseas so we can get face time with our family.”
Janelle Brandon is wife to Lukas, mom to Dylan (4) and Julia (2), writer, doula, and marketer living in Moorhead, Minn. To learn more, visit www.janellebrandon.com.
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