Sara Strand was struggling being a mom. The Superior woman experienced depression, cognitive issues and post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of an amniotic fluid embolism and a stroke during the birth of her daughter.
A friend sent Strand an article on Duluth Moms Blog. Soon after, the mother of four started writing about everything from going to concerts with your kids to postpartum depression.
“I’ve never been at all shy with being honest about what my life is like. I write the exact same way that I would tell somebody over coffee,” she said.
Strand hopes her work can help her connect with those who have had similar experiences, and the Duluth Moms Blog community, along with online support groups, help her feel connected.
Content runs the gamut of Northland family fun lists to talking to your daughter about consent.
Launched locally in 2016, it’s a branch of City Moms Collective, an LLC aimed at helping women grow hyper-local content and opportunities for mothers to build community. There are more than 90 sites across the U.S., including Portland, Austin, Boston.
Here, the content is written by Duluth moms, for Duluth moms, said Andrea Jang.
Originally from the Iron Range, Jang returned to the area two years ago. She started as a writer and a blog follower. As a new-to-town, stay-at-home mom, joining Duluth Moms Blog helped Jang acclimate to the Twin Ports.
There’s a need for online and in-person accessibility for moms, she said. So, along with a social media presence, the site hosts in-person gatherings to help mothers receive face-time with others and in-person encouragement. They’ve hosted a comedy night, sip and shop events and women’s health nights.
It’s encouraging to know others are walking through parenting growing pains, too, Jang said. And: “Living in colder communities, it is so important to have a sense of community — friends who come over to your house, friends to contact for advice.”
Jang took over the Duluth Moms Blog business a year ago. As a stay-at-home mom, she said she balances her duties with part-time child care. She recruits writers, connects with sponsors and moderates the community + conversations Facebook group.
For some people, it can be tough to ask questions in a public forum. There’s fear of judgment or people pushing their parenting styles, she said, but their private group has moms from all walks and listed rules of conduct.
Jang hasn’t had many hardships with her 3-year-old daughter, Charlee, but following other womens’ stories and questions helps her prepare. And she feels a sense of relief when other parents share their insecurities.
“You’re not feeling like you’re a good mom or a good parent, it eases your anxieties. You want the best for your kid, you want to make sure you’re doing your best. It’s a reassurance,” she said.
And more personal blog posts help her feel connected through tough times.
“I had a miscarriage in July," she said, "and reading other women’s stories … it really made it easier for me to talk about.”
Despite coming from different backgrounds and parenting philosophies, there is common ground to be found. Raising children is hard, everybody has different beliefs, all kids are different, and it’s important that parents have support because it’s easy to feel isolated. Jang said she’d like to see more diverse content on the site — tips for college-age children or parents of mixed or interracial families. In the end, though, Jang wants the site to continue providing a service.
“A big profound, viral piece, that’s not what we’re here for. Just a resource that people will read and want to use," she said.
Sara Strand said she wished there were more resources like this when she was a new parent because having a community now is a confidence booster, and moms really need that. She said there were little to no play groups or parent groups in the Twin Ports 14 years ago.
“None of us know what we’re doing," she said. "We’re all winging it. Some wing it a little fancier than others, and look better doing it. You're doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and it's OK. Your kids love you anyway.”