Welcome back to another Blogletters interview!
For the first time in the series so far, I’m interviewing a lifestyle & parenthood blogger. I’m quite excited to find out more about blogging from Catey and I hope you are too!
I am a social worker in the medical field, a mom of three, and I’ve been working with kids in some way-shape-or-form for the past eight years. Formerly a school counselor, I started my blog as a way to help parents and professionals understand the challenging behaviors of children. Now I’ve shifted to more of a parenting blog with a little bit of life mixed in!
Hi Catey! What inspired you to start blogging?
When OliveJuice was first born, it was actually Counseling, Kids, and Coffee. I started as an elementary school counselor writing tips and tricks on child development from the perspective of someone who was both a parent and a professional working with kids. I left that job, and when that happened I didn’t feel like I was being genuine by continuing to write as though I was still a counselor. My credentials didn’t change but my profession shifted, so OliveJuice was born. I try to keep the same basic premise – parenting from the perspective of a professional – but now it’s more of a parenting/lifestyle blog than a blog for early childhood pros.
Within lifestyle, you blog about multiple categories. How do you balance all of them?
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal (henceforth referred to as BuJo). Originally my BuJo was an outlet for my physical creativity, but I learned to use it as a one-stop-shop for organizing all aspects of my life, blog included. In every month’s spread I dedicate at least two pages right off the bat to my blog, where I organize the post topics I’ve had swimming around in my head into categories to write about, and my goal is to write two posts per category (for me: parenting, house and home, and literature) every month. I also usually end up with at least one brainstorm page in my BuJo to keep track of the random post ideas that pop into my head while I’m falling asleep, so that’s pretty handy to consult to make sure I’m meeting my goals.
How is your relationship with the blogging community?
I have found such a wonderful community of bloggers, and honestly I feel like I can trust some of the online relationships I’ve formed more than many of the acquaintances I’ve made offline. The amazing thing is that I find myself connecting with people all over the place! Most of my interactions are through Twitter, but I’ve also had some great contacts come through Pinterest and directly through my site, and my Instagram engagement has started growing since I started Olive Moms. Honestly I didn’t know how much I was going to love this part of blogging, but really it’s these connections that I find keep me going.
You have an “Olive Moms” section. What is it about?
Ok, so Olive Moms is new. Like really new! My thought processes get kind of complex, but the short version starts with this: I got in a car accident in February. I was 36 weeks pregnant at the time, with two toddlers at home, and I totaled the one car my husband and I used to commute to our full time jobs. I posted about the accident on my social media accounts and I linked to my Teachers Pay Teachers store because I didn’t want to ask for money but I also knew that the accident meant we would have to hustle to replace the car FAST. That month was the biggest sales month for me, ever. And I’ve had my store for four years! I thought “ok, wow, so these people are even more wonderful than I thought.”
Our baby was born 3 weeks after the accident and I got caught in a whirlwind of life with three kids. Who were three years and younger. During the peak of COVID and right when shelter at home orders went in place and you couldn’t find toilet paper or baby wipes anywhere. Needless to say, my life became a disorganized mess, I lost track of the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the year, and OliveJuice kind of faded for a while. But when I started to feel like myself again I started to think that it was time to freshen up my site, and when I did that I wanted to acknowledge the community who’d made me think it was worth it to keep going with my blog. So, Olive Moms came about!
Olive Moms is my way to recognize and bring to light all the wonderful moms who are part of my community. On my site I have a section specifically to post interviews and guest posts and feature websites of fellow mom bloggers and “momtrepreneurs”, and I’m also doing a monthly giveaway on my Instagram. There is no application to be a part of this series, no hoops to go through – just ask and I’ll be more than happy to feature you! Blogging wouldn’t be possible without a supportive community, and I want to do my part to be supportive.
How would you describe your blogger identity? Is it similar to who you are in real life?
I try so so hard to make sure that my blogger identity, and my social media presences, are truly and authentically me. I use as much casual emphasis as I can (like bold and italic text, for instance) because, even though I truly am a professional, with a master’s degree and and a full time job in a hospital setting, my aim has always been to make difficult information easily accessible. So while I might write a post about, say, early literacy, and I get my references from medical journals, I’m not going to use direct quotes full of incomprehensible medical jargon because I don’t want to be a snooze-fest that gets written off and ignored.
That being said, I also write exactly like I talk. I remember vividly a point when I was 16 and working in a grocery store and talking to the managers about an issue with my paperwork, one of the managers looked at me strangely and said “I know you’re only 16 but you talk like you’re 30.” Well now I’m almost 30 so it makes more sense, but my point is I use terms like “casual emphasis” and “incomprehensible” because…I don’t know, maybe it’s just because I read a lot and I like the way words sound? Something to ponder. Anyway what I’m trying to say is, yes my blogger identity is exactly who I am in real life. Maybe with less curse words, but that’s what Twitter is for 😉
You recently redesigned your website. What made you take that decision?
You know the concept of “wanderlust”? I get that a lot with my site. I’ve done general maintenance and rebranding on my site I think four times now? This is actually the second time this year! But this time was big – literally a complete overhaul. I mentioned already about the accident and craziness that my life became afterwards, and I usually get an itch to recreate my site when I’ve taken an extended break. This time, though, I think a determination to maybe start taking myself more seriously came with it. I’m not trying to get existential here, but I do feel like something switched in my brain that said “ok, you can do better than this – try harder” because I never intended for my blog to just be casual ramblings. I wanted it to be found, to be a source of help and information and positive guidance without judgement.
So this time, when I revamped things, I took it a step further than I ever have and I started from scratch. I relearned my theme and coding technicalities, I got on with tech support about hosting errors that I’d been ignoring, I spent hours writing new posts to go live with the relaunch and I’m still not quite finished with some little technical problems! I took everything I’d learned in the last three years and basically created a whole new site. It was stressful, and I thank the heavens that I found and installed a maintenance mode plugin at my last update because I probably would have broken if people saw my site in the redesign phase! I have absolutely no regrets about the work or the result. I gave myself a week to get it done and somehow I managed it, and I ended up with something that’s like VHS vs. Blu-Ray when I think back on how I started.
What does it mean to be a parenthood & lifestyle blogger?
I actually think about this a lot, because when you start blogging experienced bloggers, who help new bloggers get started, love to talk about “finding your niche.” And I absolutely think it’s important to do so, but for a long time I felt like I was boxed-in to one broad topic and what I was writing felt limited. In some cases that might be a good idea, but I’m passionate about a wider range of things. While my focus tends to be on parenting and child development, I want to make it clear that I have more to discuss than just diapers and board books. I have an identity beyond “so-and-so’s mom” and I don’t want to lose sight of that.
So while I do identify strongest with people who blog in the parenting niche, I have more that I want to do with my own blog. For example, I have my Biweekly Book Review series to share my experiences with books I’ve read recently – and I’m not talking about “Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type.” I blog about parenting, yes, but in an effort to stay authentically “me,” I also sprinkle in a little bit of everything else.
What are your favourite & least favourite aspects of blogging?
My favorite is definitely having an outlet for expression. I’m hopelessly introverted but I have a lot to say! I’ve always found myself far better at written communication than verbal communication. That’s not to say I don’t speak well, I do all right. But I’m infinitely more comfortable in writing so blogging allows me to express myself exactly the way I intend to.
My least favorite, I think, is how much more it is than just writing. People don’t realize how much goes into it behind the scenes! I can get several posts written in one day, sure, but getting them polished and ready for posting takes days and it can be exhausting! And once I’ve lost my rhythm it’s hard to find it again, which can be discouraging.
If there are new bloggers in your niche reading this interview, what advice would you give them?
I think the most important thing a new blogger can do is find a schedule that works and stick to it! This is true in any niche but parents are notoriously busy and lifestyle is so open-ended, so I think it’s especially important to plan and schedule specific times to work on the blog where you know your thoughts are clear and you won’t be interrupted mid-thought. I burnt myself out so bad last year and I felt like I did all this work, but when I audited myself in January I realized I’d only actually written a handful of posts, the rest of the “work” I did was planning! I’ve done much better this year, setting a schedule for myself and holding myself accountable.
Lastly, talk about some bloggers who inspire you!
I’ve met so many inspiring creators in my journey but I want to recognize two specifically: Tamra of The Nurturing Parent and Sarah from Mommin’ in the Real World. These two ladies are so real and down to earth, and when I came to my senses and started taking my blog seriously and putting real effort into it it was them who inspired me and encouraged me to keep going! I said before you can make really amazing connections as a blogger and Tamra and Sarah are two of the most amazing connections I am honored to have made myself.
Thank you for doing this interview, Catey!
Catey’s blog looks really good after her redesign and she has many informative and thoughtful posts. I highly recommend checking it out.
There are more interviews with amazing bloggers coming up so watch this space for them. You can also bookmark at this page where I will be updating links of all the Blogletters interviews as they go up.
Talk to us!
What are your thoughts on keeping to a specific niche? Do you think forming connections with other bloggers is important for help & growth? Share your thoughts in the comments!