I’m so excited for my first Q & A today!
I’m happy to introduce you to Michelle Horton, an inspiring young mom and writer who started Early Mama, a website devoted to empowering all of us young mommies with personal stories, advice and giveaways, and my personal favorite, her series “Why I Love Being an Early Mama.” You may have even seen my essay, “Lessons from an Unwed Mother,” on her site–the essay which, it pains me to say, happens to be the-article-that-could-have-been.
Michelle is also a staff blogger (*coughjealouscough*) at Babble.com and mother to one awesome little guy named Noah–another love I happen to have, as Ada’s name, should she have turned out with the proper appendage, would have been Noah.
Tell us how you became an Early Mama.
Well it wasn’t planned that way, I can tell you that much. To be honest, I always wanted to be a 20-something mom, which is what I now consider to be an “Early Mama,” in terms of how our society defines the word “early.” But I was an Early Mama even by my own standards, having my son at the age of 22. I actually (accidentally) conceived on the day I graduated college. My classmates were dressing up in robes and hats, while I was unknowingly making a child. But to answer your question: Faulty birth control. But it was the best accident that could have ever happened. (Editor’s note: For the record, Michelle, I wasn’t asking–we’re in the same boat, remember? 😉 )
How did you get your start in writing?
Well I’ve been writing from the time I could form a sentence. I guess it started as a fascination with books, a love of literature, and an introspective personality. When I was in 4th grade we went around the classroom and said what we wanted to be when we grew up. There were the classic answers like doctor, firefighter, teacher and actor, but when it was my turn, I said “writer.” My teacher chuckled and said, “You better have a backup,” which was a serious blow to my 9-year-old self. But the next year, my 5th grade teacher believed in me so much that he sent me to creative writing workshops at Marist College, and all throughout middle school I took creative writing workshops before school started. My love of writing was slowly drained during high school when our writing assignments became very structured, state-approved, test-ready formats. Writing was still my strong point — something that every teacher always commented on — but I lost that creative drive. Plus it was high school, which I like to call my Lost Years.
I went to college knowing I wanted to do something that involved writing, and I was yo-yoing back and forth between journalism and public relations. I finally set my studies on journalism (and international relations), concentrating on magazine-style writing. In fact, it was my literary journalism classes that really ignited my childhood love of writing and brought back my creative aspirations. After learning more about editing (and completing an internship at Conde Nast’s SELF magazine), my main goal was to become a magazine editor in Manhattan, gain a valuable pool of contacts, and then quit and freelance when I decided to have children (in 5 or so years). I was so set on that seemingly fool-proof plan, that the unexpected pregnancy was a huge shock. A shock that I didn’t shake until I saw his perfect little face.
As I am typing, I should be able to keep the jealousy to a non-obvious level when I ask: How did you land your job as a full-time writer for Babble?
You know, I wish I had some great, inspiring story, but I really lucked out. I was working at this dead-end job as a writer for the New York State Assembly — which sounds a lot more important than it actually is — and I just needed out. I loved the people that I worked with (some of the best co-workers anyone could ask for: smart, warm, genuine), but there was no advance for me. I didn’t love what I was doing, and it kept me away from my newborn/infant for up to 12, 14, even 16 hours a day. I applied to a bagillion jobs — from magazine editorial assistants to book publishing positions — figuring that if I were going to be away from my baby so much, it better be worth it. I saw a MediaBistro job listing for a part-time Editorial INTERN at Babble, which had extremely low pay. Figuring in commuting costs, I was actually paying to work there. I had a long talk with my husband and we decided that we just had to pursue our dreams no matter what and we’d make it work. I figured that I’d waitress at night so that I could have my days with Noah, and then hopefully find something part time in my field. I was already a fan of Babble — and how exciting to actually write about parenting! — so I was extremely happy to get the internship at Babble (how many intern applicants actually live the subject matter?). I worked in the office one or two days a week down in Manhattan for about 3 months. I participated in edit meetings, pitched stories, even wrote a couple of (unpaid) articles, and they liked me enough to keep me on. They knew that I wasn’t the typical starving intern — I already paid my dues at SELF and now had a child to support — so they asked if I wanted to do freelance writing from home. Immediately I was getting a steady stream of assignments, including daily blog posts, to write — so I’m extremely lucky. And grateful, might I add.
What made you want to start Early Mama?
Early Mama has been years in the making. Basically I wanted to create something that I was desperately searching for when I was pregnant. I was always inquiring about when people had babies — especially successful women — and I found it so inspiring to find other women who started early as well. I was so terrified that I was headed toward a road of failed marriage, failed dreams, financial ruin, etc. I was always searching for proof of the opposite — and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to put all of those stories in one place?” There were several blogs that I was reading that were written by “early moms,” and I thought WHY are you not talking about the big issue here? How did you do this at 23 years old? Am I the only one feeling isolated, insecure, doubtful? I really wanted to create a place of encouragement and inspiration for others who were feeling the way I did, and a chance to tell other scared young pregnant women that it WILL work out. That’s something I wanted to hear.
You recently started a series, “Why I Love Being an Early Mama.” What is your favorite part about being an Early Mama?
Oh gosh, there are so many reasons. I think my biggest reason is that I get more time to know and love my children. If I waited until I was 32, that’s 10 years that I missed out on being with my children. But there are so many great reasons that I’ve been compiling! I’m excited to share and discuss them all.
I’m always curious to get a secret glimpse into the daily lives of other moms. Can you describe your typical day?
Well on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Noah goes to nursery school, so I spend my day sitting at my dining room table, staring at a computer screen. I try to work out a schedule where I take breaks to do laundry, take a shower, do some dishes, but normally I’m just working. Then Noah comes home and we play, I make dinner, clean up a little, visit with my husband, do the whole nighttime routine, and then I’m either: a) back to work or b) hanging out with my husband until we pass out. Some nights I’ll stay up working until 2 a.m., some nights I’ll go to sleep at 9 p.m. and wake up at 4 a.m. to start working, and other nights I’ll have a normal 8 hours of sleep. It’s basically just a constant balancing act. But my most important rule is to separate work time from mom time — otherwise I’m not doing either well. It’s important for me to be focused on whatever task I’m doing, otherwise I feel stretched too thin — which isn’t fair to Noah.
Word on the street is that you’re thinking about baby #2….
Yes, thinking. Well, we’re definitely going to have another baby, it’s just the “when” that’s up in the air. We’d love to give Noah a sibling ASAP, but we’re still debating how ready we feel. Hopefully sometime in the next year!
Tell us about the book you were recently published in:
The anthology “Stories I’ve Only Told My Mom” is a collection of essays from 16 mom bloggers — such as Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother, Monica Bielanko of The Girl Who, Heather Flett of Rookie Moms and other mind-blowing blogging idols. I can’t even believe my name is in with that roster, to be honest. But it’s a beautiful collection of stories ranging from funny to tragic to shocking. It’s a heartwarming and quick read, and it’s only $4.99 on Smashwords and Amazon. Right now it’s an e-book that you can download on any e-reader or right to your computer. (If you have a Mac, you can download the free Kindle for Mac app from Amazon!)
Thanks so much to Michelle for being featured in my first Q & A. I’m liking this whole Q & A thing–give me a shout-out at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be featured! Next guest post will be a cake-making extravaganza, from a hip mom/hairdresser who is doing something I’ve always wanted to–taking a cake-making class. She’s chronicled the whole thing for us–can’t wait to see the results!