Posted in Thoughts from Life, What I Do

Working Mom

I have a question for you. When you think of your identity, what title do you give to yourself? I have several. Pastor’s Wife. Homeschool Mom. Writer. Editor. And, up until recently, Stay at Home Mom.

Has something changed? you might ask. In fact, I can almost see the wondering on the faces of some friends, wondering if I’ve suddenly decided to put the kids in school and work outside the home. And, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s more of a discovery.

Defining Stay at Home Mom

It’s a realization that for many, many years, I’ve struggled with my role as a mom.

I have this mental definition for the “Stay at Home Mom” title. It’s a mom who essentially structures her life around the care of her home and family. Everything else is secondary.

For fifteen years, I’ve called myself a stay at home mom. But, can I share a little secret with you? I have never fit the boundaries of my own definition, and I have always felt the conflict of that without ever understanding why.

Just recently, it all clicked in my head when I realized that I have actually worked for nine of my fifteen years of motherhood. And, in the years I didn’t work, I always had something specific to focus on. In the early years of motherhood, it was photo editing. I loved to take pictures, keep them well organized on my computer, and edit them in a variety of ways. Later, I started writing and discovered the world of product and book reviews. Only now do I see that I looked upon both of those “hobbies” as jobs.

Only now do I see that I’m not really a stay at home mom, and I never have been. On the contrary, I have always been a working mom. The whole time.

A Beautiful Mental Shift

Admitting that is a big deal for me, because I realize I have always felt a bit ashamed of my jobs – ashamed that I enjoyed them more than keeping up with my home or cooking for my family. It’s not that I preferred being away from my family. Quite the contrary! I love being with my family. But, I’ve always preferred the work that is not home related. The more I loved my jobs, the more I felt like a stay-at-home mom failure.

Something about the simple admission that I am a working mom changes so much in my head. You see, like many of my friends who also work – some from home and others outside the home, both in part-time and full-time capacities – I still prioritize my family. I shape my work options around doing what’s best for my family. I work in a way that allows me to homeschool. I work in a way that makes me available to my children when they need me, while still setting parameters and boundaries for work time. My family is no less of a priority. But, the care of my home is not my job. It’s a joint responsibility for every family member.

I cannot even begin to explain how that admission has eliminated conflict for me. That realization has helped me interact better with my children. It will allow me to share responsibilities of home care more freely, rather than feeling like a failure because I thought I couldn’t keep up with my job.

I’m a work in a way that most vibrantly nourishes my family working mom.

And, do you know what? I still highly value stay at home moms. But I also absolutely love who I am and what I do.

What about you? What title have you adopted? Does it fit?

Posted in What I Do

What I Do: Writing a Review

According to my blog, I wrote my first review seven years ago this month. Wow. It’s quite incredible to think of all the doors that have opened because I started writing book reviews. Something I’ve learned along the way is that not all reviews are created equal. So what does it take to write a solid review?

Nuts and Bolts

The first thing to keep in mind is that a review is not an excuse to gush over or bash a product. Instead, it is to inform. With that in mind, there are a few practicals to consider before even looking at the content of your review.

Word Count

The ideal review length is 300-500 words. Setting a minimum goal of 300 words (or, if you are reviewing on a site like Amazon rather than on your blog, 150-200 is sufficient) makes you stop and truly think about a product that you might be tempted to review in two sentences.

On the other hand, a limit of 500 words keeps you from rambling and gushing. The review I intend to publish tomorrow currently stands at 835 words. So, part of the editing process will be to cut out the unnecessary wordiness and make it more manageable.

Note: There are some reviews that require more words. Be as concise as possible, but don’t be limited by self-imposed word counts in those situations.

Format

Use visual stimulation in your presentation. Bullet points, numbered lists, and headings are very useful!

Order is Everything

Whether this is a negative or positive review, try to both start and finish with a positive comment about the product. “This didn’t work for us, but ______ would find it useful,” makes for a great closing statement to a negative review.

Credit to Product Source

If you received a product in exchange for review, remember to include a statement such as this at the end of your review: “This product was sent to me by COMPANY NAME in exchange for my honest review.”

Content

Now you’re ready to start building content! Here are some tips (in no certain order – you can build your review your way!).

My Story

Set the stage by sharing in just a few sentences how this product fits into your family. That is relevant to the reader, as it shows readers how your family differs from theirs. But they don’t need all the fine details. Keep it brief!

Pros & Cons

Find at least one con about a product you love. Putting this thought into the review builds your credibility and indicates that you’re not a paid reviewer. Of course, you also should find at least one positive about a product you greatly dislike, in addition to the “this would be useful for” statement mentioned earlier.

In fact, whether this is a positive or negative review, ending with a recommendation statement makes closing comments a cinch!

Just the Facts

When it’s all said and done, however, the facts are what people are looking for. Be helpful. What would you want to know about this product that you can’t find through other sources? Does the product actually live up to the company’s claims? Are there additional pieces of information a customer would like to have before buying? This is the meat of your review around which the rest is built.

Clean-Up Time

Finally, don’t forget the edit! Walk away for five minutes, or even a day, and then come back to reread. Does it make sense? Are there spelling or grammar errors? You don’t have to be a grammar Nazi or an editor to make sure your review is well-written. Just pay attention. It makes all the difference!