Stephanie Loomis Pappas’ blog Snackdinner is designed to be a “resource for people who want to be better researchers and better parents,” but the site is much more. Rather than send parents on a Google rampage, Pappas does the work instead, offering up well-documented facts and figures on the most pressing parenting concerns along with creative approaches to problem solving. She shares more on how she sifts through bad parenting advice to serve up smart solutions.
I’m a professor recently turned stay-at-home parent. When I was pregnant, I treated childrearing like any other topic I’ve studied: I read as many books as possible in those relatively quiet 37 weeks. I was astounded by all of the dubious advice in those books, as well as the handful of books I’ve been able to read since my son was born. My mission at Snackdinner is to help dispel all the bad parenting advice on the internet, but given the impossibility of that task, my even more important mission is to equip parents with the research skills necessary to make good parenting decisions. Of course, even the best-researched advice won’t work if kids aren’t into it. And that’s where the concept of “snackdinner” comes in: research is important, but so are the creativity and practice necessary to implement it.
research + creativity + practice
The blog posts I most enjoy reading are less about kids (because the kids are always generally going to be fine!), but their parents as they struggle with their new roles. In that vein, my favorite post is Reluctant KonMari: What I gained from tossing my books. One of my fears when starting this blog was that it would be visual proof I had “failed” as an academic. In some ways I’m still a little sensitive to not being “Professor Pappas,” of which I was recently reminded when my son announced to me “Daddy is a doctor, you are a mommy.” Writing Reluctant KonMari was a great way to acknowledge and celebrate this huge shift in my life from professor to parent.
A few months ago I started a post titled “Writing Without Naps.” I’ve yet to finish it because, well, kiddo stopped napping. Balance is hard. My go-to blogging tool is my editorial calendar. Although nearly everything in my life is digital, I keep a wall-sized paper calendar just for my blogging schedule. My calendar is visible to anyone who steps into my house, and even if they never comment on it, I feel just a little bit of pressure to keep up with the schedule I’ve set for myself.
In those first few months with a newborn, where 8 hours of my day were spent just feeding the kid, my mom told me: “It doesn’t get easier. It gets harder.” This seemed an especially cruel thing to say to a first-time parent dreaming of sleeping through the night, until she added: “But YOU get better.” In the rare moments between the crises du-jour, I realize that she’s absolutely right. Although the challenges are getting bigger and bigger, I’m getting more confident and capable as a parent.
Right now my days are largely spent waiting for my potty-trainer to pee, which would leave lots of time for writing if I wasn’t springing up every few minutes to check on his progress. On a more typical day, I’m up by 6 to write before everyone wakes up. My non-napper is at least a late sleeper, so I write for about two hours before the day’s chaos.
After that routine beginning, our day can go anywhere: building towers out of straws and play dough, painting with watercolors, exploring the park behind our house. Spelling with fridge magnets is kiddo’s current favorite activity, so we often learn new words mid-morning. We make lunch together and then have quiet time together sitting on opposite ends of the couch while he reads and I write. Half the time I’m only pretending to write because I love watching him “read” to himself. In the afternoons and evenings we’ll play, do chores, and make dinner.
We’re still getting to know our new town, and so try to explore and make friends when we have the opportunity. My husband generally gives kiddo his bath, which both gives them time together and me a little more time to write before kiddo goes to bed. I’m usually only about 15 minutes behind him.
Stop writing about your kids. If your goal is to build a large audience, you have to write pieces that matter to that audience. In my writing classes, I’d often ask my students “So What?” Why should other people care about your personal story? What are you trying to teach them through your writing? What should they get out of coming to your blog? You should never be writing just about your kids, or yourself, or your spouse. You should be writing about a topic that is bigger than you, and using your lived experience to make that topic come alive for readers. In other words, your personal anecdotes are part of the story, but they’re not the whole story.