Today I’m delighted to introduce you to another Catholic mom blogger, Mary Ruth Hackett from the blog Parenting with Peer Review. Mary Ruth is the mom of four kids here on earth and one in heaven. She and her husband have been married for fourteen years. Mary Ruth actually has a PhD in Educational Psychology (hence the pun in her blog name, which took me back to my university psychology classes). She’s a full-time mom who melds her practical experience with her educational background to write a parenting blog.
TKM: When and why did you start blogging?
Mary Ruth Hackett: I started blogging about 6 years ago at the suggestion of a friend. It was a private family blog then, mainly designed to keep my overseas soldier brother up to date on what was going on in our lives. Sort of an online diary or journal to share with just the family. It was a great way of record-keeping for our lives at that time.
Then I was approached to contribute parenting posts to another blog. That got me thinking about writing all parenting stuff rather than just record-keeping for my family’s sake. I have a PhD in child development and left academia to raise my four growing little ones. I had always been frustrated by the disconnect between what academics study and know about children, and what parents “in the trenches” know to be true about the way children live and grow. My academic goal was someday to act as a go-between of sorts.
So that is what I am now doing through my blog. I talk about parenting from a practical place, but draw in the science of child development and educational psychology so that parents can make informed decisions about their parenting practices. As a busy mama, however, I do talk a lot on the blog about just normal mama stuff. As a devout Catholic, I interweave Catholic teaching as it pertains to parenting, motherhood, family life and child development.
TKM: How did you come up with your blog name?
Mary Ruth: Gosh if I had to do it all over again… I thought I was being really cute with my name (which I found out later was my first mistake)… until I realized that most people don’t know what “peer review” actually means. So my blog name is Parenting with Peer Review.
Peer Review is a process that academic research has to go through before being published in a legit academic journal. Basically a study is written up and then submitted for publication. The study is then reviewed by a panel of experts in the field and either accepted or rejected (or accepted with revisions).
My idea was that my blog could be a place for parents to come together and “peer review” the research on child development. We, as the experts, as the parents, would have a place to discuss the research, the application of that research, and the practical side of parenting.
But if you have to explain your name then it isn’t a very good name! I am in the process of just moving it all over to a MaryRuthHackett website but going public like that is a big step so I am dragging my feet.
TKM: Do you have a blog schedule or do you post when you feel like it?
Mary Ruth: Neither. I post when I can finally get my act together. I used to publish every week, sometimes twice a week, but the older the kids get, the harder it is.
I write in my head first. Usually first thing in the morning or while I am driving the kids around, or when I finally get to washing and drying my hair. Actually getting quiet time to sit down and write un-interrupted is really tough. I am hoping now that the youngest is in preschool it will be easier, but I have a horrible Martha complex and I can’t write if I have a long To-Do list.
So for now I write when I can, do extra research for the piece, try to edit in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and sometimes I actually get to hit the publish button. Occasionally I hit the publish button before I edit because I get desperate.
I am different than some bloggers because I write about parenting from a more academic perspective. I would love to just write “Hey this is the best way to get your kid to do his chores…” but the scholar side of me has to make sure what I say actually jives with the research and theory. That is the whole point of my work. But doing so requires that extra step of research, so my posts seem to take forever to get out.
TKM: What is your favourite part of blogging? Your least favourite part?
Mary Ruth: My favorite part of blogging is the aha moment. I love being inspired and being able to bring together research or theory and real-life parenting issues. I love being able to sit down and just let the words flow from the head and heart onto the page. I love digging back into research again and relearning the stuff that rocked my world even before I had children.
I don’t like the tech or design side of blogging. Sidebars and buttons and SEOs and bounce rates and affiliate links are just mind numbing to me. My blog is usually messed up in some way because I just don’t like it. A good friend put together my current page (logo and everything) because she said it was ugly—she was totally right too. My husband is working on putting together a new site with my actual name (gasp), rather than the current peculiar title.
TKM: What advice would you offer other bloggers?
Mary Ruth: I think the best advice I ever got was Find Your Niche. So I would pass along that advice. Ask yourself:
- Why should someone read you rather than move on to the next page?
- What is your unique perspective?
Discover that voice and then stick with it. Don’t try to be just like someone else—they are already doing that so you would be redundant and unauthentic.
Then secondly, find a community of bloggers to travel the journey with. I am a contributor and work on the side for www.BlessedisShe.net. It is a diverse community of Catholic writers who are living God’s faith and supporting one another in our mission of evangelizing online and in person. It has made this online experience so much richer!
TKM: What is your favourite social media platform and why?
I’m only on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and I love Instagram. I am not a particularly artsy person but I love playing with the lighting and trying to capture a moment. I find myself noticing the beauty around me more and wanting to save the glimpse in a photo. Instagram gives me a place for that memory. A photo can be more powerful and more telling than words sometimes.
My blog has personal stories peppered throughout but I try to give the children some semblance of privacy. I have more freedom to put more intimate and personal things on my Instagram feed than on my blog and Facebook page. It is more relaxing for me. My feed tends also to be filled with lovely moms trying to do their best and it is inspiring to tune out of life for a few minutes here or there and just see their glimpses of beauty.
Thanks so much for the interview, Mary Ruth! Good luck with your move to your own website.