Melissa Lawrence is a New York City mom who had five kids in six and a half years. It was like mommy boot camp in her house. She felt challenged as a new mom, despite having graduated from Harvard Law School and practiced law for 10 years. But she found ways to deal with the myriad of issues that would arise. In fact, she had so much advice she wanted to share with new parents, on issues ranging from baby blues to product recalls, that she started her own vlog — a blog that provides periodic short informational videos — called CloudMom. I spoke with Lawrence recently about CloudMom and her thoughts on some recent parenting issues.
Risa Doherty: When did you start CloudMom?
Melissa Lawrence: I started shooting in the spring of 2011, when my fifth baby was 3 months old, but we just launched this past June. It took one year to start it up.
RD: Why “CloudMom?”
ML: I thought about the word cloud, as it has been used for computer networking and Internet information delivery, and thought it would best describe an Internet video service that would offer practical information for mothers.
RD: How did you start CloudMom?
ML: [Since] I love video and Internet, I thought about making YouTube videos to share and communicate with other moms about all the little things I did to care for my baby. There were silly little things that made my “mom life” easier, from tips on diaper changing and breast-feeding, to time management. I realized that so much happens during the first 12 months, as there is so much change. I was really exhausted, and I had such a hard time with my first and second babies, that I wanted to package my ideas together for other mothers.
RD: So, you couldn’t have done this while your first two children were babies?
ML: Oh no, I never could have done it with the first. It was a very intense time and I felt as if I never could get out of the house or get to the shower. I was also stressed because I had a “cluster feeding” baby, which is a baby who is very fussy late in the day, as a result of breast-feeding patterns.
RD: What does your spouse think of CloudMom?
ML: He is very supportive.
RD: Is this the first parenting vlog from New York City?
ML: To my knowledge, this is the first comprehensive “how to” video site hosted by a mom that walks you, step by step, through everything you need to know about caring for a newborn. There are quite a few vlogs out there — most have to do with older kids. My vlog appears daily and I talk about all sort of things that are happening in my life with my kids, as well as about what’s buzzing out there. I am a New York City mom, but we have had responses from viewers as far away as India and Saudi Arabia.
RD: What tips would you have for “mompreneurs” (mom entrepreneurs) with respect to setting goals, financial foresight, and support?
ML: First, know your costs, and keep them as low as possible. Give yourself enough time to get out there and earn revenue, clearing trademark and other set-up costs, so you can support the business and enable it to grow.
Second, you must really believe in the business you are creating. It needs to be something that is truly meaningful to you, a passion and not just a good business idea, since you will undoubtedly need to put in a lot of after-hours time.
Third, you should think about your timing. I waited until my first three children were in school and my fourth was in for half a day. I am flexible about my work hours and I am usually able to work late at night, so I can spend time during the day with my kids.
RD: When did you have the time to shoot the videos, and how did you integrate your work on CloudMom with your home life?
ML: Unless I needed the baby for the shoots, I would make the videos when the younger ones would nap and the older three kids would be at school, between 10 am and 3 pm. I wanted to arrange my schedule so I could always bring the older ones to school.
RD: How do you arrange your schedule to make time for all your children?
ML: Although I cannot give as much individualized attention to each kid every day as I would like, it balances out. If I do not have enough time to give the kind of attention I want to one of the kids one day, I make it up to him or her the next day. I will talk with the children about how their day was and we will all do stuff together, like putting the baby down. Half of what kills energy is guilt. I put the phone away and try to find time for everyone.
RD: Do you have tips for moms who have difficulty juggling it all?
ML: I know I can’t be everything to everybody each and every minute. There are certainly times when everyone in my house seems to be talking at once. When that happens, I try to explain to my kids that I am a person, too, and tell them, “look, I am having a hard time.” I try to ease up on the guilt and enlist the help of the older ones to teach them to take some responsibility and take a bit off my plate.
RD: What was your favorite activity with the kids this summer?
ML: I took them on the bus. I am not happy hearing how spoiled American kids are, so I try to do things to teach them empathy. I take them on excursions, for example, using the public bus, to try to teach them about how to behave in public spaces within a larger society and show respect for others.
RD: How do you feel about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All?”
ML: The reality is that it is hard to combine home, work life, and children’s activities, when both spouses work. In one week, I was required to be at the children’s school five times. I enjoyed Slaughter’s article because she talked about the practical realities that are part of everyday life, and provided relatable examples, like who will pick up the dry cleaning. For Slaughter, it became too difficult to meld her two lives, and she spoke freely about the less-than-glamorous realities of the daily juggling act, explaining why she could not “have it all,” when this juggling act became impossible for her. Similarly, in the vlog, I like to take things that people are talking about and bring the advice down to a practical level, sharing the things that have worked for me.
RD: What do you see for the future of CloudMom?
ML: We currently include many topics in the how-to videos for “Baby’s First Year,” and the daily vlogs for parents of children of all ages, including tips I come up with in my life as a mom, and parenting issues that are now trending. We hope to soon grow to include videos about raising toddlers and older children, as well as other topics related to mom health and wellness. It is a labor of love and I just hope to be able to continue doing it for a long time.
Risa C. Doherty is an attorney, award-winning freelance writer, and mother of two. Read more at www.risadoherty.com.