Tara Burghart Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:02PM
Whether you're just hearing about Go West Young Mom now, or have been patiently following the Go West page on Facebook, I hope this post will help explain what you can expect from the site during the coming months, and how grateful I will be for any feedback and tips.
When I have to give a short explanation of Go West Young Mom, I say that "it's a blog and online community serving young families in the far western suburbs of Chicago, particularly the Fox Valley." OK. Not so short. But what I want to accomplish here is indeed simple.
I want to help families enjoy their time together and believe that would be easier if information on all the wonderful family-friendly events, attractions, and resources in our area was gathered in one convenient place. I also believe in supporting local businesses, so I will be highlighting unique restaurants, shops and businesses that give the Fox Valley a sense of place and character that prompted many of us to settle here in the first place. Finally, I hope that readers will use our site, along with our Facebook page and Twitter feed, to share parenting tips and encouragement, as well make connections and friendships with other moms in the community. Eventually, there will be some opportunities for those who desire it to meet face-to-face! (I predict there will be cupcakes or chocolate involved.)
The name, of course, is a play on the advice given to young American men in the mid-1800s that they should "Go West." And indeed my focus is the far western suburbs of Chicago -- Elgin, South Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora and Aurora.
But I certainly don't think families must go west -- or north, or south -- to the suburbs to successfully raise a family. I'll often highlight events or attractions that I think are worth the trip into Chicago or another suburban area. Likewise, none of us work, live and play in just one town, so I hope Go West Young Mom will also be helpful to young families in surrounding towns like Naperville, West Chicago, Elburn, DeKalb, Sycamore and Wheaton.
As for the use of the phrase "young mom" ...well, let's say I doubt I meet anyone's definition of a young first-time mom! And more seriously, I think many of the Go West features will be of interest to fathers, grandparents, babysitters and anyone else with a young child in his or her life.
Let's get to those features, shall we? If you click around the site, you'll see that I've posted a few items, but there will be many more to come in the next few weeks.
The calendar is already in place, and that will be continually updated, with a special emphasis placed on events that are free and don't require much advance planning. Also, you can read a Q&A with a photographer who will give you tips on how to take better photos of your children, part of a planned series of interviews with local experts. You can also check out the first in a regular series of Q&As with unique, inspiring or just plain cool moms – this week, she’s a small business owner.
A daycare and preschool directory will be posted here in coming weeks, along with a guide that should make party-planning easier. Occasional travel articles will provide inspiration for quick, family-friendly daytrips or weekend getaways. Each month, a new "Go Guide" will help you and your family to try something different and make a new memory; this month the focus is fun summer festivals and fairs that are worth hitting the road to reach.
You can take a look at, or even better contribute to, one of the reader-submitted stories or photo galleries. The kids eat free guide, posted under "Good Eats," will help you save some dough -- money that you can spend at the garage, yard and rummage sales in the weekly Garage Sale Guide, to be posted under “Good Cents.”
For those of you who might be curious about how or why I came to start this website, it will help to know a bit about me.
I grew up in a small town just outside Springfield, Ill., and then attended college amid the cornfields of the University of Illinois. I graduated with a journalism degree and quickly went to work as a reporter for The Associated Press. Partly because of my job, I spent most of my adult life living in big cities: Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and just outside New York City in New Jersey. I considered myself quite an urban girl.
When it came to buy a house, though, my husband and I were ready for a change. Plus, we wanted more space and less noise than we had in Chicago, where the "L" was so close to our living room window that we could have been a Blue Line stop. We were immediately drawn to the charming old towns in the far west suburbs _ Elgin, Aurora, St. Charles, Batavia _ cities with a real sense of place, instead of feeling like satellites of Chicago.
We eventually bought an old house in Geneva, but because I was still working in downtown Chicago, most of my social life still revolved around the city. When we were blessed by the arrival of our daughter Johanna in 2008, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a year off work. But heading into my parental leave, I was sure that I'd be stir-crazy at home and envisioned very regular trips on the Metra with the baby to visit all my old favorites in Chicago.
Instead, I started exploring what was right in front of me -- well, once it took me less than three hours to get Johanna dressed, diapered and into the car seat. Suddenly, I remembered why my husband and I were drawn to the far western suburbs of Chicago in the first place -- beautiful parks and forest preserves, historical sites, cultural attractions, unique and affordable shopping and great restaurants.
Through friendships I made with women in a few mothers' groups i joined, I learned about great places to walk with the stroller, farmer's markets where I could buy local produce, free "spraygrounds" we could visit in the summer, boutiques where I could buy adorable baby clothes and restaurants where my husband and I wouldn't have to worry if our daughter's meltdown arrived before the check.
As a journalist, I'm curious (aka nosey) and strolling with a new baby often led to conversations with other parents. I'd come back from each walk or playdate with a new place to check out or a fascinating story of someone I'd just met. I wrote everything down on post-it notes or legal pads, and I shared tips with other moms via email.
I just wished there was a place to put it all in one spot. During a lightbulb moment, the idea for this website was born.
With the terrible economic times our country and many of our neighbors, family and friends have experienced during the past two years, we are all finding ourselves drawn to staying closer to home, spending time with our families in fulfilling ways and saving some money along the way. I want Go West Young Mom to be a valuable resource in that effort.
But no matter how talkative and curious I am, I can't do it alone. I'd love to hear from your regarding attractions I should feature, people I should interview, businesses I should highlight, or just something you believe I should have handled differently.
Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. I promise to do my best to make Go West Young Mom a place that increases the quality of the time you spend with your family and hopefully inspires the occasional laugh or "I've been there" shake of the head.
Please stay in touch. It will make my job a whole lot easier and rewarding.
Founder and editor, Go West Young Mom