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Deborah Stambler

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Babble's Founder Tells How Motherhood Necessitated Invention (and Innovation)

Posted: 10/03/11 12:00 PM ET

I consider myself really lucky to have the job of writing up the interviews from the 2011 WIE Symposium. It's kind of a dream job to attend an event like the Symposium, talk to a bunch of the amazing women who spoke and then get to relive it all through writing. Hearing the stories of women who saw a need and got creative in filling that need is the kind of inspired discovery the WIE Network is all about.

Alisa Volkman took part in the panel called "Moms for Social Change" along with moderator Catherine Connors, Christy Turlington Burns, Heather Armstrong and Mary Alice Stephenson. As a writer, mother and parent educator, I was happy to have a few minutes to talk with Volkman and hear about her work with Babble.com and Mominations.

Volkman and her husband, Rufus Griscom, co-founded Babble in 2006 after the birth of their first son. They found that in spite of all the books they'd read and all they'd done to ready themselves to become parents, they really weren't prepared. Volkman summed it up this way:

After I had my first child I was really kind of catapulted into this new arena... My husband and I have spoken a lot about why we felt so ill-prepared. I think everywhere you look.. the way parenting is depicted is really doing a disservice [to parenting]. You look at magazines and it's sun streaming, cookies in the oven, children that are perfectly behaved and you don't really talk about the hard parts of it. When I had my first son, it was really hard. It was miserable, it was amazing, it was so many things at once, but I was astounded by how poorly prepared I felt. I had really looked around, I'd done a lot of reading and I just thought there was a big discrepancy between what the materials had presented to me on what to expect versus what I was really experiencing. Our mission statement was to rip the façade off parenting and really talk about it in a very honest way. That was our early mission and we quickly had a really big following. And it's been really fun growing the brand.

With almost six million readers a month, Babble has been incredibly successful in meeting that mission. The site is well-laid out and easy to use. Bloggers contribute posts on subjects that range from pregnancy to product reviews, ages and stages info, crafts and more. The new Voices section features posts from a variety of bloggers, all injecting their original voices and experiences into a site that's lively and keeps the information current.

With all of this in place, Volkman and her husband "started looking around saying, Now that we have this platform what can we do to use it in a really positive way?" And that's when Mominations was born.

We feel like yes, we've created a community where moms feel like they can communicate honestly about the experience of parenting. But now through the Mominations Program we really want to give a voice to so many moms that are doing things way beyond just parenting... We really felt that there was no kind of authoritative list that celebrated and honored women, top luminaries you know in various categories around the world that were moms and were also leading world change. So we really wanted to do this kind of in the vein of The Time 100. We wanted to do the top 100 moms around the world. And from that, the main part of the program was asking our readers to mominate women in their community that were doing extraordinary things, but didn't have the platform or the funding perhaps, who are really just kind of tireless champions for causes and deserve some recognition and applause. The program is being sponsored by Energizer as part of their Now That's Positive Energy platform. We're setting out to be a monthly initiative where we highlight these programs and help fund programs. The winners who the audience really bring to light and vote on, they walk away with $5,000 each that goes toward their project or causes.

The theme I see in Volkman's work is giving women a place for sharing stories; from the small, intimate stories of day to day child rearing and now out into the world at large to celebrating mothers who are making a difference in the lives of others. This seems to be a very natural progression. Volkman and her husband started with a simple idea based on something they needed and followed through to create a successful business that's now in the position to give back to others. It's been said a million times over that necessity is the motherhood of invention. In Volkman's case, motherhood necessitated invention and innovation. And we're all lucky to be able to share in that.

If you missed the WIE Symposium, you can watch the "Moms For Social Change" panel and all the events from Inspiration Day here through Fora.tv. For a limited time, use the code WIE25OFF at checkout and get 25% off the regular price.

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