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Moms click on the web

First slide

Whether it means changing diapers or building dioramas, driving carpools or helping with college applications, parents everywhere can attest to the old expression: A mother's work is never done.

With all that work undoubtedly comes a few sacrifices, including nights without sleep or a few less frivolous purchases. Often, parenthood can mean less time for relaxation or catching up with old friends - circumstances that can lead to feeling burned out or isolated.

To help deal with those challenges, some local mothers have looked to the Internet. By starting their own blogs, these Catholic mothers have been able to find camaraderie and inspiration, all from the comfort of their own homes.

From daily journals to coupons and crafts

Liz McGuirk, a parishioner of St. John the Apostle Parish in Leesburg, is the mother of three children under the age of 5. She discovered the world of frugal living blogs back in 2008 when she and her husband were looking for a way to lower their grocery bill.

In January 2009, she started her first blog, Frugally Blonde, where she gives tips on saving money while couponing, shopping at thrift stores, cooking and gardening, as well as roundups of weekly deals at local grocery stores like Wegmans. This fall, she launched a second blog, Catholic Deals, where she gives updates on sales from various Christian or Catholic online companies. Through Catholic Deals, she hopes to help families afford things like books, sacramental or religious materials - all items to bring their families closer to God.

"If people are looking for a Catholic gift, I want this to be a place they can come and find reasonably priced items that will help them enhance their spiritual life," McGuirk said.

Another local blogger is Lacy Rabideau, whose blog, Catholic Icing, launched two years ago. A parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville, Rabideau is pregnant with her fourth child. She was inspired to start her blog when she was unable to find ideas online for an All Saints Day party she was planning.

Rabideau, who studied art in college, had planned on becoming an elementary school art teacher. Now, she focuses her creativity on crafts and recipes that are kid-friendly and spiritually educational. She posts her best ideas on her blog - everything from edible Advent wreaths to pipe cleaner rosaries or nun finger-puppets. She says her goal is to bring Catholic ideas to people who wouldn't see them ordinarily and to encourage others to celebrate the liturgical year with their children.

"I think arts and crafts are very important to children," Rabideau said. "So many things about the Church aren't the most fun thing for them, so to make the Faith fun and bring it to life for them is very important."

Other mothers take a more personal approach to blogging, writing about their opinions or anecdotes from their day-to-day lives.

Local blogger Sharon Babineau, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Fredericksburg, started her blog, Musings of a Catholic Mom, three years ago. Similar to an online journal, Babineau writes about her life as a mother and Catholic convert, and how she is working to raise her children in the Faith.

"It is kind of a journal," Babineau said. "I write about my family, I write about interesting things I've read, places I've been, things I've learned while being Catholic and pro-life issues."

Local blogger Ginny Foreman, another parishioner of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, also writes about her day-to-day life on Small Things. It's filled with photos and anecdotes documenting her life as a home-schooling mother of six children.

Through Small Things, Foreman talks about the things she and her family are doing, including field trips, knitting projects or books she is reading. Her faith is always in the background.

"Catholicism and our faith is really the most important aspect of our life, but I like to present what that looks like in daily life. I'm not an apologetics blog. This is more of, 'This is what it looks like to raise a big Catholic home-schooling family,'" Foreman said.

Another local blogger is Elizabeth Foss, a Catholic Herald columnist who writes about her life at In the Heart of My Home.

A hobby that gives back

Of course, blogging is not always as simple as it sounds. Maintaining a blog takes some web know-how and considerable effort, especially if one hopes to make a profit.

Rabideau, whose blog has more than 4,200 subscribers, estimates she spends 15 to 20 hours a week working on Catholic Icing. This past summer, much of that effort went toward publishing her first book, a side project that was a Catholic preschool curriculum for home-schooling mothers. Her next project is a picture book to help children follow the new Mass translation.

Even those who blog simply as a hobby must devote considerable time. Babineau says she makes an effort to post several times a week on Musings of a Catholic Mom. Foreman and McGuirk both spend about five hours a week on their blogs.

The time commitment can be tough to fit into already busy schedules, but it's something that can be done while children nap or work on projects.

"(Blogging) is something I have no deadline for. I have my own time and I can fit it in around my family," McGuirk said.

And the time spent can pay off. According to a recent study out of Brigham Young University, stay-at-home mothers who blog report more feelings of social connection and less stress.

"It's a great way to reaffirm that we're not alone, that we're trying our best and we're not perfect and there are other people who are going through the same things I am as a mom and a Catholic," Babineau said. "Blogs can reaffirm that these are struggles and we all go through them. We can encourage each other and give each other support and prayers.

Blogging can also be a way for mothers to take a time-out from a busy schedule and reflect on their own interests or ideas.

"It's a fun outlet to exercise my creative side," Rabideau said. "I had a lot of hobbies before I had kids, but so many of your own hobbies go to the backburner. It's really fun that I get to design crafts and bring my hobby to my kids. They really like it."

By writing Small Things, Foreman said she has learned to focus on the positive aspects of her life and become more grateful.

"I learned by taking pictures and capturing these moments that might take 20 seconds, those moments are frozen and you are able to focus on the good in your life. It's become a really positive place to be able to dwell on the good rather than the bad," she said. "I'm just a lot more peaceful and a lot more thankful and a lot more aware of all those blessings that really surround me every day, but are sometimes quieter than the hard times."

Since they are writing from a Catholic perspective, the mothers say their blogs can also become a type of ministry for non-Catholics or those who have fallen away from the Church. Foreman says she gets emails asking about the Church at least twice a month. In response, she redirects readers to visit apologetics websites like Catholics Come Home.

And even for other Catholics, she thinks blogs can be a ministry because they bring together people with similar lifestyles that are not always embraced by modern society.

"Our faith is so misunderstood," she said. "By reading other blogs written by Catholic moms, there's an understanding there. We're on the same path and we're treating what we're doing as a vocation, a calling from God. It's always good to have that support."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012