Planning a vacation with your family can be a daunting experience. After all, for many moms, just going to the supermarket with your kids can be a trip fraught with meltdowns and Goldfish bribes to shush. But ask Carol Cain, the creator of the popular blog NYC Mama, and she’ll tell you that traveling with your children is doable—and fun. We spoke to Carol about finding a new career as a blogger, traveling with kids, and fighting against cultural expectations to be a successful working mom.
What were you doing prior to starting NYC Mama?
I was in public relations, mostly working in non-profits. I worked for NY Presbyterian Hospital.
Why did you decide to start your blog?
My family left NYC to go to Wisconsin for a bit, and came back 3 years later. I decided not to work, and I did the SAHM thing for 5 months. I soon realized this wasn’t who I was. I started writing a blog about discovering NYC with the kids. I’m born here but I wanted to take on the challenge of living in NYC with kids. I didn’t know there was a whole world of blogging. For me, I was keeping a journal. I discovered Twitter, and then less than a year in, Parents Connect nominated me for best NYC blog. Once that happened, it really changed for me. I started writing about road trips with the kids outside of NYC. It became more of a travel blog, but still centered in NY.
Three years later, how has it evolved?
I’ve developed so many relationships with hospitalities. And I approach it more as a travel blogger as opposed to being so casual. I make sure to edit my stories and focus on the information; I’m a lot more conscious about the fact that there are people coming to the site to be informed.
How do you feel that your site is personal and being accessed by so many people?
One of the things that my readers like best is that it’s personal. They feel they can relate to me, and I make them feel like they could be there at the place I’m visiting, or that they were there. If I get too structured and hold back, I’ll lose that. It’s my brand, it’s what people expect, to let people know who I am. There are so many sites that make people feel like some vacations and trips are a bucket list item, but I want them to feel like anyone can go anywhere.
Where are some of the coolest places you’ve traveled to for NYC Mama?
I’ve been able to take the family to the Bahamas and Antigua. I took the kids on a cruise, which was a little nuts! [laughs] It remains one of the kids’ happiest memories, though. I like traveling within the states. It doesn’t have to be far; I love the road trips a lot. They’re so easy to do. We especially like upstate NY and Vermont.
It’s very Americana, to throw the kids in the back seat and head out onto the road.
Stop at a Cracker Barrel. [laughs] we’re hoping to go to Costa Rica.
Now, how did your blog get “discovered”?
I was on the Parent Connect forum and one of the people who managed the forum liked me. She liked the conversations that I would start. I’m very vocal and she liked that I stirred things up. The forum was a place I would go to talk. Once I started my blog, I was on the forum, and people from there started coming to the blog. And then the forum moderator passed my name on. It wasn’t strategic at all. If I had this master plan, I wouldn’t have been as fiery; I would have probably censored myself more.
Your blog also features a lot of yummy food coverage. Let’s talk about that.
Not many women say they love food. I love food; I love eating! I want to encourage people when they travel to visit the smaller mom and pop places and get a taste of the local culture. That’s my favorite thing, because I’ve met so many amazing chefs along the way. They’re dedicated to the food and put the flavor of their culture in the food. It’s not always the most attractive place, but it’s where the great food is.
I think the tendency is for families, no matter where they’re traveling, to search out the McDonald’s.
I agree. Americans are very good at sticking to generalizations and they have an image of an expectation. It’s amazing to me to hear someone went to Paris and ate at McDonald’s. I get it; what do the French’s French fries taste like? [laughs] But the truth is that the tourist places food tastes like crap. You have to go to the hidden places to truly get the full experience of where you’re visiting.
Of all the things that your blog has afforded you—traveling with your kids, the new experiences, a new career—what do you like best of all?
It’s all of that. Most of all, though, I’m doing this when culturally I was told that I couldn’t or shouldn’t. I grew up with my aunts and my mom and while it was wonderful, the message was clear: Once you have kids, that’s it. And those were the exact words. It’s all about the kids; whatever your desire is, you have to say goodbye to it. That’s how I was raised. So now to be in a position that I can be with my kids and have the support of my husband to pursue my blog and be successful, it goes against everything I grew up with. It’s so completely empowering. The experiences we get to have because of the blog are thrilling. For me, any time I get a new opportunity, I’m thrilled. I feel that everything is a gift, so to be successful in spite of it all, is amazing.