Interview with Dana Rudolph of Mombian – Sustenance for Lesbian Moms

This installment of the interview series brings us Dana Rudolph of Mombian – Sustenance for Lesbian Moms. I first discovered Mombian when I started blogging and was thrilled to see a site like this for lesbian Moms even though I don’t have kids personally. After all being a Mom is a hugely important job, but you need to nourish and grow yourself personally even while you’re Dana Rudolph Founder of Mombianbeing a Mom. A lot of times that gets lost in the shuffle and falls to the bottom of the priority pile. Ignoring your own needs only results in cranky, unhappy Moms who resent their kids and we all know that kids pick up on that. Not to mention I am a big advocate for walking your talk to teach your kids through example that it is important to take care of yourself and make YOU a priority. Never too soon to teach that lesson from home.

Now onto the wonderfully rich interview with Dana.

1) What was your inspiration to start Mombian – Sustenance for Lesbian Moms?

Mombian was the creation of several coverging influences. I’d been involved in LGBT advocacy for some time, as head of Merrill Lynch’s LGBT employee network, but becoming a mom channeled my interests into LGBT family issues. I became a stay-at-home mom after my son’s first year and wanted an activity that would keep my activist and business neurons firing. My background is in marketing and business strategies for online services, so an online outlet seemed natural.

In looking at existing Web sites, I found personal blogs by LGBT parents, LGBT parenting sites focused on legal, political, and medical issues, non-LGBT sites with advice and ideas on childraising, and sites of LGBT political and entertainment news. There seemed to be a need, however, for a site at the intersection of these areas, a place that combined general and LGBT-specific childraising advice and ideas, LGBT news from a parent’s perspective, and a hearty helping of lesbian culture to remind us that parenting doesn’t mean abandoning all our other interests.

I like to call Mombian a “lifestyle site for lesbian moms.” I’ve been doing a series of posts about this season of The L Word, for example, focusing on the show’s depiction of parents and children. I’ve noted when mainstream children’s toys inadvertently include androgynous family figures. I review new books for LGBT parents and their children ( e.g., The Different Dragon) as well as non-LGBT books that are still appropriate for our children or of interest to us as parents ( e.g., Lunch Lessons). Every Friday I also do a roundup of LGBT political news for busy parents who may not have kept up during the week.

I added the Mombian Resource Directory to the blog because my blogroll got too big. The Directory now has over 400 links to resources for LGBT parents on starting a family, raising a family, LGBT law and politics, building community (LGBT parenting blogs, forums, and offline groups), and caring for ourselves. Users can submit links, too, so the Directory is really a group effort.

2) Tell us a little about your decision to leave the (outside) work world to be a full time stay at home Mom. What was easiest/hardest part of making that choice?

My partner carried our son (with an egg from me), and stayed home for about a year while I worked. At that point, my business unit reorganized, and I decided I didn’t want to stay with the new group. My partner and I agreed that we’d both look for jobs, and whoever got the best offer would take it, with the other one staying home. I had an offer from a startup in a not-so-LGBT-friendly state, and my partner had one from a very LGBT-friendly, stable corporation, so she took the offer and I stayed home.

The easiest thing was agreeing with my partner about how we would make the decision. We felt lucky to be in a position, both in terms of our careers and our relationship, where either of us could have done either role.

One of the hardest parts of staying at home, though, is finding things to keep my brain engaged in an intellectual way. Not that raising children doesn’t take brainpower, but it’s a different kind of thinking. It’s also hard not bringing in my own money. My partner and I had always shared household expenses, but paid for our own incidentals–books, lunches with other friends, hobby-related items, etc. I have to remind myself that it’s all right to spend “her” money (now “our” money) when I want to treat myself to a latte. Not that she cares–neither of us is a spendthrift, and we’ve always trusted each other with money–but it’s a mental hurdle for me after years of working to maintain my own financial freedom.

3) What kind of experience do you have/did you have before starting Mombian?

I have over a decade of experience in the online industry, at both the startup and corporate levels. Most recently, I was a vice president at Merrill Lynch, developing marketing and business strategies for several key online initiatives. My first full-time job was at an Internet startup in New York during the dotcom craze. Prior to that, I was in graduate school studying medieval history and history of science. Lots of fun, but somewhat limiting in terms of career options. Still, my background in history of science has been useful in helping me think about the current interaction of science/technology and society and how businesses can leverage that.

4) How has your relationship with your partner evolved or been challenged as you’ve become parents? Have you experienced challenges transitioning to a one-income household and how have you successfully navigated those waters?

Becoming parents has forced us to resolve our arguments more quickly, and to confront issues rather than letting them fester. We’re interdependent now in a way we weren’t before, and that means our individual actions have a greater impact on each other and our son. It’s helped, however, that we’ve each had some stay-at-home time, and can better understand the other’s perspective on certain matters.

I tackled part of the income question above. The main challenge has been simply in scaling back our overall expenses. We’ve always been savers more than spenders, but halving our income and adding a person to the household was tough. We don’t eat out as much. Our home AV system is woefully outdated for two tech-savvy people. (My partner is a semiconductor engineer.) We buy a cheaper brand of coffee.

5) Have you experienced any challenges in your professional life because you are a lesbian?

No. If anything, being a lesbian has boosted my career. My volunteer role as head of Merrill Lynch’s global LGBT employee network of several hundred members gave me management experience and cross-firm visibility I would not otherwise have had. I also took the stance that if I simply brought up my partner naturally in conversation, just as my straight colleagues brought up their spouses, I’d force them to treat my being a lesbian as a normal thing. It seems to have worked.

Telling people I’d be out on maternity leave when I was very clearly not pregnant got me a few odd looks, but there was a straight colleague in my office who was going to be out on maternity leave after an adoption at about the same time, and she got the same looks. Our colleages gave us both very nice baby showers, nonetheless.

6) What keeps you going on the tough days?

Caffeine. A good workout. Mostly, though, keeping the long-term perspective. Looking back, my partner and I have been together almost fourteen years. Looking ahead, we have about fourteen years more of raising our son at home, and the rest of our lives together. We’ve handled a few bumps along the way, and will be able to handle a few more.

7) What are your top three measures of success?

  • Have I made a positive difference in the world?
  • Have I made a positive difference to my family and friends?
  • In the process, have I maintained my happiness and sense of self, and been true to my core values?

8) What is the wildest success story you can imagine for Mombian’s future?

The real success would be if Mombian helps create a better, more equal world for my son, other children from LGBT families, and LGBT people as a whole. From a business perspective, Mombian for Lesbian Momshowever, if a major LGBT media firm wanted to buy Mombian, keep me on as editor in chief, and put its money and name behind marketing the site and attracting advertisers, I’d be pretty pleased. I’d view this as a step towards the social success above, with added financial benefits along the way.

9) What are your future career aspirations as your son grows older?

To have a career that is fulfilling intellectually and financially, while leaving enough time for family and self. Right now it’s an open question whether this means developing Mombian into something greater, going back to the corporate world, consulting on online business and marketing strategies, working as a writer, or some combination of the four.

10) What brings you the most joy personally or professionally?

  • Sharing a new experience with my family or, conversely, taking comfort in doing something old and familiar with them.
  • Accomplishing something that’s been a challenge.
  • Working towards my successes above.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a blog and resource directory for lesbian moms and other LGBT parents. She lives with her partner of more than a dozen years, and is currently staying at home with their three-year-old son.

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