I recently chatted with Jill Smokler, founder of Baltimore-based parenting website, Scary Mommy. Five years ago, Smokler created the website with one main motive in mind: to create a judgment-free zone for mothers to kvetch on all things motherhood. Jill is a proud mama of three children, a wife, and a New York Times best selling author. Jill mused on her inspiration for Scary Mommy, her conversion from kvetcher to kveller, and the most fun activities to do with her kids in Baltimore.
Tell us the story of Scary Mommy. Why did you start it and why the name?
Scary Mommy began in early 2008, simply as a mommy blog and one of a million projects I figured I’d start and grow tired of after a few short weeks. My middle son was 2 at the time and mildly terrified of everything. Every word he said had a “scary” in front of it. “I can’t sleep, my bed is scary.” “Scary car,” “scary brother,” “scary mommy.” The moment I heard the phrase, I ran to the computer to see if the URL was taken–I was in love.
How do your kids feel about you running the blog?
It depends on who you ask and what day you ask them. Lily is by far the most impressed with all things Scary Mommy, but if they’ve just received some cool perk or impressed a friend, suddenly I’m cool. Momentarily.
I think simply by getting women talking about the real experience of motherhood, we all feel better about ourselves. My confessional, especially, is a great place to get any feelings you might not be proud of off your chest, and realize you’re not the first one to ever feel them.
You’re a mama to three children–Lily, Ben, and Evan. When you look at your parenting, what’s the “scariest” thing you’ve ever done?
Um, had children in the first place? It’s all scary.
We recently launched a Kveller site just for readers in Baltimore. What do you think our readers should know about Charm City?
People raised here tend to stay here, and there’s good reason for that: Baltimore has a very strong sense of community. The city is very easy to navigate and there’s no shortage of things to do here. It’s close to DC and Annapolis and a short two-hour train ride to NYC. For the first time in my life, I’m not itching to move!
What are three of your favorite Baltimore activities to do with your kids?
1. American Visionary Art Museum. This is the only non-children’s museum we’ve found that kids actually enjoy going to as much as we do. I mean, there’s a farting bench. A farting bench! The whole thing is just visual overload in the best possible way. Plus, the gift shop has lots of cheap goodies to bribe the kids for good behavior with. Not that you’ll really need to.
2. Belvedere Square’s Market. They have some of the best smoked fish ever (sadly my kids would rather die than eat it, but maybe you’ll have better luck) and fabulous soups, sandwiches, desserts, and more. The kids love the pasta and I love that we can all eat whatever we want. There’s also a great Tuesday Morning across the street where you can find toys for a steal.
3. Fort McHenry is a coastal star-shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in Chesapeake Bay September 13-14th, 1814. It was during the bombardment of the fort that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The place is oozing with history, but even more, it’s a perfect place to let kids run around and burn off some steam. (The uniformed park rangers will keep them in line.)
Are you a kveller?
Of course I’m a kveller–what Jewish mother isn’t?! Growing up, though, my parents called me “Kvetch-a-minute,” a nickname which I really didn’t appreciate until I had children of my own complaining about something new every three seconds. Nowadays, I do find myself more of a kveller than a kvetcher. Thank goodness.