Interview: Sarah Kooiman
Can you start by telling the readers a little about yourself? (Family, career, blog, etc.)
The joke I usually make is that my bio could be one simple sentence: “I’m a hot mess; I write about it on the Internet.” I used to get really caught up in creating a concise bio that captured all the things about me, but here’s the truth of it. I’m a messed up human being who has no clue what’s she’s doing most of the time who loves forging connections and encouraging other messed up humans. That basically sums up my parenting approach for my three sons and how I cultivate my relationships, from my 14-year marriage to my closest friendships.
But if you’re looking for my resumé, here we go:
I have two degrees from the University of Wisconsin in English and Theater, so I am trained to use the power of words to forge connections between humans. I became a middle school and high school English teacher after college and adored education and then left teaching to be a full-time mom/part-time waitress after my three sons hit the scene. After moving to the Milwaukee area with my husband, Evan, I continued to work at multiple jobs, oftentimes as many as four at once, until I started MKE Moms Blog, which has been my full-time job since 2016.
You run the MKE Moms Blog, correct? Can you tell me a little what inspired you to start the blog?
I am the Owner and Co-founder of MKE Moms Blog, an online parenting resource for parents of the greater Milwaukee area. Our mission is to provide information & parenting perspectives unique to the community, and to each other; and to help brands reach their target audience.
I spent the first several years of my motherhood journey in relative isolation and I remember feeling incredibly lonely and frustrated, which isn’t a good place to be when you are already sleep-deprived and emotionally exhausted. For a long time, the only “mom friends” I had existed online and I clung to them for dear life. When we moved to the Milwaukee area and I had three small children and no friends, I knew I needed to be intentional about forming in-person relationships with other mothers and that’s exactly what I did. When the opportunity came along to create a resource that combined an online parenting community with in-the-flesh relationships, I knew it was something I was well-suited for and MKE Moms Blog was born.
You write a lot about mom life, obviously. Do you have any other writing projects that you are working on?
It probably sounds silly, but I know my book is out there somewhere. I’m not sure when it became trendy to want to write a book, but I’ve had that dream inside of me since I was in middle school. Words are so powerful to me and I am passionate about using language to tell a story and influence positive change. The challenge for me is that I don’t really know what story is exclusively mine to tell just yet.
What is something you've learned from MKE Moms Blog?
I started the website because I adored writing about motherhood, making people laugh, and using the written word to bring encouragement and foster connections. What I never anticipated was that I would get the see the power of community first-hand in the ways that I have. The team of women behind this website are some of the most incredible humans I have ever met and it is an honor to lead them. I could go on for pages and pages about what they have taught me, but more than anything else, I have learned that when we can set aside the things that divide us and hold on like hell to what connects us, there is incredible power there. Our goal at MkeMB is to create a space that represents diversity, variety and inclusiveness which in essence means there will be topics, perspectives and opinions that are not held by everyone, but we have learned that when we see past all of that to the person who is valuable and lovely and worthy, it becomes a whole lot easier to link arms and stand side-by-side with them for what matters.
We are never really done growing up. What do you hope to do in the future?
Why is this question always so hard?! Honestly, I still have a hard time believing that my current situation is my reality, so the idea of thinking about the future seems so insane to me. I would love to see MkeMB continue to grow so we can reach more and more Milwaukee area moms and provide them with a community they can see themselves in. Beyond that, I would love to see us continuing to be learners and listeners. We want to be receptive and willing to hear the stories of our readers and to be willing to step into the hard conversations because I really see our role as a being like a big kitchen table where people can sit down, share their stories, and feel seen and heard. I hope to continue to make that table bigger and bigger with even more seats.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Do you have advice for girls growing up today?
I have the same advice for girls as I have for grown women – choose wisely who you surround yourself with. There are friends who influence us to become the best version of ourselves, who aren’t afraid to tell us when we are being morons, who default to kindness and empathy, and who see strengths in us that we won’t be able to identify on our own. Those are the people we need to have in our crew no matter if we are 12 or 72 or any age in between. Everyone needs friends who love you at your best and at your worst.
Do you have any female figures that you look up to? (real or fiction)
I honestly admire the women I see getting up and doing hard things every single day. Sometimes that hard thing is heading to the hospital while someone they love tries to get better and for others it’s a matter of making it to naptime and then bedtime and then getting up in the morning to do it all over again. Women who pursue something bigger than themselves, even when it seems impossible. Every woman who has survived the loss of a child. I think if we actually looked around, we would see extraordinary women doing life in a remarkable way every single day and find encouragement and motivation there.
Why do you think it is important to tell our stories?
We only get one shot at this life and maybe it’s just me, but I am constantly doubting if I am doing it “right.” Our story is just that – ours. Which means it isn’t going to be the same one as our neighbor or our best friend or that woman from high school who seems to really have her life together. When we tell our stories – the REAL version – it’s a way of celebrating what we have been uniquely commissioned to do and it invited others to do the same. It’s a way of connecting with the world around us about what we share rather than what divides us.
What is something in life that you are most proud of?
My family. I live with some pretty amazing humans and they are the joy of my life.
A few Favorites:
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. It honestly depends on the season of life, my mood and what I am looking for in a book at that given moment. But if I had to choose one that I would read again and again, I think I’d have to go with the Harry Potterseries (which I know is technically seven books) because I’ve never fallen in love with a set of characters like I did with them and now we get to experience the story again with my children.
I am a musical theater nerd, so you’re likely to see me rotating between the soundtracks to Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansenand The Greatest Showman