Jay Radford sometimes gets some weird looks when people find out exactly what he does when he's not running after his two young boys - he runs the Mom in Chapel Hill blog.
Radford, a stay-at-home dad in Chapel Hill, took over the popular site that features kid-friendly places and parenting information from around the Triangle and North Carolina from its founder Allison Carter, the mom, last year. Since taking the helm, Radford has added a few of his own touches, including plans for a family-friendly, weekend-long event and race in September called the Not So Normal 5K.
"I get the obligatory raised eyebrow from people initially, and it's 99 percent women who think I’m some creep who's been pretending to be a woman all these years to make money, which is pretty funny," he wrote in an answer to some questions I sent him for this Q&A.
Radford has been a stay-at-home dad for five years. His boys, Sam and Ben, are 2 and 5. He also has two older kids - Tyler, 12, and Grayson, 15, from his first marriage - who spend part of the year with Radford and his wife Rachel. Rachel is, as Radford describes, a "rockstar hairdresser," who just opened her own shop called Ceremony Salon in Carrboro.
Radford took a few minutes away from doing the upfit work for the salon to answer questions that I sent him by email. Here's our conversation:
Go Ask Mom: Tells us about yourself and your decision to take over Mom in Chapel Hill.
Jay Radford: I took over Mom In Chapel Hill in November of last year because Allison was headed back to work. To be honest, I took it over primarily because she had put four years of her life into it, had built an amazing resource, and I didn’t want to see it end. Believe me, I am nowhere near as good at this as she is, so my goal is to maintain and grow the site as best I can in a way she would be proud of. So far it’s gone pretty well. MiCH has been very helpful in getting me back into the world after the last few years of the isolation that can easily befall stay-at-home parents. I am grateful for MiCH a great deal.
GAM: Have you surprised/confused any one yet when they learn you're not a mom?
JR: Most definitely, especially people just learning it now since we did the changeover so long ago. I get the obligatory raised eyebrow from people initially, and it's 99 percent women who think I’m some creep who's been pretending to be a woman all these years to make money, which is pretty funny. Once I tell the story though the tune changes immediately and I get the “it’s so nice you can keep it going” or “you’re lucky your wife works so you can stay home and play with the blog." Yeah, because stay-at-home parents don’t “work” at all. (Sorry, mini-rant over).
GAM: Any funny reactions?
JR: None that stand out too much. I get a few emails a month from local massage therapists offering a free massage in exchange for a write-up on the blog, which we don’t do, of course. It’s funny how they never email back once they find out a guy is at the other end? I get a lot more “suggestions” from readers on how to manage the blog than Allison ever did. Yes, I work for about 800 Moms across the Triangle. :)
GAM: What have you learned since taking over the site?
JR: That Allison likes to go out and do things with her boys, take pictures of the adventure, and then write about it; and that I do not. I try, but I just suck at it. When I am out with my kids, I get lost in the moment, or the stress depending on what we are doing, and forget to take photos or make note of what other parents might like, etc. I just don’t have the skill set. That’s why I have shifted the direction of MiCH a little to include more articles from local professionals that might help a parent out, or talk about what it’s like being a stay-at-home parent from my perspective, etc. Some have worked, others haven’t. It’s a work in progress that I am enjoying. MiCH will always be primarily focused on being a resource for what to do with your kids of course, but I do think there is room for a wider content reach. I’ve also learned that I am terrible at Twitter, Pinterest is a language I do not speak, am trying to understand Google+, but it’s an uphill climb, and that Facebook is rather persnickety.
GAM: As part of Mom in Chapel Hill, you're putting together the Not So Normal 5K in September. What sparked the idea?
JR: I started running last September. Ran my first 5k Sept. 29 and by Thanksgiving had run four more plus an 8K. I am very new to running and to races, but I quickly learned that what people remember the most about a race are (in this order): How flat the course was; What was in the swag bag; how easy was parking and bathroom access; and how many people ran the race. I decided to train for my first half marathon through Fleet Feet’s training program and discovered a world I never knew existed. I found I liked being out of the house, that my kids would survive without me while I ran, and I was learning how to interact with adults on a social level, a skill set that had disappeared from me the past five years. I decided I needed a project, something more than laundry, cooking, cleaning, and being at the mercy of my kids every day. I was finding myself again and it was/is hard. I was struck, mainly by the people who manage RnR Raleigh, about how races are very myopic. They are all about that run, that morning and that non-profit; which is fine and I respect, but not enough. So I created an event that would be a celebration of community and philanthropy. I want to bring families to Carrboro to hang out for the weekend and then run. I want to benefit as many non-profits as possible, over 20 in some way our first year, and I want the event to have a broader focus. The 5K this year is only the start, I am building something bigger. We will announce that later.
GAM: What makes it not so normal? It's not just a race. There's a weekends worth of parties!
JR: The first thing is the philanthropy. All of the race revenue will be split equally between The ArtsCenter and N.C. Children’s Promise. We hope it’s a huge check! We also built in a way to benefit PORCH and TABLE through food donations and Book Harvest by tying it to the entry fee. We kept the cost down so folks could afford to bring a food item or book. Our “Run for you Non-Profit” program is new to the racing scene as is the weekend celebration, which leads to community. I like date nights with my wife, but they can be stressful. Find a sitter, feed the kids, etc. So we will offer parents two date night opportunities that weekend and you don’t need to be registered to run the race to take part. Every aspect of our race starts with the same question: How can we make this easy and fun for families? And the initial answer is almost always “take care of the kids so parents can have fun.” The 5K part of our weekend will always have this focus. It’s not built for runners looking for a new personal record, that’s why we don’t time it. It’s built for the novice runner wanting to run their first race or for the experienced runner who wants to slow it down and run next to his/her family and friends. Through our presenting sponsors we have training programs for all to partake in. Fleet Feet’s starts in July, O2 Fitness a little later.
Go Ask Mom features local parents every Monday and only dads in June in honor of Father's Day.