Mama Catches Up with Peggy O’Mara

Melinda: Peggy you can’t imagine how happy we are for the whole natural birthing/natural mothering community that you’re back from your hiatus. I also missed you on a personal level! You and I met professionally a long time ago when you were the editor of Mothering Magazine, and I think we immediately felt like kindred spirits. It was always great to have an excuse to see each other every year at trade shows. I came across the picture of us and wanted to share it.

Peggy: Thank you, Melinda. I do feel like kindred spirits with you. We both share a passion for healthy living and doing the best by our babies.

Melinda Olson and Peggy O'Mara

Melinda: I know a lot of people would love to hear about your journey over the past 31 years. How long did you own Mothering?

Peggy: From 1980 to 2011.

Melinda: Tell us what happened with Mothering Magazine and Mothering.com.

Peggy: I bought Mothering from Adeline Cranson in 1980 with no down payment and monthly payments from the business. It is a Cinderella story and I grew Mothering from a circulation of 3000 to one of 100,000 in print and 750,000 online.

Mothering magazine helped to fuel the growing natural living movement and today all parents consider where they will have their baby, who will attend it, whether or not they will breastfeed, and what vaccines to give. They wear baby carriers, buy organic food and integrate natural living into their lives in a myriad of ways.

Mothering was always a grassroots business in the sense that we did not have funders or investors, but the business grew from cash flow alone. This meant that we were sometimes running close to the bone financially, and when the financial crisis hit in 2009, we felt the effects of the recession in a dramatic way.

In previous recessions, we had experienced a drop in advertising and this occurred then as well, but we also had a drop in gift subscriptions as everyone tightened their belts. At the same time, the print industry in general was in decline. Fortunately, however, our young community of mothers had taken to the web early and built the Mothering website into one of the top 2000 websites on the web.

As the economic downturn continued, I found it necessary to cease publication of Mothering magazine because of the debt that it had accumulated. While the print magazine was accumulating debt, the website was growing with little financial investment. Wanting to do right with my creditors, in July 2011, I sold the Mothering website to pay off the print magazine debt. I had a two-year employment contract with the new owners of mothering.com that ended last November.

Melinda: Speaking from my own experience, I know starting and nurturing a business for many years, lovingly guiding and nurturing it through all of its growing pains, it almost becomes almost like a baby. How did the loss of your business affect you?

Peggy: As you can imagine, it was very hard to lose a business I had worked on for over 30 years and it was especially hard to lay off my friends and to lose daily contact with them. Then when I was laid off, it felt very weird to “be disappeared” from Mothering. People will always associate me with Mothering and many still think that the magazine is in print, so it was a disconnect for awhile.

I reminded myself that the birth of something new takes nine months so I gave myself time to be reborn. Eventually, I found my footing as ‘just me,’ and now I like it very much.

Melinda: What did you discover about yourself during that process?

Peggy: I learned a lot about trust. I know now that when I look back on my life everything always makes sense. I see how seemingly disruptive and difficult times are actually part of a larger picture. I like to remember that the Chinese character for crisis and opportunity is the same. I tried to look for the opportunity.

I read an audio book about only settling for what you really want to do and I reflected on what that was. I gave myself permission to go all over the place in exploration. I thought of giving up all together on my work with natural families and hated it for awhile. I went to the New Mexico Organic Farmer’s Association conference and made plans for herbal products. I invented businesses and then cast them aside. I played.

I also did some contract work for other organizations, but learned that I really prefer to work for myself. I was accustomed, however, to help from a staff so I had to figure out how to do things myself again. I charged myself with learning how to make a wordpress website and the exhilaration that slow process gave me was part of my healing.

I remembered how much I like the basic work of being in touch with other like-minded people, sharing news and commentary on natural living and generally trying to make the world a better place. I remembered that Mothering grew from me reaching out to others and I started to do that again. I really like being back to the creative again and less mired in the administrative. And, once I got my home secure with a reverse mortgage, it became just plain fun to start over.

Melinda: How has your mission changed and become more focused?

Peggy: Maybe it’s because I’m a grandmother now that I’m really curious about what story we are telling the children. In Santa Fe, where my children grew up, we had a yearly celebration on Earth Day called All Species Day. The children would dress up as endangered species and parade in the downtown. Many were inspired to be environmental scientists or marine biologists because of this celebration. It felt then like there was something we could do then to improve the environment; we were hopeful.

Now, I am troubled by our immobilization. Climate change should be at the top of our national conversation. We also need to be talking about our cesarean rate, our infant and maternal mortality rates, and about providing paid leave to new parents, and address the many other social problems that are within our reach to solve.

This is a time of great peril and also great promise. Joanna Macy calls it “The Great Turning.” A new society is being born as an old one is dying. I want to find solutions to social problems that will inspire and mobilize us, and report on these on my website.

My mission has always been to share information and inspiration with which people can make informed choices. I’m like a news junky who wants to tell you about the next great restaurant, but I want to tell you about the next great, helpful idea. So that part of my mission is the same.

But, I also want to expand my traditional coverage of natural family to include conscious living in general and social justice in particular. In a world and a time in which we can finally feed, clothe and shelter everyone, I want to be part of that conversation. I want to help us figure out how we can all lead more meaningful lives.

Please join me at peggyomara.com

Melinda: We’ll be glued, Peggy. Your voice has been sorely missed and Earth Mama is proud and honored to welcome you back home.

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