Suzanne Stanard of Raleigh launched the pretty*swell blog in 2009 as a way to work through postpartum depression after the birth of her first daughter. Since then, it has evolved into a cozy place to chat about all sorts of things -- being a mom is still a prevalent topic, but you'll also find a healthy dose of fashion and design talk, a chronicle of Suzanne's weight-loss efforts, pictures of the people and things that make her happy, and more. There's even a link to Posy, an Etsy shop Suzanne and her sister started last year that offers quirky handmade items for the home. Through it all runs a thread of humor and humility that makes the site a delight to read.
So let's meet Suzanne, who's pretty swell herself.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself, and about your family.
A. I’m in total denial about this, but I turn 37 in just a couple of weeks. Ouch. I feel like it was just yesterday that I graduated college, got a job and officially became a grownup. But the reality is I’ve been married for almost eight years, and my first “baby” is now 4 1/2. Our second daughter was born last year, and I have to say the three-year age gap is just about perfect.
“Happy chaos” are the best words to describe our life. On any given day, Sophie is squawking and Lily needs our attention right this very minute. We have a lot of fun together – although it’s certainly stressful – and Marc and I work hard on a team approach to parenting.
My goal in life? To pee by myself. Dream big, right?
Q. Why did you decide to start the pretty*swell blog?
A. After Lily was born in 2008, I dove head-first into postpartum depression and anxiety. Part of my recovery from that experience was reading. I discovered dooce.com, and the rest is history. I felt such a strong pull to share my PPD story, connect with other moms and put something out into the universe that might make a difference.
The blog also gives me a chance to do what I love: write and take pictures. It’s changed a lot since I first hit “publish” three years ago and has evolved into a completely eclectic lifestyle blog. I talk about weight loss (I’ve dropped 40 pounds since December), baby thighs, food, you name it. I still write about depression and serve as a resource to moms in need, but I also want to focus on the fun stuff like Oscar fashion and bacon.
Q. How has writing the blog helped you work through postpartum depression?
A. It opened the door to a world I never knew existed! I’ve connected with so many moms online and become part of a wonderful community. People who don’t blog might think it’s weird, but these people are real. They played a huge role in my recovery and also helped me avoid PPD the second time around.
Q. Design and fashion figure strongly on your blog -- you take pictures of your outfits on "What I Wore (to work) Wednesdays" and you even have an Etsy shop linked from the main site! Tell us about the shop, and why style is such a big part of your life.
A. The truth? I love to look at pretty things. Design makes me happy, and I’m a huge proponent of the handmade movement. I started “Swell Stuff” to showcase handmade goods, and “Happiness Is” to share the little things in life that make me smile, from a cupcake I just ate to a video that gave me goose bumps.
I started playing along with the “What I Wore Wednesdays” meme because I needed the motivation to quit wearing the exact same clothes to work every week. And to revel a little in the fact that for three days out of the week, I get to shed my mom uniform. I love fashion, but I’m pretty bad at it. Trying different looks, posting them on the blog and getting feedback from my readers has really helped me step outside my comfort zone and not wear yoga pants all the time.
My sister and I started our Etsy shop, Posy, about a year ago, and we’re having a blast. We sell handmade goods like pillow covers, napkins and festive bunting for kids’ rooms, as well as unique vintage finds. We’ve participated in a number of fun markets around the Triangle. Our favorite is Rock & Shop in Durham, because what’s better than shopping to live music with a beer and a slice of food-truck pizza in your hand?
Q. Do you have any fashion tips for your fellow moms? How can we stay fashionable, yet functional?
A. I’m a big believer in “look good, feel good.” As a mom, there are so many times I leave the house without having made any effort in my appearance because, in a way, it seems trivial. But it isn’t! A little effort goes a long way, especially when it comes to my mental health. But that doesn’t mean you won’t spot me in town in running shorts and four-day-dirty hair.
Q. What's your favorite thing to do with the whole family in the Triangle?
A. We absolutely love Pullen Park, Marbles and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. We’ve also ventured out to Durham to visit the Museum of Life & Science, and that place is so neat. I also take the girls to the State Farmers Market so they can see where their food comes from (and maybe consider actually eating a vegetable that they’ve picked out).
Q. What's your favorite thing around here to do when you get a few hours to yourself?
A. My dream day would involve lunch downtown at Pie Bird or the Raleigh Times, shopping at Epona & Oak and a movie.
Q. What's the best parenting trick you've picked up?
A. The warning system. As in, I need to tell my four-year-old several times that we’re about to leave, or eat dinner, or go potty, etc. Otherwise, she combusts. And it’s not pretty.
Q. What's the best advice someone has given you about being a mom?
A. Live through patience.
Q. What's your least favorite part and most favorite part of mommyhood?
A. Least favorite: The loss of self. It’s just part of the deal, but it’s tough for me sometimes.
Most favorite: These two little human beings I’ve helped bring into this world and love with every fiber of my being. Even on the days I want to hide in the bathroom. Seriously. It’s overwhelmingly awesome.