Welcome! I’m so glad you found Go West Young Mom!
When I have to give a short explanation of this website, I say that “it’s a blog and online community serving young families in the far western suburbs of Chicago, particularly the Fox Valley.” OK. Not so short. But what I’ve aimed to accomplish here, since launching in the summer of 2010, is indeed simple: I want to help families enjoy their time together.
I decided that would be easier if information on all the wonderful family-friendly events, attractions, and resources in our area was gathered in one convenient place. I also believe in supporting local businesses, so I try to highlight unique restaurants, shops and businesses that give the Fox Valley a sense of place and character that prompted many of us to settle here in the first place. I like to shine a spotlight on interesting local residents doing good works, too, in our “Go West … To Know” series.
The name, of course, is a play on the advice given to young American men in the mid-1800s that they should “Go West.” And indeed my focus is the far western suburbs of Chicago — especially Elgin, South Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora and Aurora.
But I certainly don’t think families must go west — or north, or south — to the suburbs to successfully raise a family. I often highlight events or attractions that I think are worth the trip into Chicago or another suburban area. Likewise, none of us work, live and play in just one town, so I hope Go West Young Mom is also helpful to young families in surrounding towns like Naperville, West Chicago, Elburn, Wheaton, Oswego, Montgomery, DeKalb and Sycamore.
As for the use of the phrase “young mom” …well, let’s say I doubt I meet anyone’s definition of a young first-time mom! And more seriously, I think many of the Go West features are of interest to fathers, grandparents, babysitters and anyone else with a young child in his or her life.
For those of you who might be curious about how or why I came to start this website, it will help to know a bit about me.
I grew up in a small town just outside Springfield, Ill., and then attended college amid the cornfields of the University of Illinois. I graduated with a journalism degree and quickly went to work as a reporter for The Associated Press. Partly because of my job, I spent most of my adult life living in big cities: Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and just outside New York City in New Jersey. I considered myself quite an urban girl.
When it came to buy a house, though, my husband and I were ready for a change. Plus, we wanted more space and less noise than we had in Chicago, where the “L” was so close to our living room window that we could have been a Blue Line stop. We were immediately drawn to the charming old towns in the far west suburbs _ Elgin, Aurora, St. Charles, Batavia _ cities with a real sense of place, instead of feeling like satellites of Chicago.
We eventually bought an old house in Geneva, but because I was still working in downtown Chicago, most of my social life still revolved around the city. When we were blessed by the arrival of our daughter Johanna in 2008, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a year off work. But heading into my parental leave, I was sure that I’d be stir-crazy at home and envisioned very regular trips on the Metra with the baby to visit all my old favorites in Chicago.
Instead, I started exploring what was right in front of me — well, once it took me less than three hours to get Johanna dressed, diapered and into the car seat. Suddenly, I remembered why my husband and I were drawn to the far western suburbs of Chicago in the first place — beautiful parks and forest preserves, historical sites, cultural attractions, unique and affordable shopping and great restaurants.
Through friendships I made with women in a few mothers’ groups i joined, I learned about great places to walk with the stroller, farmer’s markets where I could buy local produce, free “spraygrounds” we could visit in the summer, boutiques where I could buy adorable baby clothes and restaurants where my husband and I wouldn’t have to worry if our daughter’s meltdown arrived before the check.
As a journalist, I’m curious (aka nosey) and strolling with a new baby often led to conversations with other parents. I’d come back from each walk or playdate with a new place to check out or a fascinating story of someone I’d just met. I wrote everything down on post-it notes or legal pads, and I shared tips with other moms via email.
I just wished there was a place to put it all in one spot. During a lightbulb moment, the idea for this website was born.
With the terrible economic times our country and many of our neighbors, family and friends experienced during the “Great Recession,” we all found ourselves drawn to staying closer to home, spending time with our families in fulfilling ways and saving some money along the way. I wanted Go West Young Mom to be a valuable resource in that effort. In the spring of 2014, I relaunched the website, moving to a new blogging platform, refreshing the design and unveiling a new, searchable calendar that makes me very happy.
No matter how talkative and curious I am, I can’t grow Go West alone. I’d love to hear from your regarding attractions I should feature, people I should interview, businesses I should highlight, or just something you believe I should have handled differently. I’m also always on the lookout for guest contributors, whether you want to write a regular column, review a new area attraction or just contribute a post to get something off your chest.
Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. This website has been incredibly rewarding to me since I launched it — a gift, really — as are my readers. I promise to continue to do my best to make Go West Young Mom a place that increases the quality of the time you spend with your family.
Please stay in touch!
Found and Editor, GoWestYoungMom.com