Me Before Mom: How One Woman’s Desire to Help a Friend Led to Greater Outreach
By: Julie Clark
“There was a ‘me’ before there was a ‘mom.’” This statement encapsulates the lifestyle and message of Bert Anderson, creator of her lifestyle blog entitled Me Before Mom. Anderson is a wife as well as a mother of three, and her mission is to equip fellow mothers as they adjust to parenting and figure out how to keep a sense of self while in the throes of motherhood. We sat down with Anderson to get to know her better and to glean some of her wisdom.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your life, and how Me Before Mom (MBM) came to be.
My dad is retired Air Force, so that makes me a military brat. It’s a label I wear proudly because it dramatically defines how I view life, how I process problems and any kind of uncomfortable situation. I met my husband in college in Minnesota; he’s from Minnesota, and well, you can’t take a Minnesota boy out of Minnesota, so we’ve been here ever since. I have three kids, Brennan (13), Kendall (10), and Keira (7). I am a social media manager, that’s my consistent paying job. I like being able to figure out how to create a community for a brand without being the face of the brand. I have my website, bertmanderson.com; a podcast, Me Before Mom, with Matriarch Digital Media; and I’ve self-published a book, Me Before Mom: Putting Your Oxygen Mask on First.
The concept of MBM came up when I watched my friend go through a divorce. She had been married for 20 years and was a stay-at-home mom for 16 of those 20 years. When her husband asked for a separation, it came out of left field. She found herself alone, having to figure out a career and starting over in her 40s. I remember her telling me she felt like she had given so much to her family that she didn’t know who she was anymore. I took that in and started looking to friends and family members who had older kids leaving the nest. How did the moms feel? There seemed to be a pattern of feeling lost for many women, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to get to the end of Keira’s high school career, look at myself in the mirror and say, “I have no idea what I like or what I do or anything anymore.” The only way to prevent that from happening was to start practicing this concept of “me before mom” because there was a “me” before there was a mom and there will be a “me” after the kids leave.
How has your writing, blogging, influencer career, and mission evolved over the years?
At first, I liked chronicling my son’s life. I’ve always loved writing. I’m not into scrapbooking, so I felt like this was an easy way to document his younger years. Then when I wrote to a cloth diaper blogger because I had a question about a certain brand of diaper, I happened to have my blog in my signature, and she read my most recent post. She encouraged me. I kind of knew that maybe I could do more with blogging, but I thought you had to have a big break. This woman took me under her wing and gave me a writing job to freelance for her. She managed content for other blogs, and I was just trying to make a name for myself. Plus, writing is like a muscle—the more you do it the better you become. She will always be a huge part of my story because so many women are competitive with each other and won’t help each other. She wasn’t like that. Because of her, I’ve always been willing to help others who wanted to get started. I must pay it forward now.
I was the social media manager for a cloth diaper brand for two years, and I learned so much. It was a great experience, but I quickly became the face of the brand, and my blog was growing. I started getting opportunities to go on press trips and TV shows, and my ability to work for the company was starting to falter. Toward the end I felt extremely underappreciated and kind of just tossed to the side; I learned that while I loved doing social media for others, I would never be the face of a brand that wasn’t my own. Now when it comes to my clients’ accounts, I’ve told them that I don’t like for it to be known that I’m doing their social media. It’s better for them anyway.
I used to try to get onto every single trend, but now I stick to what I know. There’s an audience for everything now and the Internet is a huge space. I don’t have to be an amazing Tik Tok person and I’m not, that’s okay. I can write and I love writing. I can tell a good story on my podcast. If I can help one person feel better about themselves and their life, I’ve done my job.
We’re excited to hear how your quest to rediscover and give back to yourself resulted in a message, movement, and community that gives back to others. What are some of the biggest challenges you feel mothers face and need support through?
100% Mom Guilt and Comparison. I love social media, it’s my job, BUT our mothers didn’t have to see what Jody from down the street did for her six-year-old’s birthday party. My mom didn’t have to look at Pinterest-perfect pictures of from-scratch meals and curated highlight reels of filtered life. Being a mother today is so difficult because we are bombarded by images of what we should do even if it’s not something you like or can do. I will never be the mom who does scrapbooks. My children will not have those keepsakes. You know what? It’s okay. I honestly don’t think that they will look back at their childhood and say, “Mom sucked, we don’t have scrapbooks.” I used to feel that way. I used to want to be able to do crafts. I wanted to be the mom who could just sit and play with her children all day long. I’m not her, though. Trying to be someone that I’m not eventually falls apart. Comparison is the thief of joy.
If you need a break from your kids, it is okay. You are not a bad mom. It’s like when we become mothers this self-sacrificial switch gets flipped in us. We have to control it, though, because it is so easy for us to put everyone first to the point where it’s detrimental to our health. When was the last time you bought something for yourself because you wanted to? I always encourage moms to start by doing one thing for 20 minutes a day that is for their enjoyment alone. Read a book, alone. If you like to make things because you enjoy creating, do it for 20 minutes. If you have young children, do it during their naps. If you work, take 20 minutes when you’re home, forget about chores, and do something you enjoy.
You’ve helped women across the globe not only through your blog and podcasts, but also through the Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, and on the Harry show. Is there an accomplishment, personal or professional, that you’re most proud of?
I wrote a blog post about being a military brat living in an adult civilian world and posted it on Huffington (and on my site). Huffington didn’t feature it or anything, but it was so cathartic to write because it felt like I was able to finally put into words how I felt about not having a “home” to take my kids to visit. I remember typing the words with tears falling onto the keyboard. Every now and then someone will find the article and email me about it because it helped put into words how they feel. I like being able to help give words to feelings so that others understand.
From writing to podcasting, how did your podcast come to be, and do you have a favorite episode?
I have a friend who is on talk radio here in the Twin Cities, and she knows this woman Twila Dang who was starting a podcast network for women called Matriarch Digital Media. My friend talked to Twila about my book, and then Twila and I got connected to talk about what a podcast would look like. Learning how to podcast was hard, and I thought I was going to be amazing. I thought I had to be super smart sounding or funny, but again it’s better to just be yourself. In season two, my final episode is my favorite. It’s called “Mental Health Check,” and I talk openly about my depression and the toll the pandemic took on me. It’s heavy, but it needed to be said.
You might not see yourself as a leader per se, but you’re a role model, inspiration, coach, and moral and mental supporter for others, which in our eyes makes you an exemplary leader. Do you view yourself as a leader?
Not really. We’re all just trying to get by in this thing we call life. I’ve never been one to hide who I am or pretend to be this great person without flaws. If that helps someone feel better about themselves, then my job’s done.
We can tell you’re a busy lady, but we’re also sure you’ve probably got your sights set on goals for yourself, your family, and your career for the future. Can you tell us about anything you’ve got plans for or dreams of?
I want to see where the podcast can go. I just finished season three, and podcasts take a while to gain traction. To be honest, I don’t know the stats of my podcast. I don’t want to know. I’ll worry too much about the numbers and then it won’t be authentic, so I’m kind of in this bubble of creating something and assuming people are listening. I just finished a functional fitness competition, Festivus Games. I loved it. I want to do more of those.
Any final thoughts for those of us who are also doing the juggling act of life, work, and self?
Remember that life is really hard, and we’re our harshest critics. I always end my podcasts with this, so I’ll end it here: Be kind to yourself. Always be kind.