"Life's A Circus," According To Ashley Allen
Since beginning of THREAD MB, I’ve been asked numerous times what unique criteria I use when choosing Social Media Moms to spotlight. I can, honestly, tell you that there isn’t a set list of specifics which influences me to choose one mom over the other. My decisions arise in several ways -- although, admittedly, a great blog title always catches my attention. Such is the case with Ashley Allen’s Big Top Family. As a person who always loved the circus, and particularly clowns, I couldn’t help but want to learn more about Ashley and hers.
And learn, I did, including how cleverly Ashley took her love for an old newspaper comic, Family Circus, and turned it into blog form, with her children and husband occupying 'center ring'. Big Top Family is comprised of a series of wonderful stories that provide you with a real glimpse of family-life in the Allen household. Following this blog is like reading a great biography -- quite relatable and full of “aha” moments. Amidst all of them, you can truly feel Ashley’s enormous love and gratefulness for the entire circus she’s been blessed to ringlead.
To me, there isn’t anything better than touching one’s heart or tickling one’s funny bone through the written word. Ashley consistently accomplishes both through Big Top Family. Suffice-it-to-say, if ever you want to enjoy a trip to the circus without leaving your own backyard, skip your way over to Big Top Family and grab a seat, along with some cotton candy and popcorn. You will be left wide-eyed and entertained if you do. In the meantime, meet ringleader, Ashley Allen, through her interview, below.
What is your full name?
Ashley Elizabeth Allen
Where do you live?
In the Washington DC suburbs
How many children do you have?
If you were asked to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be?
What is your personal mantra?
Live and love intentionally but don’t take yourself too seriously.
Tell us about you and your life.
I was raised by a loving and uber religious single mother, who moved us quite frequently based on what “God wanted us to do.” This childhood of constant change included sharing our home with a nun for the better part of 8 years and surrounding ourselves with clergymen and a community of Charismatic Catholics. While learning to adapt to change at a young age, I simultaneously developed an aversion to it, and when I became a mother at the age of 29, I swore that I would put down roots, and I have kept that promise to myself. I have a hands-on husband, thank goodness, because we have three energetic boys, ages 9, 6, and 6. (Yes, twins)! I’m a stay-at-home mom trying to eke out a living as a writer and honing my sense of humor on a daily basis.
Finish this sentence, “The best part about being a mom is _____.”
Unconditional love from my children, no matter how many mistakes I make.
How long have you been blogging for? Do you blog for any group blogs or websites beyond your own?
I’ve been blogging for a little over two years. I’ve been published on ScaryMommy, BLUNTmoms, and Huffington Post Parents and Huffington Post Women, and I’ve been published in the motherhood anthology "I Still Just Want To Pee Alone."
What is the name of your blog? When was it launched?
Big Top Family was launched in November 2014.
Share with us the significance of the name of your blog to you. How did you come
up with it?
When I was around 11 years old, I would read a comic strip called “Family Circus.” I loved keeping up with its big, unruly family’s misadventures, because here was a family who made being chaotic, and messy, and flawed look super fun and amusing. Reading it was a nice dreamy getaway for me, mostly because I struggled to see the humor in my own big, unruly family’s misadventures. (I was second-oldest in a family of six). Today, my family is every bit as chaotic as it was when I was growing up, but now I’m the ringleader.
What is the primary focus of your blog?
To filter my past and my present through that same “Family Circus” comedy window, finding something to laugh about in even the most stressful parenting situations.
What makes your blog unique?
I, irreverently, write about my nomadic, religion-saturated childhood in a memoiresque section of my blog called Old School Circus. I write about my crazy present wherein I chronicle my daily fumbles and foibles while mothering my three sons in a section called Cirque du Today. Somehow, it always seems like my past and present find a way of meeting in the middle.
Tell us about your blog in depth, including what you hope to accomplish through it.
I first started it as a way to get my stories about my childhood out there, and to see how people responded to them. I wondered if my past was just a little too “weird” for mainstream readers. I learned that even if people couldn’t exactly relate to them, they were entertaining enough that people actually liked them. Then, I started writing stories about my own motherhood on a daily basis, and all of the mistakes I was making, and the things that were stressing me out. I would sit at the end of a chaotic day and rewrite the day in almost a comedy sitcom filter, and it helped me laugh about all of my own imperfections. I hope that other mothers will read my stories and laugh, but also see that our imperfections unite all of us and help us breathe easier at the end of the day, finding comfort in the knowledge that we’re not the “only one.”
Are you a Brand Ambassador and if so, for which companies?
Beyond your blog, do you engage in other social media outlets such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc.?
Facebook is my strongest social media platform. I tell micro-stories there almost every day so it almost functions as a mini-blog for me. I’m on Twitter and do fairly well there but only use it for a comedy platform, occasionally sharing links. I’m also on Pinterest but haven’t quite figured out if it’s for me.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to moms who may be interested in beginning a blog?
I would say go for it, and be happy even if only one person reads it at the very beginning. I used to bewail to my husband, Todd, that only 20 people viewed my blog this or that day, and he said to me, “If you were hosting a public reading of one of your stories right here in our kitchen, and 20 people showed up to listen, that would be a full house.” And that is how I came to see it. Don’t be discouraged by the numbers; be encouraged by them. Even one person devoting their time to reading your stories is a great compliment to your writing. You’re living your dream.
Do you support – either formally or informally – a particular social cause?
My 36-year-old sister-in-law Laura is currently suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and is about to undergo a bone marrow transplant. I support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the search for a cure to ancer.
When all is said and done, what is the one thing you hope your loved ones and those who knew you remember about you?
(I have to choose just one? LOL). That I helped them laugh and comforted them when they cried.
I just adore Ashley Allen and Big Top Family. They are a circus-lover’s dream as well as other mothers, who know a bit about the importance of “clowning around” when raising a family. As we find ourselves jumping through hoops, juggling balls, and walking tightropes regularly, stories about other moms doing the same help each of us lead our own caravans with perspective. This is the souvenir to expect every time you visit Big Top Family. And admission is free. With perks like that, I believe it is time we all joined the circus, don’t you?