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Highlights from the Parent of Adults Subscriber Survey
Did you know Portland was encased in ice last week? Many lost power and heat for days, had pipes burst or trees fall on their houses. (Check my Instagram feed for an eye-popping example in my neighborhood.) I’m counting my lucky stars that Rael and I were mildly inconvenienced but otherwise unscathed (Mom, too).
Speaking of gratitude, THANK YOU to the 96 of you who took time to answer my Subscriber Survey last month. I spent part of the Big Freeze delving into your responses. You helped me better understand who you are and what you’re hoping for in this community.
You also steadied me during a vulnerable moment.
Writing this newsletter requires attending to the space between service and self-service. Where’s the overlap between your needs as a reader and my needs as a writer? There’s no fixed or perfect answer, but that hasn’t prevented me from getting stuck on the question. (I’m a recovering overthinker, not recovered.) Your generous responses nudged me back into the flow. So, again, thank you.
I thought it would be fun to share a few survey highlights. I always feel more at home in a community when I have a sense of who else is in the room. This glimpse represents a fraction of you, but it opens the door a little wider on who we are.
How you found Parent of Adults
I was moved to see how many of you know me from elsewhere. Some of you have been with me since my Parent Hacks blogging days (2005 onward!), some of you are Edit Your Life podcast listeners, book readers, and folks I know via local activism communities. There are old friends and family here from around the country and the world.
But most of you are new, having found this newsletter via word of mouth and/or the Substack network. I’m so excited to welcome a new cohort of readers at this stage of our parenting lives — particularly into this community-oriented space.
I especially want to thank those of you who’ve told your friends about this newsletter, or listed Parent of Adults among your Substack Recommendations — that’s the #1 way new readers find Parent of Adults.
How old are your kids?
I love seeing the range of ages — it tells me ✨ we can tap into the wisdom of parents who are ahead of us and support parents coming up behind us.✨ That, right there, is the big dream for this newsletter!
One of you indicated you have kids in all five age ranges (!). And one of you mentioned you’re not a parent or caregiver. I love that you’re here — I like to think much of what we talk about here transcends parenting.
What you get out of being here
Reading heartfelt, practical writing which reflects the realities of joy and tenderness in our lives right now. (Tenderness! Bittersweetness! Yes!)
Parenting hasn't ended, and I'm realizing that it never does. Finding support once they're big is much harder. (So true.)
These words kept coming up in your responses: knowing I’m not alone, kinship, community, camaraderie, belonging, feeling seen, less lonely. As a parent looking to build community I haven’t found elsewhere, this was deeply satisfying.
Perspective, a “peek ahead” at the future, insight into what’s happening helps you better understand your own choices. (COLLECTIVE WISDOM YES.)
Reading a new perspective that I don't get from the media I watch nor the friend group I have. (We need better than empty nesting stereotypes — we need each others’ real stories.)
Many of you mentioned valuing guidance from parents who are a few steps ahead. I want to find ways to activate the “bucket brigade” of insight in this community. (See 🪣 below.)
Topics you’d like to see here
SO MANY GOOD IDEAS. These topics came up more than once:
Navigating and growing our relationships with our adult kids
Marriage and partnership
Caring for/relating to our own parents (this came up a lot)
Real world stuff; how to teach our kids things they don’t learn in school
Things you’d do differently knowing what you know now (super interesting to consider this)
Several of you also mentioned enjoying recommendations for books, podcasts, and other resources.
How I can improve this newsletter
A few of you also offered helpful feedback about how this newsletter could improve:
More things that you *do* not just things that you *think*
I loved this feedback because it reminds me to work on balancing my writing voice. I tend toward earnest and cerebral, perhaps too much. I’ll never be a humor writer, but I like to joke that I’m way more fun in person. (Right??? Someone back me up!)
This also tells me that more practical, action-oriented stuff would be helpful. (If any ideas come to mind, please leave them in the comments.)
Talking about your own experiences as much as you can while being mindful of your kids’ privacy.
Specificity vs privacy! Another place to dig deeper. My kids, husband and Mom have all given me their blessings and guidelines about privacy. My intention has always been to share my life here, not the details of theirs. But it’s not so cut and dried, is it?
Answering reader questions (love a good mailbag column).
🪣 I, too, love a good mailbag! This points to how we might activate the “bucket brigade” and dip into our well of collective wisdom. Stay tuned.
Consider migrating away from what's becoming a toxic platform - your work shouldn't be tainted by association with Nazi empathizers.
A few of you shared your concerns about this issue — thank you very much for speaking up.
Last month, powerful debate and protest erupted in the Substack community over the platform’s lax content moderation policy which enabled pro-Nazi publications to establish themselves and begin to grow their readerships. When called on it, Substack’s milquetoast response drew even more condemnation which, in my opinion, it deserved. (This Guardian article provides some backstory, but there’s more to it.)
Ultimately, Substack took down five pro-Nazi newsletters. While the raw numbers are small, concerns about violence-inciting content remain, and some writers and readers have decided to leave as a result.
I’ve chosen to stay here for now. In a world of imperfect tech platforms (and tech leaders), Substack most closely aligns with the kind publication and community I’m trying to build. The collective good happening here doesn’t excuse the bad, but I believe it will outweigh it.
I also believe positive change is more likely when pursued in multiple ways. Here’s how I responded to another Substack writer wrestling with this issue (edited for clarity):
“Nazis, bad or good?" is a simple choice; whether to stay or go is not. There are many ways to fight against the dark as well as generate our own light. I believe that the more points along that arc we occupy, the stronger our fight can be. Swift, powerful protest is *part* of what gets companies to pay attention. But so is prolonged, nuanced discussion, between Substack and its users, and between writers and their audiences. Some would argue the opportunity to truly discuss these things, over time, in an environment of good faith and care, like this, might eventually change MORE hearts and minds and lead to MORE powerful pushback. We can't know. The point is, in my opinion, the most effective, inclusive response to Nazis on Substack is ALL OF IT, the mindful staying, the loud going, the public call-outs, the private adjustments, all of it.
I’m indebted to the Substack writers who signed letters, met with leadership, engaged with the press, and stuck their necks out, some with considerable sacrifice. They gave authors like me information and time to consider our responses.
I also respect that not everyone will agree with my approach, and I support those who choose differently. This is an ongoing issue, and I’d like to keep the dialog (and my mind) open as it evolves, as it surely will. So let’s keep talking about this.
I hope you enjoyed learning about who’s gathering here. I sure did. This exercise has made me feel more connected to all of you. Does that sound hopelessly idealistic after everything I just said about imperfect tech platforms? I don’t think it is. I believe with all my heart in what we’re creating here, and we’re just getting started.
If you missed the survey but still want to offer your feedback, I want to hear it! Please please please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Comments are open to all for one week after publication; thereafter, for paid subscribers.
Thanks for reading Parent of Adults, a conversation about life beyond the empty nest with author Asha Dornfest and a super-thoughtful community of subscribers.
Asha is the author of Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids, a book inspired by her community blog of 10+ years, and Minimalist Parenting with Christine Koh, which evolved into their co-hosting 250+ episodes of the Edit Your Life podcast.
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