October 22, 2018

Two online parenting resources provide community and more

Being a new parent can be isolating and overwhelming, feelings that don’t always disappear as kids grow older.

For Los Angeles-area parents, two online forums, Peachhead and Jen’s List, are easing the burden, helping to navigate the challenges and provide a sense of community.

com-linda-perry-peachtreePeachhead got its start 20 years ago, when its founder, Linda Perry, 51, had her first child, a daughter. After completing a three-month “mommy and me” program, she found that some of the moms wanted to stay in touch and continue getting together. Perry, a Reform Jew, got their email addresses.

With a daughter who was not content to chill at home, Perry was constantly out and about. She started emailing the group on a regular basis, telling the moms about different neighborhood activities and where she and her daughter would be at a particular time. Her friends forwarded the emails to their friends. The list rapidly grew.

Today, with about 16,000 members, Peachhead (peachheadfamilies.com) has become a vibrant forum — mostly for moms, although dads are welcome — to share advice on a wide array of subjects. Every month, there are upward of 1,000 posts.

Joining the Yahoo-supported group is free, and subscribers have several options, including a daily digest, typically one to four daily emails that aggregate approximately a dozen posts into easy-to-read collections. One recent digest included an appeal for homeopathic remedies for reflux, a reader seeking a recommendation for help assembling a trampoline and a call for a Sunday-night sitter. Perry generates revenue from ads priced between $100 and $200.

“This group is for anything you would ask a friend or neighbor, not limited to parenting stuff,” said Perry, who also works as a legal assistant. But subjects related to parenting tend to be the most discussed. Among the most popular topics are sleep issues, nursing challenges, tantrums, how to handle kids when they talk back, computer use and at what age kids should get cellphones.

“This group is for anything you would ask a friend or neighbor, not limited to parenting stuff.” – Linda Perry, peachhead founder

Only politics is strictly off limits. And if things ever get too heated, which they do on occasion — around the topic of vaccinations, for example — Perry moves the conversation to a debates and discussions subgroup.

Why the name Peachhead? It’s not a reference to the super-soft pates of newborns, Perry said. Rather, her husband was a fan of the Allman Brothers, and one of their early albums was called “Eat a Peach.” Fans were known as Peachheads. Mystery solved.

Like Perry, Jen Levinson did not set out to create a business. In 2005, as a mother of one boy and 19 weeks pregnant with twins, she was put on strict bed rest.

“I’m a total Type A personality,” said Levinson, 46, now the mother of five, all boys. “I do much better with a lot to do. I could not just sit there.”

So she devoured newspapers and magazines. When she saw a cute baby product or read an article that resonated with her, she sent it to a handful of other mom friends.

Soon, her emails grew more elaborate. And Levinson, whose family worships at Valley Outreach Synagogue in Chatsworth, started hearing from people she didn’t know, asking to be added to her email list. Turns out, her friends were sharing her emails with other moms. Four years later, she was sending her daily email, which the community named Jen’s List, to 6,000 people.

“It was strictly a labor of love,” she said — at least it was at the beginning. With another set of twins on the way, her husband, Mike Levinson, encouraged her to continue the project, and they brainstormed ways to monetize the operation.

She started selling daily sponsorships for $195, a price she has maintained. And she no longer publishes on weekends.

Though Jen’s List (jenslist.com) does not have the dialogue exchange of Peachhead, it does have a conversational feel. The emails reach about 20,000 subscribers throughout Los Angeles, more than half in the Conejo and San Fernando Valleys, and include such personal recommendations from Levinson as a summer camp, a bar mitzvah tutor and a plumber. There is also a “Today in History” section. And Levinson allows subscribers one free post a month.

Levinson and Perry say the most satisfying aspect of their respective forums is helping people.

“Without sounding corny,” Levinson said, “it brings me joy.”