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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/31/2011

DC Urban Moms and Dads need full-time care

The indications that breeders have muscled their way into the city are increasingly obvious: School waitlists are long. The most recent Census said about a fifth of the city’s population is under 18. And who can forget that Parenting magazine dubbed Washington D.C. as the best city in the country to raise a family? So it’s fitting that running the D.C. Urban Moms and Dads Web site is becoming a full-time gig.
Maria Sokurashvili and Jeff Steele with their son, Michael Steele, at home in 2005. The couple runs DC Urban Moms and Dads. (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)

Maria Sokurashvili, who oversees the Web site with her husband Jeff Steele, this month quit her day job to take on the site, known as DCUM, full-time. “We didn’t really expect it to grow at the rate it has been growing, Sokurashvili said.

Her first priority: figure out how to make DCUM profitable enough to support the decision for her to leave her job in information technology. Sokurashvili who lives with Steele and their two sons, ages 6 and 10, in the Crestwood neighborhood in Northwest D.C., said she is investigating advertising options and plans to create a system that will allow direct advertising. “We aren’t planning to change anything on the user end, charge for subscription or anything like that,” she said.

The sprawling collection of forums, event listings and an occasionally updated blog is a far cry from its humble origins in 2001. DCUM started out as a complement to a mailing list of a few dozen new parents looking to connect. The membership now stands at about 8,000. That’s minuscule compared to the half million monthly visitors, about 30 percent of them daily users, according to Steele.

For better or worse, the site, known as DCUM, has become the online representation of parents in the city. The conversations can sometimes be uptight and harsh; they are often unapologetically elitist and judgment is rampant.

Earlier this year, the City Paper lampooned DCUM in a much-e-mailed cover story, “The Mommy-Fight Site.”

But for all the negativity, there’s also an underlying pragmatism to much of the information and many of the posts. DCUM acts as a sort of for parents seeking nannies and nanny-shares. It’s where people can solicit honest feedback about schools and services. It’s like a parental souk, with lots of shoving, but plenty of good stuff.

Sokurashvili said she has no plans to manage the tone of the site. “Some negativity in the forums might draw more attention from outside, but anyone who spends time here knows that there is much more good [than] there is bad. We have an amazing community of smart and funny people who make the site what it is.”

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 08/31/2011

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