Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shut It Off

Big A and I before H's arrival.
July 2008

“The television is ruining us,” I said to Big A last week.

Big A travels a lot for work, selling the reputation of a large Boston-based financial services company. One week he’s off to San Antonio, Texas, for a golf tournament, and the next he’s hanging out in the officer’s club at Miramar in San Diego, California.

I often imagine his luxurious lifestyle on the road: fancy hotels, long dinners with cocktails and red wine, stimulating adult conversations and upgrades to first class plane seats.

But, in reality, he spends less than six hours each night in the hotel room – never long enough to enjoy that firm mattress with the fluffy down comforter. He eats hotel conference food, which is usually overcooked chicken and limp green beans, served with cheap wine that guarantees an instant hangover. His flights never seem to take off or land when they are supposed to.

When I hear the front stairs creak under his Johnston & Murphys upon return, I am expecting Big A to open the front door refreshed from his brief sojourn. I imagine him taking me into his arms and delivering a dramatic, Breakfast at Tiffany's-style kiss.

Instead, he drops his bags in the front hall and collapses into the worn leather armchair in front of the television in the living room.

H runs across the apartment in his footie pajamas to jump into his lap, drooling kisses over his five-o’clock shadowed face. When I lean in to kiss him, I can smell a day’s worth of rushing to get someplace on time.

Once H is tucked into crib, we dish out some dinner and head to the living room to zone out while we eat. Other than an occasional chuckle from a Seinfeld episode we’ve already watched at least twice before, forks and knifes scraping along our plates are the only audible sounds.

After we clean up, carefully loading the dishwasher without too much clinking – the kitchen is precariously situated outside H’s bedroom – Big A heads back to the TV. He clicks through the channels, switching from docu-dramas about stranded loggers or crab fishermen with sailor mouths. While his eyes stare at the screen, I can tell his worries are flashing beneath his surface.

Since Harrison was born – and I turned in the security of a weekly paycheck – Big A has shouldered most of our financial burdens. My freelance writing business covers the food shopping, electric, heating, phone and cable bills. His paycheck is heading straight to rent, paying down credit card debts and savings for a house we’d like to own someday – preferably before we add any more children to the fold.

In the last month, nearly 100 employees were laid off from his company. The dream job he accepted in February was eliminated, but his boss finagled him another position. No one has defined his new role yet, or what his salary will look like. He’s leaving behind the client relationships he’s built over the weeks away from home in the last nine months. And now, he will be hitting the road again to forge new relationships.

I watch from the couch as Big A’s concerns churn while he clicks through the channels. I want him to talk to me so I can carry a bag or two of his worries. But, he doesn’t realize I am staring at him, pleading with my eyes for him to speak.

So last week, I demanded he shut the TV off. He pressed mute.

I understand the need to unwind and be brainless after working all day. But we have to do a better job of re-connecting when the day is over. That clicker and screen are stifling our conversations.

After a minute of silence, he said, “Tomorrow, dinner at the kitchen table.”

Agreed. And I shuffled over to my laptop, as he turned up the volume on a woodworking show.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


In September, my family ventured north to the Western Maine Mountains for a camping weekend. The night before we trekked into the woods, we stayed with some friends. We hadn’t seen them since the spring and were thrilled to have a night to catch up.

Having put our son – H – to bed, I rounded the corner into the kitchen with a glass of wine. And that’s when I heard my husband tell our friends that I was “just a stay-at-home mom” and wasn’t really doing much work.

I froze, sending my red wine splashing up against the inside of my goblet. I suspected my husband – Big A – wasn’t taking my freelance writing business and pursuit of my master’s degree seriously, but I had never heard him say it out loud.

A pleasant, fake smile hid the anger boiling up inside me. He had no idea what it’s like to spend an entire day with a toddler, chasing H around, providing constant activities to stimulate our son’s racing mind, coaching the little guy not to pick his nose or bolt when we hopped out of the car. Big A doesn’t see me scramble to get the laundry done, dishwasher emptied and bed made before I sit down at my computer to respond to clients during H’s two-hour nap. No one is watching as I struggle to find the right words for a project, laboring to shift from mommy brain to professional writer brain.

But as I stifled murderous thoughts, I considered: Why would Big A know about my struggle to balance my work with motherhood? I never let on. By the time he walks in the door at 6pm each workday, the baby is fed and bathed. Meat is marinating, veggies are cut and rice is simmering. Toys are back in their woven baskets, ready to be dumped on the floor come morning.

Meanwhile, I haven’t showered or eaten a real meal all day, subsisting on scraps from H’s plate along with a handful of cashews and dried apricots for a little fruit and fiber. My BlackBerry keeps pinging with unanswered emails, and I’ve hit the “ignore” button more than a dozen times, prioritizing H’s cries over my clients’ beckoning.

My stress was building about the existing pile of projects. I hadn’t been able to grow my freelance writing business beyond two clients. I wasn’t taking enough time for me to be dedicated to this new career direction.

I quickly realized that Big A wasn’t taking my new career as an entrepreneur seriously because I wasn’t taking it seriously. I needed to change.

That weekend in Maine was glorious, filled with fall leaf peeping. And while Big A ran down the paths after H, I had a few moments to myself to come up with these resolutions:

  1. Hire someone to watch H a couple mornings a week. More un-interrupted time – in addition to H’s naptime – allows me to focus on my current projects.
  2. Ask my husband for time to work on the weekends. Big A only gets about 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to play with H during the week. I need to view weekends as time for Big A to catch up with H. With me working in the mornings, Big A and H can voyage out on their own.
  3. Stick to a schedule. When I set aside time to work, I work. No surfing the web, reading blogs, or getting up to switch the laundry. Just me, my coffee and my laptop – all working in sync to meet my deadlines.
  4. Create a business plan. To grow my business, I have to carve out time to take stock in where I am and where I want to go. Even if it’s a loose plan, setting goals and putting them on paper will be a motivator.
  5. Be in the moment. When I’m writing, I write. But when I’m with H and Big A, I should try harder to be present and experience life's pulse rather than feel stressed about not answering work calls or emails.

These resolutions may not make my husband take my business seriously. But they’ll help me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nice to Meet You, Twitter

Oh, Twitter, how I tried to avoid you. I wanted to despise all of your micro-updates, the many Tweets that flitter across computer screens and cell phones. I did not need another time-suck in my life. Episodes of The Good Wife and Modern Family are calling me from my DVR box. The white kitchen floor has turned grey from the multitude of dirty shoes that have shuffled across it. New Yorkers are piling up by my bedside. I already belong to Facebook. Don’t you know I have a 19-month old son who climbs furniture and jumps?

But my class’s instructor said you were fabulous and asked me to get acquainted with you. So I opened an account. I chose a nondescript handle and password two days ago. Next, I tweaked my profile, posting a link to my blog and a photo of myself.

I poked around tentatively at first, only seeking out some the bloggers I follow regularly like Dooce, Girls Gone Child and Amalah. Holding my arrow cursor over the plus symbol, I added each of them to my feed. Fifteen minutes in, I was following more than a dozen Tweeters.

I kept clicking. You can be inspiring, funny, literary and career-focused. Not to mention musical with an interest in cooking. All of these are qualities I look for in a partner.

Taking you for a twirl, my fingers tap-danced along the keyboard, keying in the names of my favorite celebrities, writers and friends. All of my interests were coming alive in 140 characters or less. I consider our first date a success!

A few hours later, my cell phone dinged. I glanced down to see the Twitter icon – a boxed blue “t” – among my email messages. (Oh, you text right away!) And next to that icon was a name I didn’t recognize, but he was now following my Tweets.

My eyes narrowed and I recoiled in my kitchen chair. I want to be able to approve who gains access to my feeds. While my other relationship - Facebook - may have all sorts of pitfalls in security, at least I can have the final say on who can access my photos and updates.

Not with you, Twitter. That text was just another reminder that I shouldn’t be exposing everything to you. I need to show restraint, even though I’m tempted to divulge the minutia of my daily life. I can hear my mother’s voice: "Relationships need mystery!"

Since our first encounter, we’ve had a few dates. I’m considering the possibilities of going steady with you: a way to broadcast my freelance writing business; a new avenue to network; a stream of live news snippets; adult commentary when I’ve been alone with the baby all day; a hearty laugh.

So, Twitter, I’m enjoying getting to know you, but I’m not in love with you. Not yet. I’m not ready to make any long-term commitments to keep Tweeting after my class ends. But I may keep in touch with you. Some Tweets are just too good to resist.

Harrison, 19 months
(This picture has no relevance to the above blog,
but I couldn't resist.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Big Hug

(Apple picking with H, October 2010)

“Baby seals,” he coos. “Funny!” It’s 5am and my 19-month old son – H – is chattering from his crib.

There’s no soothing him back to sleep, no quick pop of the binky to send him back to bed.

My eyelids unfurl like spring leaves, allowing my eyes to adjust to the empty spot on the other side of the bed. Thousands of miles away my husband – Big A – is still snoozing in a king-sized hotel bed in Birmingham, Alabama. An iPod will ease him into the morning. He will shower in a pristine white tub and dry off with fluffy white towels. While watching the last night’s sports scores flash across a high-def TV screen, Big A will tuck his pressed shirt into his flat-front suit pants and pack a briefcase. On deck for this morning: A business meeting over muffins and freshly brewed coffee at a local bakery. Big A has been gone for four days – Florida, Texas and Alabama.

I shuffle to our bureau to swap out my pajamas. Holding up a shirt crusted with H’s graham-cracker drool from yesterday, I slide it over my head and pull on my black yoga pants. I brush my teeth and as I wipe my mouth, I realize the towel has soured overnight – one too many hands dried.

I cruise into the kitchen, dumping yesterday’s stale coffee and reloading the pot. Sippy cup of milk in hand, I creak open H’s door.

“Big hug,” he calls out, arms wide open. I sing, “Good morning, bubby!”

Today will be variations on yesterday: eating, playing, napping, running errands and cleaning H’s endless trail of crumbs, park sand and toys.

But there will be moments I want to capture like fireflies in a glass jar: the way H raises his eyebrows, his face splattered with black cookie crumbs, and asks for another Oreo; how he reaches up to hold my hand as he climbs our front stairs; the scent of his neck, damp with tears, as we hug away a boo-boo.

But four days into Big A’s sojourn from our family life, single motherhood has worn at my patience. When H squirms like a captured alligator during his diaper change, I fight the urge to pin his legs down. I want to snarl, “Not again!” as he drops green peas to a happy roll across the kitchen floor.

Bedtime. I exhale, closing H’s door as he sings himself to sleep.

Big A is due home tonight at 10. Each time I look at the clock, I re-calculate how many hours until he walks through the door. I check his flight status, willing the plane to go faster, pleading for no delays.

Tomorrow, we will wake up to the sounds of a creaking crib under H’s jumping feet and the refrain of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.”

Big A will get up, make the coffee and deliver the sippy cup.

I will dream an extra hour, shower and shave my legs, apply some eye make-up and blush. As Big A and H build a tower of wooden blocks, I will sneak out of the house and head to the supermarket alone, where I have time to caress plums and peruse apples. I will stop for a coffee on the way home and sip it in silence in the parking lot.

And when I come home, weighed down by bags of groceries, I will drop everything and open my arms when H calls out, “Big hug!”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Lone Spider

I was hurrying down the old wooden stairs to the basement when I noticed her, just past the dusty window on the cool wintery surface of our porch.

My kitchen spiders are translucent and insignificant. This one looked like a root-beer jellybean, brown and speckled with white spots.

Her legs twitched swiftly back and forth, gathering silk to string from the corners. Beginning from the perimeter, she darted and leaped her way from anchor point to anchor point, leaving a shimmering thread in her wake.

No one interrupted the spider. She didn’t have any other creatures lingering about, begging for her attention – no caterpillars demanding payment or tiny spiders whining for chicken nuggets. She just built her web without being bothered. To the music of chirping birds, she created her masterpiece.

The web caught the warm breeze and flexed without letting loose from its anchors pinned to the wooden porch beams.

Up and down the stairs – four loads of laundry, washed, dried, folded. The spider remained in her web, triumphant. That night, the rain poured down and the wind whistled between the rows of houses. The trees groaned, branches scratched the windows and the downpour clobbered the rooftops. The 35-gallon rain bucket in the yard gushed over and puddles swelled.

The last load of warm laundry in my basket, I flipped the outside light on before heading upstairs.

She was there -- inching to the corner of the web for protection from the storm.

In the morning, light beaming through the kitchen window, I tried to bang out an email to a client, my 18-month old son – H –tugging at my shirt. “Out,” he said. “Mama, peas. Out!”

I squeaked open the door and he barreled down the back stairs. The chase was on, and I yelled, “Wait!”

Panting at the bottom of the stairs, he looked up at me, pointing at the door. “Out.”

I cracked the door, pointed admiringly to the web.

“Pretty,” he whispered.

Impossibly – raindrops glistened on the web, like some too-perfect illustration.

I glanced down at the wet grass, lamenting how many more loads of laundry I’d have to do after today. As H splashed in a muddy puddle, my BlackBerry buzzed. My work will have to wait.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cost of Motherhood

(Harrison at 6 weeks old, April 2009)

Six weeks after I delivered our son, my husband and I had the “talk” – not the one about when we would have sex again – the one about what we were going to do with Harrison once my maternity leave was over. If both of us worked, almost an entire salary would be devoted to childcare.

We had to choose who was going to stay home.

At the time, I was making slightly more than my husband, who had taken a step back in his career to change directions. I had worked for a Boston-based financial firm for more than 10 years, netting out to six promotions, dozens of raises and bonuses, an office with a window overlooking the financial district and several pairs ornately decorated shoes to glam up my work uniform of dark skirt suits.

My husband was quick to offer his stay-at-home-dad services. But I hesitated. Yes, my post-pregnancy hormones had me crying at the thought of leaving my son longer than an hour. But, I also had a hunch about my future reality in the workforce.

The only women in vice president or higher roles in my office were those without spouses or children. Graying middle-aged men filled the upper management spots. With a baby in my arms, I wasn’t seeing much hope for a long, profitable career to support a family of three.

A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office backed my suspicions. Women are still lagging behind in holding management positions. We are making less than our male counterparts. And even worse, mothers in management roles are paid even less than women without kids in the same job.

The bottom line is simple: despite an increasingly level playing ground, women are not considered equal to men in the workplace. Each gender may have their own bathrooms – and mothers may be permitted to pump breast milk at the office – but at the end of the workweek, his paycheck is greater than hers.

When I gave my notice, my voice cracked. And before handed in my security badge, I glanced longingly at the photo that had been snapped of the 22-year old version of myself.

When I graduated from college, I thought that while barriers to my corporate success may exist, if I worked hard enough, I could surpass them. Studying the women’s liberation movement and being the daughter of a young, hard-working office assistant/part-time hippie taught me that.

What I underestimated though was that I was stepping into a workforce that – over the long term – valued my male co-workers more than me.

However, that fact became glaringly obvious as when I looked at the raw salary predictions for my husband and me. I worked in Corporate Communications as a writer; he was in sales – a male-dominated career – for a large mutual fund company. I was at the top of my pay grade; he was at the bottom of his. While my salary was higher today, it probably wasn’t going to increase much more.

Even if I didn’t have a baby, government-sponsored study after study has led me to believe I’m destined to make less than my male co-workers no matter how hard I work.

Women are making less money because we are still primary caretakers at home. Trying to integrate a family into a career means working less hours, being distracted when day care or nanny is calling about your barfing baby and – when your child care is not calling – wondering why you are at work and not at the park with your quickly growing child. All of this equals less pay.

As I write this today in 2010, it seems so ridiculous: My husband – by virtue of his gender and societal norms – has a greater potential to make more money in his career than I do. We have a better chance of owning a house one day, giving Harrison the opportunity to take music lessons and play on a soccer team, and taking a yearly family vacation with my husband keeping his feet planted in the corporate world.

Our decision ended up not being a choice at all. We fell squarely into the gender stereotypes that the report’s statistics re-inforce: a man’s work is monetarily worth more than a woman’s.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tick, tock

In less than three hours, one blog post can end a career.

Or at least that’s how long it took when Andrew Breitbart posted a drastically edited video of Shirley Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP event in Georgia. The video appeared to show Sherrod -- a black woman, and U.S. Agriculture Department official – making racist remarks against a white farmer.

Approximately one hour after the original blog post, had picked up the video, citing Breitbart as its source.

By 2pm, Sherrod had resigned.

It didn’t stop there. Politically conservative cable news stations and websites jumped on the story. The NAACP president, Ben Jealous, Tweeted his condemnation of Sherrod’s remark. Most horrifying, the Obama administration accepted Sherrod’s resignation without calling for an investigation into the whole truth.

In the old days – a mere 15 years ago – the Sherrod story may never have been available for public consumption. The head of a news desk – for broadcast or print – would have viewed the video and most likely insisted on seeing the entire thing rather than airing a snippet provided by an anonymous source. There would have been an editorial process and, perhaps, someone may have even decided that this story wasn’t worth a precious 30-second spot on the evening news or a column in the next morning’s paper. In fact, that’s almost exactly what happened at the nation’s three national broadcast stations (ABC, NBC and CBS), which did not air the Sherrod story the first night, waiting to gather more facts.

Traditional news sources uncovered the unedited video within a day. Sherrod was then able to tell her side of the story on various news programs. Her message of transcending racism and working together was finally transmitted - albeit muffled - across the headlines, airwaves and blogosphere. Apologies from Jealous and even President Obama rolled in.

But, by then, it was too late. Shirley Sherrod was already out of a job.

Today, bloggers are wielding extraordinary power in their capacity for cheap, instant global publication. It is the perfect manifestation of the First Amendment – giving the most ordinary citizens the power to say whatever they want to whomever they want – and to read whatever they want, whenever they want.

The Sherrod incident illustrates everything that is wrong with the media: how the race to be the first to break a story leads to bad reporting, and how the rise in blogging has meant a rise in credence given to bad information. Accurate reporting and all of its fact-checking takes time – something no news outlet has when they are consistently being scooped by other media sources like blogs.

But the Sherrod incident also is a harbinger of what may be to come. The important part of that story is that most traditional outlets – including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal – refused to be baited into bad journalism. They held the story, and walked away untarnished, when even the president could not.

If blogs want to continue breaking news, they need to get the facts straight. They owe it to their readers who are clicking on their ads, driving their revenues and forwarding their links to expand readership. Otherwise, the savvy media-consuming public will start lumping them together with the rest of traditional media.

* served as the source for the timeline of this blog post.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Click, click, click

I tiptoe out of my son’s room, shut the door, listen.

Silence. I have 90 minutes – maybe two hours.

I load the dishwasher and race to the basement to change the laundry. Dancing around the Matchbox cars littering the kitchen floor to get to the counter, I pour myself a cup of luke-warm coffee.

Then, I squish my bottom into the tiny beads of my red beanbag chair with a laptop, open Safari and manually type in the urls to my favorite blogs. My mind wonders quickly these days when I’m on the Internet, flitting like my toddler from one new discovery to the next.

I have never put much thought into the letters, numbers and symbols that drive what’s on my Internet screen, Everything seems so effortless. With quick clicks across my computer screen, even I easily created a this free blog on the Blogger platform, complete with an innocuous background and drag-and-drop plugins to add some spice to my page.

I’m not afraid to admit it: I’m in awe of bloggers who can bang away on their keyboard’s to alter a basic template, making it an artistic extension of their writing. I envy clean-looking blogs with photos that pop with vibrant color off a simple white background. I can’t resist the headers that suck me in with whimsical swirls of design. I especially love the blogs that inspire creativity.

But I have ninety minutes (sixty if I decide to pick up all those cars and switch the laundry). On a toddler’s schedule, I’m starting to think like a toddler, too. If a website doesn’t grab me right away, I’m on to the next.

For me, it’s all about what’s above the fold.

A photo or an interesting entry title right up front draws me in. And if I have to look too hard to find a writer’s “About Me” tab, I’m likely to drift away.

My newest discovery is the RSS feed. I had seen it on several blogs, but was afraid to click it. Did I really need to subscribe to anything else? -- My email inbox is cluttered with health tips, coupons and sale notifications. I HAVE 90 MINUTES – this is not a time to add more stuff to sort.

But RSS seemed more efficient than remembering all my favorite bloggers and taking the time to type in their web addresses, only to be occasionally disappointed when there isn’t an updated post.

So I clicked through my favorite bloggers to see if I could add an RSS feed to my Google Reader.

More clicks and a password, I logged onto my Google Reader and immediately saw any updates from my favorite bloggers. I shouldn’t be so giddy about this, but it’s better than k-cup instant coffee. Really, it is!

But here’s an RSS “fail”: sometimes I want more that just the newest post. I can’t see the photos of my favorite blogger’s kids, pets and, in the case of Dooce, a recent office renovation through RSS.

As the clock ticks down and Harrison begins to stir, I click on a few more links. This is how I socialize these days, in 90 minutes, with the tips of my fingers clicking my keyboard seeking out tid-bits of life on the outside of mine.

When the baby wakes up, we’ll be off to the park. I’ll be chasing him up a ladder, no time to make friends with the moms watching over their children playing quietly in the sand.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just Perfect

(My MIL with Harrison, five days old. Her outfit is still perfectly pressed
after the 5:30am departure from the Kentucky airport,
followed by a connection in Charlottesville and a 2pm Boston arrival.
Her look is complete with lipstick and dangly earrings.)

In three days, my in-laws will descend upon us. “Us” being my husband, our son and me in a three-bedroom apartment - if you really want to call that guest room a bedroom. It doesn’t have heat in the winter and, under the bed, there used to be a collection of vintage porn magazines left over from my much-older male cousin who lived here before us. Now, there are just dust bunnies under the bed and the horrifying memory of my cousin combing his hair to look like John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever.

I should be sweeping up the rogue hairs on the bathroom floor. Or cleaning out our refrigerator’s vegetable drawer, which currently houses something that may have been an eggplant, but now resembles a sixth-grade biology experiment. I definitely should be wiping splatters of dinners past off the wall (thank you, my dear, sweet baby boy).

But instead, I’m sitting on the floor in our living room, squishing crumbs into our formerly nice Pottery Barn rug. I say formerly, referring to that time before we had our son, who is now 18-months old.

Formerly, I would have been buzzing about the apartment, trying to prepare for my mother-in-law, who – according to my husband – is as close to perfect as perfect could be. I am not perfect, but when she comes, I try. (Do all daughter-in-laws feel this way?)

Emma is – in a word – lovely. Born in southern Illinois, transplanted to eastern Kentucky as a newlywed in the early 1970s (about the same time as that classic porn appeared in our guest room), she embodies my vision of the classic southern housewife. She sits front and center for Sunday Mass, delivers elderly women from the local nursing home to a salon for their weekly wash-and-dry, and hosts last-minute dinner parties by whipping up a beef Wellington with garlic scented mashed potatoes and an array of colorful vegetables. She rotates the photos in her house depending on who is visiting, to make her guests feel special. Emma always has a batch of chocolate-chip-pecan cookies ready when you walk in the door. Each morning, she wakes up looking just as she did before going to sleep: haired combed, lipstick applied, face glowing.

This time, when she visits, the usual spinach quiche à la Julia Child won’t be waiting on the stovetop. The scent of just-baked banana bread will not be wafting through the apartment. I definitely won’t have time to clean the city-dust from our windows or beg our neighbors to pick up their lawn trash. Or plan wonderful, enlightening cultural and shopping trips into Boston.

But the guest-room sheets are clean. There are flowers on the freshly dusted antique cedar bureau she gave my husband when he was 22. The milk stains will be wiped clean from our hardwood floors. Crumbs will be vacuumed.

I’m not reveling in my new role as a stay-at-home mother. I’m resenting what my mother-in-law considers as my new job’s requirements. I don’t want to sweep, wipe and bake. With a bachelor’s degree and years of practice, I had mastered my old responsibilities of presenting to executives, writing reports and answering questions about the financial industry.

Motherhood is proving to be more complex than I anticipated. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance my old identity of engaged corporate citizen with a gym membership, dry-cleaned clothes and a small handbag with my new one of barf-stained sweatshirts, a loaded diaper bag and a babbling baby. Nevermind living up to my mother-in-law’s precedent.

So now, I’m sitting. Because on Monday, when my in-laws’ plane touches the ground at Logan Airport, I won’t be able to sit. A perfect daughter-in-law doesn't sit.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Get a blog!

(Reading with Harrison, January 2010)

Most nights, my husband and I settle into our evening ritual. After our 18-month old baby has gone to sleep and the dinner dishes are drying, he takes command of our only remote and flips through the channels. I curl up on the couch opposite his chair and reach out into the blogosphere.

While Aaron is certainly an amazing husband and father, who listens carefully as I detail the giggles, meltdowns and massive poops that dominate my day with our son, it is to these bloggers I turn for amusement, camaraderie and information.

Since leaving my full-time job to be a full-time mother, my real world has become increasingly small. I used to read blogs as a brief escape from my desk job, but I had plenty of personal interaction with co-workers and friends. Now, as I’ve tailor my days to accommodate naps, meals and playtimes, blogs increasingly have become my lifeline to the outside world. I’ve realized babies aren’t really conducive to a healthy dose of daily adult interaction.

Stating this makes me a touch sad…. Before the Internet and blogs, people were more likely to talk to each other – at the supermarket, at the park, at the library. I remember my own mother being social in the checkout line at market. I met my first group of girlfriends when I was three years old because our respective mothers became friends at the library playgroup. Now, I watch as many mothers furiously tap on their handhelds, while pushing a stroller or oftentimes ignoring a screaming child, never mind interacting with me. I’m just as much at fault here. Eye contact can be much harder than enduring BlackBerry thumb.

So while blogs are being blamed for the demise of traditional journalism (i.e., newspapers, network news, cable news networks, etc.), it’s the demise of human interaction that is more unsettling to me. Instead of discussing in person, picking up the phone or, God forbid, writing a letter, more and more people are blogging about their experiences and throwing them out into the world for anyone to read – doesn’t matter if those readers know the author or not.

At the same time, I’ve turned to blogs to bridge a void in my life. As a new mother, I felt every emotion imaginable, including ones I didn’t want to say aloud. I searched on line and found countless mothers – bloggers – who were feeling what I was. I discovered mothers who also cried every day despite their perfectly healthy, much-wanted and adored babies. I read about women who felt like their identities had been stripped away when they gave birth. I read blogs about mothers questioning their decisions to stay at home full-time with their children and how they transitioned to this new role.

Any of these issues I could have broached with the real women in my life. But I was scared. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t even verbalize some of the feelings I was having. But those blogs helped me get through those early months of being a new mother. Even though I had never met any of the bloggers I followed – never even posted a comment (gasp!) – they felt like they had become “friends” to me.

The writing isn’t always the best at these blogs. And as a former editor, the grammatical and punctuation errors that abound make that crease between my eyes grow ever deeper. But I’m not seeking perfection – and I would venture to guess that their other blog followers aren’t looking for Pulitzer-prize winning writing either. What we’re searching for is a voice that is similar to our own – a voice that speaks to us like a friend would.

And sometimes, after a day of chasing Cheerios and reading “Goodnight Moon” yet again, it’s comforting to read a post by someone who knows exactly what you’re feeling.