Everything changes, but what is important never does.
That is the biggest lesson I’ve learned from parenting, and I think if I work hard enough, I can apply it to blogging as well.
When I was a high school English teacher, back before I became a mom, I was constantly busy reading papers, or thinking about what to teach, or worrying about my students and their difficult lives. “How does anyone have the time to blog?” I thought, incredulous that anyone could indulge in something that wasn’t actually, well, productive.
That was before Facebook and Twitter, and before I became a parent. Today, I still wonder how anyone has time to blog, and do it well, that is. And I’m sure my husband doesn’t consider anything I do online productive if doesn’t translate into something that can go toward our grocery bill. But I do it nevertheless.
I started out like so many other people: using the technology that was available to me to keep far-away family and friends updated on my son’s life. Born in 2006, back when you had to actually email people information or a link instead of just post it for the whole world to see, my son’s first smiles and my first mommy musings went onto an Angelfire page. Somewhere most of those posts are printed out, and my kind brother copied all the pages onto some kind of hard drive, or whatever we used back in the day.
But I soon formed a writer’s group with other moms and began working on personal essays and even a piece of fiction. Before too long, I felt the need to share things immediately, seeing as the long sprawling essays were not instantaneously becoming polished gems to be snapped up by literary publications. Many of them still probably need to cure a few more years before I have the insight to send them off. And yet, I felt a need to have things exist in the world, not just in a journal and not in a draft to get dusty, but for people to potentially read.
Nevermind that I was clueless about the blogosphere, and still am in many ways. What I knew was that I needed to make myself vulnerable. I needed to be held accountable in some way. I needed to say all the things I never got to say in playgroups because no one could ever finish a sentence.
So I did, even without reading much of other people’s work. Once I did poke around and got a sense of what was out there, I felt instantly important and also worthless. Part of a movement and a nobody, too. I wanted to get known but didn’t want to — or felt I couldn’t as I dealt with health issues — get totally sucked into an alternate universe.
People say moderation is important in all things, but it doesn’t really pay off as a blogger. The people who do well are out there. All. The. Time.
Me? I’m out there, but the interactions have a ratio much closer to 1:1. I email someone back. I post something and one friend writes (in an email, not a comment) to thank me, or to ask me how I liked something, or to inquire if things have improved after a rough patch, or to cheer me on when I shared something happy.
I’m there in person in my community, sharing information about events and resources, trying to connect people, taking too long to reply to emails and getting thanked when I do.
I’ve been going on faith that everything will happen when it needs to. Each little opportunity I’ve taken, even if I did it grudgingly and at the expense of sleep and my overall health, has led to something interesting in some way. Each road I’ve not taken — posts I never finished writing or events I didn’t attend — has just been one of many roads. How could anyone possibly travel all of them? Where could you end up?
I think of a story I read in the Washington Post about a man who took the Metro to every stop. I forget what he did each time, but I know sometimes he then ran home. It’s an interesting prospect, and one way to see the area. But you still live in just one place, and you still have to get there, no matter how it is you go back and forth and how far you go out of your way.
So I live in a place of relative comfort with my blog-that-needs-an-overhaul. It will get where it needs to go when that place becomes clear, not just because I stick my finger randomly on a map. I made the choice about my new project — one that I do hope will eventually bring regular visitors and even some income — to start it quietly and on my own, with what I know and the tools I have at my disposal. I am trusting that the fancier tools will appear at the time that is right for them. And for me.
It’s impossible to ever be satisfied with anything because it can always be better or different. That is part of the curse of living the DC area with so many choices and in 2013 with so many ways to share and dissect and broadcast and question your choices.
It’s impossible to ever be satisfied with yourself as a parent. There is always more you could be doing to give your child opportunities or less you could be doing to help her develop a sense of inner peace. There are at least 20 good responses to any given comment your child makes and approximately 532 bad ones, and maybe some that are both depending on how you say them. And what you say to a child today might have no relevance two months later.
It’s impossible to know.
Today, I took a page from Birth Story director Sara Lamm‘s playbook and got our favorite sitter to take the kids out directly after school so that I could work for a longer stretch without interruption. Now, I didn’t really sit down at the computer until 11 a.m., after cleaning and eating and going to the grocery store and to an appointment. Laundry continues, and I spent 20 minutes making them snack and nearly another 20 coordinating with my husband about whether he’d meet up with them to see my son’s Lego creation before the exhibit leaves the library and if he’d get dinner and emailing the sitter addresses of some fun parks and of the library. But it is 4:31, and the quiet at this time of day is near deafening.
After I finally posted my interview of Sara Lamm — a full four months after we spoke — and before I unloaded the dishwasher, I read part of Tracy Grant’s piece in the Washington Post, a piece that essentially says there is never any “magic” period of parenting when everything is smooth and easy. The headline in print reads: ” The best stage of parenthood? The current one.” Online, it’s “Parents can miss the point of childhood.”
Even as I’m grateful that my daughter got a spot in the preschool at her son’s school so that we could have a streamlined life, I still ache for a chance to do it all over, to be healthier and more centered, to be established rather than grasping, to enjoy the bliss of babyhood in a way I didn’t with her because of my health and a renovation and move, and to parent in a wiser way than I did with her older brother when I just didn’t know as much.
I do think it’s important to have faith in the future, that our small endeavors will lead to their own rewards and that nothing is a waste. Nothing wasted in blogging a blog that isn’t seen by but three people today, nothing wasted in watching a child go up and down a slide at the park, even if your phone’s camera is so full you can’t take any pictures to prove to the world you’ve created something beautiful.
The beauty is inside, in what we choose to believe is beautiful. It’s impossible to be satisfied only if you believe it is impossible. We are what we believe.
I will admit to being at first jealous of but then infected by the optimism in the voice of Kelley Sanabria and Nicole Dash when I spoke to them for a piece at TheDCMoms.com about their vision for the October 26 Femworking Blogger and Small Business Conference. They really do believe that you can be who you really are and be healthy and sane. And be a mom. They seriously believe that women can do amazing things if they support one another. If their conference has any fraction of their energy, it will be amazing.
Rather than write this at the expense of sleep or housework or my health, I decided to ask for help. Help that translated into something that feels like 3 more hours in the day. The babysitter hours cost money and might cost me later with clinginess at bedtime, and it’s not always possible to get what you want, but you rarely do if you don’t ask.
As parents, we are trained to try to figure out what everyone else needs before they can talk and long after, before they understand what those needs are. It would behoove us to do the same with ourselves.
Those needs may change, in our children and in ourselves, but what doesn’t is the fact that we do have needs, and we are all better off when those needs get met.
I do want to make a difference in people’s lives, and I will, even if it’s not by the thousands or hundreds or even tens at a time. I have to believe that I will.