Saturday, October 28, 2006


Welcome to my sandbox: My Motherlode presentation

I'm tucking this into Blogger's capable hands the day before the Motherlode conference in Toronto. This is the presentation as I originally wrote it, but then I cut it down to just the key words and key points in my own speaking notes, so who knows how it will actually turn out. When I'm back from Toronto and have finished smothering my left-behind men with kisses, I'll post links to the rest of the presentations, too. And of course, through the next week you'll be subjected to a painfully detailed blow-by-blow analysis of the presentations in particular and the weekend in general.

But for now, here's what I intended to say:

  • Hello, and on behalf of my friends up here with me – welcome! My name is Dani, and I write a blog called Postcards from the Mothership. I’ve been blogging for almost two years, which almost qualifies me as old skool. I’m also the mom of two boys, ages two and a half and four and a half.
  • Before we get started, I’d like to ask how many of you have ever heard of a blog before today?And how many of you have read a blog?And how many of you have blogs of your own, or have ever kept a blog?
  • So the first thing I’d like to do is beg your indulgence while I take a minute to give you all a little “Blog 101” lesson. What is a blog? I recently found this definition on the Web site “Wired” and found it sums it up nicely. (slide with this quote on it) "Blog" itself is short for "weblog," which is short for "we blog because we weren't very popular in high school and we're trying to gain respect and admiration without actually having to be around people."
  • You laugh, but I find it almost embarrassingly true. Ahem, at least in my case.
  • A blog is, for our purposes here at least, is a little bit like an online journal, or a diary. It’s on the Internet, so it’s usually public. Individual blog entries are called posts, and the most recent one usually appears first, so when you read down a page you’re reading backwards in time.
  • Most blogs have a few features in common. First of all, there’s usually a comment feature. Most bloggers love to get comments, and the feedback you get on something you write can be very validating. Most blogs also feature a blogroll, which is a list of blogs that particular blogger likes or respects or visits often. And for the truly obsessive, you can install a hit counter that lets you know how many people are visiting your blog, and where they are coming from.
  • People who aren’t familiar with the idea of blogging always ask me what I write about, and my answer is always along the lines of “everything.” I write to tell the stories of my two young sons, of being pregnant with a third, and my thoughts and opinions on being a working Canadian mom in the early part of the 21st century.
  • Blogging to me is often like reading the best bits of the Saturday paper out loud at the breakfast table. It’s my way of saying, “Hey, did you see this? Did you hear about that? Isn’t it wonderful / outrageous / hilarious? What do you think?”
  • When I blog, I put my thoughts and experiences up on the Internet, and other people who are inclined to read them can do so – and then they can add their own thoughts via the comment box. Or maybe they get inspired, and write about a similar topic on their own blog. And so the community begets a conversation, and that conversation is public and just about anyone can join in.
  • So what does blogging have to do with mothering?
  • Let me tell you about why I think blogging is such a perfect medium for mothers.
  • A friend of mine who is an amazing scrap-booker once said she sees herself as the ‘family historian’, and I immediately loved this idea. In blogging, I’m able to chronicle the minutia that is the fabric of our lives at this point in time. It's a huge part of blogging for me, sharing in words and pictures and even video clips the little moments that might otherwise be lost... and I don't have to spend a fortune on fancy paper and funky scissors to do it! Marla will talk a little bit more about blogging as art, and the telling of stories.
  • That's on a very personal level. But blogging can be a very public act. Blogging, and especially mommy blogging, is about community, and about conversation. And those are two things that mothers, especially mothers of very young children, are often desperate for.
  • We don’t live in a society where mom or an older sister grandma or Auntie Agnes is right there in the house, on site to offer advice and guidance in the scary business of raising a child. We’re largely on our own, often quietly terrified and sure we’re the only ones who feel lost, afraid and alone. We’re desperate for some sort of support system, some kind of external validation, and someone to say, “oh yes, that happened to me, too. Here’s what I did. And we survived.”
  • As I said, I’m a working mom to two small boys. Often, the only time I see parents of kids my age is at the park after dinner. I’m on a ‘hey, howareya’ nodding acquaintance with a lot of them, but I can’t say I’ve ever swapped potty training tips with any of them, let alone admit to having a particularly hard time of it. Even when my nipples were cracked and bleeding and I thought I was going to die from the stress of breastfeeding my newborn, I couldn’t actually tell anyone that face-to-face. Someone would ask me how I was doing, and I would grit my teeth and say “fine” and suffer in silence.
  • There’s something about the Internet that makes it easy to bare your soul. When your friend asks, “how are you?” and you’re having a terrible day, it’s very difficult to unload your heavy heart on someone you’re meeting at the coffee shop, or over playgroup. Part of it is stoicism, and part of it is simply that it’s not socially acceptable to say you feel like death from the sleep deprivation and you’re afraid you’re going to hurt your baby if she doesn’t sleep more than two hours in a row. Mothering doesn’t lend itself to the long, far-reaching and soul-searching conversations I remember from the pubs in my less encumbered years.
  • I’m fundamentally shy. I’m not so great at making new friends. But the Internet facilitates that relationship-building by taking a lot of the pressure off. The online interface gives you courage, so you are braver about exposing yourself and your foibles and your deepest secrets than you might be sitting on a bench at the park. The face that you present through your blog is maybe a little bit more brave than the you at the park. You have a moment to organize your thoughts, so you can almost sound like a rational person, and on a really good day, even string a few deep thoughts together in a row.
  • As a blogger, you can choose to be completely anonymous and use pseudonyms for yourself and your kids, or you can do like my friend Ann here and use your name in the domain title, or you can choose some combination that you’re comfortable with.
  • Blogging is about connecting with other people, but in a way I never could while pushing our kids on the swings side-by-side at the park.
  • It lets you forge connections with like-minded souls whom you might not otherwise meet in other circumstances, given cultural or geographic or even temporal distances. Blogging crosses boundaries, both social and geographic.
  • So a blog is a kind of an online diary, crossed with a forum, which becomes a community. As a matter of fact, blogging is a natural evolution from the communities created by and for mothers on bulletin boards like babycentre and iVillage. For years now, web-savvy moms have been congregating online in these virtual communities to share information and advice when traditional media like the glossy parenting magazines have either failed them or alienated them or simply failed to address the reality of their lives.
  • Myself, I was a long-time junkie on a board called IVF Connections, because my first son was conceived through in vitro fertilization, and through that bulletin board I met a bunch of moms virtually who became in-real-life friends – and many of them have blogs of their own now, too.
  • So blogging is like a continuation of that virtual community, but it’s centred around a particular person, and as the blogger you can control the conversation and how the story is told. It lends itself to a much more in-depth examination of issues and experiences, with an archive of all the conversations that have gone on before.
  • Now, anybody who has ever tried to have a conversation with a preschooler in the room knows you never really get more than three words strung together in a row, let alone have a meaningful conversation.
  • Having kids in your life makes time an incredibly valuable commodity, and when you finally manage to string together fifteen minutes for yourself, it might just be at the crack of dawn when you’re up anyway, even though nobody else in the house is awake. You can’t call your best friend at that time – at least, I can’t! – but you can boot up the laptop and surf around the blogosphere for a while.
  • Blogging is a perfect medium for the multi-tasking mother with a short attention span. You can write up a post in 15 minutes, maybe even at three in the morning while the baby is nursing and you’re typing with one hand, or you can read a few blogs and leave a comment or two. But it’s on your time, and your terms.
  • That’s one of the first things I loved – one of the things I continue to love – about blogging: that it could be “all about me.” Keeping it has been an indulgence, something I make time for without apology. It’s my “me time”, and I value for that. A chance to connect with others, but also to exercise my mental muscles. A chance to keep up my writing chops, but also to have a discourse at a higher level than, “And how exactly did the spaghetti get inside your brother’s pillow case?”
  • There’s a lot of cynicism in the blogosphere about “mommy blogs”. Personally, I don’t get that. Blogs give women like me, women who are maybe shy or maybe geographically isolated or maybe stuck in the house or in an office, a lifeline that they might not otherwise have.
  • You’ll hear a little bit more now from my friends here on some issues that we’re facing in the “momosphere”. But if you only remember one thing about what I’ve said here today, remember that blogging can be a great source of comfort, and of information, for mothers.
    Bloggers, blogging mothers, are having conversations, forging connections, and building communities.
  • When we blog, and by that I mean the writing and the reading and the commenting on blogs – when we blog, we are not alone.

Edited to ever so briefly add: it was amazing. I do not have enough superlatives to tell you how perfect the last two days have been. Expect much gushing and boasting and heaping of affection on my co-panelists, the cool bloggers I finally met in person, the outstanding hospitality, the adorable toddlers, the surprise guests, the shopping.... AMAZING!!!!!!!

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