10 August 2009

Belkin, Mommyblogging and Balance

So, Lisa Belkin commented on my BlogHer recap:

"not nearly as annoying as I thought it was going to be.." Thanks. I think, : )

I've been mulling this over, that is, why I was anticipating that that particular panel would be annoying.

In every given time slot during the BlogHer conference day, there are multiple things going on, different "tracks" they call them. If you're lucky, you want to go to one and only one. If you're less lucky, you have to make a choice. The worst scenario is when you want to go to one panel, and end up next door because the first one was too crowded.

The Belkin panel was at the same time as the "Brands and Bloggers" panel. I kind of wanted to go to that one because it was going to be run by Jory Des Jardins, and the panelists included Liz Gumbinner (of Mom-101 and Cool Mom Picks) and other women on "both sides of the Brand/Blogger border". It sounded potentially interesting and provocative, and while I'm really not a review blogger, I follow the discussions about commercialism and transparency with some curiousity.

But it was full! Standing room only, not a seat in the room. So I went next door to the panel titled "MommyBlogging: 'Balance' is a Big, Fat, Lying, McLiar LIE for Moms who Blog (and the rest of us too)", the panel that Lisa Belkin was moderating.

Belkin has written for my local paper, the New York Times, for years. Not so long ago, she started writing a parenting blog on the Times website - in addition to continuing to appear in print. Her blog, to my mind, tends to be intentionally polarizing. She seems to pick topics that are going to engender a big pile-on of comments on both sides of an issue - breastfeeding, IVF, drinking, potty-training, college tuition - and frequently ends posts with a question to prompt comments. I dip into her blog from time to time, but it's not on my daily reads. In any case, it wasn't Belkin that I found potentially annoying; it was the combination of "mommyblogging" and "balance".

First, I'm not a mommyblogger. Yes, I have a child who calls me Mama. I also have a sister, but having a sister doesn't make me a sisterblogger. Nor does having a husband make me a wifeblogger.

I don't even particularly identify as a "mom". I'm someone's mother, but I'm also someone's wife, someone's sister, aunt, cousin, child, niece, in-law and step-sister. I'm also someone's employee, boss to several people, and friend hither and yon.

In short, I'm me. I am a blogger - I write about what moves me, I write about what interests me, I write about things that irritate me no end. In short, I write about whatever the hell I feel like writing about, which does include my kid from time to time.

Second, "balance" is overrated. Either you're coping or you're not coping. I get up, go to work, come home. My house is messy, our meals are unplanned, the kid needs her fingernails cut. But she's fed and shod, the bills get paid, important things don't (usually) fall by the wayside. We just deal and accept a degree of chaos. It seems to me that complaining about balance is an instance of whining for the sake of whining.

With that said, heading into a panel about "balance" under the "mommyblogging" label was like expecting that all of my buttons were going to be pushed. And happily, they weren't. Belkin was an engaging moderator, the panelists (Angela Tseng, Pauline Karwowski and Rita Arens) were spirited and articulate, and the audience piped up too.

So, I wasn't annoyed, but I don't think I learned anything.

How about you? Do you struggle with "balance", or do you just put your head down and get things done? And what does "balance" mean, anyway?


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I would expect that a panel on balance intended for parents would be for new parents, and it would involve one person saying, "Lower your expectations of what you can do in a day. Parenthood takes more time and energy than you think." And then everyone else would say OMG that's so true!

Ergo a panel on mommyblogging and balance would convey that blogging for money requires a big time commitment.

Am I right?

As for myself, "balance" is the state in which I am not stressed more than I can stand. I usually get there by canceling activities with friends so that I can have some time alone. For me time alone is more rejuvenating than time with friends. I guess that's the definition of an introvert, eh?

KC said...

I'm with you. I just do it.

Aunt Becky said...

As with anything else that can be analyzed, I find that, like you, I just put my head down and freaking DO it. I'm not perfect, I'm not going to BE perfect, so why bother trying?

I don't give a lot of thought to the concept of balance. Either I can manage something or I cannot. There's no middle ground there.

Good question, you sister blogger, you.

hayley said...

Funny because i attended a writer's conference last year and went to a similar panel on balance and writing. Dani Shapiro was supposed to be there, but surprise, her kid got sick and she didn't show. Balance, in my experience, is paying someone to watch your kids!

InTheFastLane said...

For me, balance is making sure that i don't get so sucked into my social media addictions that I neglect things that I should be doing. But, my shoulds, are specific for me.

Now, the mommyblogging thing. I am sure i am one, because I have a picture of my kid. But, I am so much more than a mommy. and how did mommyblogging become a bad word anyway? And, I never get paid for writing, so it is what it is and does it need to be in a box with a label?

Briar said...

"First, I'm not a mommyblogger. Yes, I have a child who calls me Mama. I also have a sister, but having a sister doesn't make me a sisterblogger. Nor does having a husband make me a wifeblogger."

This is brilliant.

Meh on balance. I can tell when I haven't taken time for myself because I get crankier than usual. Other than that... we just do what we can.

Anonymous said...

I liked what one of the panelists said in the link - likening balance in life to a balance beam, not a scale. We can't measure the importance or value of things in our lives against each other any more than we can measure ourselves against other people. As you say, you're either coping or you're not. Most of the time, in my experience, my lack of coping has less to do with what's on my plate than with my hormones or the fact that my head is stuck up my ass.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I just think of balance as making sure that you do at least a little of everything that's important--including time for yourself.

In my experience, when married moms can't find "balance," they have a spouse that's not holding up their end of the bargain--in which case taking a close look at your life might be helpful.

ozma said...

The balance question is the hardest of my life. I have come up against the dark truth that if you are trying to accomplish something that men can only accomplish with stay at home wives and you are not a man with a stay at home wife then you will have to find someone to take care of your child and you will also have to spend a significant amount of time apart from your child.

And I know this. Because my mother did it. Whatever the woman said at the panel needs to be said overandoverandoverandover again because somehow there just IS this idea that if you were amazing enough you would write a book or whatever in a short time and then poof magically also bake cupcakes from scratch or whatever claptrap women are being fed to try to prevent them from being resentful of the fact that it is virtually impossible to get ahead and be with your child as much as probably every mother would want. (Also, there's a REASON that single moms don't get ahead--and that's it.)

OK, that's my thing. But basically, balance is BS when it means certain things.

I love what you say about being a mommyblogger and this is not a crack on self-declared mommybloggers. But just...yeah! This is what your makes your blog stand out, for me.

Anonymous said...

i love that you ended this with a question, just like belkin

mayberry said...

I get things done and I hate the excuse "no time." I don't think I struggle with balance. I struggle with having to give up stuff I don't want to give up, with not being able to live about ten different lives.

Florinda said...

I didn't get to that panel, but I did meet Lisa Belkin. Her room at the hotel was just down the hall from ours.

I love how you characterize yourself as a blogger, period - nothing further needed. Sometimes I'm one of those too, but sometimes not.

My take on "balance" is basically that you CAN have it all, but not all at once or all at the same time. Life is choices, and the choices today might not be the choices next week. As you say, either you're coping or you're not. And if the important needs are NOT being met, you probably don't have the luxury of fretting over "balance" anyway.

mayberry said...

PS I have had a soft spot for Belkin ever since I painstakingly retyped a chapter of one of her books once. It was published as an excerpt in the magazine where I worked. (And since I say "retyped," you know this was a loooong time ago.)

alejna said...

Balance. Hmm. I haven't really given it much thought. I guess balance hasn't been one of my goals. Like you, I've come to accept a certain amount of chaos. It's the only way I can get anything done at all. (Of course, I've run into the problem where too much chaos prevents me from getting as much done as I would like. Like now.)

As for mommyblogging, it's a term that I've had issues with myself. It really bugs me that if you are a woman with a personal blog, and you have kids, you are labelled a mommyblogger. I think part of why this bugs me is that I started my blog as an outlet for my thoughts beyond the "mommy" identity.

Lady M said...

Balance? Yeah, whatever. Too busy doing stuff to figure out what 'balance' means. :)

Angela said...

Thanks for you kind words about the panel. I hate the whole "mommyblogging" title and I unwittingly managed to pigeon hole myself by putting the word "mommy" in my blog title four years ago. I don't think the panel was meant for advice but more for validation and I think the room came away with that feeling.

Like I said, I only find balance through lack of sleep, as witnessed as my commenting on blogs at this hour!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh, I like what Mayberry said. I actually feel that way about a lot of things, not just the daily work at work/work at home thing.

For example there are just too many fantastic hikes in Central Oregon. I am going to have to quit my job so that I can hike them all. (If I wait to hike them when I'm retired, will I still be able to hike?)

abby said...

a friend of mine continually refers to me as a supermom which I take issue with, because like you, I just do what I need to do. balance is not losing your head, asking for help when you need it, and recognizing we can't have it all, but we can get damn close.

funny that I'm reading this during a study break at a bar, the only place to escape my never-wanting-to-sleep children. balance is studying with a beer. balance is blogging 30 minutes a day. balance is loving your life enough to know when it's enough and not to add any more.

I think right now I'm struggling with balance a bit, but I don't have time to muse on it, so I just get things done. but I should probably check back in on this idea again.

painted maypole said...

oy. i dunno. what you said about yourself and your blogging and your home and how you just keep plugging along is very true for me. yet sometimes I think I give my time in front of the computer too much of me... that I need to do other things as well (both things I enjoy and things that "need" to get done)

heidi said...

"Just DO it." Yes, on good days. But then there are days like today, when the pile is too high, and the canyon is too deep, and I know that many of the things I have promised to do (for kids, clients, hubby, MYSELF) will just not get done. The remaining bits will plague me while I lie in bed after an exhausting day, and I will dream about doing them all night long, only to find out they STILL are not done when I awake. The advice is usually "Don't take on so much work... Tell your clients you need more time..." but there is a constant internal pressure to GET IT DONE SO IT WILL JUST GO AWAY.
That aside, there ARE days in my life that impart balance, unasked for. Like an unexpected happy trip to the harbor for an ice cream :-)

FreshHell said...

I think balance is knowing when to say "no" to things.

I don't really think about "balance" per se while living my life unless its unconsciously and saying "no". I just go about my business and do what needs to be done.

Actually, I read a lot less about this balance business now that I stopped getting Working Mother. It's those executive women with nannies and personal assistants who "drop out" to be SAHMs that are concerned about this. Not me. I don't have a choice about working. My kids go to daycare and public school. No choice there. I don't sweat it. I don't feel an iota of guilt. They are healthy, smart and happy and so am I. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Gwen said...

Without having the time nor the inclination to watch the panel, I probably shouldn't even comment. But when has ignorance ever stopped me before?

I define balance as understanding that you can have it all; you just can't have it all at once.

(And for the record, although I'm sure I've said this before, I hate the term "mommyblogger" mostly because I find the word mommy so inappropriately infantilizing. So there.)

Furrow said...

Although I have whiny days, I mainly assume that what I'm dealing with now is a product of where I am now. Sometime later I'll be somewhere else and I won't have the same demands on me. So I figure it will all balance out eventually. But maybe I'm just really lucky to have a very involved husband who cooks dinner every night.

The Library Lady said...

Cheers and amen for the "I'm not a mommyblogger" part, Maggie.

I think that the folks who really, desperately try to achieve "balance" are the ones who head for that looney bin De was blogging about today. A lot of what the "mommybloggers" agonize about is small, minor crap that really isn't going to matter to them or theirs in the long run.

You CAN'T balance. Something will always be lacking. And that's no matter who you are--single or married, parent or without children.

That's life. Imperfect and needing to be cherished for the good things you can find, if only you are looking for them!

And as you said, the rest is just coping..

1A said...

Yes! To what you said!

I was most annoyed that the panel was "sponsored" in such an odd way. I guess I don't know enough about her ... does Strawberry Shortcake deal with a lot of balance and blogging issues?

I enjoyed the panel and the women who were on it. Like you, though, I can't say I learned anything, but I don't think it was meant to be a "how to" panel.

frogpondsrock said...

I can stand on one foot with my eyes shut for about ten-fifteen seconds before I start to fall over. That is what I call balance lol..

I don't even call myself 'a blogger' I have a blog but it doesn't define me. It is just an extension of myself, another creative oultet.

cheers Kim

NotSoSage said...

You know, when I started school again this last year I told myself that I would be happy with all Bs - for balance - in my courses. And then my Type A personality kicked into high gear. I admire people who I see as having a balanced life, and I shoot for it, but I also recognise my limitations. I, like you, am a head-down, plow-through-it-til-you-get-a-breather kind of woman. Maybe that's a kind of balance in and of itself?

Woman in a Window said...

I think that balance means that you're not overwhelmed. I allow myself to get overwhelmed at times, with blogging. Or I did. I felt obligation instead of enjoying what I was doing. Not a good way to approach anything.

I'm kinda freaking out. You were there. We could have been standing side by side and not known it. Although, believe it or not, I only went to one panel. I am a social recluse. What was I thinking going to such an event? But even still, I'm glad I went.

Thank you for sharing at my place, Magpie. For the second part, how do you feel about it, and what, if anything, do you want to do about it? And I don't mean to incite you or berate you, but 1) I can't help myself 2) no matter what it is about ourselves that we have to "admit" to, I wonder what it is that we will do with these admissions.
my best

Cold Spaghetti said...

Yeah, I'd say you hit that one outta the park.

unmitigated me said...

Balance is overrated. And this?
"So, I wasn't annoyed, but I don't think I learned anything. " Totally sums up my BlogHer experience.