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Monday, August 27th, 2012
I was an ugly baby. At least that’s what my Dad always told me. My mom would say, “Sam, that’s just not true.” But he’d say, “Yes it is. She was red faced and fussy.” This conversation would go on in front of me. But guess what? It was true. At least compared to my brother Kelly who had perfectly rosy cheeks, soft skin, and a sweet temperament.
Fast forward, oh, 40 years, and my slacker brother has a mullet and I’m on TV. So there. Who went from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan? (And yes Kelly, the mullet needs to go. As do the side stripes. The whole look is obnoxious. Snap.)
Hmmmm, which mullet is real? Oh, right, my loser brother’s one in the middle.
My Dad was never trying to be mean. He was illustrating the ugly duckling analogy.
Thing is, I didn’t grow up in the internet age, so this was just a joke within my family. Which brings me to the point of this blog. What the f–k is up with the mean comments about Tia Mowry’s baby? The gist of it is she posted pictures of her baby, Cree, online. A bunch of people started writing in about how ugly he was. Shame on all those idiots. And yes, they are complete a-holes.
But isn’t this the conundrum of the internet age? We have amazing information at our fingertips? We get jobs online? We are able to hold Big Business and Government accountable? But we also take the power bestowed on us to hide behind our keyboards and cut others down. We get to feel important and feed our egos and that primal need “to matter”–all at the cost of cruelty. How sad. Pathetic actually.
At what consequence is this all worth it?
I’ve written before about how we need to check out of our personal technology hell.Our addiction. We are becoming a culture of zombies who scrunch over our phones all day. We ignore our children. We ignore our friends. White and gray matter is shrinking in our brains. But it goes beyond that. A lot of the internet isn’t making us better people. It is making us worse. The Tia story is just one small example of that.
When my editor, Sherry Huang, approached me with this story, she wrote:
What if you’re a cute baby but turn out to be an “ugly” adult? Or what if the “ugly” baby grows up to be a person with a beautiful soul? And what does all this say about us judging people – even innocent babies – by their looks? Babies can’t defend themselves. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – the baby is obviously not “ugly” to his parents. Just the sheer joy of bringing one into the world should be enough.
Now I will say, I got a chuckle out of remembering a conversation my mom and I had before she died. We were wondering, if someone has an ugly baby, do they know it? Or is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? And when you meet someone who has an ugly baby do you say, “He’s so cute?” Or do you just stick to, “Congratulations.” Or, “Cute outfit”. Because let’s admit it: there are some funny looking babies out there.
But that is beside the point. I think we all need to examine what our role on the internet is. What voice do we want to put out there? What are our motivations behind it? Greed, Envy, Ego? Kindness, Compassion, Strength? Because this feeding frenzy of negativity is disturbing and disheartening.
Okay, off my soapbox and back to my brother. He is a climber. Not talking social or career. He’s a real, hard-core Alpinist. Goes around the world climbing mountains of rock and ice. He tests gear for Patagonia and blogs for them. He also has a book deal. But for whatever reason, he chooses to look like a deadbeat. Why? I’ll never know. And it doesn’t matter anyway.
He’s the old guy, second from right, creeping out the young kids in the hot tub. Note the side stripes.
P.S. For the record, I got his permission to say all this. And post his pictures. Plus, I’m not doing this anonymously.
Hot tub picture courtesy of NYT Magazine.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations | Tags: blackberry, brain damage, comments, cree, facebook depression, internet, iphone, mean comments, technology addiction, tia mowry, ugly babies, ugly baby
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
When Fia was born, the internet saved me. Now, it’s killing me. Lately I have been writing about how I decided to unplug and what I discovered in unplugging. In short, my mind isn’t constantly racing and I feel more in-the-moment with my babies.
It was a different story with Fia. The web was my connection to the world. I would spend hours giving and getting advice from moms. I’d scour blogs and read everything from sleep training to reflux. I’d write about my own mental health. I’ve often said it wasn’t my husband or my therapist who pulled me through those early months. It was other moms. Many of whom I never met in person.
So it’s no surprise a recent study says that new moms who are in the blogosphere feel more connected, less alone, less stressed, even less depressed.
“That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, Penn State.
He and his colleagues at Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers who had babies under 18 months. They asked about their use of media, both in terms of blogging and social media like Facebook. The social media aspect didn’t have much impact. But writing and reading blogs did. I think therein lies the difference.
When you are texting and checking your phone all day for emails, your mind spins. You feel less-connected to just about everything. It becomes an addiction. When you’re blogging or reading blogs you feel more a part of something. I’m not tooting my own horn here. For me, the phone is my addiction, the blog is my salvation.
I think the author of the study explained it well. He pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog:
- It gives moms a way to connect with family and friends who live far away.
- It gives moms a creative outlet. They can showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, especially the stay-at-home moms.
Both of these make sense to me. We moms often struggle with feeling under-appreciated. I know my blog gives me a sense of self that I may have lost otherwise.
In the study, the moms reported spending about three hours per day on the computer and using the Internet. That was only behind sleep at seven hours a day and caring for their babies at nine hours a day.
I think about the generations of moms before us. On the one hand, their lives seemed simpler. They weren’t checking iphones and texting all the time. What did they do with those extra three hours? I often wonder if they were more focused and present? Or if they were more stressed and depressed? We know by Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique
that many were questioning their purpose in life. Housewives were admitting their unhappiness and realizing motherhood wasn’t always enough. It still isn’t for many of us. In that regard, I think we are lucky to have all the technology at our fingertips. We can connect and feel connected. For many stay at home moms, blogging has even turned into a career.
How you manage it is the key.
There’s a fine line between fulfilling your life and dominating your life; between oversharenting
and not sharing enough. Should you be writing about your kids or spending time with them? I guess it comes down to finding your own personal balance. I know I’ve been working hard to find mine.
As for why social media like Facebook
did little for the moms? Here’s what I think: Social media, for all its good, is a time-suck
. I know it doesn’t leave me feeling content. Blogging, on the other hand, is writing. When I get to sit down and use my creative energy to put something organic out there, I feel purposeful and accomplished. Plus, if it helps others, I actually feel useful. Writing inspires me. It keeps my brain functioning in a way that diapers and breast pumps don’t.
But how do you embrace social media, disconnect from the internet/Blackberry, blog about motherhood, and not feel hypocritical?
I have said before that I’m going for quality over quantity. Set limits for your online time/your kid time/your wife time and stick to them. Put the phone away after a certain time of day. It takes discipline, but I think in this day and age, it’s the only way we can straddle all our worlds without losing sight of the most important one: our kids.
Image: Blog Pic via Shutterstock
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: addiction, blackberry, blog, blogging, blogs, emailing, facebook, ipad, iphone, myspace, oversharent, oversharenting, social media, technology, texting, twitter, unplug, unplugged
Monday, June 25th, 2012
“Hello. My name is Jill and I am a Blackberry addict.”
Actually, I don’t think I’m as bad as some (we love to justify our bad behavior, don’t we?), but I did decide last week to unplug for a bit. I wrote about my plan (Is My Tech Addiction Making Me a Bad Mom?) and today is the follow-up.
In putting the brakes on my computer and blackberry, here’s what didn’t happen:
- The world didn’t fall apart.
- I didn’t lose out on any jobs.
- I didn’t lose any friends.
- I didn’t miss any important calls.
- I didn’t miss any deadlines.
- I didn’t have crazy mood swings (because I wasn’t checking email and text constantly).
Here’s what did happen:
- I felt focused and present with my babies.
- I felt focused and present with my husband.
- I felt focused and present with my writing.
- I felt focused and present with my life.
- In short: I felt happier. Because I was.
I can see how the addiction creeps up though. I found that after the first couple days of being really disciplined, I’d start to regress. I’d go into the mindset of: “I’ll just check my phone really quick. Just this one time.” It is such a habit I had to be incredibly self-aware and disciplined. I knew that if I just “started to check a few times here and there,” I would be back into full-blown crazy. It’s like a recovering alcoholic just having a “few sips.” It doesn’t work.
After my post I got some great comments from all of you. And not one of you disagreed with how plugged in we are. Universally, everyone had the same take: ie: Guilty of “checking in” with the phone and “checking out” with the kids. One mom said she almost missed her toddler’s first steps. Another says she is thinking of having a “phone basket” by the front door. It’s a place to put their phones when she and her husband come home from work.
My friend Teresa (who got me on this kick) told me to take this a step further. She brought up some excellent points. Not only are we getting scattered and blue checking our phones, but are we also:
1. Modeling behavior for kids who will think interacting involves constant detaching. Are these the kids who will sit at the table with an iPad all the time? Is that okay? In moderation, probably. All the time? No way. (Read fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott’s recent blog about Smartphones becoming the new pacifier.)
2. Sending a message to our kids that other things are more important.
Granted, sometimes other things are more important, but maybe we shouldn’t constantly be at the beck and call of the world.
Unless you live in a cave, you all know what I’m getting at. And it’s not pretty. Agreed?
I’m continuing on my journey of unplugging in chunks and then doing a total blackout at night (not with the bottle. Then I’ll need another 12-step program!). Every afternoon I put my phone away starting at 3:30 pm. When Fia is asleep and Emmett is resting, I do one check around 7:30 or 8 for a maximum of ten minutes. Then that’s it until 9 a.m. the next day.
I won’t check my phone right before going to bed either. It can quickly get my mind racing. Not exactly conducive to falling asleep. These issues have been thoroughly documented. There’s even a book out now: Sleeping With Your Smart Phone. It’s all about how to break the 24/7 habit. An article in Time Magazine calls us a nation of “addicts” when it comes to our phones. It’s gross, isn’t it?
Did any of you come to different conclusions? Are you continuing on the path to unplug? Maybe we should start a movement called, “Unplugged: The Path to Present.” Thoughts?
Blackberry Picture via Shutterstock.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Must Read | Tags: addiction, alcoholic, alcoholism, blackberry, computer, email, focused, ipad, iphone, milestone monday, oversharent, oversharenting, phone, present, sleep, technology, text, The Path To Present, unplug, unplugged
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Today I am partially unplugging for the week. My goal? To become more mindful and present. Here’s why:
My friend Teresa came over yesterday. She is pregnant and a vegetarian. I was ordering pizza. I needed a crucial answer. I texted her: can u pick the meat off or do I get veggie pizza? What kind of veggies?
She didn’t text back. I got a little indignant. I went ahead and ordered (one plain, one pepperoni). When she arrived I asked if she had seen my text. She said something that I’ve been floating through my increasingly scattered brain for a few days.
“I try and only check my phone every 2 hours. Especially when I’m with my son. It makes me feel like I’m not a good mom when I start responding and not focusing on him. I find that the more I check my phone, the more depressed I am at the end of the day because my mood is constantly shifting based on what comes in.”
What she said = gold in my book. And my brain. I kid you not: last week I had a headache for 3 days. I could tell it was from tension. Nothing made it go away. I honestly think it’s because I’m so scattered with a lack of schedule (read: Frustrated. Need to Vent) and feel pulled in a million directions that no amount of aspirin or Motrin will help. What will help is changing my behavior. Drastically.
Granted I wrote last week about the beauty of social media. How I’m now a believer in it. But, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put limits on all this stuff.
On any given day, here is how my crazy goes:
Fia and I are playing. I check my phone. She frolics, I text or email someone back. Then I run into the kitchen. Open freezer. Remember someone else I was going to email about something. Write them. Freezer is still open. I pull out chicken to thaw. Fia shouts, “Mama, what are you doing?” I open a cabinet. ”I’m coming baby.” I pull out a glass and fill it with water. I check the phone. Oops–respond to an email. Cabinet still open. I almost walk into it (two years ago I did and broke my nose. No sh-t). Glance out window. She isn’t maimed. I shoot a quick text to another friend. Reply to the email. Fia asks for me again. I walk outside with my phone. Oops. Forgot water. Back inside. And on and on.
No wonder I don’t feel “present.” No wonder I have self doubt about my mom abilities. Or frankly any of my abilities. It’s a CONSTANT yo-yo of emotions. Even as creatures of adaptation, our brains aren’t made for that.
My mom in her crass wisdom used the quote, “If you have one foot in tomorrow and one foot in yesterday, then you’re pissing on today.” I’m going to say that when I have one foot on my computer and one foot on my kids, I’m pissing on the present. I can’t straddle the worlds anymore. It’s a lose-lose situation, and one that apparently has consequences. A recent article in the New York Times says there is a thing called Facebook Depression. And that constant texting and emailing can cause mental illness. These include OCD behavior (me) and narcissism (probably me).
As my friend Teresa said, “Bottom line: this sh-t isn’t good for us.”
I find in moments when I am down on my knees, sans blackberry, playing with Fia, helping her poop, whatever, there is never stillness. Instead of absorbing everything about her and our moments (yes, even if it’s in a disgusting public bathroom), my mind spins. Crazy sentences begin. I literally have conversations with people, thinking about what I will text or email them–which then turns into an entirely different conversation that can range from my purpose in life to my next grocery trip. I am so tired of hearing myself.
TIME. TO. STOP. THE. F–KING. CHATTER.
Here’s what I’m doing: I am going to overhaul my life and really examine how I can schedule my week in a more seamless and sane fashion. Following Teresa’s lead, I will allot myself time to check my phone and time to put it away. I will schedule chunks of time for my kids without the phone even in reach. I think this will reduce my mom guilt too. I’m going for quality over quantity.
Like I said, I’m giving this a week. Anyone else want to join me in this venture? I’ll report back on June 25th. If you want to do this too, post comments on this blog and I can share them in the follow-up post. And not to worry; I’ll read your comments during my allotted “work time.”
Lastly, if anyone has any suggestions on how to manage time and technology better, please share!
Categories: Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips | Tags: blackberry, depression, facebook, facebook depression, ibook, ipad, iphone, mental illness, milestone monday, narcissism, neurosis, neurotic, OCD, oversharenting, social media, tech, technology, twitter