Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Newbie No More...A BlogHer '14 Recap

Two years ago I was a Newbie. A newbie to many things in my life; my family had just moved from LA to San Francisco, I had left my career in Construction Management to be a stay at home mom of my 2 year old son and I was newly pregnant with my second child. I was a newbie of all of these things as I took my first step into my first ever blog conference; BlogHer '12. The conference was held in New York City, and it was large. It was overwhelmingly large. And I felt overwhelmingly small in comparison to all that was going on around me. I remember sitting in sessions that I felt I SHOULD be going to, not sessions that I necessarily WANTED to be going to. Sessions about how to drive traffic to your site. Sessions about how to get brands to like you. I remember feeling like I needed to connect with every single word that was uttered during those sessions, but as I left each one feeling like I'd missed the point, I just felt more and more defeated.

When I left BlogHer '12 I didn't write for about 6 months. And I've yet to write regularly since then. Granted I am not blaming all of my lack of writing on my experience at BlogHer'12 - I did in fact have that 2nd child that I was pregnant with in 2012, I am still a stay at home mom (of two now!) so there isn't a lot of time, energy or mental capacity left for me at the end of the day. But I did feel very unworthy of the title "writer" when I left that conference and felt like I wasted my time (and money). I had expected to leave inspired and instead I felt disheartened.

When I learned that BlogHer '14 was going to be held in San Jose, California (my backyard essentially), and was soon after invited to attend with my dear friend Kim (the one good thing to come out of BlogHer '12); I was hesitant to say the least but figured I would give it another go and at the very least I would get a weekend away from my Stay At Home Mom life. Score!

In the weeks and days leading up to BlogHer '14 I could tell things were going to be different. Mainly because I was more unprepared for this conference than I'd ever been for anything in my life. I was throwing outfits in suitcases at 11pm the night before I was to wake up and hit to road, I was sifting through old files looking for business cards that were 2 years old, and I was definitely NOT memorizing an elevator speech. I think my reasoning behind the lack of prep was that if being so prepared 2 years ago had gotten me nowhere what harm could be done by having nothing prepared?

As I walked in to the main breakfast on Day 1 of BlogHer '14 I could already tell that I had a different mindset about the conference as a whole. Instead of feeling like an impostor who had snuck her way in, I knew that I had just as much of a right to be there as anyone else (and my Visa statement was my proof!).  Instead of cowering at the back, finding the least occupied table, I found one closer to the front that had two great ladies already sitting (Meredith of http://www.pileofbabies.com/ and her sister who was there for moral support). I was soon joined by my girls Kim (http://www.mamabythebay.com) and Liz (http://elizakinkz.com/). A bit later KC of  CEO of the House and her daughter (CEO in training) came by and finally our table was complete with Micky Marie Morrison joining us. When people asked what I wrote about I didn't have something rehearsed to tell them I told them the truth; that I write about my life as a mom but that most times, I don't write at tall. I always ended my schpeel telling people that the purpose of my blog was to write about things going on in my life in such a way that it would connect with other moms out there. I would say that I wanted all mom's to know that they weren't alone in what they were experiencing. It was probably a better spoken and more authentic description of my blog than my rehearsed elevator speech from 2 years prior.

Breakfast with my Bay Area girls! Liz and Kim (blog addresses above)
As I looked over my schedule for the day I realized that I was excited for what was in store.  My first session was about getting your first great book deal. And while I had wished that they had actually answered the title of the session (I'm still now sure HOW I exactly go about it) I left feeling inspired and that I could actually get a book deal. I give all the credit of my excitement to Kamy Wicoff of She Writes Press. They are doing amazing things for writers over there and I hope that other publishing houses will catch on and give the rest of us a chance! My next session was about becoming a freelance writer and it was probably my most favorite session of the weekend. As I sat there listening to Pauline Campos talk about her blog of 5 years that nobody was reading and how it became her resume for her dream job (A dream job that I share; being an advice columnist) I felt unstoppable. As I listened to Maria Guido say that she too had attended BlogHer '12 just like I did and had sat in the audience of a session that I too had sat in and now she was a speaker at BlogHer '14 I felt that I could do it too. And as I left that session with Kim and Liz to go enjoy happy hour together to catch up, talk and vent I felt so connected. I couldn't believe how different this conference was from my first experience. I realized that I was having the experience at BogHer '14 I had expected to have at BlogHer '12.

Enjoying the less hectic Expo
 With my new found excitement and inspiration I left my friends and headed out for the night to one Open House Suite Party that I'd been anticipating for weeks. I had learned early on that a company that I am deeply passionate about was going to be sponsoring some portions of the conference, and when I found out they were having a party on the first night I knew I had to muster some strength and get some face time with the team. The newbie that I was in 2012 would not have been able to attend that party that night. I would have felt unworthy, uninvited and scared. But his year I walked the long walk from my hotel to the party, I took the elevator up alone worried that I was going to be the only one there. And upon entering the suite I was elated to learn I was in fact the only one there and that I had a solid 20 minutes of face time with the team. I introduced myself to everyone, told them what I knew about them and their company and told them my story and how I felt we could work together. They seemed genuinely excited to have me there and to work on ways we could do things together in the future. I stayed for a bit, then said my goodbyes and headed off to bed feeling completely satisfied.

Taking part in the Goldie Blox Open House Suite
Oddly enough, I didn't attend a single session on Saturday. But not without effort, I intended to go to one but ended up in the wrong room then met my girls elsewhere instead. I think one of the funniest things I noticed about my entire weekend was how many times my girls would say to me as I was telling a story "Did you write a post on that?" or "You wrote about that, right?" or my favorite "Will you PLEASE write about that?" I think for the past two years I've been distracted and just not thinking with a writers mind. Not thinking that everything is a part of your story. And I think when the story you are writing is your life, you tend to forget what the good and worthy parts are.

Thanks to BlogHer '14 I really feel like I got my Mojo back. I feel like a writer again. And I hope that this post is the first of many to come.

I plan to be back for BlogHer '15, wherever it may be, and I hope I walk away feeling more inspired and fulfilled as I did this year.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Young Mother's Exhaustion

If you've heard it once, you've heard it one thousand times. A young mother letting out a large sigh, followed by a yawn and the words "I am tired".  As she chugs her caffeinated drink of choice she tries to  shake it off. She tells herself she will go to bed earlier that night and will not let the beckoning glow of her phone call her into the late night hours of mindless scrolling. She will tell herself she'll take it easy tomorrow that she'll try to relax, maybe nap when the kids are napping or she'll get up early to start fresh so she doesn't feel like she's chasing her to-do list all day. But it won't happen. Even if she does go to bed early, sleeps in late, naps with the kids, drinks a gallon of caffeine, she will still let out that sigh. She will still yawn a giant yawn. And she will still slouch and whisper, in a defeated tone, "I am tired".

She's tired because she isn't experiencing a tiredness due to sleep deprivation. Or even physical strain exhaustion. She's more tired than she was when she was growing a new baby inside of her those first few weeks. She's more tired than she was when she was cramming for midterms and pulling all-nighters in those far away days of college. She's more tired than she was when the baby was first born and she didn't know night from day or up from down.

She's more tired than all of these example combined because it's not her BODY that's tired. It's her soul.

In these early days of parenthood, my senses are heightened every minute of every day. Walking into a parking lot with a 3 year old clutching one hand and a 1 year old on my hip feels like entering a war zone. With unsuspecting cars being as dangerous as a tank. As my 3 year old jumps erratically at my side because he's a ninja out trying to fight the bad guy, I worry that he's going to jump too high, slip from my grip and come face first with the car backing out that doesn't see us as we walk behind. It is my job to protect these children from dangers that you may never have even thought of. The dangers of strangers, the dangers of cars, the dangers of innocent items like balloons being too close to mouths. Dangers of fruit slices being too big, dangers of a wrestling match with a sibling getting too rough. All day, every day I protect and keep these children of mine safe. I need to teach them to protect themselves so they can learn to be independent and smart in a scary world that demands that they grow up too fast. I need to teach them of the dangers of the world without scaring them so much that they won't enter it. It is my job to know what will happen 3 steps in front of them. To be on the defense when we are out because most others are too often on the offense. It is my job, and it is exhausting.

You may hear a young mother say she spent her morning at the park, but spending the morning at the park for a mother of young children is not like spending the day at the park as you remember it from your childhood. No, I am not there for a leisurely afternoon. The park is part of the plan, the agenda; it is to get energy out while not breaking bones or getting in to fights. It's as much a place for physical exercise as it is social exercise. I am watching with one eye while trying not to hover with my body. I am shouting from afar; "Play nicely." "Are you including everyone?" "Why is she crying?" "Please don't slide down that face first...or butt first...can you just slide down the slide as it's intended?" "Yes, I will carry you on my shoulders so you can do the monkey bars like a big boy" "Yes, I will flip you around on the gymnast bar" "yes I will do an underdog on the swing" "No, I will not get into the baby swing so I can swing beside you". Every mother has her limits.

Our days may seem dull and unfulfilled as we run errands and make meal after meal after meal. We clean, we cook, we drop off, we pick up, we play, we scold, we hug, we bathe, we read, we read more, we get cups of water, we calm the monsters, we turn off the light, we turn on the fan, we open the door...no not that much...no not that little...we let you in our beds when the 3am monsters come calling, we walk you back to your bed at 4am because no one is getting sleep as a toddler thrashes in your queen size bed built for 2. Our days may seem unfulfilled and boring, but they are so much more than that. They are full. They are exhausting, and there are times when they are lonely and feel never ending.

I've stopped telling my husband that I feel tired, because when I do he looks at me and says "How is that possible? You went to bed before me and got up after me?" But he doesn't get it and I don't expect him to. I've done his job at the office, where there are secret moments you can steal away for yourself. You can go online and look around at things that have nothing to do with your job, you can take a long bathroom break and do as you please and no one would dare interrupt you. Hell, you are legally required to take a 15 minute break after every 2 hours of work put in. While I'm not complaining about my daily routine (because that is not allowed), I don't get those secret moments to myself any more. It can begin to takes it's toll on someone when they are never alone. Some will be quick to point out that there is a lot of alone time to be had by mothers. During nap time in the middle of the day, or in the evening when the children have already gone to bed. While that is true, my children do nap during the day; but that time is not a time where I can spend hours doing whatever I please. Yes, I allow myself to eat lunch and take a few minutes to catch up on a show here and there but that's as far as it goes most days. Some will suggest that I take a nap when the children are napping, which is definitely a possibility...but where does that get me? I will wake up rattled with the children, with dishes in the sink, laundry not done and a home a disaster. I will have not eaten lunch, and I will be playing catch up the rest of the day. In my head, it's not worth it. Yes, I'm tired and a nap may feel good in the moment but it's not going to cure my exhaustion. If 8 hours at night doesn't do it, getting a mere 90 minutes during the day is only going to wet my drowsy appetite for what my body is craving most. And yes, it's true I do have time in the evening once the children are in bed but by that time of night I'm so beat and done with my day I'm not really actively enjoying or participating in anything.

Though it can be lonely, I know that I am not really alone. I know it when I see my fellow mothers with their coffee shop cups driving beside me, strolling beside me, or doing underdogs at the park beside me. I know it when a grandmother approaches me and while her mouth says "Enjoy these years, they go by too quickly" her eyes are giving me a reassuring hug saying "I've been there, it's exhausting but you will get through it.".

The day is constant. From the moment the baby coos that she is awake, to when my toddler throws his door open alerting the household that Grumpy Pants is going downstairs, I am on duty. Even if I am sitting on the floor, I am on duty. I am teaching , I am playing, I am listening, I am calming, I am doing. As we grocery shop; I am budgeting, I am planning, I am controlling the children in my cart, I am socializing, I am teaching. As I drop off and pick up at school; I am listening, I am hugging, I am teaching, I am laughing, I am doing. Once the kids are put down to bed I am not done. I am cooking one or two last meals for the day (The Hubs and I eat very late on most night), I am setting up tables, putting out medicine, cleaning up and putting away again. On most nights I glance at the sink on my way up to bed and sigh in that defeated way because once again, although I've done 2 loads of dishes in a 12 hour span, the sink looks as though I haven't touched it in weeks. I tell myself tomorrow will be different and I'll be better, I'll do more, I'll be perfect. Tomorrow, I will not be so tired.

But the funny thing about being this tired is that the reason you are this tired is because you've given your all to all things. There is no more to give. There is no more that you can do. You've gone beyond your body's physical limits and have reached farther into the depths of who you are and you've exhausted even that. You've done all you can with your emotions, your touch, your body, your mouth, your ears, your eyes and you have to stop. You will crawl in to bed, think of how tomorrow will be better and different and as you make yourself yet another mental list you will fall asleep as your body requests.

So that is why all of us young mothers talk about being so tired. Because it is a tired that only those of us who are living this life, speaking this language and walking this walk can understand. But no matter how exhausted our soul is on Monday we will rally on Tuesday with the same vigor and intention that we do every day. We will drink our drinks, we will walk to parks, we will yawn, we will sigh, but we will do as we do all day every day.