It's been eight months since Currentmom asked "Where are the real working moms?"
I've come up with a theory; Google ate the working moms.
Let me explain.
A little less than a year ago Mama bee wrote about how working moms are invisible. Despite working moms being over 70% of the population of mothers working mothers are not considered "typical" or "normal" mothers by most in the media.
Instead a minority of mothers - higher income and predominatly white women who write in blogs are regarded as the "typical" moms - as representative of all moms. Whenever a "mom issue" is covered in the news or radio or print or online or on TV the same small group of mommybloggers will be trotted out to address mom "issues" and speak for all women with children - as if having children makes us all the same cookie-cutter model. Interestingly, we don't see the same five men being trotted out to speak for all fathers - even if they're bloggers... or not.
I have a theory about how we got here - with the invisible majority - and my theory is grounded in experience in the world of media production and in long experience with online marketing.
Imagine the life of a hungry reporter or PA... let's say you're a twentysomething hungry PA, fresh out of college and you've been given the chance of a lifetime - you get to pitch a story for a television show or an article that could be professionally published. You've been told your topic has to be contentious, geared toward the daytime television market or for the audience that controls household spending - and your topic has to pull in viewership. Huge viewership. You're told to maybe try a "mom topic" - but you're not a mom. You don't know anything about modern moms - none of your friends are moms... so what do you do?
Desperately, you turn to a resource you think has all the answers - a search engine. You Google "mom debate" or "mommy wars" or another "mom topic". Google (or Bing, I'm equal opportunity, after all) feeds you a brilliant, long list of "mom bloggers" and links that you can use for your pitch. You check the blog links and all the moms indicate on their blogs that they'd love to entertain any offers to speak to the media.
Perfect - you've got someone to provide content. Extra bonus points if they're going to pull in their blog traffic to your story.
You the reporter or PA never look past the second page of search results. You've got two or three likely candidates, and you're not going to spend time vetting those candidates or digging deeper. You've got names, now you can pitch.
In reality, you don't really care about the authority or expertise of the person who will speak. What you're looking for is traffic - or better yet a contentious viewpoint. To you, a non-mother, it looks like giving birth makes anyone an "expert" on "mom issues" for every mom on the planet. Giving birth is the only qualifier - and the only measure of authority is search engine results.
The problem is that Google isn't representative of authority, expertise, or population - but millions of people think that the results are. If Google says it, it must be so.
I'm saying this as a professional web publisher - I've created SEO strategies, I worked on the inside of a BIG search engine (as a reviewer). Search engines have never indicated authority or expertise on topics. Search engine results indicate marketing activities, keyword buys, and all the heavily massaged, manipulated and populated data of those with enough time to build a search optimization strategy.
In short popularity - not authority.
The new authority is search engine ranking - not experience - not scholarly expertise - not wisdom or longevity.
Which is why I laughed, a lot, when Twitter recently told me that Dooce was "Similar to You". I don't have anything against Heather, but we are not similar. Yes - we've both been blogging forever, but she enjoys a very rare work at home situation for a very high income, with a paid assistant - while I have the much more typical experience of being a working full-time, out of the home mom, for a very typical income and no paid help.
Heather is a celebrity who earns an income, but she's not a typical working mom - she's never written a thing about the issues that plague most working moms. Yet, Heather is considered an authority on working moms by many media outlets.
Working moms have also become invisible for another reason - semantics.
There has been an ongoing campaign to "redefine" the term "working mom". It is no longer acceptable to indicate a paid, out of the home career with the term "working" because of the popularity of the bumper sticker philosophy "all moms are working moms". The goal of this quip is to elevate every mother by giving them all credit for working - by diminishing the work of working mothers.
Working moms have had the term "working" stolen from us - we're not allowed to use the word "work" out of fear of backlash from those who have co-opted the word. We are not allowed to say what we are.
Blogs from moms with full-time careers (hi!) are almost impossible to find - because every mom calls herself a "working mom" now.* Hobbies with tiny incomes or no income but lots of goods-in-trade are now equated to full-time careers. Everybody's "working" at home. Volunteering is now "working". Hobbies are "working". Everything is "work"... except work.
Working moms need working moms
Working moms understand working moms - and we need to hear from moms with experience and authority in this topic - other working moms. We need to find a different way to network working moms that doesn't rely on marketing massages and popularity contests. Search engines will never be a resource for working moms who want to find each other - working moms don't have the time to massage our search results - we need to find each other quickly and build our network so that we can speak for ourselves.
* Yes, motherhood is hard - I didn't say it wasn't. The word "working" doesn't indicate "hard" or "difficult". Working indicates working - why is it that can we use the word "working" as a adjective for all nouns except "mom"?
Caps for Good will run from November, 2010 through February, 2011 and will call on knitters and crocheters of all ages and ability levels to help protect infants in some of the word’s poorest countries so they survive the critical first month of life. (Warm Up America)
I'll be cranking out baby hats as quickly as I can - both crochet and knit. Join me by making hats, or make a donation to the "Caps for Good" campaign. Help all of us provide newborns with hats to help improve infant survivability.
I will also be offering first pick of the hats I produce to my friends and family members who would like a hand-crafted hat.
I am finally back after being crazy-busy in the last six weeks. We've done a lot; I quit my old job and started a new job that was a promotion, we went on vacation, M went on sabbatical, we applied for a mortgage, we bought a new house, we moved to the new house, the kids started at a new school, one of the kids had extensive medical tests and I ended up in the hospital for a short time.
It's been enough to make the Holmes & Rahe Stress scale tip over into full tilt and produce a stress level assessment something like "High stress. In fact, your head is probably going to explode. Go lie down. NOW."
Interesting side-bar note: abuse isn't part of the stress scale evaluation. Christmas and "trouble with the boss" are, but having a family member or romantic partner degrade, insult and threaten your safety isn't stressful? For realz?
I've had some blogging ideas that have been rattling around in my head, and I plan to write about them soon, mainly out of a sense of self-preservation. Blog post ideas have been filling up the corners of my mind and pushing other (more pertinent) information out my ears.
Now I have an image of me leaving a trail of ideas scattered around the floor behind me as I walk around - idea Gretel, leaving a trail of pushed out thoughts behind me...
Anyway, here's some of what the last six weeks looked like:
Even though some would say our stress level is very high due to all the changes we've been going through, the most important thing is that we are happy. The kids and I have gone from homeless to home owners. We've gone from walking on eggshells in a shelter to stomping around in our own home. Laundromat to laundry room.
We're all thrilled and grateful and overwhelmed and excited.
And happy. Really happy.
Three years ago today "M" and I went on our first official date - to our local Harry Potter "Deathly Hallows" book launch party downtown - which was renamed "Diagon Alley" for the evening. The book would begin selling after midnight, and we were there to get our hands on a couple copies as quickly as we could.
It was a fun night filled with costumes, acrobats, jokes, teasing and merriment - and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. "M" and I had a wonderful time socializing while waiting in line with other HP fans while we tried our best to get over any first date awkwardness. We headed home near dawn with our new books and the beginnings of a new relationship.
I have to admit - it was weird dating someone I had been friends with nearly two decades previously - but it was also very reassuring. I had sworn off dating - I had completely lost faith in romantic relationships. I felt that I had missed my one opportunity for romance or any of the "normal" parts of being loved. If I didn't get any of it from my ex - I certainly wouldn't get it now.
I know a lot of single moms who think exactly the same thing.
I had decided to concentrate on raising my children to the best of my ability - and to forget about my own needs. My children were my first priority. I decided to forget about my need for love.
That was not the best or healthiest idea, I'll admit, but I was facing what looked like an insurmountable challenge. Not only was I a single and divorcing mom, but we were starting over again with nothing, and I was raising two kids with health issues - one with special needs and incredibly complex issues. We were also dealing with extensive emotional issues. One of my kids and I were still in counseling and treatment for emotional damage which had an impact on everything from sleep disturbances to discipline.
I honestly thought that there was nobody who would see us as having any value - we were far from perfect and we never would be perfect. We had no hope.
Enter "M". I already knew him as a friend - and I knew what his values were and who he really was as a person - and not just his dating "game face". I knew I could trust him with myself and my kids (even though I knew "M" and I knew I could trust him I still contemplated running a police check on him - which I do recommend to everyone when dating as a single parent).
I wanted to give up, but "M" wouldn't let me - he'd already let me "get away" the first time twenty years prior, and he didn't want to let me go the second time. He was already my friend and he knew we could be much more. I was bewildered that this great guy didn't "get it" - we weren't perfect and he could do so much better.
In reality I didn't "get it". We didn't have to be perfect, nobody was - we were wonderful just as we are. We already had immense value - to the right person.
"M" has worked hard over the last three years to show the kids and I that he values us immensely, and that biology has nothing to do with who your family are. Biology doesn't make a parent - choice does. Biological parents can choose to not be parents (and many do) and someone without a biological tie can make the choice to be a parent (and many do).
I'm very glad that "M" never gave up on me, or on us or on love. It's an amazing feeling knowing that you and your kids are worth it.
I watched this tonight. An old routine (2006/07) where Ellen performs an interpretive dance about her coming out experience.
It's hilarious and poignant.
And familiar.Her experience with coming out was exactly what I went through with my divorce experience - only her experience was on a much larger scale, of course. Ellen says;
"So... that's what happened. And it's interesting because being down there - and I know a lot of people have been down there, and it doesn't matter what the reason is, it's a very symbolic thing, it's a mental thing. When you are down there, there are times you do not believe you will ever, ever get up again. And it's a scary place, and it's very dark.Those words resonate deeply with me. I've seen what prejudice and bigotry does to the perception of divorce, to divorced people and to the children of what they would like to call "broken" homes.
But I believe that's when you grow the most, when you face your fears, that's when you grow. And so I decided I am going to face every fear I have. I am going to challenge myself every opportunity I get...
...I cannot worry about what people think about me. There are things that need to be said, things that I will say. I will. I know a lot of people don't want me to say them, because people think once something has stayed a certain way for a certain amount of time - leave it alone, don't change it.
But I think things need to change, and I will point them out to you... I will say these things."
Divorce is not what a lot of people think it is, nor is it what they would like you to believe. Fear keeps many clinging desperately to the idea of divorce as always, eternally, inescapably, completely negative - without exception. It's a rigid belief based on fear - because if we all admit that divorce isn't only negative then we might lose the only reasons we have for staying married.
Recognizing the value and positive effects of divorce then forces us all to take a good, hard look at what marriage really is for millions of women and their children.
Accepting divorce as a change with potential benefits then holds married parents (especially) more responsible to do what's best for their children even if it involves immense change and effort. It's no longer acceptable to remain inert if action could yield a better outcome.
Accepting that marriage exists between equals and is voluntary and changeable is the foundation of a true bond - otherwise marriage is simply a trap. A marriage that endures even though the partners didn't have to is commendable - a marriage that endured because there was no other choice has nothing admirable about it.
For a lot of people marriage is pain, harm and fear - and divorce is freedom and hope. It's undeniable, and it's about time that simple truth was widely accepted.
The belief - the prejudice - that marriage is always good and divorce is always bad needs to change.
The harm has to stop.
What would you call a mitten scarf combination - that was also a sock monkey?
My kids have been pleading with me to make them each a knit sock monkey ever since the cute sock monkey in the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" charmed them into gooey piles of adoring mush.
So I started looking for sock monkey knitting (or crochet) ideas. I wanted a cute sock money pattern (some aren't) that wasn't too difficult. I found out that sock monkeys are popular - very popular - and there are plenty of websites dedicated to sock monkeys of all kinds - even superheros.
When the kids spotted a sock monkey knitting pattern at Michael's craft store a few months back they squealed with glee - and I ended up with two copies of the pattern very quietly added to my shopping basket. The final push to pick up my needles and make a monkey was when a friend of theirs showed up at school with very cute sock monkey mittens.
I decided that sock monkey mittens would be my next project.
The problem is... I've never made mittens. I'm a mitten newbie. Mittens scare me. If I made mittens I knew it would be a struggle - and the kids lose mittens at an alarming rate. The thought of making mittens to have them lose them the next day didn't make me happy.
I joked that I'd have to put the sock monkey mittens on a string so that my kids wouldn't lose them on the first day they had them.
Which started me thinking about making the string for the mittens... into something more durable... thicker... maybe a scarf.
I thought I was so clever inventing a "mittenscarf" - and then I Googled it and found that mittens on a scarf weren't all that weird original as I had thought: cocoknits had mittens on the end of a scarf, DKNY made mittengloves, Ruth Cross has two versions and Peter Jensen offered a designer version of the "mittenscarf".
Original or not, I decided to come up with a mittenscarf sock monkey pattern. It's in the works (post to follow) and my youngest is thrilled and keeps playing with the work-in-progress monkey mittens.
My oldest has asked for a mittenscarf as well - but not a sock monkey mittenscarf - he wants a monster mittenscarf.
I'm still Googling that.
M, the kids and I participated in a rally today, in support of the family of Noah Kirkman. Noah is a 12-year old Canadian child who was on vacation in Oregon when he was taken by U.S. authorities against the will of his family. Noah had been on vacation in the U.S. with his stepfather - who had Noah's passport and a letter of permission from Noah's mom.
The details are enough to enrage and frighten any parent - especially step-parents: local coverage of the rally (video) - more details about the story from a newspaper in Oregon and CNN's Rick Sanchez covered the story (video) too. The Facebook group "Return Noah Kirkman to Canada NOW!" has even more details and links.
Abduction of a child who is a citizen of another country is a violation of international law - and Noah has been held in captivity by the U.S. for almost 2 years at this point.
This is Lisa's second Mother's Day without her son.
We've never met the family before today, and we only found out about the rally through local media and Facebook, but the situation is so shocking that we wanted to help. We also sympathize with Noah's family... we're a step-family too, and I can't imagine my horror, shock and sense of betrayal if my kids were abducted by U.S. authorities who ignored their basic rights as Canadian citizens.
We've also postponed our plans to travel to the U.S. after reading about this situation - we're not going to travel to the U.S. when they could do this to any Canadian child.
Yesterday, the kids worked on their protest signs while they peppered me with questions about this situation. I tried to explain what I understood to them - but in the end there simply is no reason why Noah was taken away from his family. This turned out to be an opportunity to show the kids how life isn't fair, how kids need to be rigorously protected by their parent(s) and how all good citizens need to step into the "gap" of decency and support when the government won't.
Sadly the kids realized that this is an example of how step-families can be unfairly treated on a governmental whim - and how children are sometimes mistreated for political reasons.
It left me sad and bewildered. Just like my kids.
At the rally the kids chanted "Bring Noah home!" enthusiastically and brandished their home-made signs. One reporter from a local paper asked why we choose to participate in this event and I responded something like "this is a much better way to spend Mother's day than with a bunch of flowers or lunch out somewhere."
Maybe she was wondering why weren't we at the other local event that day - a competitive road race that also raises funds for the local NICUs and special care nurseries. It's especially ironic as we're a family with two former preemies and one NICU graduate.
As the rally ended my kids played a short game of tag with Noah's younger sister. The three kids ran around burning off excess energy and screeching in glee. Soon we had to go.
As we were heading to the car my youngest commented, "Mom, I really liked her (meaning Noah's sister). Will she get to see her brother soon? Will he get to come home now?"
"I don't know honey", I replied, "But I hope so."
I hope so.
To Etsy or Not to Etsy, that is the question.
I've been busy in the last few weeks knitting and crocheting.I'm still cranking out hats and seriously considering starting a "give away" contest of some sort. A free hat to a reader... or something.
I haven't worked out the details yet.
I'm also contemplating some other major changes in the next month or so;- going "public" on my blog
- Opening up an Etsy shop
I am contemplating my own Etsy shop mostly due to Natasha's prodding/support/enthusiasm, but she's right*, I should think about it.
I'm not sure why I'm reluctant to jump on the Etsy bandwagon - except that in some way I feel I haven't paid my "dues" yet as a knitter - let alone a crocheter - because I've only been at this for a short time. To me expertise in an art or craft is honed over years and years, painstakingly learning a skill, methods, aesthetics - absorbing expertise into your skin by immersion in an art or craft for decades.
...and then I see some of the web newbies who call themselves "social media experts" (or whatever the latest get-rich-quick scheme is) and I realize I shouldn't feel bad. If three months of Twittering and not knowing Apache from Apple makes some online neophyte an expert at being all "down with the weeb" - why then I am practically a Goddess.
Has expertise really changed, though? Are experts made in small periods of time or over years? Or does expertise matter any more?
* That happens a lot.
My youngest had a "Mulan" themed birthday party last week. We love the story of Mulan in this household; "Mulan is atypical to previous female roles in Disney films; she's braver, more self-reliant, and shows little interest in romance." (Wikipedia)
My kids love anything from the pacific rim. While we're surrounded by a lot of Japanese culture (some of my family lives in Japan) they also love Chinese and Korean stories, myths and legends.
Also as an aside - YAY for a decent female/feminist figure in ancient history (the kids like the original Hua Mulan story in addition to the Disney version).
While my daughter is certainly interested in being a brave, independent, decisive, determined, smart, outspoken girl like Mulan - she was all about the sword. Cutting figures in the air, slicing through imaginary Huns and flailing like her life depended on it.
My son, however, was completely entranced by makeup - it was his first test drive of facial hair - a big, luxuriant mustache in eyebrow pencil.
That wasn't quite what I was expecting, but we went with it.
Creating costumes for the party was surprisingly easy - the kids were very happy with their costumes from "found" supplies in our house. Some of the guest's moms went all out with gorgeous, silky mini kimonos, wee little traditional Chinese dresses, one adorable set of silky Asian design pajamas... and one little boy came with a dragon cape and hood.
If you ever have to dress a kid as a 6th century Chinese warrior (and really, don't well all?) here's a short tutorial;
How to Dress a Child As A Generic 6th Century Chinese Warrior (aka Mulan)
Optional: a sweatband around the forehead and a generous eyebrow pencil mustache (boys love sporting fake facial hair).
Other great accessories:
Bonus tip: first aid supplies - like back therapy belts - make great wide sashes. And back support.