Social Media: Area Ten Millions That Becomes More Different to Navigate at the Onset of Parenthood
Much like showering, sleeping and having money, since I became a parent, I’ve grown to miss having full autonomy over who I allow to be a part of my life, and to what extent.
Of course, in theory, I still have the ability to control who will and who will not be involved in my business, but, in practice, the whole thing has grown infinitely more complicated. The pressure of parenthood means that, if I have a personal issue with someone, I have to decide whether or not that issue warrants limiting my child’s access to a friend or family member that may not have done anything to warrant their disengagement from his life at all. We’re a family, Graham and I, but we are not the same person, and the same people can affect each of our lives in drastically different ways.
Social media compounds this problem, as well. Before Facebook (and also before Myspace and even before AOL Messenger, for anyone else who remembers what a pain in the ass it was to decide whether or not to add so-and-so to your friends list before you had the ability to appear offline when you actually weren’t), avoiding involvement with someone you didn’t care for without causing a confrontation was relatively simple. As long as you didn’t have to see them very frequently, you could just avoid them as much as possible, make sure not to give privileged information to anyone who might repeat it to them, and carry on. One-sided or mutual dislike could be maintained subtlely and with few, if any, repercussions.
Containing this kind of situation online, however, is another story. My particular focus here is one’s choice of their Facebook friends. I know that you can be friends with an individual and not allow them to see any of your posts, but, effectively, that is the same as “de-friending” or blocking them. Nobody who is intent on monitoring your life is going to fail to notice that you haven’t posted one thing since you accepted their friend request, or, worse, since you simply decided that you were tired of hearing, secondhand, of their disapproval.
People use social media for a variety of reasons. I use this blog as a platform for my writing, and as a way to keep my friends and family in-the-loop about my life. I use Facebook to communicate with those friends and family on a more frequent, abbreviated and personal level (and as another platform for my writing, because, as a writer and a narcissist, I rarely fail to utilize an opportunity for self-promotion). What I do not use it for is as a holding pen for everyone who openly does not support the unity of my family or the choices I make for my us and for myself. Our family has been through far more than our share this year, and, at this point, any divisive force automatically sounds an alarm in my head that screams for it to be eliminated.
But it’s never just that simple. Not like it was before Graham, when I could just say, “Weeellp, not gonna miss THAT family reunion!” Now, choices like these are riddled with guilt over how they might affect my son and partner, and how that person and others to whom we are both connected will react to the decision. Because, even if you do not communicate with someone via Facebook, even if you don’t communicate with them in ANY way, even if it is well-known that they look down upon you and your actions, ceasing to allow that person to view your online activity may and probably will be viewed as completely unacceptable to that party and probably to some other parties, as well. And, believe me, this use of the word “party” is pretty much the opposite of the way in which I generally implement it.
All this to say that, when I make a decision like this, I don’t do it without consideration (even the choice to write this blog was difficult, and I’m not sure that it won’t result in another volley of HOW COULD SHEs). This means that I don’t do it because I am angry or in an attempt to make the other party angry or hurt. I also do not do it to any friend or family member with whom I have a real relationship and feel as though confronting them personally might have a positive effect. It is also not an implied message that anything about any probably-through-clenched-teeth relationship that person has with me or my family outside of social media will change; those are decisions made by our family as a whole, and not just by me, as opposed to my self-governed online presence, because it’s, like, my Facebook and shit.
Here’s all that blocking someone from social media means: it’s the removal of someone’s presence in an area in which I feel that they are being harmful, rather than helpful, to me and/or my family. Anyone who is looking on my Facebook for fodder for their judgment and disregard of my effectiveness as a mother, partner, or human in general, rather than, say, leaving encouraging feedback or even just neutrally hanging back, falls into that distinction pretty neatly. I’m not looking for a confrontation, a fight, an apology, or anything else from anyone whom I remove from the online aspect of my life. All I want is for my family and me to be left in peace. Maybe it’s not so complicated, after all.
Hey, assholes: wash your cancer off before you touch my kid.
So, here’s something I’ve never really been able to wrap my mind around: cigarettes. I mean. What, exactly, is anyone getting out of this? I understand they’re addictive and difficult to quit, and some people say they’re relaxing, to which I always reply that there’s this thing called alcohol, but whatever, none of that explains why you ever decided to fill your lungs with carcinogens in the first place. I guess you thought it was cool? But, anyway. All that judging aside, as I’m probably not really cool to judge people for their bad and also nonsensical habits - smoke away, smokers. Oh, unless you’re going to be around MY ASTHMATIC KID.
Notice that I said “going to be around,” not just “around.” This is because there are people who spend time around my child who, knowing that his asthma is triggered by cigarette smoke, feel like it’s totally cool to step out, bathe in a cloud of noxious fumes, then walk back inside and pick up my child like nothing just happened.
Now, there are a lot of people in Graham’s life who smoke, but are responsible about it. They wash their hands/face, change their shirt, etc., and then don’t go back out and cover themselves in stuff that makes my kid’s airways close up before they’re done spending time with him - and that’s great. I’m totally fine with that. But, after his two-day hospital stay for an asthmatic episode earlier this year, I’m not really fine with everyone who brushes off my requests to not smoke if they’re GOING TO BE AROUND my kid.
The main reason I’m bitching about this online is because it’s something I don’t have total control over in real life. I repeatedly ask people not to expose my kid to their cancer vapors, and to ask other people not to expose him to THEIR cancer vapors, but I don’t always know if someone smoked before they saw him or while they stepped outside. I’m also not with him 24/7 because I’m a working parent who values my sanity so sometimes I do stuff without him and that’s okay stop judging me this is about YOU. But I do find out when he starts wheezing on the way home, and it pisses me off, like, a lot.
So, here’s to everyone who exposes my kid to their cigarette smoke: may your child catch a contact high off of people smoking marijuana nearby, which would actually be a lot better for them than my kid’s exposure to your toxic fumes, but would really freak you out and be really hilarious to me.
I was having an awesome eyelash day, yesterday. Like, stupid, too-good-to-be-true good. Good eyelash days are far better than good hair days, because, if your hair looks like a small family of rats has recently taken up residence within its matted strands, you can always wear a hat or a scarf or something. They don’t make hats for eyelashes. Fortunately, yesterday, mine didn’t need one.
I’m calling this one: “Things You Can Do When You’re Unemployed.” In addition to afternoon drinking, obvs.
Behold: the results of donating plasma, as seen on my right arm. This is the same arm, which, as you may recall, was abused last Thursday by an incompetent phlebotomist. Much as I’d like to give this dude a pass by assuming that Octopharma’s employees suffer from low morale due to less-than-competitive wages, resulting in work performance that looks like, you know, my arm, I’m pretty sure that’s not the problem. Given the fact that a second phlebotomist came to my rescue and drew blood from my left arm with technical proficiency that would’ve made a robot feel inferior, I’m pretty sure that the maiming of my right arm was done by an individual who is also known as as That Guy Who Definitely Smokes Something Before Work, But We Can’t Figure Out What.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an experience I’m happy to tuck under my belt, especially since the $30 I made bought me a fat bottle of wine and several new additions to my job interview wardrobe at Goodwill (I’ll wear your granddad’s clooothes), where I also found a ribbed tank so gorious, I believe that its fibers were cured in Jesus’ tears before it was sewn together. Behold!
Donating plasma is just of the many activities that I didn’t have time to participate in before losing the extra weight of my fundie Christian boss who did stupid fundie Christian shit like never missing an opportunity to bring any actual work that might be taking place to a screeching halt in order to correct any employee who dared to shorten “Christmas” to “Xmas.”
During my time of unemployment, for instance, I have not had to turn one pair of underwear inside-out because I’d run out of clean ones for lack of laundry-doing. I’ve prepared home-cooked meals for my family. I have maintained trimmed and styled hair (you would not believe how phenomenal it looks when I actually brush it). I’ve developed an exceptionally-close bond with all the pets in the house. I have even whitened my teeth with something other than Photoshop. Best of all, though: I have the selfies to prove it. Shall we?
I am not ashamed to admit that I have also taken two of the greatest photos of my butt that have ever turned my cell phone into a liability. I wouldn’t be ashamed to post them, either, but what little propriety I possess is standing in my way. I know; I’m a little surprised, too.
Mother Plans On Spending Nothing On Her Son in 2013; is My Hero
See this lady right here? We have a lot in common. Her adorable child bears a great resemblance to mine (thus the adorable), she has a blog, and she has resolved to avoid spending any money on her son this year. Why the stingy parent business? I’m glad you asked.
I grew up digging through sale bins at thrift stores and yard sales for Barbies with clothes, battery-operated toys with still-charged batteries, or - and this was solid gold - a Polly Pocket toy with the Polly doll still inside. This gave me the impression that low-budget childrearing was the norm - right up until I had my own child to rear. Then, I stopped ignoring the images crowding my social media feeds of the latest and greatest accessories that my friends were buying for their offspring - offspring that couldn’t even ask for a snack yet, let alone demand expensive toyage.
I get it: consumerism is a powerful force. Sure, many of us don’t all feel all that compelled to buy our children this year’s version of Tickle Me Expensive as a matter of necessity. Be that as it may, though, most of us still want to avoid being known as the Goodwill Parent. And, in today’s “pics or it didn’t happen” world, it’s hard to give the impression that you’re buying the shit without actually buying the shit. And, if you’re not buying the shit, what ARE you buying, you selfish asshole?!
In the end, this whole thing comes down to every parent’s weakness: our desire to give our kids the best of everything. It’s a marketing strategy particularly effective on frightened and uninformed pregnant first-time moms, which is probably why it’s so played-out that it makes Call Me Maybe look fresh and exciting. But is a $50 pair of shoes for a kid who can’t even walk yet really “the best?”
I’m not sure what my takeaway would’ve been, had my childhood been ruled by consumerism. I do know, though, that I wouldn’t have learned that commercials aren’t a very good source of information if my parents had bought me everything I saw on TV. A go-kart that wasn’t rigged with a tiller engine and pool mat seats wouldn’t have taught me resourcefulness. Buying new, name-brand clothes wouldn’t have been a lesson in how to spend a little money and look a lot awesome.
Most importantly, there is my mom’s mantra, “You didn’t need new toys; you had each other! You were happy with sticks and dirt.” Without it, I wouldn’t understand the importance of family, and how much more valuable it is than anything you can get at Babies R Us.
Good morning, followers! The Holidays are mercifully over, and I’m getting ready to set my 2012 In Review entry free. In the meanwhile, here: I made this. Originally, I just wanted to adapt a version of a Facebook cover I’d recently designed for my iMac wallpaper, but, in the end, this piece’s designage somehow ended up being way cooler than that of its source of inspiration. So, I thought I’d share. Because I’m awesome like that.
Let me tell you why Christmas is bullshit.
I know you all missed my compulsive blogging (ok, I ASSUME you missed it) over the holiday, but I think the reason for my fall from the face of the earth is pretty obvious: Christmas is fucking stressful and it kind of sucks.
There’s this unspoken rule, among parents, that, unless you’re really low on money, or you’re saving money for a big purchase, you go big at Christmastime. We certainly could’ve. But, in the long run, we only got Graham a few things, and we didn’t really put much into Christmas at all. And, while I can go on forever about the commercialization of the holiday, when Barry looked at me like a crazy person when I shrugged and said, “Whatever.” when he asked what we should get Graham this year, I still felt like the most selfish parent, ever. As if love could be measured by presents - and for a kid so young, he won’t even remember this Christmas.
That aggrieved response is nothing new. For years, I heard the same shit: “YOU DON’T LOVE CHRISTMAS? BUT WHYYY?! THE JOY ON THE CHILDREN’S FACES AND JESUS AND FAMILY AND BLAH BLAH BLAH!” But I can’t help it; I get it from my family.
Every year, on Christmas Eve, my parents and siblings (and, now, our significant others and kids) come together to make pierogies and get drunk all day. No extended family, no Santa Claus, no bullshit, just Polish food and a handle of Sobieski. My parents have always given my brother and sisters and I presents, but, even a a kid, I remember being at least ALMOST as excited about our other traditions. Was the year we got a trampoline awesome? Hell, yes. But the year we got nothing but socks and underwear from the dollar store was great, too. Celebrating our heritage in a way that we only do once a year (obviously, I’m referring to the pierogies here, and not the drinking) is and always has been the common thread throughout all our Christmases, and it’s the part that, as an adult, especially, I most look forward to every year.
Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I should stop bitching at Barry for spending money on presents that we could use for ourselves. Buying a lot of gifts is, after all, a part of his tradition, even if it’s not part of mine. But, you know what? Soon enough, our kid will be begging for bikes and video games and unicorns and whatever else expensive shit kids like. It’ll be a lot harder then to stress the importance of family gatherings over gifts. So, until that happens, I’m going to stop stressing over whether I bought my kid enough shit for Christmas. Maybe then, I won’t have to hate it so much, after all.
The New Stay-At-Home Moms: How the “Privilege” of Staying At Home is No Longer
After exchanging bad mom secrets last night with the so-much-like-me-it-has-to-be-fate Lessons from Layla, I took a walk down memory lane and cruised the blog I kept on Open Salon when I was pregnant with Graham. After crossing myself and thanking Jesus and all his friends that pregnancy isn’t a permanent condition, I was inspired to re-explore a few of the topics I’d written about before I knew that breastfeeding is a form of torture and that, despite eveything I read in The Mommy Brain, there is no regaining all or even most of the intelligence that the female brain hemmorhages during pregnancy.
One topic that I had written about while I was pregnant is actually one I’ve been meaning to bring up on this blog, now that I’ve gotten some first-hand experience in the matter: the inherent privilege of being a working mother.
When American mothers first began to join the work force due to the absence of their husbands during World War II, they did so out of necessity. Even though many women realized that careers are empowering anad chose to stay in the workforce after their husbands’ return, the undercurrent of thought that mothers who work outside the home do so out of necessity has remained prevalent.
Besides being sexist as fuck, the idea that all or most women who work outside the home do so for financial reasons is problematic and classist, rendering a large segement of American mothers invisible.
For mothers with the education and skill necessary to earn a fair wage, working outside the home is an attainable and profitable option that can provide their families with much-needed extra income if they’re parenting with a partner, or, for single mothers, the only source of income her family may have. For mothers whose earning potential is lower, a group composed largely of women who became mothers at a young age, before they were able to obtain a college degree, relevant job experience, or even a high school diploma, words like “necessity,” option,” or even “obtainable” are often simply incompatible with the concept of working motherhood. These are the new stay-at-home moms - and we need to start paying attention to them.
This obstacle to employment for mothers is most pronounced in those with very young children, for whom the dream of providing for their families is typically shattered when they compare their first minimum-wage paycheck to their child’s first daycare bill. For example, my son’s weekly daycare cost, for a child under a year old, is very reasonable, at $145. If I worked a forty-hour week, earning $7.50 an hour, which is the minimum wage in Texas, I’d earn $300 a week BEFORE taxes. Throw in the cost to travel to and from work and daycare, the cost of missing a day of work but not a day of paying for childcare when a child is sick, and add another kid or two to the mix, and the title of my profession would be Stay-At-Home Mom, whether I liked it or not.
One thing that conservatives criticizing mothers raising their children on the public dole fail to understand is that these women simply cannot afford to raise them any other way. The encouragement some states foist upon single mothers relying on public assistance to raise their children to get and stay married is equally despicable, as it puts the woman at the mercy of the man she must depend on to support both her and her children.
As a mom who also has a career, I’ve made the choice to make my very own clumsy pass at Having it All. Not because we couldn’t survive off my partner’s income alone, but because I enjoy working. I love my son with the same disturbing level of intensity that I suppose all mothers do, but the thought of having only him for company all week long sounds like torture on a stick. I’ve worked alongside a lot of other women, though, who don’t feel the same way. They’d rather be at home with their kids, and they wish that their careers were not a necessity due to a husband who didn’t earn enough to pay the bills, a husband who didn’t earn enough to pay for the no-good beer he drank, or a lack of a husband, entirely.
In a perfect world, we’d all be able to choose. We’d be able to consider the implications of motherhood both at home and at work, without the heavy weight of financial factors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But, if you feel like you’ve been compelled to make the decision to juggle a career and a family, just take a moment to remember that there are a lot of other mothers out there for whom going to work was not a decision they were able to make.
We Had An Adorable Weekend
In the spirit of Trying to Pretend it’s Not Monday, I’ve gathered some photos of our weekend adventures and deposited them here, so I can look back and them and think that, if I could choose when to die, it would be on a Sunday night, so I didn’t have to go to work the next day.
I started the weekend out right. Maybe it wasn’t entirely in good taste, but I’m still pretty sure that drinking from a Big Gulp is classier than drinking from a 24-ounce can - especially if no one knows you’re boozing it up. Then, it has the distinct advantage of NOT making you look like a mom who just wanted to enjoy a fucking beverage on the weekend stop judging me!
You, dear readers, have no idea how long I’ve waited for an opportunity to go all Borat on a naked picture of my son. The second-best thing about this photo is the $1 rubber hippo he’s chewing on, which I had just picked up for him and he was playing with for the first time. I mean, look at that face: do you think he’ll EVER get that much enjoyment from an expensive toy that makes really obnoxious sounds and requires assembly? Probably, but a girl can dream.
After Li’l G was sufficiently bathed, we deposited him into the care of B’s half-sister, who, apparently, did an excellent job of making him tired, since he didn’t even wake up when I picked him up and carried him to the car when we retrieved him that evening. Aunt Angela definitely gets an A+ on this one.
And, look: Graham’s aunt even got him a new toy. He got tired of riding on it pretty quickly, but he really enjoyed walking behind it. He’s been taking 4 or 5 steps independently before he falls down now, but I still personally believe that he could easily walk all the time if he didn’t prefer to crawl.
I have to admit, this did kind of put me in the Christmas spirit - and I am not really much of a Christmas person.
I also finally got to use the Ross gift card my mom gave me for my birthday this weekend, and I’m pretty sure I found the coolest purse I’ve ever purchased at Ross, EVER, which is some pretty serious shit. If anyone reading this is planning on getting me a new purse for Christmas, though, totally don’t let this stop you. My policy regarding purses is basically the opposite of Arizona’s policy regarding immigrants: I never turn one away. Even if you give me the worst purse ever, I’ll still pretend to like it and stuff it in the back of my closet and hide my stash in it, because who would think anything good would be in THAT ugly thing?
Is it Friday yet?!
We took photos of Graham for the Christmas picture we’re sending to our families this year today, but I decided I’d bump this one of the three of us up to the front of the line and put it on my blog. I’m not sure why we went with the lumberjack thing, but I’m almost convinced that I like it… and let’s just say that there are plenty of family members on both sides who will think the only thing that could’ve make the shoot more awesome would’ve been a few taxidermied forest creatures. :P