Sororities?

05.6.13

I did get to Mom 2.0. Trudi and I had an amazing drive down to Laguna Niguel and there were successes before we even pulled up to the valet. First of all I was able to shoehorn Jane and her BFF into their favorite camp. The other mom and I hadn’t reserved their spots because we were waiting on other plans and, as is often the case, when we picked our session there was only one spot left. After a few phone calls and triple checking they found that there were two spots and I got them. Victory was mine.

Trudi lives in the house she isn’t supposed to live in. I mean, she thinks she should live there but that would only make one of us. Trudi should be in the neighborhood but not in that house. You see about ten years ago I had a fabulous neighbor with a daughter the same age as Jane. That fabulous neighbor was a professional lady (grad school professional not a hooker) and we would talk about being a stay at home parent. I told her that it was really important to me that I was at home with my kids and if I had to move to another part of the country to make that happen I would. That neighbor listened to me. No one ever listens to me. The first time anyone ever listens to me leaves me abandoned. Crap.

In any event Trudi bought the good neighbor’s house and the good neighbor moved 3,000 miles away. I was lonely.

Trudi and I had a lot of the same worries going to Mom 2.0. Is it like a sorority? What would a conference without men be like? Is there any valuable content? Would it be as silly as BlogHer? Why were we leaving our families?

The conference was lovely and I didn’t really have to worry about anything. It was very inclusive and I saw a lot of old friends and finally got to hug some of the folks I’ve gotten to know in the blogosphere. The sessions were good enough with one standing out as being incredibly useful. Sarah Gilbert shared her expertise on crowd funding. Now, I don’t see myself crowd funding anytime soon but I do ask people for money, support or things as part of my job and I hear “no” an awful lot of the time. I’m basically okay with that but I think that her session may bring my “no” rate down from a whopping 90% to maybe 80%. This one session was worth the price of admission. Getting unstuck is incredibly valuable.

My problem is that every time I leave the house I try to quantify it in time away from the kids and Mr. G. I sat in every session thinking, “Is this more important than being with Jane/Alexander/Mr. G.” and when it’s framed like that the answer will always be, “No.” It’s not a competition that could ever be close.

Perhaps it’s because I just spent eight days following my bliss in Australia. Perhaps it’s because the kids are at ages where they really need parents around or maybe it’s because Mr. G is knee deep in launching a new network and we are in need of more time together. I’m not sure if it’s because conferences aren’t my thing or if my family is just so much my thing that I can’t extricate myself gracefully that I don’t think I’m a good conference goer. I’m just not the right person for this. I can’t wrap my head around it.

The sponsorships were perfectly integrated, the parties were lovely and the follow up has been spectacular. Mom 2.0 is a really great conference if you love going to conferences. I’ve concluded that I don’t love them. It’s not you. It’s me.

The Innate Hazard of Leading With Your Womb

04.25.13

pregnant

I’ll be at Mom 2.0 in a week or two (not really sure of the date). This is the third year I’ve bought a ticket but it will be the first year I’ll attend. I remember one year thinking how great it would be to have an excuse to go to New Orleans and get some work done at the same time. My husband hates New Orleans so it seemed like the perfect excuse to travel. Then when I looked at the schedule and saw Mad Men parties and photo walks I felt like it would sap my energy just to get dressed to attend. I sold my ticket.

After reading today’s Wall Street Journal piece about the business of Mom Conferences I’m already starting to dread Laguna Niguel. I didn’t realize I had to dress 50’s or borrow a hat for a Kentucky Derby Party. I’ve promised myself I’d suck it up and do it all with an enthusiastic smile no matter how uncomfortable any of it makes me. Mercifully I’ll have Trudi as a compatriot. There are sessions I’m very interested in attending and I’m sure there’s a lot to be learned, I’m looking forward to the learning aspect. Because, like the columnist at WSJ, everything I know about Mom 2.0 I learned on Flickr I have the sense that it’s a boozy fashion competition. Ciaran assures me Mom 2.0 is a valuable use of my time and I trust Ciaran, plus it’s a short drive so if it’s awful I’ll just go home and Trudi can hitchhike like a big girl.

Ask me in a few weeks is Mom 2.0 is a Mom Vacation or a conference. At the moment it’s a question I can’t answer.

Now when a major conference is pending and it’s at a Ritz Carlton and it features things that bloggers want to talk about: food, fashion, cocktails, tech, networking, media, and fun… and when said conference is called Mom 2.0 and then a bunch of self proclaimed Mom Bloggers get themselves worked up into a frenzy about OMG The Patriarchy, people start looking like they haven’t thought things out very well.

Such is the hazard of leading with your womb. Call your self a Mom Blogger, Mum Blogger, Mommy Blogger or Mom 2.0 and the rest of the world will call you Mom too. They aren’t calling you “Mom” because you had a baby, they’re calling you Mom because it’s what you put on your calling card. 

Fix it if it needs fixing or just answer when the world calls you Mom.

Danielle Ellwood writes the following over at the Broad Side: 

If this was Marissa Mayer, or Sheryl Sandberg traveling for work, their trip would never be dubbed as being on a  “Mommy Business Trip“; it would simply be called a business trip. No need to be defined by the status of how many children their uterus has produced or the number of children they’ve adopted. So why are any other women being treated differently?

This actually proves my point. Neither Sandberg nor Mayer have built careers monetizing their motherhood. They are women who happen to be in technology, they aren’t Mom Bloggers attending a Mom Conference.

When I asked what all the fuss is about on Facebook (because I see the article as mostly innocuous) I was sent links to a zillion posts around the blogosphere and quite a few people commented. Audrey Holden had the most amazing comment and with her permission I’m publishing it here.

As someone who has been blogging, professionally and otherwise for 9 years, and someone who has never ever gone to a conference, I can give you an outside point of view by virtue of what I read from women who DO go to these. 

Not only are there millions of photos floating around out there of hanging out in bars or hotel lobbies, drinks in hand, or dancing at various PR/Brand parties – images that give the impression that it’s just a long boozy weekend, there are also the comments in post-conference pieces the bloggers themselves write, about how it was a great opportunity to go and hang out with other women they’ve long wanted to meet, to have a few drinks, party a little and get away from the kids and the mundane of day-to-day life. These same women write on and on about how they didn’t even hit any of the panels or roundtables/discussions because there was too much going on in the PR swag areas, or they didn’t have time because they were sight seeing, or getting together with other bloggers. 

It *seems* like for every three women who go to a conference and LEGITIMATELY get something out of it outside of self proclaimed “me time”, and attend the panels and discussions, there is one who only goes for shoe competition (I call it this because there are no end of posts, pre-conference where women are crying over which shoes to take) swag, free booze, and the schoomzing. Unfortunately, it’s this one blogger who make the rest look bad and give off the impression that these conferences are little more than how Joanne Bamberger characterized them – working mothers (and the non-working too- my own opinion) using conferences as vacations from their families. 

Is this why I don’t go to conferences? No. I don’t go because of social anxiety issues that render me unable to function in large groups of people. I’d genuinely like to go to a conference because I think there are a few out there that genuinely have something to offer someone like me. At the end of the day though, I bet I don’t have a single pair of shoes that would be OK to wear to a mommy-blogging conference.

It’s strange to me that we Mom Bloggers spend so much time branding ourselves as mothers and then lose it when our motherhood is acknowledged.