On writing for free and other hot button topics

Parenting has certain hot button topics, subjects which you know the mere mention of will incite and inflame “discussion”. So too does blogging, but Instead of sleep training, breastfeeding and childcare the issues that seem to incite the most opinion in the blogging world are advertising, PR requests and payment.

The payment thing is not reserved for bloggers alone. Any freelance creative will have something to add to the conversation, usually something derived from first hand experience because creative people are often asked to work for free.

So it is with this background that I am stepping ever so carefully onto the internet with my opinion borne from my experience. So consider it just that.
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When my family went through a wife drought

When I stopped working at my last full time job my husband was insanely happy, probably because he was unhappier when I was at work than I was, and that’s saying something. I was stressed and unhappy when I resigned which is obviously the reason that I left.

I was working because I wanted to, because the salary was helpful (but not enough to make a real difference at home) and because I thought it was an amazing opportunity. Truth is I went to the job in a part time position and very soon that wasn’t a reality and I began to resent that. I began to realise that I could not work in that job and be the mother and wife that I wanted to be. All work places are not created equal. Even if you want to believe they are – for all the talk in the world about family work balance I didn’t have any.

My husband was ultra supportive when I was drowning at work. He couldn’t have been more understanding and helpful in fact, he picked up a lot of the slack helping out at home and with Little Pencil whenever and however he could. It’s all very well to say “of course he should after all he’s his father” but the thing is he was in a career that we both had agreed was important not just for him but for the family. His helping out at home impacted his work A LOT.  The balance was completely out of kilter.
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Trying to reconnect

bloggingI started my blog in 2009, which may feel like a million years ago except it’s only four.  I had really good intentions when it began and I was so stoked to have a little place on the internet to call my own, to write about what I wanted, when I wanted. But then I kind of got side tracked by work for about three and a half of those years.

At the beginning it was cool, I was reading blogs almost every day – how awesome is it that it was part of my job? I read blogs and I followed bloggers on Twitter and Facebook and I read and requested many brilliant blogs for republication on Mamamia. But then the job literally swept me off my feet and all of a sudden I wasn’t able to read as much as I did before. As for getting involved and commenting – well that was just a distant, albeit very fond, memory

And while I tried desperately to hold on in the one hour a day I wasn’t working, I wasn’t able to keep up.  The whole blogging scene was changing before me.  It’s a funny thing how you notice things from the outside in when you aren’t on the inside. And it’s funnier still when you go back inside and look at it again from a different perspective.

Some bloggers monetised their blogs (which I think is fabulous and clever and good on them). Some bloggers became very serious about the art of blogging and decided that there was only one way to do it. Some bloggers formed alliances and created very cool collaborative websites of their own and some bloggers tried to distance themselves from others.  Hundreds of blogging competitions popped up and people began attending blogging conferences/workshops and seminars. It makes me feel 107 to say “they weren’t doing that in my day”.

In essence I guess blogging grew up a bit while I was furiously paddling alongside it. Just not in it.

So where does this leave someone who was paddling during the change period?

I’m still blogging much like I was doing in 2009 but hoping to do that with a little more frequency now that it is one of my primary tasks. And I am thrilled about that decision.

I know a HEAP more about social media and building communities than I knew in 2009, my writing has developed (I hope) and I think I may have even become a little more confident after stepping away from a huge website.  I also have a shitload of editorial experience.

But there is so much I feel like I may have missed out on because what I don’t have is the connection with the blogging world that I used to have.  And I want it back.

I don’t want to be part of a clique. I’ve hated those since about 1973 when I started school, I don’t want to be part of some inner sanctum and I don’t even want to attend the seminars and conferences (unless breakfast is included – I love breakfast).

I don’t want to ask you who your favourite blogger is because I HATE competition as much as I love breakfast. The thought of putting people in order puts me off my food, but I’d love to know if there are any blogs you recommend I follow?

Also do YOU have a blog? Give me the address so I can follow you in the most non stalkery way possible.

Hit me with it – and thank you also for sticking with me.

 

The perfect job

motheringOne of the things that happens when you suddenly stop working 20 hours a day 7 days a week is that you have a lot more time to think. Not about work and page views and headlines but about family and real views and heart lines.

Naturally, given that I am slightly neurotic and an extreme over thinker , I’ve spent a significant amount of my newly discovered time worrying that somehow I missed out on my family during my years of 20 hour days.

Let me just preface everything I am about to say with the fact that I support/respect/admire/love women that work outside the home just as much as I support/respect/admire/love women who don’t.  This is not about judgment or privilege (even though I realise what I privileged position I am in), this is not about pointing fingers or blaming the patriarchy or the feminist movement– it’s just about me, my position and the way that I feel about my own experience.  Read this paragraph again and again every time you feel like I may be judging you, talking about working women in general or your own personal situation.

I don’t resent the job that I did and I understand that it was as much my pursuit for perfection, as the role in a 24/7 cycle site that contributed to the fact that I had no life outside work for at least three very long years.

And I can’t help thinking and stressing and ruminating and worrying about my son.

It’s not that I believe that he missed out on anything while I was stuck in my laptop. He has an amazing father who plays as significant a role in his life as I do, he has an awesome and supportive extended family who have shown him unconditional love and support, and I have the kindest most givinng friends who have loved him as their own.  Added to which he goes to a school where the pastoral care is above and beyond the call of duty. So he’s been fine. Loved, cared for, stimulated, educated and supported.

But I worry that I missed out on him.  I worry that there were things about him I don’t even know I missed.  I worry that I nearly missed him growing up while I was watching the world go by on my laptop.

Every week there seems to be some flare up in the media about working mothers – either they are really good or they are impossibly bad. But overwhelmingly I read the online comments that mothers make saying “mother’s deserve a break” and “working mothers make better role models” and “child care provides the best alternative for mothers and children” and, at the risk of sounding like the middle class white guy complaining about persecution, I almost feel bad to admit that I am happier not working full time, I am actually much happier to be parenting full time and working part time only when my child is at school. It’s not that I don’t want to work – I’m actively looking for work. But work that fits in with my son. I don’t want him to try and fit in with my work.

I don’t think we’re being anti-feminist or going back in time if we allow women to acknowledge that they want to stay at home with their kids.  I object to working mothers telling me that the mothering experience is lesser, especially those working mothers who have never known any different – if it’s my choice it’s not lesser for me.

If feminism is about choices I want to feel validated in my choice to look after my family. I want to be able to say to people – I choose not to work full time because I am lucky enough not to have to and because above all else I want to be a mother.  Children are children for a short time.

The other morning I confided to my husband that I feel awful that I have become the kind of mum that drops her child at school in her gym clothes and then spends the morning between a treadmill, a coffee shop and sometimes a meeting or two. I told him I didn’t feel like I was contributing.  In the best husbandly fashion that he exhibits on a regular basis he just looked at me and said: “You are making a bigger contribution now than when you were working full time – you are the family glue”

I didn’t feel offended or indignant being referred to as the glue. I didn’t fight with him about the fact that women don’t get to choose the work or family option because of the patriarchy because, more than anything, I want the family option. I feel loved and validated and grateful beyond words that I can be giving the biggest part of myself to my family.

It’s sad that I can’t say it out loud without worrying that someone is going to take offence. But you know what? I’m happier being a mother than I am being any other role and I am trying not to be ashamed to admit it.

Just a thank you….

thank-you-wallpaperFor a time at work it became all about page impressions and unique browsers. I hovered over Google analytics every day to see how many visitors there were to the site, how many were new and how many had visited before. I pored over Facebook to see how many new likers there were and how they were interacting with the site. I scrolled through Twitter feeds looking for mentions and retweets. I went to Pinterest like a mad woman ignoring the images and looking only at the repins and the likes.

It wasn’t how I started at Mamamia, it wasn’t even who I was. I’m not a numbers person, a stats kind of girl – I used to balk at the sight of a graph and I’m still innately scared of numbers.

Soon after I announced that I was resigning from Mamamia/iVillage the messages started to flow in, both here on my blog (you people made me cry with these comments) and into my email inbox, my Twitter DMs and my Facebook messages. People that had contributed to Mamamia and iVillage started sending me messages without contributions attached. The most beautiful, heartfelt tear-producing messages you can imagine. Messages that I read again and again and will keep forever.

It wasn’t just the readers but the amazingly beautiful and talented Mamamia/iVillage interns* who sent me emails last week that turned my world around very briefly. Because they worked with me and they got what I was about.

My friends are supportive, amazing, reaffirming.  Kerri you are getting a special mention because AWESOME.

My family (especially my eldest sister) who have always urged me to do my own thing. Even when I was annoying and irritating.

All the messages and the feedback I have been getting just confirm for me that, in the end, it’s not about numbers and figures, stats and unique browsers. For me it’s about being connected. I want to be part of a community where I can be good and kind and be around people that are the best people that they can be (in a very non soppy and totally cool way) and essentially be true to myself.

I don’t want this blog post to be about me patting my own back or singing my own praises, Lord (and anyone who knows me in real life) knows I do not like spotlights in any shape or form but I have been overwhelmed and humbled and I have been feeling better about myself after reading those messages than I have in a long time.

So thank you everyone. Thank you for helping bring me back to my own blog

* Follow Mary and Elissa on Twitter  – tell them I sent you!

5 years after I started commenting on Mamamia…..

Five years ago I was working from home, writing copy, putting together presentations, compiling articles for industry newsletters and you know, surfing the web. In reality I was doing more web surfing then anything else and it was there that I found my two happy places – Twitter and Mamamia.

Mamamia and Twitter were inextricably linked for me – the friends I met on Mamamia were the friends I saw in my Twitter feed. We were taking Mamamia to Twitter and taking our new friendships back to Mamamia like a perfectly formed circle of conversation.

I commented on Mamamia a lot (l’ve always had a lot to say).  I commented enough for Mia to notice me and to start talking to me on Twitter as well. It was more than 4 years ago – both Twitter and Mamamia were much smaller.

In a glorious turn of events Mia reached out to me, the very gorgeous and gifted Kerri Sackville and the amazingly talented Amanda Whitely.  We worked together scurrying around the back end of Mamamia for a short while before Amanda and Kerri went on their very successful ways and I went to work for Mia at Mamamia.

It was the dream job for me – I learned more than I could possibly have imagined I would ever know. I got to meet amazing people and experience extraordinary things. I was often bruised – just from pinching myself that it was actually my life I was leading.

The move to iVillage last year was a big step for me – I left the safety zone of the Mamamia community and I embraced iVillage with everything I had. And it was an amazing ride.

But I’m getting off.

I resigned from Mamamia/iVillage yesterday with a heavy heart and an eternity full of beautiful memories.   Mia, Jason and the team at Mamamia – especially Nat, Nicky, Lucy, Bec and Rick (although he is no longer there) with whom I have shared SO much, have built me the perfect ramp from which to fly my coop. I need to spread my wings with these incredible memories , I need to  fly to new places.

And even though my first foray into Mamamia was almost 5 years ago, it is testament to the strength of that early community that when I announced on Facebook that I was leaving, it was the people that I met all those years ago commenting on Mamamia as Sharpest Pencil, wishing me well.

Benita, Angela, Danya, Rachel, Emma, Julie, Amanda, Sandra and of course my very dearest Kerri*  let’s raise our glasses to Welfington – hope we get there soon

*with a special mention to Miss Manly 😉

Junk mail for the 41 year old, married female (with a child and a dog)

As a writer working from home, it is important to keep looking for opportunities and, well, you know, income.  You can imagine my excitement the other day when a whole campaign of work was delivered to my junk mail folder.  The only teeny tiny problem was that it was not being offered to me as work as such.  In fact the sender actually wanted money from me.  But I, as a writer with a bit of experience in public relations and marketing, saw a way to turn this around.

The emails being sent were , well they were not well written.  They got to the point (rather fast) but they did not make an awful lot of sense and they certainly did not appeal to the average woman in the 35-45 year old married female demographic.  And so I have decided to contact the sender with my ideas.  In return they could give me bucketloads of cash or vats of little blue pills.

My task, as I assigned myself, was to take their pithy one line emails that were clearly aimed at Neanderthal, non-English speaking, sex crazed, gullible men (NESSGM) and turn them into something  that would attract the attention of a married, 41 year old English speaking mum of 1 (with a dog).  (ME)

All  NESSGM emails have been transcribed exactly (complete with spelling errors) from my junk mail folder.  I have left out the links because I do not want to give you a virus.  I mean, I hardly even know you.  You do, however get to see the new and improved emails….

OLD

Subject:  Be the inner massgist

Body:    Exaltation of having your rod ready-for-action again! This solution’s worth trying!

NEW

Subject:  Be the dinner mistress

Body:    Imagine the joy of having your dinner ready for serving every night!  Without even trying!

OLD

Subject: Improve your androgen levels

Body:    Get positive changes below the belt

NEW

Subject : Improve the way you feel about your body

Body:    We guarantee positive weight changes around the stomach area.  All you need do is sleep.  In your own bed. ALONE

OLD

Subject:  Detoxicate your body

Body: Right packs for night acts

NEW

Subject: Don’t worry about any body

Body:    We will take care of all night time duties – including making dinner, clearing and washing dishes and reading bedtime stories and tucking in child

OLD

Subject: Useful potions.  Approved pillules

Body:    She’ll whisper “you’re the best”

NEW

Subject: Useful emotions.  Approved time out

Body:    He’ll whisper “it’s okay honey, I just want to tell you I love you, now sleep tight”

OLD

Subject: No fear of falling

Body: Blow her with your hormones

NEW

Subject: No fear of failing

Body:    We will come around to your home every day and provide individualised tuition and homework help to your child.  He will be blown away by the amount of fun he will have while getting through his homework

OLD

Subject: Helloween sale

Body:    Need assistance in drilling?

NEW

Subject: Holiday sale

Body:    Need assistance in escaping the daily grind?  We will take care of all the holiday plans, including return first class airfares for one, superior 5 class accommodation and calorie reducing chocolate cake served on the hour).  Husband, child and dog minding will be provided AT HOME for those left behind.

Do you think I’ll  get the gig?

Have you ever dared to open the link on one of these emails ?  Who exactly are they targeting? Massgists? Fallers? Drillers.