Mom 2.0

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At the Mom 2.0 Conference last spring, one of the panel discussions featured Liz Lange, creator of smart, wearable maternity pieces available at both your local Target store and, if you have budget, your local maternity boutique (where the prices points are obviously different).  Back when I was pregnant with my oldest, expecting a baby and looking chic while doing it was a bit of an oxymoron.  Along came Liz Lange, who saw a market for women who didn’t want to sacrifice style just because they were temporarily sacrificing their waistlines.  Because of the prevailing opinion, however, she got some serious pushback from people who didn’t catch her vision.  “Pregnant women don’t care what they look like!” she was told when she first began reaching out and trying to pitch her idea.  “What!?” she thought, appalled.  “Who says they don’t?”

And so, in spite of having to navigate a sea of naysayers, including friends who maintained that fashion-forward pregnancy clothing would never take off, she persisted.  And the rest is maternity-wear history.

What I loved was hearing her tell her story:  how, even in the face of constant rejection, door after door being shut in her face, she blithely kept going.  “I always believed things would work out,” she said with a big smile.  “I’m just that way,” she added by way of explanation.  “I’m an optimist.  My favorite movie is Pollyanna,” she laughed.

In the months since the conference, I’ve thought a lot about her remarks.  I’ve considered the fact that her success hung not on her luck as much as her optimism.  And I began to wonder:  could this be true?  Could life sometimes be designed to work out??

I’ve been testing the idea out, flirting with the possibility that maybe, though I’m often cozier with doubt, I might be just as fit to be an optimist as Liz Lange is.  I mean–why not?  Recently, I told myself, about a potentially fraught situation, “This is going to work out fine,” and what do you know?–it did.  That’s not to say there weren’t bumps.  (After all, the bumps are what prompt us to remind ourselves that it can all work out.)  Moreover, perhaps we ought to distinguish between something meant to work out “fine” and something meant to work out “perfect,” the former describing an outcome for which we can feel grateful, and the latter describing an outcome already so laden with unexamined (and perhaps unmanaged) expectations that it’s not realistic.

If any of this rings true, by all means weigh in.  If you’re an optimist, tell me (do!) about a time when you knew deep inside that things would work out, and they did.  If, like me, you are slowly converting to Optimism, tell me about the steps you’re taking and how they keep you planted firmly in a positive frame of mind.

My one step:  I allow myself to smile, and to think, “This is all going to be okay somehow.”  It’s a great parenting tool, I’m finding.  It allows me to do what I consider the work of mothering with greater confidence.  Thus, if a door seems like it’s shut, so to speak, I do a quick inventory and find that I’ve got all kinds of keys, one of which is sure to work.

It’s also a great tool for being more at ease in my own life.  For that, as much as anything, I’m grateful for the remarks of Liz Lange.

BTW:  At the bottom of her web page, these words invite consideration.

(This was a gratitude post, not a sponsored one–just so you knew what you were looking at.)

 

 

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Last spring, I packed up a few colorful outfits, some not-so-sensible shoes, grabbed my laptop, got on a plane, and flew to Miami, where the Mom 2.0 Conference, at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, was happening. I had decided I wanted to start blogging, and I knew nothing at all about how one went about it. I’d done plenty of writing. But blogging?

What I did know was that I wanted to reach out to moms of teens. That demographic, I felt, was underrepresented in the blogosphere, probably because we were all busy assembling meals for tweens and teens whose staggered schedules meant that the kitchen stayed open around the clock. Or we were helping with homework until 2 am. Or running this child or that one or all of them to/from ballet or voice lessons or track practice or a study group or a friend’s pool party or an orthodontic appointment or an MUN (Model United Nations) conference, etcetera, ad infinitum. Moms of kids in the (roughly) eleven to eighteen range, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I mean, how would any of us have time to blog, of all things?

Nevertheless, I checked in at the conference, and so began an interesting weekend, where mom bloggers of all stripes, authors, speakers, marketers, advertisers, media groups, and purveyors of very nice swag came together for morning plenary sessions, panel discussions, Q & A’s, lunches, a highly anticipated Twitter event, a reception at the Versace Mansion (skipped it, too tired), and on it went. Lots and lots to collide with, take notes on, process. Lots of networking to do, which is tricky if you have no business cards. Gals were handing them out like they were candy, and believe me, some serious thought had gone into the design of those cards.  As I was cardless, my line was, “I’m just starting out,” a confession which prompted one or two magnanimous smiles from women who were no doubt writing me off.

And there was plenty of “Reach out to me” talk going on.  One woman, a well-heeled rep for Macy’s, herself the mother of a teenage daughter, was telling me about her weekend in the Carribean with Rachel Roy and Martha Stewart. “Reach out to me,” she said coolly, passing me her card, and I was thinking to myself, “Mm, you probably don’t drive a Suburban that smells like the family’s last camping trip, do you?” But I smiled blithely, thanking her for her little compliment about my chevron-patterned knit skirt, which I’d picked up at a consignment store a few days earlier.  I doubted she frequented consignment stores.

On the one hand, I thought, what is all this?  On the other hand, I thought, why not?  Why not reach out, connect, build communities?  But I wasn’t sure my voice was sufficiently tuned, and that seemed to be the key feature of the blogs I resonated to–a strong sense of voice.  At the end of the weekend, I collected my things, got back on a plane, and flew back to Orange County, California, where the family waited to see how it had gone.  “It was cool,” I told them.  “Very interesting.”  Which it was.

And that was that.  Summer came.  The extended family met in Budapest to start a European river cruise, a gift from my parents.  My son was getting ready to embark on his own grand, two-year adventure, and I probably wrote five blog posts between May and September.

Then we moved. Out of the country. And I dusted off what I could recall from Mom 2.0 and started thinking again about blogging for real, about trying to connect moms of older kids, whose work is more fraught and rewarding and complex and gratifying (shall I go on?) than anyone can imagine. “We’ve got to be talking,” I thought, and realized I really wanted to try to kick start that conversation.

To that end, I thought I’d share my take aways from the conference. First, if there was one thing that became clear to me, it was that mom bloggers have reach. They have bandwidth.  I figured that out the second I visited momitforward, for example, one of the really amazing blogs referenced in a panel session I attended.  Up to that point, I had no idea that women could mobilize like that!–taking up themes important to moms of all kinds, creating communities, and making great things happen.  Second, while the business of connecting with your tribe through your blogging efforts takes the kind of boundless persistence I would have thought only Olympic athletes or candidates for political office were capable of, even small steps forward invite good things.  I talked to all kinds of other bloggers who were steadily building their communities and having a great time doing it.  Third, if you focus on content that matters deeply to you, eventually you’ll find traction.  Over and over I heard this, and now I guess I’m challenging us all to prove the idea solid.

Finally, I thought I’d share a story that continues to inspire me.  One of the panelists that weekend was Lee Rhodes, of glassybaby.  A lung cancer survivor, she wrestled to get her company going in spite of the fact that naysayers popped up everywhere.  Wasn’t going to work, everyone told her.  No one would ever want to pay a premium for handblown glass votives.  But the light of candles had always kept her going during the dark days of her illness, and she felt so sure of her uniquely artisanal product and its mission that she pushed forward.  Take a look at what glassybaby is doing today, in spite of the fact that when the company was still just an idea, no one thought it could work.  Her message to everyone at Mom 2.0 was that all kinds of “you-can’t-do-it” folks will show up right when you’re ready to start something new and noteworthy.  They’ll tell you why it’s a bad idea.  They’ll tell you not to waste your time.  Do it anyway, was Rhodes’ message, because you might be about to connect with your right life.

For me, that was the big take away from Mom 2.0.  Whatever your own (or anyone else’s) hesitations about your blogging efforts and mission, do it anyway.  Because plenty of people are listening.

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