Closing comments and turning off visitor stats on my blog has had a surprisingly significant impact on my daily life. Writing into a vacuum, hearing the proverbial crickets chirping after I publish each post, has crystallized a lot of things I’ve noticed about blogging, modern motherhood, and “mommyblogging” (a term I’m using loosely to encapsulate the phenomenon of so many moms reading and writing blogs).
I have a lot of thoughts to share on the matter, but since they lend themselves to discussion I’ll save most of them until after I’ve re-opened comments at Easter. In the meantime, here’s some food for thought: below is a description of an average day for me from before I turned off blog comments. I will note that parts in which I have social interaction with other adults in blue (those of you on feed readers may need to click through to see the color). See if anything jumps out at you:
I wake up early, get dressed, and go downstairs for some quiet time before the kids get up. I smile to see an email from a good friend with new pictures of her family, and reply to ask how the new baby is doing. I reply to a few more emails from friends, family and blog readers.
I then check in on my favorite blogs to see what other people I “know” (from following their blogs) are up to this week: one mom tells us that she’s struggling to incorporate prayer into her busy life, another writes of feeling glad for having such a great husband, and another writes of her tendency to feel like she’s not as good of a mother as everyone else is — what a relief to hear other who feel the same way I do! I eagerly leave sympathetic comments. One of these posts makes me think of something interesting that I’d like to share, so I write up my thoughts and post them on my blog.
The kids are now awake, so I go upstairs and get them ready for the day. It takes almost two hours to dress them, feed them and then clean up the kitchen. We say morning prayers and start our day. My husband calls to say hi. I eagerly start telling him about something that’s on my mind, but the baby starts crying so I have to abruptly end the call. Today is grocery store day, so I start making the store list. I’m interrupted multiple times by needing to help one of the kids with something, but I eventually get the list completed and am finally ready to go to the store.
I give the kids a five-minute warning that it’s time to stop playing and get ready to go, and take the opportunity to glance at my computer. I see that I have two new comments to that post I wrote. How interesting! One person says he can really relate to what I talked about; another writes to say she disagreed with parts of it. I leave a reply to the woman who disagreed. That little burst of intellectual stimulation gives me renewed energy as I go back to get everyone ready for the store trip.
I go through the 40-minute process of changing diapers, filling sippy cups, putting on socks, shoes and jackets and getting everyone strapped into their car seats, and we head off to the store. I have been going to this store the same day of the week at the same time of day for two years, and I never run in to anyone I know. I am surrounded by strangers. I make polite chit-chat with the checker about the weather.
On cue, all three kids are fussing by the time we get back with the groceries. A friend calls but we can only talk for a moment because I can’t hear her over the noise in the background. We agree to try to get together sometime and abruptly end our conversation. I scramble to feed the baby and make lunch for the toddlers since they’re all overtired and hungry. A couple of difficult situations arise and I feel so frustrated I could scream. I wonder if I’m overreacting, if other moms have days like this, if my kids’ behavior is normal. I am dying to tell someone about the way I feel, and maybe get some encouragement or reassurance.
Things eventually settle down and I clean up the kitchen, do afternoon prayers, read children’s books, and put the toddlers in bed for their naps. The baby and I head downstairs for some much-needed relaxation time.
I go to my desk and pay a few bills while the baby bounces on my lap. I check blog comments to see that that woman who disagreed with my post has left a new comment to our discussion, and it’s really interesting! Articulating my reply in defense of my position is a refreshing mental exercise. There are also two new comments that offer perspectives that I’d never considered before. I am not familiar with the name of one of these new commenters, so I click through the link to her blog. As it turns out, she’s a mom of five children, and she just wrote a post about potty training. I’m so relived to find this, because I have a specific question I’ve been dying to ask someone who knows about this stuff! So I leave a comment on her site with my question.
Then I go to see what’s going on with some of the other bloggers whose sites I regularly follow. One of my favorite bloggers writes of how she’s having a tough day and wonders if other moms have days like this. I am so relieved to read her post, I could cry! I leave a long, enthusiastic comment in response, and see that twenty other women have done the same. Some of the other commenters and I begin addressing one another’s points, and a lively conversation gets started. I click through the links to some of their sites and spend some time reading their musings about life — I can relate to so much of it. Meanwhile, the mom of five whom I asked about potty training has replied, and her answer is just what I needed to hear!
After spending a bit more time reading through my list of favorite blogs, I feel like I have a pulse on what my “community” is buzzing about today. I feel connected to the world.
After reading the interesting comments to my post and interacting with other likeminded people through their blogs, I feel reinvigorated to tackle the rest of the day. I get the kids up from nap and, once again, go through the 40-minute process of getting them ready to go somewhere in the car (actually, an unexpected poopy diaper makes it 45 minutes). We head out to my mother’s house to drop off some paperwork. To get there we drive two miles, all through neighborhood streets, and I see only one other human being. It’s as if there’s been a bomb scare. The one person out is a mom pushing a stroller alone. She must live near me, but I’ve never seen her before. I feel like stopping the car and rolling down the window to say, “Hey, I have a baby too! You should come over for tea sometime!” But that would be weird. So I offer a little wave instead. She doesn’t wave back.
When we get back to the house I take the kids to check the mail at the central mailbox station on our street. Now that it’s into early evening, a few people on my street are actually home. The lady who lives three doors down whom I’ve never met is there getting her mail. We exchange polite hello‘s. She never makes eye contact and quickly turns to go back inside her house.
Back at home we do a brief evening prayer and the kids play as I start dinner. I am so relieved to see my husband when he walks through the door! We chat a bit, but it’s hard to have a conversation with all the chaos of tired and hungry children. He plays with the kids while I finish cooking. We sit down for a nice family dinner. I finally get to talk to my husband, although we have to monitor what we say since little ears are listening.
After dinner the circus of bath and bedtime begins, and we rush around to clean the kitchen, give all three kids baths, put on their jammies, read books, and get everyone in bed. It takes about an hour and a half. At the end of that time we finally have a little while for adult conversation. We barely get into our conversation before we both agree that we’re so tired we should just go to bed. I prep bottles and sippy cups and coffee for the next day, and get ready to do it all again!
Sorry for the long story, but I share that level of detail to illustrate a point: notice what percentage of social interaction I have in a day comes from the internet. I have plenty of friends, but to get all the kids ready to leave the house (while working around the all-important nap schedule) makes going anywhere in the car only slightly less difficult than a moon landing. Hardly anyone in my neighborhood is home during the day, and the transient nature of suburbia means that the people I do see are strangers. I am almost completely isolated.
I share this not to complain, but because I find it interesting. Closing comments for Lent has brought into relief the non-trivial role that writing and reading blogs plays in my life. I would dare to say that it goes beyond a form of mindless entertainment and into the area of a real psychological need.
…But I will save the details of those thoughts until after Lent, when I can open comments again and hear what you guys have to say. Stay tuned for Part II.
UPDATE: Click here for Part II
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