Yesterday I shared a few thoughts on social networking and how it impacts mothering and mothers in general. If you have not read it, go now. I will make it easy for you. Here is the link. CLICK HERE! Because if you do not read it, this post will not make much sense.
Is there really a balance that can be achieved between being a present parent, maintaining “offline” friendships and relationships, and engaging in various forms of social networking? Absolutely but I think you need to have some hard and fast rules that you actually stick to.
I crafted these for myself about three weeks ago and I want to make it clear that these ground rules might not be fitting for any blogging mamas out there who blog as a profession or who are trying to ramp up their blogs to eventually earn money. My goal as a blogger is not centered around turning a profit. Sure, it would be nice to get paid to do what I do but honestly, I blog because I am passionate about what I want to share with other mamas (and other real foodies). I made the decision NOT to let my passion become my “job” because for me, when I “have” to do something, it becomes more of a chore no matter how much I enjoy it. I never want blogging to become a chore because then it will lose the very thing that keeps all of you coming back for more. It will lose the little piece of my soul, the REAL me, that goes into each and every word I write. Once that happens, my blog with not be the genuine, thoughtful, and inspiring space that it is now. That would devastate me. Plus, it would shortchange you.
Here are a few ground rules for achieving a happy medium as I see it. I will start with my ground rules as it relates to social networking in general and then I will outline my ground rules for blogging and blog related activities.
Balancing Social Networking and Mothering
- Only become engaged in online activities when your children are not present. This includes nap time, after they go to bed at night, when they are not in your care (as in at a friend's house or with family), or when they are playing elsewhere (as in outside.) If your children are older and not as reliant on your engagement or supervision, you can take a little more liberty with this. However, I would still not suggest that you allow your children to see you on Facebook all day or adding Pins to Pinterist with earnest. Remember – children learn by watching and I suspect no mother wants their child to be glued to the computer checking NewsFeeds and Tweeting every second of their day.
- Do not plant your child in front of the television so you can check Facebook, Twitter, etc… The television is not a replacement for your mothering and should not become a babysitter so you can check your Newsfeed or check out questions posted in your favorite forums. ONLY use activities as babysitters if you really, really, really need to get online. It had better be important!
- For those of us with smart phones, PUT THE PHONE DOWN! If the phone is not physically with you, you will be less likely to constantly check your various feeds.
- Dig deep and recognize that your identity is not contingent upon social networking. No one really cares if you are heading to the gym, ate a great dinner, or are stuck in traffic. Do not waste time on insignificant status updates, tweets, etc… Share the important things in your life as well as the entertaining things. Leave the minutia behind.
- Let go of the idea of being popular through social networking. Love yourself for who you are and not how many friends, followers, fans, tags, or comments you have. Once you let go of the idea that social networking is a popularity contest, it will be easier to distance yourself from always having to check in and see what others are saying about you.
- Do not feel obligated to respond to every question posted in online forums, chatboards, Facebook page, etc… Just because you posted your questions does not mean you are obligated to answer everyone else's question. Pick one or two that you can provide sound advice on and move on. It is easy to get sucked into “helping.” Your children are your immediate priority. Focus on helping them by being present.
- Limit the number of blogs you subscribe to. Select the blogs that you connect with deeply or that you find the most inspiring or helpful. I am not suggesting that you “unlike,” unsubscribe, or stop following the blogs you enjoy. What I am suggesting is that you organize them so that you are checking your favorites more regularly and shelving the other blogs for a rainy day when you have some spare time to catch up on other posts. I have added all of the blogs I enjoy to my Google Reader and then put them into categories. My “favorites” are the blogs that I attempt to read regularly. I have even created a super sly “feed” and new posts in my favorites folder are emailed to me once a day, all at one time, so I don't even have the temptation of opening my Reader and getting sidetracked by other blogs. (If you want instructions on how to do this, let me know.)
- If you cannot bear the thought of leaving all of the blogs you subscribe to behind, craft in some “blog reading catch up time” each week. I subscribe to approximately 300 blogs. I am actually able to get caught up on posts by devoting an hour or two to it each week. This happens after Tiny goes to sleep on my non-blogging evenings. I scroll through everything and read what sounds most interesting or useful.
Balancing Blogging and Mothering
The ground rules for blogging and mothering are a whole other animal. Again, I write this next section from the perspective of someone who is not blogging as a profession. These are basically my personal guidelines for how I go about blogging and connecting with my readers so it will not negatively impact my mothering.
- As with social networking, devote time to blogging when your children are not present or do not need to be your priority. Not only will you be able to fully concentrate on getting your thoughts out but you will not become frustrated at your children for “interrupting” your train of thought which could lead to you “lashing out” at them.
- Decide how often you want to post and stick to it. Do not worry about how many posts other bloggers put out each week. Do what works for you and what is realistic for the time you have available.
- Commit to writing about one or two basic themes. For example, I write about natural/peaceful parenting topics as well as real food/traditional diets. I occasionally delve into green living but that is part of the natural parenting philosophy so it still fits with where I want to take my blog. If you constantly switch up the topics you write about, you will struggle. Trust me. Many bloggers I know had a hard time finding their voice and ended up giving up blogging because it was too time consuming. Write about your interests and passions and leave the other topics to the millions of other bloggers out there. You won't waste time spinning your wheels, trying to write posts outside of your knowledge base or comfort zone. This of course frees up your time.
- Unless you are blogging as a profession, do not get caught up in the numbers game. You are impacting someone, somewhere, with each and every post. Find peace in that and remove the pressure to grow your numbers. When you blog from the heart and with sincerity, interest in your blog will naturally grow. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that in less than 6 months of blogging I would have over 600 fans on Facebook. It shocks me every time I see that number. I attribute it to writing genuine heartfelt posts with respect and dignity. I admit my shortcomings and am honest at all times. I care what others have to say and want everyone reading to feel as though I have offered some food for thought as opposed to a sermon full of scoldings and accusations. I will continue to write like this and if more and more like minded people discover my blog, horaay. If I never get another fan, well so be it. I refuse to let the numbers game take time away from my mothering.
- Do not become tempted to constantly interact with your fans on Facebook. I find that most fans prefer an update, maybe two per day. I go through spurts. Sometimes I won't post anything on my page for several days and other times I have quite a few things I need or want to post. Remember, everyone is busy just like you. They do not want their feed flooded or their email inundated. Keep your fans engaged with mindful interaction. Having said that, do take the time to respond to questions your fans post. They would not have asked it if they did not want an answer. Also be sure you are moderating any “heated” debates or conversation surrounding a posting. But again, this all takes a backseat to your family! What is more important – a debate raging on your blog about whether or not some stranger to you can call herself a natural parent or your overtired child who just needs a snuggle?
- When commenting on other blog posts, do so with sincerity. Do not waste time commenting just to comment. Yes, commenting all over blogland will possibly get you more exposure but for me, I only want fans and followers who are genuinely interested in what I write about. I do not want numbers for the sake of numbers. Therefore, I do not feel inclined to comment on every post out there. It sucks my away from more important things. When I comment, you know that that particular post resonated with me or made me think. And just because I don't comment does not mean that I did not like someone's post. Feel ok with reading a post and letting it go.
- Limit how much you comment on the comments on your own posts. Again, if someone asks a question or wants further clarification, by all means, respond. If someone is just complementing you or sharing their experience, only reply IF you have extra time. Again, do not let it take you away from being a fully engaged parent.
- Do not feel compelled to do product reviews and giveaways. They can be VERY time consuming. Yes, it is a good way to increase your fan base but again, are you looking to collect numbers or are you looking to connect with like minded individuals? I have done giveaways and some product reviews BUT they are only for products or services that I personally use. With the exception of two giveaways, everything I have reviewed has been because I had purchased it on my own BEFORE I even began blogging. Since I really like to share things I love with my readers, I took a couple of minutes to ask the product/service provider if he or she would be willing to donate something for a giveaway. So far, no one has said no. I don't ask for much and I subsequently don't promise the moon to whoever is contributing to a giveaway. I get to treat my readers to some great opportunities and I get to highlight and hopefully drive a little business to some great products/services, most of which are courtesy of work at home mamas and papas. If you are really interested in getting involved with product reviews, might I suggest finding items or services that your children can be involved with or in? This way, you are able to blend blogging with motherhood in a beneficial way for all involved.
- Last but not least, do not let blogging stress you out. Life happens and your loyal readers will understand if you just cannot get a post up. When mothering beckons, blogging should be the last thing on your mind. All of the other mamas reading your blog will completely understand if you are quite for a few days, weeks, or longer. Just let everyone know that you have some serious mothering to attend to and will be back to blogging just as soon as you can. Trust me, no one will suddenly forget you!
I am VERY interested in posting something from a blogger who is balancing “professional blogging,” (i.e. blogging as an income source OR you are trying to make in into an income source) with motherhood. Anyone interested in writing a little guest post about how you find balance and make it all work for the sake of your children?
Also, I did touch on “real friendships” versus “online friendships” but I do feel that this whole idea warrants an entire post. There is a lot to be said about the impact of social networking on friendships, relationships with your spouse/partner, relationships with family, etc. Stay tuned for another post on this, maybe next week. I think that it is really worth exploring further.
Until then, take some time to evaluate how you are going to better balance social networking and/or blogging with motherhood. As I have said before, your children need you present and engaged, not caught up in commenting on the latest status updates!