As a blogger-come-lately, I have slowly learned to appreciate social media's impact on parenting. After entering the cyber realm two years ago, my primary goal was to dust off a haggard brain. Too many hours of Caillou, Chutes and Ladders, and Goodnight Moon relegated my literary musings to the most abhorrent of offerings. Dismal subjects included "101 Reasons Why I Can't Live Without Bacon" and "Why I Think Guy Fieri is Seriously Hot." I was in a very dark place. Worst of all? I couldn't recall a single grammar rule on restrictive clauses or coordinating conjunctions. Even my subjects and verbs hated each other.
To quote Edward Snowden's girlfriend, I was adrift in a sea of chaos. And my boyfriend wasn't even spilling the beans on domestic phone surveillance.
By the way, I totally love you, NSA. You know. In case you're listening.
So when I joined the big online party, guests with names like Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram were all the rage. For a mom once terribly isolated and depressed during her early days of parenting, I envied these phenomenal tools and resources. For me, going to the grocery store with three sick babies had once brought me to the brink of despair. I had no energy to pack up for playdates or outings that necessitated three diaper bags and a bottle of Crown Royal. Yet, with the onset of social media, moms were now hosting "virtual" playdates, sharing information, and creating cyber friendships that transcended geography. Nobody was required to comb their hair or take a shower. It was awesome.
When I became part of the BlogHer community, I started reading about the numerous conferences, conventions, and meetings sponsored by social networks. Too cheap to hire a babysitter or pay for airfare, I only fantasized about attending such an event.
But when the granddaddy of them all announced that its little tête à tête would take place here in Chicago this summer, I thought maybe I'd give it a whirl. BlogHer's annual conference attracts celebrities, politicians, national brands, and thousands of bloggers from across the United States. I registered online and secretly hoped maybe they'd invite Donny Osmond as a speaker this year.
Because I love him.
I originally planned to shuttle back and forth from the three-day event. I live on the South Side, a short 25 minutes from downtown. I reckoned I could save on the expense of a hotel and also be home each night to tuck in my boys.
But that's when the more experienced blogger crowd pooh-poohed my naiveté.
"You have to stay! The parties wrap up so late, you don't want to be driving home at 2 a.m. and falling asleep in your kid's Batman bed!"
Hold the phones.
Did someone say "parties"?
There were PARTIES??
"Oh yeah," shared my friend, "and swag."
"Like free Tic Tacs?"
What's better than free Tic Tacs? I had clearly interpreted things wrong. I thought the conference would be comprised of cloistered women sitting together in small rooms discussing the changing voice of writing and publishing. Maybe we'd even review restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses and prepositional phrases.
There were PARTIES.
I immediately changed course and did what any frugal gal with a basic knowledge of social networking would do. I got me some roomies. Gals I've never met. One has pink hair. I think the average age is 24.
I'm going to be Mrs. Garrett.
Sadly, my roommates probably won't know who Mrs. Garrett is.
With BlogHer hastily approaching, I started to panic a bit this week. What was I going to wear? What sessions should I be scheduling? What if my barely legal roomies made fun of my Spanx and laminated Donny Osmond poster?
My social media pals stepped in yet again to help. They added me to Facebook groups like "Really Old Women Attending BlogHer" and they created spreadsheets detailing known parties, sessions, and speakers.
This unchartered world of computer friends and cyber-sisters has propped me up so many times over the last few years. Whenever I doubted my parenting, hit an emotional wall, or desperately needed a laugh, they were there. I may not recognize these ladies in a crowd, but I will definitely be taking a careful look at plenty of name badges.
I want to locate each one and thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Maybe NSA will help me find them.
You guys still listening?
I lost you at "Donny Osmond," didn't I?
Happens every time.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.