How Blogging Made Me Better

Posted by jdg | Thursday, August 05, 2010

I've been writing here for more than five years now. I do not like taking up this space to talk about it. I'm fairly certain that those of you outside our sorority of navelgazing windbags known as bloggers don't really care about our conferences, our free trips to the Caribbean, or whatever the hell we have to say about our blogs on our blogs. But I am going to say this anyways.

There's no way I could have quit my job in San Francisco and spent the last four years doing what I've done without this website. In becoming part of a community of men and women writing and reading about the experience of parenting online I gained the support and validation I needed to abandon the trajectory I was on and focus instead on the life I actually wanted. This is where I get mushy. I know for most not-yet-parents, websites about parenting must be more unappealing than lactating nun porn. Twenty-somethings must tremble at the possibility of ending up like me, a man who abandoned everything he spent his twenties working towards because he became a father and was suddenly seized with the delusion that everything he thought was important when he was 23 actually didn't mean shit to him anymore. I went through that same journey of fear and dread, knowing that creating new life brings unpreventable changes and new responsibilities. Of course, what I hadn't been prepared for was how much love it would stir up inside me, this primal, riotous love; the calamitous melange of fear, and pain, and hope, and awe that comes when you finally get to know these new people you made with the one person who first stirred up enough love inside you to make it all happen. 

And then I remembered my own parents, what they taught me about love, and that long, slow spacewalk they've watched me take since they cut the cord. I thought about the sacrifices they made. And I wanted to reach out and hold my kids as close and for as long as I could, before they slipped away. I have always spent my life living for the next decade: working hard, saving money, plotting out a safe career and a secure retirement. When I realized that continuing to live how I was living meant that I would barely get to watch my kids grow up, something snapped. I walked away. And I had this blog and the people reading it to help keep me from fainting. I learned to live for these precious years of their lives, and mine. And I know I'm better for it.

Here is something that's hard to admit: this blog is a performance. I know a lot of people like to complain online. There is a certain value in it: the job of parenting---whether stay-at-home, work-at-home, working, no matter what kind---is difficult, and writing about the difficulty is important to give others going through it a sense that they are not alone. But I worry that complaining about this life I chose with my kids would be like spitting in the face of all the fathers who must work away from home to support their families; the mothers whose hearts break every morning when they leave the daycare center; the men and women who would gladly trade places with me, but cannot. Sure, I have things to complain about. But because I have this blog to collect and share my thoughts and experiences, I have generally been able to live with more positivity and joy than if it wasn't all so public. When writing publicly about your life, I think there's a natural tendency to try to live a better one. You do fun things you might not ordinarily do because you have the privilege of sharing those things with others. You find whatever inspiration there is in an ordinary day (or an "ugly" city) and you share it with strangers. And you are better for it.

The elephant jostling me into the corner of this post, pressing my cheek against the two flashing skyscraper ads is that I have been damn lucky to have people reading this blog, enough to allow me to support my family through that advertising. Knowing that you all are out there, watching, has made me try to find more adventure and joy in life, for me and my kids. Realizing that you care enough about what I write to keep reading is so humbling, and it has given me confidence that, for the first time, I know what I'm doing is right for me. And for that, I cannot thank you enough, all of you: the people who've followed this journey since the beginning, those we've picked up or lost touch with along the way, and those for whom this site is a recent discovery. Thank you all. Seriously.

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And that brings me to what's next. I'm not quitting, but the time I have left to write about my life with my children is as finite as the days I have left with them in my charge. This summer has been an exhausting pleasure, without playschool or summer camps, all day every day with them. In the fall, my daughter enters kindergarten and my son preschool, and I'm going to have to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I have never been able to bring myself to use writer as a predicate nominative with I as the subject, but I am thinking of exploring some new kinds of writing. Again, I'm not quitting this blog---not even close---but it just felt like the right time to reflect a bit, to take a moment to thank you for helping make the last four wonderful years of my life possible. Thank you so much for reading.