Friday, June 30, 2017

A Life in Pieces: Am I a Mommy Blogger?

My greatest fear in life is becoming irrelevant. The answer from my Facebook friends, as suspected, was that I'll always be relevant ... to my kids.

When I tell people that I never wanted to be a parent, that's the absolute truth. I was terrified of the parenting mistakes I would make, a product of my environment and all. I was afraid that my anxiety and bouts with depression would be terrible for a child. I was worried that my professional pursuits would always make a child play second-fiddle, resulting in them growing up and hating me. I suppose they're all natural fears or anxieties about having kids, but after my first marriage ended rather depressingly, I realized I probably wasn't going to get married again, and I probably wasn't going to ever have kids, and I was truly okay with that.

But then, of course, the narrative knows that I met Mr. T, got pregnant right away, and now I have two kids (after swearing the moment Asher was born that I'd never have more because of how traumatic it was). And then, after Little T, and juggling two, I once again vowed to never, ever, ever, ever have kids ever again. And I'm okay with that.


When I started this blog in April 2006, an amazing eleven years ago, I was almost at my Reform conversion, graduating college, and heading off for my prestigious Dow Jones News Fund internship at The Washington Post. I spent a year in Washington, D.C., alone, miserable, and depressed. I walked away from that internship-turned-full-time job without reservation. People told me I was crazy, that people would kill for that job. And now, looking back at that decision to leave, and seeing colleagues still there during all the Trump drama, I have to wonder if I missed out. I loved writing headlines, I loved finessing the copy of amazing reporters who were terrible writers. I was good at what I did.

I left DC for Chicago, for a boy, and ended up spending a little over a year working at the University of Chicago as the "everything girl" for Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman. That 24/7 job is what forced me into attempting Shabbat observance, to deciding to pursue an Orthodox conversion, and to applying and entering graduate school for a master's in Judaic studies from 2008-2010 in Storrs, Connecticut.

During my time there, I met my first husband, got to catalog and inventory hundreds of donated books, including an impressive collection of haggadot, and to fully immerse myself in Judaism and Judaic literature that I so miss. Those were years where the only work I did was schoolwork, because my hours spent cataloging weren't really work, there were a joy. I taught freshman, I graded papers. It was a dream. It gave me a glimpse of a future I thought I could have in academics, as an educator, a researcher, a dreamer.

Then I got married in May 2010, we moved to New Jersey, and I started up at NYU, pursuing my second and third master's degrees in Judaic studies and Jewish education. A year later, my marriage was over, and the academic program was a repeat of what I got in Storrs, so I quit and skipped town for Colorado.

After a year in Colorado working for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, paying off all my debt, and finding myself after going off the derech and back on, I made aliyah in October 2012. While in Israel, I found work as a content writer, social media manager, and wife. But the paid work was inconsistent and unpredictable, my father was sick, and we ended up back in the States in April 2014.

My work in the U.S. was inconsistent until April 2015 when I got a job at a Silicon Valley startup, and I worked there for two years, while taking side projects and freelance one-off gigs to supplement my income. I left that job in February and have been floating since then, dreaming.

Dreaming of being a full-time writer.


The thing about Mommy Bloggers, is that they're usually Stay-at-Home Moms who have the fodder of finger painting and playdates to inform their posts. Many turn their blogs into money-making enterprises with product reviews and sponsorships. For some Mommy Bloggers, writing is a full-time job, and every moment of life is a potential post waiting to happen.

I took the plunge and the kids will be home with me for two full weeks in August when we return from the UK and, starting August 21st, they'll be home with me every Tuesday and Thursday. My calendar is already full of events through the end of the year: Free days at the museums, library reading time, etc.

The question, I guess, is whether I'll get lost in moments with my children or turn my pen toward being a Mommy Blogger. The angle?

Career-Focused anti-Mommy turned SAHM Mommy Blogger

Yes, the kids are still in daycare three days a week, but my professional pursuits are sort of in limbo right now. I'm over social media and digital marketing. I'm not interested in that grind anymore professionally. I'm still all over it for my personal "brand," but professionally, I don't find great joy in hustling for others.

So my days alone will be writing, writing, and more writing. Cooking. Reflecting. Hopefully just enjoying what I have, where I'm going, who I am.

Or, maybe, figuring out who I am at all and whether being relevant really matters.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The One-Third Life Crisis: Full-Time Hustle to SAHM?

I kind of feel like I've been in a one-third life crisis for awhile now.

Professionally, I've been working in social media since the dark ages. Since leaving The Washington Post 10 years ago, my professional self has existed in the realm of social media, digital marketing, and content, in that order. I spent years hitting lists of influential Twitterers and bloggers, and I turned my personal success in the social sphere into a career.

At first, it was Jewish nonprofits, and then it became for-profits, and then it was more Jewish nonprofits, and, eventually, I ended up working for a well-funded hardware startup in Silicon Valley. It was my dream turned reality, and I was happy. I had autonomy, I was bought into the brand 100 percent, I believed in the vision and the dream. I loved my job. I really, really loved my job.

That job ended in February for reasons that I cannot and will not get into here, and since then, I float through my days with giant question marks above my head. I know that I no longer love social media. It's a 24/7 slog of work that just goes and goes and you never really hit your target. There's always something else, something bigger, something new you have to do to stay relevant.

When my most recent full-time job of two years ended, I realized what I really wanted to do was write. Writing has always been my #1 passion. I've got journals going back to first grade. I used to do slam poetry. My blog used to be an every-day pursuit, sometimes with a multi-day posting schedule. I had so much to say, so much to share with the world.

Now I'm slogging at a few part-time social media gigs, and I'm basically working to pay for childcare. It feels like I've got the boulder on my shoulders and I take one step and fall down under the crushing weight of the rock.

I spent a full-time week doing part-time work, and I fill those hours with my clients because -- even though it's part-time work -- what else am I going to do? I apply for jobs, I pursue and bid on content gigs, and I'm not getting anywhere. My happiest, best day recently was when I wrote a blog post for MazelTogether, and it went up into the world.

The reason I love content is because you research it, you write it, you edit it, you post it, and it's out in the world. Your job is done. What happens after that is up to SEO and SEM masters. Your words fly, they ripple, they're out there. You don't have to constantly hit the copy over the head for months on end trying to make something happen.

So I'm at this weird juncture in my life crisis. We can't afford to continue with daycare at this rate, and I can't continue doing work that isn't satisfying and is only paying the daycare bill. Mr. T is working a more lucrative job now as an electrician (his life's work, it's what he loves B"H), which gives us a bit of leeway, but not much. But every penny I make goes back into daycare, which just doesn't make sense anymore. Especially if I'm not happy, right?

Thus, I'm toying with bringing the kids home part time. Or maybe even full time. I'm not sure yet. Maybe I'll get a nanny (they're cheaper than daycare), or maybe I'll keep them in daycare part time so they can continue being the amazing, social creatures that they are. I'm not cut from the FT SAHM cloth, I know this. But something's got to give.

And, as Mr. T keeps telling me ... I need to reset.

I've been going and going and going and going since, well, since I was 13 (nearly 14) years old and got my first job. Whether in school or working or both, I've been hustling for 20 years. And I'm not happy with it anymore.

I know having my kids home will allow me to focus 100% on them because job responsibilities won't bog me down. I'll be more active and hopefully lose some weight and get healthy. I'll be a present mom and get to enjoy all that my littles have to offer.

At the same time, I worry about losing relevance. I worry about falling even further out of touch with the digital world that nurtured me all these years, that gave me a platform and space to be Chaviva. I worry about not being in the hustle. I'm a working girl, I'm a Lady Boss. I work hard, even when I don't have to or shouldn't. It's just who I am.

Or, maybe, it'll just give me room to grow as a writer. Maybe all that time with my kids will make great fodder.

I need to reset. I need to stop planning everything out. Man plans, G-d laughs, right?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Introverted Mom with the Extroverted Child

I've been hustling hardcore to find work as a writer these days. It's what I love, it's what I'm best at, and it's what I should be doing with my life. Luckily, some brave souls are biting and taking me up on my writing chops.

Up today on MazelTogether:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Catastrophizing and the Sweat Lodge Cafe

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado. It's a coffee shop I frequent, although I haven't been here in a few weeks because I was in NYC for work and then the kids were scratching my ankles for a week while daycare was out of session for Memorial Day and Shavuot.

Now, I'm sitting here, watching the clock countdown because I've got to leave and get to a meeting at 10 a.m. The coffee shop is baking, and I probably shouldn't have even stayed because it's uncomfortably warm.

"It's a new thing we're trying," the barista jokes. "The big shvitz!"

I start conceptualizing. There are cat cafes and rat cafes and maybe there should be sweat lodge cafes.

I've been here about an hour after the longest daycare drop-off ever, and I've got basically two weeks of work to catch up on.

And now, there's someone, or something, tumbling around on the roof. Two of the baristas went outside about 20 minutes ago to try and figure out what it was.

"I don't see a ladder," one said. "So that's weird."

The tumbling and banging is right above my head, and I'm conceptualizing again. Or, rather, I'm catastrophizing.

I can't remember where I read the term, but I immediately realized that there's a name for what I've always called Sense of Impending Doom Syndrome, or SIDS for short. Yes, I know there's already a thing called SIDS, but there we are.

I have this ridiculous tendency, and I've been like this since I was a teenager. I might have started this even younger, but I remember it becoming somewhat debilitating as a teenager.

What I do, is I calculate and conceptualize every possible negative outcome of a situation. Some people do this with major things like skydiving or flying, but I do this with the every day, the minute moments that most people don't even think about. I do this walking down a sidewalk, where, for example, if I see a crack in the pavement I assess the options of what could happen.

  1. I could trip and fall flat on my face and chip my front teeth. Or they could fall out. 
  2. I could trip and fall and end up in the street, getting run over by a car. 
  3. I could trip and fall and break my wrist trying to break my fall. 
You get the gist. It's anxiety to the nth

So here I am, catastrophizing. Anticipating the inevitable reality that this person is probably working with heavy machinery right above me and will fall through the ceiling, crushing me, as I sit here narrating the entire incident. Will I be able to hit Publish before he hits me? Will I die? Will this be my last great gift to the world? 

Or will I make it to my 10 a.m. meeting?

Wherever I read this term, this concept of catastrophizing, there was another concept discussed. Instead of pondering all of the negative outcomes, consider the positive outcomes. 

Now, how exactly do I get myself in the headspace to do that. And if I were in that headspace, what would the outcome be? 

I'm seriously stream of conscious writing this here, and I just realized that the guy on the roof is probably fixing the A/C, which is probably why it's a million degrees in here, and if he fixes it, then I won't be baking and that would be awesome. Yay positive outcomes! On the other hand, by the time he gets it running I'm probably going to be out of here at my 10 a.m. meeting.

Either way, a sweat lodge cafe is a terrible idea.