Happy second birthday, blog!

It’s now been two years since I wrote my first post—happy birthday, little blog!  *Blows noisemakers and distributes virtual birthday cake.*  My posting frequency has been more erratic this year, but I’ve noticed something: my views-per-day never drop to zero anymore, even when it’s been weeks between new posts.  It feels like crazy grad mama has found its little niche on the internet, and that’s nice.  (Or maybe it’s just that the spambots know where to find me.  I prefer to look on the bright side.)

My biggest post this year was the one about why I hate attachment parenting.  It got shared by someone—I don’t know for sure, but I think it was the Skeptical OB—when it was posted in April, and continues to get new views nearly every day.   I like to imagine that new moms are finding it through search terms about their own frustrations with the expectations and pseudoscience of parenthood.

And speaking of traffic, a big shout-out to nicoleandmaggie, whose Saturday Link Loves have been my biggest driver of views after social media and search engines.  I was reading their blog long before I started my own, and it continues to be consistently excellent.

It’s been a big year outside of blogging, too.  I got another research paper published, and we put out a little press release that got picked up and repeated by the standard science content-reporters (IFLS, Gizmodo, etc.).  So now more people have read about my research than have read my blog, although I’m still quite sure that more people have read my blog than have read my actual research papers.

This coming year is going to be… well, it’s going to be full, and that’s about all I can predict with any accuracy.  Expect posts about pregnancy and new babies, about gender and identities and finding one’s place, and about the stress of finally finishing a PhD.  Oh gosh, what am I going to do about the blog’s name when I graduate?  Maybe it’s time to invest in a fancy header.

Thanks for being here for the ride.

A note on posting frequency

When I first started this blog, I was eager to post as often as I could.  I had Things To Say and finally an outlet to say them.

But life has changed.

I’m out of the terrible awful disorientation of new motherhood, and most of the crap that seemed like it mattered when my son was little is so much more minor now.  (And the parts that still bug me, well, I’ve vented about them already.)

I’m still working on my PhD, but I’m no longer utterly unsure about how to proceed.  I’ve made a decision, and so at least for the next year, I have a plan.

I’m learning to Say Things in real life, and to only pursue the approval of people who are really my friends, and stop wasting effort on those who are not.

All of which is to say: this blog has been a really important part of figuring out my life, but maybe—just maybe—I need it a little bit less right now.

Or maybe it’s that my mind is in a different place, and needs a different kind of therapy.

Maybe I’m just busy, and tired, and lacking inspiration.

Whatever the cause, the result is that I’ve found myself wanting to blog less and less.  I’ve been self-conscious about it, because even though this blog has always been first and foremost for myself, I like having readers and visitors and commenters, and a little part of me feels like I’m letting you folks down.  I felt you deserved an explanation.

I’m not closing up shop just yet, because life continues to change and things may be very different in a few months, but writing blog posts isn’t going to be a priority for a while.  I’ll still be active on WordPress, reading other blogs and responding to comments here, and I’m around on Twitter most days, too.  (In spite of my initial anxiety about the medium, Twitter has turned out to be a mostly-good place for me.)

I hope you’ll continue to check back in once in a while.  Thanks for reading.

Holy blog stats, Batman!

Wow!  Yesterday’s post is bringing an unprecedented level of traffic to my little ol’ blog.  To those of you who shared it on social media: thank you.  I’m honored.  I’m also honored by the number of positive responses I’ve received—it seems I struck a chord with a lot of mothers.  We are not alone!

If you’re a new visitor to my site and are poking around because things look interesting: welcome!  Drop me a line about yourself in the comments; I love to hear from new people.  You can follow my blog via WordPress, or through the “subscribe by email” link in the menu on the right (or bottom if you’re on a mobile device).  I’m also on Twitter.

OK, that’s three exclamation points in two paragraphs, which is a lot even for me.  Time to spend the rest of Little Boy’s nap time knitting. 🙂

One year: blogging and finding myself

One year ago today, I published my first blog post, a short introduction to myself and to the theme of this blog.  My baby son was going on six months old, we’d just moved to a new house, and my mental health was slowly making the long climb back from the darkness of postpartum depression.  (Of all the things that signify the passage of time, the one that my mind has the most trouble wrapping itself around is the house.  We’ve been here for over a year?!?  How did that happen?!?)

My posting frequency has ebbed and flowed over that year, but I keep coming back after the gaps, because the writing helps.  I’ve often talked about this blog (and its short-form sister, my Twitter account) as the places where I can say the things that I can’t say elsewhere.  But it turns out that they’re more than that: they’re a place to discover who I am.

You see, I’ve spent my life trying to be the person other people want me to be: a good daughter, a good spouse, a good student, a good mom.  This is going to sound a bit melodramatic, but I forgot who me was.  And when I didn’t forget, I took who me was and hid it away, lest it pop out at an inopportune time and scare off other people.

It’s been a long, slow, and weird process trying to reverse that instinct to hide myself away.  It’s hard to explain, too; it’s not like there was one grand epiphany that set me on a better track.  Many things went into it: having a safe space to express myself; coping with the fact the fact that I can’t please everyone and that’s OK; treating my depression, which blogging helps with; and reading and connecting with others’ similar experience.

It’s still very much an ongoing process, too, and one that isn’t likely to end anytime soon.  Still, being able to answer a question about my hobbies with a list of some actual hobbies that I enjoy and do regularly—that’s huge for me.

So who is me, right here right now?  I think one of the best ways to answer that is to share my favorite posts from the year.  Some of these were popular at the time they were posted, others weren’t, but they were all meaningful to me.

My favorite posts about being crazy:

My favorite posts about being a grad student:

My favorite posts about being a mama:

Enjoy!

And now a pause to reflect on blogging

The delightful Zeyna from Mummy On My Mind has tagged me in to answer some questions regarding how I feel about blogging.  (I highly recommend clicking over to Zeyna’s blog when you’re done here—she writes beautifully about motherhood and her life as a British expat in Dubai.)  So here goes:

How did you get into blogging?

I started mulling over the idea of blogging a few years ago, when my motivation for working on my PhD really hit rock bottom.  I’d finished all my qualifying exams, which is a common time to feel burnt out in graduate school.  There were some complicating factors that made my burn-out particularly bad: I’d been working with an utterly incompetent advisor on a directionless research project, and my department as a whole was having some very serious and semi-public issues about workload expectations for grad students.  I spent a lot of time on the internet when I was supposed to be working, bored and aimless and reading blogs that talked about quitting academia and criticized the graduate-school status quo.  It occurred to me that blogging myself might be a good outlet.

But I’m a nervous person—I don’t leap into new ventures.  I worry that starting something enthusiastically, then losing interest, will lead to judgment from others.  So it took a couple of years of thinking, plus a battle with postpartum depression and a venture into the utter insanity of mommy forums to get me to the point of actually starting to blog.  The final push came from another mother in my support group, who spoke positively of her experiences blogging.

What advice would you give to another blogger starting out?

I’m going to quote Mummy On My Mind on this one, because she says it beautifully:

Blog because you want to. Blog because you love to write. Write, write and write to your heart’s content.

On a more practical note, I’d say: do give a little thought to what your blogging goals are.  Do you just want a venue to write?  Are you looking to be popular on social media?  Are you interested in sharing sewing tips or deep, dark secrets (or both)?  I’m partial to using a pseudonym online and I’d recommend it for anyone who’s not completely sure about using their real name—you can always choose to reveal your identity later.

Also, don’t be afraid to play around with formatting and widgets and stuff.  Experiment.  Have fun.  WordPress regularly hosts Blogging 101 and other free mini-courses, which can also be a good way to meet fellow bloggers.

How has your blog changed since you started writing it?

Well, I post a bit less often—a few times a week is more sustainable than nearly every day.  And I learned the difference between a hyphen (-) and an em dash(—)!

The content is still more or less what I had in mind when I started, because it’s been influenced by two competing factors.  On the one hand, the longer I blog, the more I worry about whether certain topics are interesting and think about reader-attracting stuff like titles.  On the other hand, the longer I blog, the more courage I get to post about stuff that really matters to me.  It’s a balance.

What would be your dream campaign? & What advice would you give to PR’s wanting to approach you for a campaign?

I grouped these two questions together because I’m not completely sure whether “campaign” means “me advertising something” or “someone promoting my blog.”  For the latter: it would be really nice to have someone selecting photos to accompany my posts.  I don’t have time for that myself, but posts with photos do look nicer on social media and might attract more readers.

For the former: Baby gear, I guess.  I’d be happy to write honest reviews in exchange for free stuff.  Not constantly—that would make blogging super-boring—but, you know, once in a while.

Do you have a plan for your blog?

Uh… try to keep writing regularly, and work my way through my list of post ideas?  I have imaginary pipe dreams about going viral overnight, but those of course don’t involve an actionable plan.  In reality, I’d like to continue to slowly build followers through posting and interacting with other folks on the internet.

What do you think about rankings?

I have no idea where my blog would be ranked in any list, except to say “low.”  I see my WordPress view statistics every time I log in, and so have to have the “number of views doesn’t matter” talk to myself on a routine basis.  In the end, I’m unwilling to do anything clickbait-y, so it is what it is.

 

Part of the fun of these sorts of things is passing it on.  I’d like to highlight two blogs today:

  1. Unbeaten Mommy—Another mother coping with the madness of parenthood through blogging.
  2. Welcome to My Little Piece of Quiet—My daily dose of introvert inspiration.

Have at it!

Follow me on Twitter! or, Was this really a good idea?

So, this happened:

Yep, that’s right.  I—the proud owner of non-smart phone and a person generally uninterested in celebrities and small talk—have joined Twitter.  I have finally entered the second decade of the new millennium.  Which means that if you are reading this and have a Twitter account, you can now follow me on Twitter!  If you are reading this and don’t have a Twitter account, you can scroll down a bit on the side of the page to find my latest tweets.

I’m excited, but I’m also a little bit terrified.

I started coming around to the idea of Twitter when I noticed that I had a lot of little things that I wanted to share.  Thoughts that weren’t big enough to expand into a full blog post.  Links that were worth pointing out, but with only brief additional comments.  And thus @crazygradmama was born.

But it’s a risk, trying something new.  Will I wind up putting pressure on myself to be witty and remarkable with every Tweet?  Is this just a little too far “out there” for a socially anxious introvert?

I don’t know.  I suppose the only way to find out is to give it a shot.

From under the bridge

Familiar as I am with the Internet and Lewis’s Law, I was prepared that including the tag “feminism” on my last post might attract a certain genre of obtuse commenter.  I was not disappointed.

You won’t see the comment if you head over to that post now — such is the magic of the “delete” option.  It has been relegated to the trash bin, where it will languish for 30 days before passing into digital oblivion.

To be honest, I’m rather flattered.  Someone actually felt strongly enough about my post to reply to it in extensive detail.  I’m talking more words that the original post itself.  Whole paragraphs in response to excerpted sentences.  I don’t think anyone’s put that kind of work into commenting on my writing since, oh, high school?  Goodness knows that nobody gives me that much feedback on my research paper drafts in grad school, even when I straight-up ask them to do so.

I was also highly entertained.  The irony was just so delicious.  People would think it was “cruel” to outfit my baby boy in a pink dress?  Thank you for proving my point, dear commenter.  Oh, and I’m so glad you told me that women wear high heels to present ourselves as “frail, vulnerable damsels” and attract help from men, and that women are less interested in science because we can’t find husbands that way.  My silly little female brain couldn’t possibly have any thoughts of its own about women’s motivations; clearly, I needed someone to come along and mansplain it to me.

In fact, the comment was so ridiculous and such a perfect example of our society’s problem with fixed gender roles that I was almost tempted to leave it up.

Nah.

A non-exhaustive list of words flagged by WordPress’s “Proofread Writing” function

bored

massage

threw*

sleepwalking

career*

hassled

adapted*

grump

babbles

sew

creamer

sealing*

pureéd

bassinet

wakings

bowlful

gassy

packable

and my personal favorite,

bee*

*indicates words that were, for reasons unknown, deemed to be correctly spelled in THIS post.

Readers, share your favorite spell checker errors! (WordPress or otherwise)

Reflections on Writing 101

For the past four weeks, I’ve been taking part in Writing 101, a free mini-course offered by WordPress.  Every weekday, I got an email with a topic prompt and suggestions for stretching my writing style.  All participants had access to a forum where we could share posts, explore others’ writing, and request and give feedback.

(If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can keep an eye out here for upcoming repeats of the course.  In the meantime, all of the daily prompts are archived here for use whenever you like.)

I was a little hesitant about signing up for this.  Would it take too much of my time or add an unnecessary level of stress?  Would participating in a WordPress course be like adding a flashing red “n00b blogger” sign to the top of my page?  Now that the course is drawing to a close, I can say that the answer to the last question is, “Probably not much more than anything else I do.”

Fortunately, the other worries, the ones about time and stress, turned out to be unfounded.  Of course, I skipped a lot (more than half) of the assignments.  Some days were too busy, some of my personal topics were too pressing, and some of the prompts required writing fiction, which isn’t the right genre for this blog.  But that’s the beauty of an open course: nobody’s keeping track of what you get done.  It’s all about what you get out of it.

What did I get out of it?  Good reads, new blogs to follow, a bit of thoughtful feedback, and a bit of writing inspiration.  However, the #1 benefit for me was the push to make a commitment to free writing.  Not on my blog, but on my PhD thesis.  Here’s what my office whiteboard has to say about that:

crazygradmama_day12_cropped

Pushing myself to just write something is proving to be a good plan of attack against the toddler in my head whining, “I don’t wanna write I don’t wanna write!”  There are days when my output is mostly meandering junk, or when I seem to be repeating thoughts that I’ve already covered – but words on the page are a step beyond words in my head, so it’s progress.  Some of that progress is real and measurable and awesome: I just sent a complete version of the Paper From Hell out to collaborators for feedback.

Here’s to reading and writing and moving forward!

The first of many

crazygradmama_spam_small

I should be annoyed that the spambots have found my site.  Instead, I’m oddly pleased.  It feels like a blogging milestone.