Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mommy wars, and content first

Most mornings I wake to yet another article from a powerful woman telling me if I can have it all.

Though I'm not sure what have it all means, I'm damn sure it's an illusion. It's a fever dream -- a unicorn living in a chocolate forest. It’s a magical place where periods and menstrual cramps don't exist.

No woman will tell you they have it all, because they know that isn't possible. 

We all struggle with guilt in some form. We work to balance the choices we’ve made and we feel pressure to work harder, look sexier, and be more fun even when we’re exhausted. But we still Facebook stalk peer into each other’s lives and assume that we are the only ones who don’t have it all. Their Instagram pics are so much better than mine! Sound familiar? 

Mommy wars

This behavior is called "mommy wars" by the those who think they’re in the know. How degrading does that sound? The stay at home mom pitted against the CEO mom and the home-school co-op mom opposite the woman who chose not to have children. Normal, sane, and successful adult women are arguing over who has more or what is holding them back. 

If any of that applies to you, stop and listen for a minute.  

I can’t pretend I have not fallen into this. 

I’ve taken the perfect picture with my kids having a Martha Stewart afternoon picking blueberries. It’s on Facebook before I leave the blueberry patch because vanity is so easy these days. Many 'likes' later I feel worthy of celebrity status. I feel like I'm doing something right.

Of course I didn’t post the picture my daughter took of me hours earlier as I was making breakfast in my robe with a face swollen because I ate too much salt the night before. Also absent was a panoramic view of the clutter in my kitchen. And thank god cameras can't pick up the dog smell coming from the living room rug that needs replacing. Why are rugs so damn expensive?

I find myself apologizing and shuffling in humiliation trying to quick cleanup when unexpected (and yes, sometimes expected) guests pop over and the dishes remain in the sink from the night before. Then there’s the stack of random kid’s clothes covering my counter and the dog hair that hasn't been vacuumed in 3 days. Ok, even that was a lie. I haven't vacuumed in a week. I apologize as if my house is usually not in this state. As if it were just cleaned the day prior and you happened to catch me on a bad day. As if at some point I gave a shit.

Web design and life

During the day I’m a front end web developer. I do 'web things'. 
For a while now the web has been moving toward flashy, picture heavy, glossy websites. They can take forever to load and there really isn't a justification to make them this way.  Reasons like hoping your website will appear 'larger than life' and to make it seem like your company cares about something bigger ring hollow.

Web clients like to add pictures of happy people so you think their website and company will make you happy. Most of my clients have seen some special banner or feature on someone else's site that they think they need even though it has nothing to do with what they are trying to serve to their visitors. 

See where I'm going with this...

Right now the web is moving toward a content first approach. This means that your first and only goal is to make sure visitors can quickly get to the exact message you are trying to convey. The content could be the one image that really defines your photography career. Content can be the snippet of data that every visitor to your site is looking for. It could be the login menu to access your bank account because do you really care about all of those multiracial, happy, smiling images that banks have on their homepage? Probably not. You only want to see if you have enough money to fill your gas tank or just put a $20 in.

Stay with me here...

This theory of content first kind of blew my mind but it’s really simple. Give your clients what they want, not what you think they want, and you’ll both be happy. 

I went a step further. 

When something makes sense to me I go deep with it. How can I apply this to my life? Why am I taking these happy my life is perfect pictures and apologizing about my house when I know damn well that’s the more honest part of my life than the 'perfect' part?

What content in my life do I care about?

I’ve decided that my sanity is my primary goal. Anything that makes me feel over stressed is not worth it.

The well-being of my kids is a close second. I did not say their 'happiness' because seeing them happy is not always the best choice for their well-being. A half gallon of ice cream, being naked outside, and dressing up the dog is what makes them happy – and that’s not always good for everyone's well-being.

I also care a lot about health. 

I love to cook and I grow our own food as much as time permits. Packing a healthy lunch for my kids is a joy. And I really enjoy eating dinner together. Deep down these things make me feel successful – like I’m doing something right. 

Where am I?

When I examine the 'content' in my life I don’t care about having a spotless home that resembles a page from the Pottery Barn catalogue. This doesn’t mean I'm going to completely throw in the towel (which is probably downstairs in the dirty laundry anyway). But I am going to stop apologizing. 

I also don't care about losing weight right now. I don't care about running a marathon or having a clean car, and designer clothes aren’t of interest to me. And I sure as hell don't care about wearing makeup everyday. 

I want to be a pleasant person for my husband and kids to live with. I want to see the world and recycle. I need to be in the garden with my chickens and breathe fresh air. I want to be balanced and enjoy life.

I'm sure later in life the 'content' will change and I’ll rearrange priorities. That’s inevitable for most of us. 

Let’s not be driven by someone else’s view of what our “content” should be. 

That’s for us to decide.