The first issue of my new subscription to The Oxford American arrived recently. I've checked our mailbox daily for it, always disappointed that it hadn't arrived, yet, and slowly deciding that it must be a sad organization because delivery was taking so long.
The Oxford American is a literary magazine published in Mississippi. I should be ashamed to have only recently subscribed to it, as both a magazine editor and a Mississippi writer.
Why hadn't I subscribed to it or even read it, yet? I admit intimidation. I didn't want to know just how much room for improvement my work allowed. Ahem.
Who knows when it arrived. Probably earlier than I expected. I wasted a lot of good energy on wishing those publishers ill. Particularly because I need that energy now as I'm flipping through their Best of the South 2012 issue and wishing them a healthy helping of ill. I should explain that a bit now.
I am jealous.
There are so many similarities in this magazine to the print issue of Story Bleed Magazine that we published as a test issue. There is so much strong writing coming out of the South! In short, I am seeing myself all over this magazine and it both compels me and validates me.
I am going to harness this jealousy. I'm going to harness it as healthy envy and learn from it. I'm turning it into a resource and an inspiration. This magazine is going to be my mentor, whether it knows it or not.
As mom bloggers and readers of parenting sites and blogs, we have grown into a powerful community. Within that community, we share stories and learn from each other's experiences, lift one another up in support and weigh our defeats and accomplishments against those of other parents on a daily basis.
Being a mom in this day and space is remarkable. Access to so many different parenting styles and direct access to so many diverse parents is heretofore unheard of, carrying with it a multitude of emotions and opportunity.
Am I a good enough mom? Am I a decent wife? How on earth do other mothers do this?
There are millions of mom blogs out there exploring those themes. Thousands of parenting forums. Thousands of parenting sites.
Therein we discover the duality. So much information and experience is at our fingertips, but how do we navigate it? Ever spend a few hours on a bad parenting forum? Scars, people. I'm talking scars. A bad parenting forum will scar you.
You'll want to delete the internet.
So we rely on each other for recommendations and guidance. Not just directly between online relationships, but for help navigating resources.
And more than anything, we share stories.
Sharing my story of Iris having febrile seizures was challenging and empowering. I admitted a lot of mistakes and pushed through that embarrassment in hopes that her story would stick with one of you, empowering you to recognize the symptoms of a febrile seizure and know how to handle it. Ideally better than I did.
Sharing my story of discovering malignant melanoma was provoking and healthy. I went to the dermatologist in the first place because a mom I know online suggested I get a huge freckle checked out. Dozens of women took strength from my story and scheduled their own skin cancer screenings, a few finding melanomas of their own. I can't even begin to tell you... I just can't even.
And then there are the natural disaster posts. Good grief. Our hurricane story is highly personal and yet so thoroughly more than our own. Partnering with P&G to share stories of the Tide Loads of Hope program will remain one of the highlights of my time in this online community. A privilege and a responsibility I've never taken lightly, though always try (I swear) to handle with a light hand.
All of it a joy to share, as my heart runs deep in writing.
I adore the online community of mothers that I've grown into, harnessing its power to fuel my own growth as a parent, rather than allowing myself to feel competitive or intimidated. I've made it my own.
Dive right in to communities of moms and find your place through trial and error. Make a few shallow dives here and there, bump your head, remember which pools are too shallow. Keep diving until you find the one that goes as deep as you desire.
Then explore. Then share. Share your stories. Make it your own. Surround yourself with a community of your own design. Then listen. Listen. Listen.
My story about The Oxford American is relevant in two words: compel and validate. Let the online community of moms compel you to explore different parenting approaches, daily, and open yourself up to the validation that lies within the shared stories.
Because you are a good mom. You are more than a decent wife. And how do other mothers do this? They fight for it. They struggle. They dive deep and explore every cave of possibility. They get lost and they find brilliant solutions and creative outlets for their love and passion.
We wouldn't know this to be so fervently true if millions of women weren't taking their stories online, sharing tales of parenting cave-diving on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and parenting sites and forums.
In real time. Often hilarious and always encouraging, if you take the time to listen.
This week, Velveteen Mind and Story Bleed Magazine are partnering with P&G once again to share a new project with you, this one entrenched in community and storytelling.
Launched this spring, mom.me is a new parenting portal highlighting parenting stories, shopping resources, and fostering impressive communities in their forums. Good forums, people. Good ones. And you know how I feel about this.
To celebrate their launch, mom.me is hosting a carnival of stories to discuss how technology and online communities of moms have shaped the way we parent.
These are our compelling stories and now is the time to share them. This is thoroughly our time. To say I am invigorated by the opportunity to discuss this topic would be an understatement.
Let's explore how the online community of parents has shaped our own parenting. I would not be the same mother I am today were it not for reading stories online from other parents and, in turn, sharing my own. It has profoundly shaped me, for the better.
I've found mentors. I've found friends. I've found my own stories. I've found my voice to share them.
I am completely grateful to you. And I want to talk about it.
Let's go. Let's write. Let's share some stories.
PS- When you leave a comment on the mom.me carnival and share a link to your own story about how the online space has shaped your parenting, you are entered to win one of five P&G gift baskets worth $250 each. Seriously, let's go. Those are fabulous.
Though your stories are even more fabulous. Write them down. That's why we're here.