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September 25, 2007

Online Addictions & E-mail Lists - Is Technology Really Making Parenting Any Easier?

OverloadLike Jill, I've had times in my life where I've been unhealthily glued to the net. When I was young, it was my BBS. Later, it became e-mail. At another point, it was web start-ups I was involved in. Since becoming a mom, it's become a general phenomenon. After all of these years online, I've become an expert in online communications and it's become my job as well as my hobby, but it's a bit at odds with my life as a parent. Still I spend a lot of time online writing, editing, blogging, advising, etc. and I like the time I spend online. Unfortunately, sometimes my life becomes engulfed by online communications and now it's actually because I'm a mom.

Take playgroups for example. I joined our local parents' club when I first became a parent, and wow am I glad I did - I found a few friends, a handyman, a therapist, an emergency water supply barrel, feedback on nursery schools, doctor recommendations, the list goes on... but I also joined playgroups because I wanted a way for my daughter to meet other children her age. Great idea in theory, but in practice, it means that the 5 playgroup e-mail lists I'm on send out about 5 messages a day each, I get poll invitations at least two times a week, and then always, without fail, at least one of the playgroups changes time and/or location at the last minute which means (you guessed it) more e-mail. That's not to mention the general parents' club e-mail list and the marketplace e-mail list (that I had to put into digest mode). I can't keep up with it all! I have an iPhone and a laptop, but I also have a toddler and I try to have a life.

Granted, it's my fault for signing up for 5 playgroup lists, but if I'm lucky, I get to one every 2 weeks. This increases my odds of one working into my schedule. Still, I have to wonder if all of this online contact to facilitate in-person contact is really helping? What happened to phone calls and regular meeting places and even just evites? How about picking one park to meet at the same time every week forever, rain or shine, and occasional e-mail reminder? What's wrong with that? And why must every single person global cc the world when their kid has a doctor's appointment and they can't make it? Only the organizer really needs to know this (IMHO).

Maybe I forget that not everyone in the world is as 'wired' (or wireless, as the case may be) as those of us mommybloggers. I have friends online all the time. If it's 3am, I can still find someone in Washington, D.C. in iChat. That's my life. I get over 500 e-mail messages a day (not including spam) but for many other people, they get 50 e-mail messages a day max, so they don't understand why 5 more is such a problem. But even though I have the regular times all written in my personal calendar, if I want to make it to a playgroup, I have to search through hundreds of messages to figure out whether the playgroup is still on for today, which park or house it's at, whether it's close enough for us to go, whether I've already missed it or not, and then I have to go to the online calendar to find the address, then go to a map program to get directions and by that time, my daughter's taken off all her clothes and isn't interested in the park any more. I could create an e-mail account just for my playgroup e-mail, but then I'm just another geek trying to solve a problem with technology that's not a technology problem.

I don't have any great answer for my problem beyond just slowing down my life in general, but that opens another can of worms: what to cut out, of the many commitments I hold dear? So for now, I'll just keep juggling everything and parsing e-mail and missing playgroups until I find a better solution. Somebody please tell me I'm not alone.


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