The Motherlode in Context: Blog Comments Validate Me, Make Me Think, and Rip Me To Shreds

Even though she warned me, I didn’t listen to my editor and I read the comments on the essay published through the NYT Motherlode.  All 210 (and counting) of them.

Anyone who blogs, or even has ever read a blog, knows comments can get ugly.  It doesn’t matter how simple the subject or how much humor you inject into the piece, people hear and read what they want, not necessarily what you said.  Readers often attach to the line or thought that speaks to them and address only that.  I guess that is human nature.

This week I learned even the NYT comments get ugly.  Many of them were also very smart and true.  I had no choice but to dissect a topic I thought Ian and I had analyzed to death.  What I hadn’t looked at more closely was the context in which this fight came up. These are not excuses and they don’t negate any of the real issues set forth in the Motherlode piece, however they provide insight into why this divisive topic elicited particularly high stakes. 

The argument started with intensity in May 2012 (and I wrote about it here) and ended with one last-ditch whining session in November 2012 (I wrote about it here).  During that time, there was a lot going on in our family.  We moved in June. I left my job in August.  Coming off of a full-time job with two kids to “just” taking care of two kids initially felt like I had room on my plate for more.  During the transition I often felt I was lacking a purpose.  Having just given up my legal career (for a second time) in favor of my children, I felt like it really needed to mean something.  Having more kids would satisfy that purpose for me on a very superficial level.

At the same time, Ian was not only servicing his full book of legal business, he was launching a complementary business.  This meant he was working two intense full-time jobs.  His sleep suffered first, but in order to function something else had to give.  The three of us spent a lot of time alone, without him.  In some ways, as ridiculous and selfish and horrible as it was to even talk about breaking up a marriage, it was a wake-up call to him that we were functioning every day as a family in which he had little or no physical presence.  In my mind, if I could convince him to have more children, it would give family a bigger piece of the pie on his plate.

Family – what it means to you, the investment you put towards it, the narrative you give to that loaded word – represents some aspect of everything else in your life.  It carries with it the history and the hopes of two people.  Those past childhood hurts and future family visions are challenging to reconcile.  That’s the essence of what I wanted to convey in the Motherlode.

A lot of people have been curious as to where we stand now.  As I alluded to above, we came to a resolution in November 2012.  We agree for now not to have more children.  Ian is more active in the kid’s lives and I threw myself into writing.  We are a happy family, struggling with some deep conflicts.  I get the sense that some commentors have perfect lives where things never get ugly.  That’s not us.  To be sure, we have lots of wonderful times, most of which I chronicle on this blog.  The one particular Motherlode essay wasn’t meant to capture the entirety of our relationship.  It’s just one of our raw and painful buttons.

Many other people don’t understand why I would “air my dirty laundry” in such a public way.  This is something I can’t explain to someone who would never do that.  Once I have processed an issue I want to talk about it.  Those who don’t relate could just choose to look away.  I want to reach those who can relate.  To the people who took the time to email me, apart from the comments, and say how my piece resonated with them.  To anyone who read my words and felt them to their core.  I write for me, I write for them.  I don’t write to put my marriage on display or to make anyone feel bad.  I risk coming off badly, being the target of criticism, and offending those I love all in the name of honesty and transparency.

Marriage and parenthood are really hard for me.  They are broad institutions that invade every fiber of my body.  I feel constant conflict in my identity as a woman, a lawyer, a wife, and a mother.  I know many people do not wrestle with these labels as much as I do and I am truly happy for them.  For me?  It’s a regular battle.  I feel compelled to share so that maybe one person feels a little less lonely in their struggles.

I remain very proud of my NYT Motherlode essay, but after many sleepless nights, I’m ready to move past it.

Someone just remind me to STOP checking the comments!

25 thoughts on “The Motherlode in Context: Blog Comments Validate Me, Make Me Think, and Rip Me To Shreds

  1. I’m with you, and appreciate your honesty. Marriage and parenting don’t come naturally to me, I always thought they would, but they don’t. However much I love and am grateful for my children, my life feels as if it’s always snippets of a patched together quilt, and not seeing a good enough blanket in the end. But we’re all different. Thank you for your work.

  2. I’m still recovering from the comments on that piece. I know we leave ourselves open to that when we write about our lives but I can’t get over what people say. I love seeing you on the national stage. And I would love to say “my editor”…. Go you.

    • You are right – it’s something I have come to accept, but it is still awful. I personally would never say awful things to a stranger based on a short essay on a particular issue. I might disagree, or even judge that I don’t like the person or the tone, but I decide then to move on. I couldn’t take the time to summon up the nastiness of some comments. That’s just me.

  3. I LOVED the honesty of the NYT piece and when reading the comments, I thought “ouch”… Everyone has an opinion and unfortunately likes to share them. Your piece was authentic, beautiful to read and I can relate to the identity struggles. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. And, Congratulations- you were on NYT! Awesome!

    • Thank you so much Laurel! I sincerely appreciate taking the time to share your thoughts and words of encouragement. As usual you remind me of the Lumineers song and the lyrics are very appropriate:

      So show me family
      All the blood that I will bleed
      I dunno where I belong
      I dunno where I went wrong
      But I can write a song (or in my case, blog post/essay!!)

  4. It’s ridiculous that anyone would think they understand your marriage after reading one short essay, but people on the whole are pretty ridiculous.

    David and I argue a lot about what I can and cannot write about. I’m like you: I’m totally honest and I’m willing to put it all out there. But David is not. So anything that really has anything to do with him I have to censor. And to me that feels incredibly limiting. I totally get the impulse to write about the ugly spots. Like you say: the people who don’t get it can just not read it. But the truth is, they want to be invited into your life just as much as everyone else. They’re hypocrites for reading what you have to say and then judging you for saying it.

    I would never be able to not read the comments. I can completely understand why you did :)

    • It was really shocking to see all the things people read into what wasn’t actually said! Like the ones who felt bad for my breadwinner husband or the ones wondering who was covering my job while I took all this maternity leave — when nothing about our work/income situation was ever mentioned!!!

      Ian is supportive but it’s a struggle for him. It’s certainly not his nature, the way it is mine. He probably thinks it is better than having more kids 😉

  5. Thanks for being open and honest. Stay away from the comments! It seems the most judgmental folks are those with major issues–we just don’t hear about them because they’re too busy reading other people’s stories.

    I wrote a blog post this week about my desire for just one more child. Read it if you want. It is truly heartbreaking to know in your heart that there is one more baby you could hold and love. I held off 2 years before telling my husband… And after initial shock and disagreements, we are on the same page.

  6. Embarrassingly enough, I have to first admit I am way behind in my reading and have not read your NYT post – yet. But as a long time reader and fan of your blog, I have a feeling I’m going to totally get it and love the piece. I’m so sorry about some of the hurtful comments. I would have gone ahead and read them too and then been upset about it.

    Now for this post – love, love, love. I had tears in my eyes reading the end, it SO describes how I feel and where I’m at as well – “Marriage and parenthood are really hard for me. They are broad institutions that invade every fiber of my body. I feel constant conflict in my identity as a woman, a wife, and a mother. It’s a regular battle”. I think it is so important to be honest, true to yourself and real and you master that. Do not feel put off about it from the comments you received. Giving some background on your marriage and how this struggle about having more children started as well as what it really meant to you definitely gives important info to help others understand but honestly, everyone is not going to agree and understand and a lot of people like drama and leaving nasty feedback. I think this is one of my favorite posts I’ve read from you so far and you’ve inspired me to think about sharing some of the more personal stuff I’ve been going through as well. This is the real stuff and most go through. It does help others to read and think about and know they are not alone.

    • As always, thank you so much Anna. You are absolutely right that not everyone is going to agree or understand. That is exactly why I waited 4 days to write any sort of response – I didn’t want to write for them. Instead, I wanted to sort through what parts of the story I thought deserved more flesh. Now I feel ready to move on. Thank you for your kind words and support. It means so much to me.

  7. I finally caught up on everything. Well, not everything because I had to stop reading those comments. People seem to think that some who blogs (or writes for the NYT – how awesome is that!?!?!?!?!?!!) isn’t a real person so it’s no big deal write whatever nasty comment they feel like writing.

    I thought the NYT piece was well written and insightful. You bring up a great point and I’m sure many women can relate. It wasn’t my scenario and I can’t directly relate, but not being on the same page as a spouse is pretty universal in nearly every marriage at some point, I think.

    I admire you for being able to put this out there so honestly. I couldn’t – not just because of the things that I don’t feel comfortable sharing but also because my husband is very private and would not appreciate it. That makes it hard, because as you know I just love to share my life’s story with everyone who will read it, but that’s part of the compromise in our marriage. If your husband is comfortable with you sharing, then how is it anyone else’s business.

    • Thank you for your kind words!

      As for Ian, I would describe him as “comfortable” with the whole thing, especially not at first In theory I think he would have thrown up on the idea of me sharing something so personal. But when it was real and specific, his agreement came in a slow organic process.

      After we went through it we both started to wonder, does anyone else struggle with this? Or does everyone just easily agree? That didn’t seem likely, but no one had ever talked about it with us. So I pitched the idea to the NYT without him knowing. When they said yes, he was less than thrilled. But after he read my piece he was on board. It helped my case that the Motherlode thought it was worth publishing and he didn’t want to stand in the way. You never know until you are there…

  8. I read your piece after seeing it on Outlaw Mama’s blog, and I have to say I started to read the comments and I got a pit in my stomach on your behalf. Ugly comments make me want to hide in a corner even if I’m not the one who wrote it. I think it was a great piece, a relatable topic (we’ve had that same conversation in my house) and you should be proud for putting it out there. Not to mention the controversial pieces are the ones that get read more. 😉 Congrats!

  9. I think you have to be a bit thick skinned to put yourself out there where SO many people will read it. I would have read them too, that’s just me. I thought your piece was great!

  10. Friends don’t let friends read internet comments! You know, I’ve come here to comment and closed the page, then come back an hour later, a day later, and here I am, many days later, still struggling to find the right response. I read the comments and got angry for you, nodded with you, tilted my head to gain perspective on a comment that made sense. There is no way to truly give all the minute details that go into us being us, our marriages what they are, our thoughts/beliefs/desires in relation to motherhood and parenting and wifedom. There’s just no way. I don’t think it possible even if someone were to do a 24/7 expose of themselves. Something will still be left out and there will still be people who will latch on to that one thing and go to town.

    As you know, I fully get where you are in that piece. I love when people look at my life and say things like Oh, you must be so proud or Your life is so full, you must be very happy. Yes, I am. Sometimes. And then sometimes I’m not, sometimes my husband adds to that and we don’t see eye to eye. An outside person is never going to get that, no matter what I write, no matter what you write/how you phrase things. See? Even now, this comment feels verbose yet flat because I just can’t…say it correctly.

    • You’ve got it yet again. It’s not that simple – on either side of things. Some days I feel torn, some days I feel purely blessed, other days I yearn. It is what it is and it’s for me to manage (not hundreds of strangers)!

  11. You are a rock star. Hands down. You are brave, honest and passionate and nothing negative can come from those characteristics – no matter what other people think or project. I can’t imagine not reading the comments and would have needed a sedative or twenty to get through your NYT experience. Your NYT piece was honest, moving and completely relatable and this piece is equally so. Damn straight marriage and motherhood and life-changing negotiations are hard and heart-rending. Thank you for not sugar-coating the process. I’ll take that over righteousness any day. xo

  12. I am so glad to see this follow-up post: I was, quite frankly, gobsmacked by the comments on the NYT. I read them all in a sitting and, like you, knew I should have stopped at a point far sooner than I did. It is a deeply complex issue and one that I don’t think is anywhere near as alien to couples as would appear from that particular sampling. I applaud your honesty, I can relate to your struggle (as you know), and I thought your piece was a thought-provoking snapshot of the inner mind of a woman who just does not feel done having children (in the face of the reality that she might be done nonetheless).

    • Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. It feels wonderful to be understood in a “snapshot” piece. The negative comments fade in time, but understanding like this stays with me. Thank you so much for sharing!

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