Trying to be both here and there

If you only follow my work here, you may be thinking that I’m a sad excuse for a writer/commentator. But as I noted in a previous post, I’ve taken to Tumblr and I find it suits my needs better than this blog. (Note: If you follow the link above, there’s currently an image there of me flipping the bird. Trust me when I say it’s for a good reason.)

The biggest surprise, to me, is the consistency Tumblr provides for my writing on media and such. My devotion to this blog always came and went in waves. I attribute this partly to a usability issue. Not to get too wonky, but this blog is tied to an old Gmail address that I no longer use and if I’m logged into my new Gmail address, I need to log out, then log in to this one and if I need a link or piece of text from an e-mail I need to log out again and….you see what I mean. Try as I might, I hadn’t fixed this problem. Plus, I’ve wanted to redesign here and devote this blog to longer pieces though I hadn’t quite figured out what I wanted to write about in this space.

It took an e-mail from my friend Fuzzy to remind me that not only hadn’t I posted here in a long time, my last update made it look like I was still out of work. So it was definitely time to stop thinking and start writing.

I’m now the director of digital strategy and development for Chicago magazine and have been since mid-May. This means I’m ultimately responsible for anything we do online – website, digital subscriptions, mobile, etc. I’ve got a great team of editors and producers under me who work hard and make the site look great. Plus, I’m working with a great boss at a publication with a rich and respected history. It’s a great gig and I’m excited to be there. And hey, I even get to be on TV sometimes.

I spent two months unemployed. While it’s not an ideal situation, you won’t hear me complain about it. I had the support of countless friends and family members, was actively interviewing and chasing down job leads, networked my ass off and had plenty of time for beers on my back porch with my dog. There were times where it was rough, of course. If you’re not someone who does well with unstructured time and your identity is largely tied to your work then being unemployed will make you feel rudderless. I think I was able to adjust my outlook on both of these matters, but it’s an ongoing process. Still, those two months made me realize how lucky I am. When you have a friend who makes an entire website about you, it’s impossible to feel like you lost something in the deal.

The other important piece of news in my life as of late is…my wife and I are pregnant, three months and some change as of this writing. We’ve been trying for about a year now so this was somewhat unexpected as we had begun to make peace with the possibility that our efforts would require some medical assistance or might come to naught. But no, we are with child. A girl, specifically. We could not be more excited. Or – in my wife’s case – nauseous. (Gents who are interested in having a baby: Morning sickness is a lie. Just start calling it First Trimester Sickness now so you get geared up.)

If you’re looking to free your identity from your work, getting your wife pregnant is a surefire way to make that happen (though perhaps it’s not for everyone). Even more so than during my unemployment, I have been a Husband. I didn’t grow up in a house where there was “womens’ work” or “a man’s job” and that’s not how my life with Erin is either. We both work and take care of the house. With the notable exceptions of mowing the lawn (which I insist on doing) and taking out the garbage (which Erin insists I do but to be honest no man’s wife should touch garbage) we share work equally in our home. But Erin’s been busier than usual with having the baby and it’s exhausting work so I’ve had to fly solo on a few Operation: House and Home missions like grocery shopping, making dinner, etc. It’s difficult sometimes but due to a lack of a uterus, it’s the primary means by which I can support our family’s efforts to bring a baby into this world. Also, it’s not like doing a few extra loads of laundry makes me want to throw up, so I’ve definitely got the better end of this deal.

It’s in my nature of be a planner and a researcher so I’ve looked over a few books about pregnancy. Most of them assume the guy is either 1) a jerk or 2) incompetent. As someone who is neither (mostly), I’ve sought guidance from some guy friends who’ve mostly said that sometimes you need to ignore the books and go with your gut. But I highly recommend the books by Arnim A. Brott: they’re written in an easygoing style with a distinct lack of condescension. He’s informative and honest and acknowledges that pregnancy is tough for men, too. (If you’re wondering where to start, Father for Life is a good primer.)

While I love my job, the one thing it doesn’t provide for me is a writing outlet. It’s been an adjustment for me to work on “big picture” tasks and not get wrapped up in the day-to-day. This week, it occurred to me that the best way to allow myself that outlet, separate my work life from my identity, explore where my life was headed and give this blog a reason for being would be to write about all of it. I’ve been hesitant in the past to write about my personal life here, but in all honesty my digital identity is already a mix of the personal and professional so it’s not as if I haven’t crossed that bridge. So it’s time to push through whatever technical issues we’re holding me back and give this thing some life again.

With this next step, there’s a lot to talk about even in a review of the last several months:

* Babysitting my sister’s months-old child alone, a mix of problem-solving and playtime
* The weekend Erin and I watched our toddler niece and discovered what it was like to be solely, if only temporarily, responsible for the feeding, care and diaper-changing of a little human
* Discovering how good a show Phineas and Ferb is during the above weekend
* A purely instinctual moment during church when I went all Dad-mode on our misbehaving nephews
* Holy shit, that’s my kid’s heartbeat!
* What it’s like to be a guy who always thinks about the worst-case scenario which means you can’t truly allow yourself to be excited about a pregnancy until you hit that three-month mark
* How my friends and family knowing about our pregnancy made the whole experience real in a way that even seeing an ultrasound hadn’t
* My inability to do anything to make my wife more comfortable when she’s dealing with first-trimester sickness and how that makes me feel useless especially when I’m “a fixer”
* No, seriously, that’s my kid’s heartbeat!

My hope is that I’ll avoid writing about this stuff as if I’m the first man to have a pregnant wife but still bring something unique to the topic. If nothing else, it’ll give me an excuse to write a think piece on Phineas and Ferb.

2 comments for “Trying to be both here and there

  1. August 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I have to agree with you regarding the books. In my case, I was super annoyed by the fact that almost every book we found about having multiples assumed that only the woman would be interested in reading it.

    Even the books that claimed to be for “both parents” were written for an audience of the mother, with the attitude that the woman would have to somehow connive her partner into absorbing this information via osmosis.

    I really think I need to write a book for “dads who are expecting multiples but aren't Neanderthals”. I have to assume that I'm not the only one.

  2. August 14, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    If the world at large is any indication, start a blog about it and then the book world will come a-knocking at your door. Books from blogs is the new sitcoms about comedians from stand-acts.

    In all seriousness, that's a niche that needs be explored, Matt. You'd be just the guy to do it.

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