Bloggers like to talk about why they blog. I will talk here about why I have not been doing that (blogging, or talking about it) and what that’s meant for me.
The main reason is the obvious: having a kid takes away all your free time. And blogging, unless it’s done as part of your professional workload (or as an attempt to kickstart one of those into existence, like some spiritual entity one forms in effigy and then enchants into life through the appropriate charms, chants, invocations, and ritual gestures), is done during one’s free time.
As anyone who’s had one probably knows (at least anyone with even a modicum of egalitarianism in their co-parenting ideals), having a kid generally means disappearing from the world and hoping that when one reappears that world will not have changed so much as to be completely unrecognizable. One hopes not to wake up like Rip Van Winkle, but some measure of Van Winkledom is inevitable.
What it’s meant for me is not listening to the radio (hardly), watching the news or keeping up with podcasts (at all), not seeing friends and relatives for long periods at a time — unless, of course, they have young kids, but when you’re our age, that’s not nearly as likely as it would have been 20 years ago. It’s meant allowing mail, books, magazines and journals to pile up, unread. E-mail doesn’t pile up — it just disappears somewhere, leaving behind a vague sense of guilt for letting down one’s friends, students, colleagues, and other e-mail correspondents. I now understand my mother’s old Ukrainian saying that the thief’s hat is always on fire. If I could have, I would have proclaimed e-mail bankruptcy a few times in the last year.
It’s meant forgetting appointments, and allowing an impossible backlog of professional obligations to pile up (thesis drafts to read, books to review, articles to complete, committee meetings to follow up on, etc.). It’s meant hardly watching movies — even though I write about them. Forgetting Facebook, Twitter, and all that. And feeling a little dazed much of the time.
And while it’s meant not — or hardly — blogging, the more impactful thing it’s meant is not keeping up with other people’s blogs. I’ve realized that they have constituted a community for me, and that by not keeping up I’ve simply eliminated that community from my life. I have missed it — and will try to regain a bit of ground with that in the coming months.
It’s meant all those things despite the fact that I’ve always justified many of them — the news, the magazines and journals, the blogs and podcasts — as part of my job. (Who else but an academic gets to say that with a straight face?)
I have gotten some things done. At work I’ve probably been busier than usual. (Administering a program of 500 majors, which I did in the fall, tends to have that result; and when you add a search committee chairship, still ongoing, a grad studies committee chairship, and on and on, that’s what you get.)
And I’ve even — finally, last week — completed and sent in a book manuscript to the publisher. Yes, that’s the film book (Ecologies of the Moving Image), which turned into a monster: over 450 manuscript pages, some 550 footnotes, lots and lots and lots of movie references along with several dozen more detailed analyses, and a philosophical framework holding it all together that I feel surprisingly good about, for the moment. It’s now off to the peer reviewers. Two other half-completed manuscripts await me, along with book chapters, articles, conference papers.
All of that means that when I do come up for air to say hello, I feel like a groundhog, or a prairie dog (see above), poking its head out of the ground to see what’s going on and wondering, what did I miss? What all has been happening here?
But most of all, it means that I have a boy who looks and acts happy most of the time. (Even if we aren’t feeling so great most of the time, with our interrupted nights, strings of colds one following another, & all that…)
That ultimately has got to count for something.