Following on from all of that complaining and guilt in the previous chapter; I have found a wonderful outlet! Picture this … or maybe not. It’s eight thirty in the morning and your kids are melting down. One tantrum has spread like a wildfire and the whole place has gone mad. You were so close to getting out the door on time and now there’s no way that will happen. Your spouse, the person who gets to talk to other adults, has already left for work. What to do? Carbs? Alcohol? Lock yourself in the bathroom and cry? Run away? No … better yet, lock yourself in the bathroom and compose a mayday Tweet.
This brief and therapeutic exercise has saved my sanity more times than I can count. The mayday Tweet I sent out went to all of my friends on Parent Twitter. This online subcommunity has been a godsend. What started out as a marketing tool has turned into an amazing support network for my journey as a SAHP. The internet really is the perfect way for busy, lonely, and (paradoxically) reclusive home-parents to connect. We long for some sort of intellectual stimulus and camaraderie but usually don’t feel up to dealing with people face-to-face.
When I worked in an office, small exchanges with co-workers were a sort of social sustenance that I didn’t recognize as such until I was cooped up in the house with dishes, laundry, and crumbs on the rug. I didn’t particularly care for some of them, but their absence has certainly illuminated the psychological value they provided. Who would have thought that people you have little or nothing in common with, or even personalities that were like claws on a chalkboard, could make you happy? Or perhaps the better way to describe it would be that they could keep you from being depressed and lonely.
SAHP life often creates the desire for a quick exchange with someone who understands; or will at least nod blankly when you vent your frustrations. Whether it’s the monotony and isolation, or the brain damage following a kid’s meltdown, the home-parent’s need for immediate support usually cannot be met. This is where Parent Twitter comes to the rescue. People who get it, right inside your phone! How do they all fit in there?
I cannot tell you how satisfying a quick break to craft an SOS Tweet can be when you’re on the edge of madness. Like a more reliable version of the age-old message in a bottle, your Tweet is riding the interwebs on its way to sympathetic eyes and brains. A Like and/or reply can open the valve of your emotional pressure cooker, helping you back away from the cliff’s edge. Away from the cliff and back to the dishes … oh well.
With my previous books, I’d Tweet a sentence or two each day during the writing process. These Tweets were meant to keep potential readers engaged and find new folks that might be interested in the book when it came out. This marketing approach takes time, but it’s the only way to build relationships with people who are interested in what you’re writing about. After launching a book, I’d Tweet links to it on Amazon, reviews as they came in, and other promotional stuff to keep sales going. A self-published author doesn’t make much, but it’s nice to help put food on the table doing what you love.
However, with Parent Twitter, I quickly noticed that I was Tweeting for support to keep my sanity. This was (and still is) less about book sales and more about navigating the Cape Horn of parenthood … being a SAHP! As you well-know, parenting isn’t a curiosity or side interest. With kids, you’re all-in for a long, long time so whatever helpful info I came across on Twitter, it was more about survival than entertainment. I was so very happy to be working towards completing a book that might in some way be useful to fellow parents. As I let them know about it on social media, their responses and engagement were keeping my psyche from crumbling around me as the loneliness and monotony chipped away at my soul. I don’t care if that sounds dramatic … it’s really how I felt.
Being a parent is like being in a special club where you don’t have to know all of the other members personally. It’s a journey that we all share, and being in the trenches with the poop, tantrums, and sleepless nights is something that people without kids will never get. The childless aunt or uncle that babysits your little balls of hyperkinetic energy while you and hubby catch a movie, only gets a microdose of parenthood.
While we do appreciate their support, a few hours won’t do the job justice. A babysitter might leave your house slightly dizzy and bewildered but think, ‘it’s not so bad, I could do that.’ However, we as parents know that the cumulative effect is what drives us mad. Like the drip drip of water torture, the repetition of kid chaos is the hardest part. And that’s why Parent Twitter is so special to me. When my wife isn’t around to lean on, those cyber friends are the ones who get it … and they’re awesome!