I've spent the past few days celebrating Passover with my family. One of the last things I saw online before shutting down my laptop on Monday was the start of a discussion regarding the selection of Heather Armstrong for the Forum on Workplace Flexibility at the White House. I say "discussion," because to me, that's what it seemed to be. A number of people I follow on Twitter had reactions to it, some positive, and some questioning her selection. Pretty standard stuff, I would think.
Now, before I get into this, let me just say that I have nothing but respect and admiration for what Heather has accomplished, for herself and her family. I am not jealous, and have no ax to grind, truly.
I think it's important to point this out because it seemed like things got out of hand in the time that I was gone. And I also think it's important to point this out, because my first reaction when I saw this announcement on Monday afternoon WAS leaning more toward the questioning-her-selection side of the spectrum. (With no malice, and no envy, mind you, but for reasons of my own that I'll get into in a minute.) Based on how things appeared to play out (at least in my post mortem view, earlier this evening), I wonder what would have happened if I had respectfully voiced those thoughts when I initially had them. Because from where I sit, it didn't seem to go well for those who had.
This saddens me, because regardless of what you, personally, think of Heather, or of her selection to participate in this forum, I don't think I'm out-and-out wrong for simply having questions about it. And frankly, I don't understand why people who do/did have questions tend to get painted with the brush of "jealous"/"hater". It's doubly perplexing because my questions have nothing to do with Heather as a person (never met her! I'm sure she's lovely!) and more to do with her selection for this particular forum. Am I to infer that I'm...now jealous of the selection committee? Or something? I DON'T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE. SOMEONE TELL ME.
I don't talk about it much, but I do work full-time for a large company. I love my job, value it, and respect my relationship with my employer. My company is incredible when it comes to workplace flexibility/accommodations, and pretty much the most I ever say here about it is that more workplaces should be like it. I recognize and do not take for granted the great setup that I have. I know most places aren't like that, and even with all the good, I still have Sophie's Choice-esque mornings. The ones where I ask myself if my kid is really sick, and needs me home, or whether s/he'll be okay without me.
The way I feel is this: Heather works for herself, and that's a gamechanger when it comes to the "workplace" concept. It is. And while I see the value of having a mother who blogs participating in this forum, her situation is incredibly unique; lightning in a bottle, if you will. I am not downplaying that her blog empire IS work, and that she has carved out a well-marketed and powerful niche for herself. But can you truly say, however, that she was the best representative of the momblogging world for a forum specifically on workplace flexibility? I'm not being rhetorical, by the way; can you? To the extent you want to argue that she was an appropriate person because has a wide audience to tap from, and from whom to solicit input...did she? I don't know, so I'm (again) not being rhetorical: did she? Those were the questions I had, and had asked myself (uh, until now). I'm obviously interested in your thoughts no matter where you fall, but regardless, why is any one of us right or wrong on this? Why does anyone need to be?
I hesitate to push "publish" on this, because I really and truly don't want to be incendiary or divisive, and it's my fervent hope that this doesn't come across as such. However, I need to speak up, because I don't like feeling as though questioning things online -- respectfully -- is inherently construed as some form of personal attack. And I certainly don't like hearing that we as bloggers should be happy simply because one of our own was selected. Questioning things isn't an automatic indication of hatred or envy, and the implication that we should be happy by mere virtue of the fact that a blogger was selected is, in my view, demeaning to all of us. My own questions and my concerns -- as a working mother in corporate America -- revolved around whether the best cross-section of representatives were chosen for the forum. I don't want to feel bad about that.