First and foremost: the Red Stapler portrait set is up at Flickr with 107 photos, a new record. If you have an urge to see your favorite bloggers holding an office tool, you can fulfill it there.
Going to a women's blogging conference with 1000 women is kind of like immersing yourself in melted dark chocolate. It is entirely delicious and entirely too much.
I think I will try to take it in small bite-sized stories, if you don't mind. I don't feel like I could do it justice in one large roundup.
My modus operandi this year was to have fun and to not get overwhelmed. I succeeded at #1 and did not quite do as well at #2, though I experienced vast improvements over the two years prior.
I only had two duties this year: to participate in the panel on being childless in the blogosphere and to read at the Community Keynote.
The panel turned out great, though I had almost nothing to do with it. None of us panelists did. We barely said anything because the audience was so fired up and ready to talk that the discussion happened with little input from us. It was 75 minutes of going all over the childfree map, from infertile women who really wanted children to women who did not have children, did not want children and who did not like children very much at all (for instance, boycotting baby showers. I did not know that was allowed!)
At the end of all of this childless introspection, there came a very odd moment indeed, one that I am still scratching my head about.
Moderator Teri Tith had reserved the right to ask the panel the final question. It was something like this "People say they get a lot of satisfaction from their children. What is it that YOU get satisfaction from?"
She looked at me.
I asked that the others answer first. I sat there like a stunned mullet, my mind churning, as the other 2 panelists answered with the usual stuff about work, family and hobbies.
It came back around to me and I blurted out "That question took me aback because I kind of feel like that question contains the same kernel of "What is your life about if you don't have kids?" that we have been talking about."
I know she meant well, that she wanted to end the panel on a happy note, but I felt like I had been sucker-punched. In my mind, there IT was again - if you don't have children, somehow you have to justify your existence because making children is the main reason for living.
Interestingly enough, my biggest support in that moment came from Denise Tanton of Flamingo House Happenings. She has 3 kids of her own and I think 3 of her partner's. She said that I didn't have to answer the question and gave me a big thumbs-up. She had talked in the discussion about how she really believed and understood that having kids wasn't the end-all and be-all. It felt good to have someone say aloud what I knew in my heart.
Clearly us childless folks have a long way to go, even among ourselves. Humans haven't had a choice about childbearing for very long and it is going to take some getting used to. The more reason to talk and talk some more.