As much as social media allows us to connect with each other online, the IRL (“in real life”) component of being a part of a blogging community is undeniable. When I started blogging in 2006, the only blog conference to speak of was BlogHer; nowadays there are dozens and dozens of social media conferences all promising a fun time with ample opportunities for learning, networking and hanging out with blogging buddies that you rarely get to see. But not only does the cost of attending these awesome events add up dollar-wise, so does the cost of mom (or dad) being away, yet again, for another 3-day jaunt to socialize with her tweeps. Last year I attended 8 social media conferences. Eight! In my defense, ahem, several were on behalf of my day job. But several weren’t. And while I had an unforgettable time at all of them, I definitely felt the strain of the travel by the end of the year. So, I pledged that in 2011 I would cut back my travel and choose just four conferences that I would travel to. So far, so good. Here’s how I’ve been balancing home with the blog conference circuit:
- Shortening the length of my trips. Instead of flying in a day early or staying a day late, I’ve been arriving in the conference city the night before the conference begins and leaving just as soon as the conference ends (or even a little before). Sure I end up missing some of the parties or downtime, but I’d rather party with my Party of 5 back home.
- Taking a professional approach. I attend trainings and professional development sessions all the time for my day job as an attorney, so I try to apply the same justifications to the blog conferences that I attend. This year I’ve toned down on the conferences that I view as strictly “social” and have been attending ones that I know will advance my social media career. By the same token, I make sure that the trip away from my little guys is worth it. For each conference that I attend, I pledge to come back home with at least one solid new relationship formed that will turn into a valuable opportunity.
- Involving my husband. For a long time my husband was clueless about my blogging life. He knew that I blogged but he didn’t understand the magnitude of my online community or what it meant for me personally. Once I started sharing the ins and outs of my crazy new passion, he started to warm up to the idea of me spending so much time on my laptop and talking about my “friends” that he’d (or I’d) never met. Now I involve him in my blog conference travels as much as possible. He knows the differences between them and who hosts which. I show him the blogs of my conference hotel roommates and when I get back home I tell him all about the programming and who I met. Because he sees how much I enjoy attending these things and how many opportunities I’ve gotten from doing so, it’s a much easier sell the next time I want to register for the next one.
Oh and most importantly, I remember to bring home tons of conference swag for the kids. Nothing says “I love you” like a plush, stuffed egg or an ice cream bowl that changes colors with the temperature.
I realize that the elephant in this room (post?) is Mommy Guilt. Essentially, the nagging guilt is what drives the balancing techniques. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.