So I mean to blog this weekend – it being Mother’s Day on Sunday and all. And because that particular holiday brings out thoughts of technology like no other.
Christmas, you say? Birthdays, you say? No, because while you can receive copious gadgets on these days, only on certain days is technology required. And by that I mean, you must call or e-mail your mom. (Mom, I hope this belated blog will suffice.)
Now, I don’t go to the same extreme as Allen Salkin, who has got his mother’s blog (http://www.allensalkin.com/mom) on the same Web site as himself. That would be too much technological togetherness, in the same textual-contextual family if you will. My mom is very much her own person, and so am I, and we share the same Internet quite a bit, but not the same blogging engine. I’m trying to strike out on my own here. :D
But I do associate my mom more than my dad with technology and there are a few key reasons for that. One is this story where essentially my mom chopped down part of a tree outside her and Dad’s house because she was given vague customer service advice from her ISP. (It was later learned that she needn’t have brought out the axe to get email working again, but, mom’s the daughter of an engineer, and she’s perfectly willing to get mechanical on the problem). My Dad had avoided email for years – just one more thing to answer, like a phone or a pager – but my Mom embraced it so much she was willing to change the landscape to make it work.
The second is perhaps a more formative, stuff-of-empowerment-therapy story which I’ve already immortalized in my graduate thesis so Mom knows I’m willing to tell it in public and has given her blessing. It’s one of those episodes where as a kid, you wish it had never happened because it was so embarrassing, and then as an adult, you realize it entirely changed your life and those around you.
I was perhaps 8 years old, in the back of the car with my sisters, when my Mom decided to stop by the hospital where she had staff privileges (Mom’s a doctor, so is Dad) and pick something up. We lived in the suburbs, so there was this little kiosk and parking lane to get into the parking lots around the hospital, and you’ve got to drive by this scowling attendant.
Well, I’m sitting in the back seat, thinking my 8-year-old thoughts (probably something about how my middle sister ALWAYS got what SHE wanted) when I look up and realize that the lot attendant doesn’t want to let Mom into the staff parking lot. Then, I start sinking down into the seat because I realize Mom is taking the guy on, and as a 6-foot-tall woman, she’s not exactly diminutive. Or whispering. They get louder and louder until it culimates with Mom having the Last Word.
“You thought because I was a woman, I couldn’t be a doctor!” she yelled.
We kids are red-faced, the guy is red-faced (she clearly has the doctor’s permit on her dashboard, he just saw woman and kids and made assumptions) and the rest of the afternoon is blurry with the kid-shame around Mom Having Caused a Problem.
But I had reason to think back on that moment later....when I started the Seattle chapter of Webgrrls and the members would tell me stories about not being accepted at work by an all-guy team....when I’ve been on interviews or in meetings where my technical depth was dismissed before I opened my mouth. When people tell you who they think you are, you can gain useful feedback fron the experience, but you don't have to take it in. At the very least, you can yell back.
Seeing Mom stick up for herself, even if it disrupted my 8-year-old sense of propriety, has made it easier for me to advocate for people to get the technology education and experience and jobs they wanted. It made it easier to embrace the technology, and change the landscape to make it work.
So… thanks Mom. And yes, I know, this still doesn’t make up for the fact I need to call more often. J