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The Day I Lost my Pet Name

March 6, 2010 1 comment
From the cartoon: Mama Bear and Baby Umka

 

My husband’s pet name for me used to be “Umka.”  If you’re Russian, you know that Umka is a cartoon polar bear cub popular in the early 70s.

Let’s ask the Russian what the similarities are between his wife and a cartoon polar bear:

“You are white and you like the cold when you sleep.”

(ed. note: White as in blonde, not honkey. If you were wondering.)

Let’s ask him if there’s anything else about the cartoon bear that reminds him of his wife, say, being cute and cuddly:

 “Sure. You are cute and cuddly.”

OK.

But here’s the thing.  This stopped after our son was born because really, he was Baby Umka now. I was now Umka’s mother. And that’s fine. I think mother bears are awesome — they’re fiercely protective and loving and strong. And polar bear mothers are just amazing. I love their black eyes and lovely long noses and beautiful fur. One of the first pieces of art I bought when we were getting the nursery ready was an illustration of a mama and baby polar bear gazing at the moon together.

Can you believe after ten years of marriage and having this Umka be a part of our lives, I only just now watched one of the cartoons? It’s on YouTube (of course) and even comes in a subtitled version. Please take a few minutes to watch it — it’s beautifully drawn and utterly charming. And totally makes me want to talk like the mama bear, who for a bear has a very sexy voice. (Is that wrong?)  Also, check out the lullabye she sings to baby Umka. You will want to rush out and learn Russian immediately so you can sing it to your little ones.

How about you? Any pet names you care to reveal? And like me, did your pet name mysteriously disappear or change after your children came along?
 

Categories: Family, Parenting, Russians Tags: , , ,

A Tribe of One’s Own

March 2, 2010 18 comments

If the white dude with the mullet can find his tribe, why can't I?

Newbie bloggers are often given this advice: Find your tribe. There was even a terrific panel dedicated to this at BlogHer last year. The blogosphere is all about niches and community-building after all, so seek like-minded bloggers and band together. Maybe you do this for personal satisfaction, maybe in hopes of creating the critical mass attractive to advertisers. Maybe both. Maybe neither! Maybe you start looking for kindred bloggy spirits just for the fun of seeing whether there even IS a tribe out there that would have you as a member.    

I would like to announce publically that I am seeking a blogging tribe. I am as naked in my need to belong as Kevin Costner’s ass cheeks in Dances with Wolves. He found a tribe and he can’t even act, surely it’s not that hard.

Maybe I’m too schizophrenic. I kind of want to be all things to all people. This is a good skill to have in PR as you are constantly required to straddle the needs of clients, media influencers and parent company overlords. But maybe it’s not helping me in the blogosphere. I probably need to focus a little. And since I can’t expect my tribe – whoever and wherever they may be – to show up on my doorstep bearing flowers and vodka, I am going to be proactive.  I am going to grease the skids, as they say.

I submit to you my Top Ten List of Blogging Tribes I Feel Qualified to Join to help you, the reader, better assess whether or not we are destined to be tribal soul mates. All you need do is see if you fit into any of these categories:

  1. PR people who secretly want to be full-time bloggers earning Dooce-like coin
  2. PR people who do way more than just plan events and do publicity (pffft)
  3. PR people who swear on their children’s lives that PR is totally not likeKell on Earth
  4. Moms still losing the baby weight (even though the baby is in elementary school)
  5. Moms of boys who (literally) climb walls (Audrey McClelland, that one’s for you)
  6. Moms who can recite entire episodes of “iCarly” word-for-word and think Spencer’s hot
  7. Moms referred to by their offspring as “Dude” or “Devil Woman”
  8. American women married to Russian men who argue regularly about parenting tactics
  9. Droid owners married to iPhone owners who argue daily about those Luke Wilson AT&T ads
  10. People who are on Facebook because they feel they have to but secretly wish they could shut the account down and just hang out on Twitter

Leave me a smoke signal in the comments if you want to be in one or more of my tribes. Or if you’d like to publically declare your own tribal aspirations.

Image via.

Outgrowing Star Wars

January 14, 2010 9 comments
This image is known in Star Wars movie poster geek circles (not that I’d know anything about that) as “US One Sheet Original Movie Poster Style C.” It’s awesome and old school and at the height of my 7-year old’s Star Wars frenzy, I found a decent reproduction and had it lovingly framed for his bedroom.

 

Did I mention it’s awesome?

 

Tonight getting ready for bed the 7-year old gives the poster a sidelong glance and says casually, “You know I’m not into Star Wars anymore, right?”

 

And a little piece of my heart dies a quiet death, kind of the way Yoda finally became one with the Force in Episode VI except that had hung around for 900 years and the damned poster only survived my son’s fickle taste for one.

 

Only consolation is he got Beatles Rock Band at Christmas so now he wants a Beatles poster. Could be worse.

 

Image via.

Posted via email from Stephanie Smirnov’s Posterous

Hope in the Mist

December 10, 2009 11 comments

I get home from the business trip after dark. It’s been two solid days of planes, trains and automobiles – doing the security line striptease, breaking nails on suitcase latches, schlepping from one client meeting to the next with bloodshot eyes from fitful hotel sleep and not enough Visine. I’m thrilled to be home but as usual, my return disrupts the fragile balance my stay-at-home husband has established with our son in my absence.

Enter Mommy, exit discipline. I realize as I lurch into the kitchen lugging suitcase and laptop bag that I’ve interrupted dinner. I’ve distracted my son during the all-important first course, by which I mean the plateful of vegetables he must finish before getting mac-and-cheese. He’ll eat veggies but like pulling off a bandaid, it’s best when it happens all at once, without interruption. I’ve shot his concentration and he’s now wrapped himself around me with the freakish strength 6 year olds can muster when it comes to bear hugs and marathon tickle sessions. I breathe him in. I haven’t seen him in two days.

My husband indulges the reunion for a while, then tries to coax our boy back to finish dinner. It’s swim team practice night which means dinner is served later and everyone’s exhausted. Bed time is minutes away and we’re not even through the carrots yet. My son ignores his father’s pleas to finish the meal, having run off to the TV room to find a drawing he needs to show me RIGHT NOW. He’s got two days of catching up to do with me and in his mind, carrots – and bedtime – can wait. On cue, my husband explodes.

The battle of wills between the 42 year old and the first grader is fierce. Testosterone flies fast and furious, both sides hell-bent on making sure the other knows “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.”

Normally I’d intervene. Mediate and bargain. Make the peace. Tonight, something switches on in my brain. I realize, “I can’t fix this.” It occurs to me the men in my family will never figure out how to deal with one another productively as long as I’m in the ring refereeing.

So I leave. I pull my coat back on knowing full well this will trigger a fresh outburst of wailing from my son.

“PLEASE….DON’T…..LEAVE……ME!”

I tell him as calmly as I can that I’m going to take a walk so that he and his dad can make friends again. That they need to work it out themselves, that I love them both and I’ll be back in a little bit.

I walk out into the cool night air, willing myself not to look back at the house. I know I’ll see my son plastered against the living room window, yelling for me to come back. I am tired from my trip, tired of the drama, tired of undermining my husband in his parenting efforts.

It’s humid for December and a light fog has settled on and around the houses on my block. I pause at the end of the street and look at all the houses along our town’s main drag, decked out in friendly competition with a bright array of Christmas lights. I breathe slowly and deliberately, in and out, in and out. This grounds me in the here and now, because I refuse to project myself into a future where my husband and son can’t settle their differences,  come to blows, stop loving each other.

I’m touched by the sight of these houses lined up side by side in the night, lit up as far as the eye can see, all the way down to where our town’s main street intersects with the highway. The houses get smaller and a little more ragtag down there, but they have been decorated with care and tonight they are luminous.

Why do we hang lights at Christmas? To evoke the star of Bethlehem and the nativity? Keep up with the Joneses? Celebrate the Solstice and the return of the sun’s light? Me, I love Christmas lights for reasons so complex and emotionally intertwined it’s tough to peel apart. They are beacons that fill my heart with optimism that this Christmas will be different – no holiday dysfunction, no missed connections, no New Year’s resolutions made and abandoned. Hope that this year, things will be better.

I turn and make my way back down the block to our little blue house. I’ve only been gone ten minutes but I’m guessing things have diffused inside. I notice the lights have gone out on the evergreen garland I’ve twisted around the lamp pole in our front yard and though it’s dark, am able to correct the setting on the automatic timer. The strands of fairy lights nestled in the pine blaze brilliantly back to life. I look up to see my husband and son silhouetted in the front window, waiting for me together. I climb the porch stairs and go back inside, out of the mist and into the light.

 

Image via.

Note: I was inspired to write this post by the brilliant women of Blog Nosh Magazine who are hosting a blogging carnival to celebrate hope during the holiday season. They’re doing this to help raise awareness of a charity program called Loads of Hope which I am obliged to tell you was created by my agency’s client Tide. I assure you, I would support both Blog Nosh and Tide Loads of Hope regardless of the client relationship because good people and programs deserve to be promoted. My clients don’t know I wrote this but if they read it, I hope they like it. (You, too.)

Please visit Blog Nosh to learn about the carnival and the campaign.

In Which JumpStart Allows Me to Review their Product

December 1, 2009 8 comments

I was contacted recently by the team at Knowledge Adventure, creators of the well-known JumpStart educational game software. They had released a virtual online world earlier this year; would I let my six-year old son test drive it and provide feedback? And would I share my perspective on using technology to help kids learn?

No one ever asks me to review anything, which is tragic considering how willing a consumer I am, also considering how eager I am as a PR person to be on the receiving end of a product pitch for once. So of course I said yes, also because everyone I interacted with at Knowledge Adventure was professional and friendly to a tee.

Back to my take on kids learning with technology: it’s awesome.  I’m a member of the first generation to grow up with “Sesame Street,” “School House Rock” and “Zoom,” all of which used technology to educate, early-70s style.  By which I mean TV.  And you better believe that TV-learnin’ stuck. It’s been nearly four decades and I can still recite the Preamble to the Constitution, tell a conjunction from a preposition, and sing the Boston zip code. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you were probably born after 1975. 

But don’t think we’re lax about computer use and gaming in the Smirnov household. DS, Wii and watching “Charlie the Unicorn” on YouTube for the 9000th time are strictly curtailed to weekends or an hour after school. That said, I always knew I’d be willing to bend the rules if there were an educational reason for my son to be on the computer.

Enter JumpStart.com. I had my doubts at first, just looking at the sweet, cartoony imagery on the home page. My kid is used to the 360-degree immersion of Wii Sports gaming and the non-stop kinetic blitz of Sonic and Mario, so I wondered how well JumpStart would hold his attention.  Well, that was before we installed the required 3-D plug-in, registered and started exploring the AdventureLand portion of the JumpStart online world.  The kid’s first comment?  

“This. Is. Awesome.”

In a nutshell, JumpStart combines traditional video game elements with learning challenges and age-appropriate, secure social interaction in a series of shimmering, immersive worlds geared to kids ages 3-10. The company says the educational curriculum is “based on state standards from the top, most influential states: CA, FL, TX, IL and NY” and that they “combined all the standards from these states to create our proprietary scope and sequence which spirals through skills based on grade level.” That’s fancy teacher talk for they take their curriculum development very seriously, which is good enough for me.

You should note there is a $7.99 monthly subscription fee (per family, not child), though you can try the game out for free for a 10-day trial period. (Not bad when you compare it to the one-time game rental fees Blockbuster’s charging these days.) Here are some highlights from my little gamer’s test drive:

  • One of the first things your kid will do is customize his or her avatar or “Jumpee.” I don’t know about yours, but my child spends hours hanging out in the Wii Plaza, messing with his own Mii and creating different ones for his friends. The JumpStart creators tap into that childish need to customize and control their game image out of the gate.
  • I ask my kid what he thinks of the look of the game. “I love it. Write that down.”
  • After swimming his Jumpee through the gorgeous underwater environment MarineLand, my son chooses his first game. He is initially non-plussed: “Dude. This is math.” But waiting at the end of the math challenge is part of a sand dollar. Earn enough sand dollars (or coins, depending on what Land you’re in) and you unlock awesome stuff like a shark tail for your Jumpee, or a cuddly friend at the Petz Shop. My son gets over himself and plunges in happily.
  • Later. “This is like Club Penguin, except with stuff for big kids.”
  • And still later. “They should call this 3-D World instead of JumpStart.”
  • The ultimate accolade: “I think the guy who made Star Wars made this.”

Game developer Chris Williams says the worlds are designed so kids can explore on, around, underneath and behind cool objects -- like waterfalls, for instance.

My kid’s been hanging at JumpStart.com consistently for over a month with no sign of waning interest. He’s even put the new JumpStart Adventure Island Wii game on his Christmas wish list. Can learning and computer fun co-exist? Apparently yes, even to the most jaded of 6 year-old gaming sensibilities.

Final verdict: thumbs-up.

Check out the JumpStart blog here, and visit the home page for a guided tour.

Love note to the FTC: I received no payment for reviewing this website, including neither sand dollars nor cuddly Petz. We were given access to the site for a limited time to try it out but ongoingly I would happily pay the monthly  fee. It’s good stuff and worth the sand dollars.

Images via Knowledge Adventure.

My Call with Uma Thurman

October 14, 2009 6 comments

Motherhood2I’ve mentioned before that I’m part of a group of NYC-area mom bloggers working with the team promoting Motherhood, a movie coming out in a week or so made by a mom, starring a mom, about a mom. No money exchanging hands (that’s for you, FTC), just access to the cast and director for interviews and some nice link love on the movie Facebook page.

So I’m waiting for the call to start this morning, making chit chat with the dozen or so bloggers on the line and enjoying the not-yet muted sounds of their home lives in the background. I hear cooing babies, barking dogs, toddlers clamoring for “Sesame Street.” My background noises, meanwhile, are those of the work-at-office mom: tooth-rattling jackhammers and sirens shrieking their way down Lexington Avenue.

Uma joins the call. Mute button on. Suddenly I’m having a moment. I AM ON THE PHONE WITH BEATRIX THE BRIDE. Holy Tarantino. The warrior mother, the assassin goddess, the woman who dispatches legions and murmurs, “Those of you lucky enough to still have your lives — take them with you. But leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.”

*Swoon*

Ooops, I’m first up! I get to read my question myself. In my mind I’m saying, “Beatrix the Bride I love you and want to braid your hair and can I try on your yellow jumpsuit” but here’s what I actually say: “Uma! Hi!” She answers my question and the dozen that follow but Blessed Virgin Mary, this call is a hot mess. It’s all dropped connections, background noise, overlapping conversation…in other words, the absolute personification of motherhood itself. I don’t think a single one of us is sweating this fact because we’re used to chaos. It is our currency, whether we work for a paycheck or not. Moms all do a variation of the same juggling act, after all. Which sometimes sucks and sometimes is beautiful and joyful.

So here are some of my favorite bits from the interview:

Uma was asked where she feels the movie’s authenticity comes from. She said she loves that Eliza’s character is not there to cast the viewer’s attention on someone else – a man or a child. She is the heart of the movie, depicted honestly – with flaws and anger issues, but very much in love with her family.

She’s surprised when other mothers dismiss the topic of motherhood in film (as in “Why watch a movie about my own boring life?”) Uma wonders why we discredit ourselves so much that we’d think raising another human being isn’t worthy of pop culture attention.

My question was about a scene described by director Katherine Dieckmann as her favorite in the film. Eliza and her husband are sitting in a car. Emotional words are exchanged. I asked Uma to describe it and here’s what she said: 

Eliza is digging into the source of her unhappiness, the fact that she’s lost herself in the minutiae of domestic life. She’s worn down by the tiny, grinding repetitive acts that make up her day. She no longer recognizes herself.

I want to see this movie for that scene alone. I predict I’ll hear myself in Eliza’s words, see myself in her frustration. I wonder what will happen for her and if she’ll find peace with the choices she’s made. I wonder too about the women in my life who don’t have creative or professional outlets, who lose a bit of themselves every day. The moms who – like Eliza – pour all their talent and energy into their families at the expense of their own aspirations. They’re the ones who deserve happy endings.

Motherhood is in theaters October 23rd.

Image via.

Check out Eliza’s blog here.

PR Mama Guest Star: Scott Henderson

September 23, 2009 13 comments

Time for another PR Mama guest post, and what the hey, let’s hear it for the boy…again. I had such a good time hosting PR Cog last time, I decided to invite another one of my favorite social media dads over to discuss balancing family and work life in this crazy business of ours. And by the way, as I’m about to dive into a roiling sea of estrogen at the Type A Mom Conference over the next three days, this may be the last you hear about men and dads for a while.  

Scott Henderson is currently the cause marketing director for MediaSauce, an Indiana-based agency that helps corporations and non-profits create and implement online strategies to achieve transformational growth.  I first encountered Scott when he left an epic comment here at PR Mama that really should’ve been a full post – it was full of such great stuff, I printed it out and carried it around with me to meetings for weeks. I liked quoting Scott in discussions about cause marketing; it always made me sound smart. The post I had written that inspired Scott’s three-screen comment was in praise of his terrific work with Tyson Foods and the Pledge to End Hunger campaign (if you remember the Social Media Smackdown at South by Southwest last year, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Filling My Dad’s Shoes

What makes us so special? Moms and dads have had to balance parenting responsibilities with social and work duties ever since we created this thing called “civilization.”  Like most men, I judge myself as a father using my own dad as the gold standard.  I’ve been blessed with two loving, encouraging parents.  My mom and dad have given me a lot of love and attention in my life.  They’re not perfect, but they have done a great job.

My dad, “Dr. Bill” as everyone in the neighborhood called him, has always been in my life and there for some of my highest and lowest moments.  He was the all-time quarterback for the neighborhood football games we played in our front yard.  No matter what the sport, he made a point of showing up for my games and even coached when he could.

He and I tackled a number of projects for cub scouts and school.  While we didn’t win any blue ribbons, we did rack up a shoebox full of participation ribbons (this was before kids received a trophy for everything). The single proudest moment of my teenage years came when my dad was there to see my only first place finish at a swim meet in high school one early Saturday morning.  It meant so much to me that he was there to cheer me on and treat me to a post-meet celebratory breakfast.  

Grandpa Bill and Ethan: Scott's father and son reading together

Grandpa Bill and Ethan: Scott's father and son reading together

Unlike Dr. Bill, I travel a lot for my work and that’s something I have had to figure out on my own.  Don’t let me fool you – I’m still trying to find the right balance. Every job’ve had since college has involved a good deal of roadwork.  It’s not that I loathe it.  On the contrary, I enjoy traveling and couldn’t imagine having a job that kept me in one place all the time.

In fact, I am writing this post while on a work trip to Champaign, Illinois.  Giving my calendar a quick glance, I see this is my fifth work trip in six weeks.  That’s a lot of disruption for our three-person family.

For the past eight years, I have said goodbye and given that “one last hug and kiss” a lot to my son, Ethan.  He’s never known me not to travel in his eight years of life, but it’s not something he wants.

Before I left last night, I decided to interview him as part of this guest post.  Here’s what I learned:

  • He likes when I bring him home souvenirs like the small White House I picked up from a gift kiosk in Washington DC. 
  • He also likes it when I bring home sweet treats like the delicious goodness from www.thecrispery.com.
  • If it were up to him, he would make it a law that dads would never have to travel without their families.

When I take the time to think about it, I realize that my son is forming his gold standard for fatherhood by how I’m doing as his dad.  That’s an amazingly heavy responsibility, especially with all the traveling I do.  I hope he will feel one day about me as I do about my dad.

scottYou can connect with Scott on Twitter or at his personal blog.

 

 

 

Mom Blogging Goes Hollywood

September 17, 2009 4 comments


I’ve always liked Uma Thurman, but when she emerged as the central muse in the twisted world of Quentin Tarantino she stole my heart once and for all. Mrs. Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction? Swoon.

When I heard Uma was starring as a mom blogger in her next film, it was hard to shake the image of her as The Bride in the Kill Bill flicks — kick ass yellow jumpsuit, bloody sword, fiercely beautiful and totally lethal. Then I remembered that it was the ferocious drive to reclaim her lost daughter that drove her through the second film — so in addition to being a real-life mother, Uma knows how to play motherhood and then some.

Motherhood was written and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, who I got to  spend some time with this afternoon on a conference call with a handful of other NYC-area  bloggers. Couple of things you might want to know about Katherine and Motherhood:

The movie was made almost entirely by women. That rocks.

Katherine drew from her own life in creating it; in fact, the film was shot in the building where she lives. She said she awoke each morning to the sound of the crew setting up, got her kids fed and off to school, and went to work. Downstairs. Which also rocks.

Katherine’s kids loved the craft services. Anyone who’s been on a TV or film set knows what this is. It’s food, and lots of it. The kids called it “crafty” and apparently got obsessed with it because Katherine is not a “big snack giver.”

One of the reasons Katherine was inspired to make the movie is that she couldn’t find any authentic representations of motherhood on the big screen. She cites Baby Boom (Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt, amazing) as one of the last movies to treat motherhood as the complex juggling act it really is. (That was 22 years ago, by the way.)

I can’t wait to see this movie. I love Uma playing disheveled. She’s incredibly endearing, and with Minnie Driver as her BFF and Anthony Edwards as her hub, what’s not to love. I also love movies shot on location in this city. I can’t help but wonder if Motherhood won’t be just a little bit of a love letter to the West Village, since it’s where Katherine makes her home.

Finally, I love that blogging — mom blogging, specifically — is in the spotlight with nary a mention of FTC guidlines or brand shilling controversies. Maybe this film will put the focus back on what’s been true about mom bloggers from the beginning: they tell it like it is about motherhood. Authentically, unfiltered, with some of the most beautiful writing on the internet. They are raw, passionate, angry, joyful, supportive, frantic, serene, hilarious, loving. Some times all at once. I am not surprised — and eternally grateful — that it’s a woman bringing this glorious cacaphony to the silver screen.

Motherhood opens in select markets October 23rd. Get more info here.

[Disclosure: There are no material connections between the makers of Motherhood and me. All they did was invite me to participate in a conference call. I realize I’ve just set a dangerous precedent as a cheap date. What I really want but am too shy to request is to go on a playdate with Uma, Katherine and their kids. I might even remember to bring my kid. Katherine says it’s okay to drink wine during playdates, provided the children are not put in harm’s way. So clearly we were meant to be best friends.]

How I Told My 6-Year Old About 9/11

September 11, 2009 24 comments

My son and I have a bedtime ritual where we play with his “question cards.” They’re flashcards, really, questions on one side and answers on the other — math, science, social studies, vocabulary — designed for first and second graders. We were at it last night.

He’s tucked into the old blue glider (the same one I nursed him in, tatty and faded but I can’t bear to give it away), I’m on the floor quizzing him.

How many quarters in a dollar?

Is a continent land or water?

What four things does a plant need to grow?

And then this:

What U.S. city did terrorists attack on September 11, 2001?

What?

It stops me cold. My eyes fill, my stomach turns. In the flash of a card, I am hurled back in time. 

There it is. A social studies question on a first grader’s flash card.

My son pokes me with his foot, wanting me to continue. 

I look up. Carefully: “I need to tell you something important.”

He’s listening. He knows when I’m serious.

I breathe. “Tomorrow is a special day. I’m not sure they’ll tell you about it in school, so I want to tell you myself.”

Still listening.

“There used to be two amazing buildings in New York City – huge skyscrapers, we called them the Twin Towers. You would’ve loved them, they were really cool and you could see them from all over the city.  I used to look for them when I was lost because they’d help me figure out where I was supposed to be going.”

He’s liking this. He’s into big, cool buildings. He wants to know if I was ever inside them. I said no, but Daddy was once, in a beautiful restaurant at the top of one of the towers where you could practically see the clouds.

Hard part. “One day eight years ago, some bad men got on airplanes and flew right into those towers. The airplanes exploded like bombs, and that made the towers catch fire and fall down.”

My son takes this in. I’m not even going to mention the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. This is enough. He frowns.  “But…were there people in the towers?”

My heart hurts. His first concern is the people inside. I get it out: “Yes, there were people in the towers. A lot of people of died that day.”

His eyes widen. He clenches two small fists, angry. “THOSE JERKS.”

Oh, my baby. Jerks. A playground word. A playground world. That’s what life should be for a six-year old. “Jerk” is just about as bad as it gets in his reality. Am I right to invade it with the ugliness of this story?

Too late now. He wants to know why the terrorists chose the World Trade Center. I’m startled by the thoughtfulness of the question. I tell him the towers were symbols of New York City, of America, of a way of life the bad men hated.

I can tell we’re moving into deep waters and frankly, am not equipped to explain why radical Muslims hate the West. I don’t understand it myself. Besides, my son has friends named Mohammed and Abbas whose moms come to the playground in long skirts and head coverings. All I want my son to know is Muslim is something some of his friends just happen to be — the same way Daddy is Russian Orthodox and his best friend Sebi is half-Jewish. I don’t want him to care or even notice the difference.

I can see I’ve got a few seconds left of his patience before he’s ready to go back to easier questions. “So tomorrow, sweetheart — you’ll think a special thought for those people who died. Yes?”

Yes.

PR Mama Guest Star: It’s a Boy!

September 8, 2009 12 comments

I like this guest posting thing and am officially on the hunt for other mothers working in PR, especially those who work in offices. Is it me, or are we underrepresented in the blogosphere? We don’t even have a proper acronym. There are SAHMs, WAHMs…what’s the label for broads who squeeze into Spanx and schlep to offices every day? WOOHMs (moms who work out-of-home)?  Maybe WIOMs (for moms who work in-offices)?

I prefer WOOHM (rhymes with womb).

So while I’m off scouring the internets for PR-focused WOOHMs to guest post here (’cause they’re my tribe and I learned at BlogHer that I gotta find my tribe) I thought you might enjoy a little gender-bending diversion. That’s right: a guest post from a PR Papa.

As PR guys go, it doesn’t get much better than PR Cog. As many of my social media pals know, “PR Cog” is the pseudonym for a PR practioner here in NYC who chooses to blog anonymously about our industry because, as he’s said, “someone’s got to.” Cog is smart, funny, accomplished (I think…if only I knew where he actually works) and always there to lend a digital helping hand to a colleague in need. And he’s a dad, father to two young “coglings.”  So without further ado, I give you this view from the other side, that of a working PR dad:

Same Conversations, Different Audiences 

I’m relatively new to the world of PR.  Most anyone who follows me knows I basically came into it because I previously worked in my area of PR specialty — the clients feel comfortable talking to me and I did a significant amount of writing in college for an extra-curricular project, so I’ve got most of the necessary tools in my toolbox.

Needless to say, it was trial by fire — learning as I went along.  I still do, in fact.  Some from my colleagues and more recently, the wonderful group of people on Twitter and (specifically) my cohorts at [shameless plug] PRBreakfastClub.com

As my responsibilities grew over time at my agency, I found it increasingly difficult to balance the time at home with the Coglings (an hour or so in the morning and another in the evening before bedtime) and work.Inevitably as soon as I’d arrive home, there was some sort of crisis — a lost briefing book for a client on the west coast, the limo service for the desksides has to cancel because of Fashion Week and I need to track down a Town Car to play driver, or (one of my favorites) Client A sues Client B and both call us for the work.

Recently, based on a tweet  from the exceptional Heather Silverberg  I’ve realized the balance problem isn’t caused by the schedule, but because I’m having the same conversations at work as I am at home.  You doubt it?  Try this conversation on for size:  

Cog [to child]: Cogling, do you want to wear your red shirt or green shirt today?

Cogling: Yes.

And now this:

Cog [to client]:  Did you want to start the meetings at 10 or 11 during your visit?

Client:  Yes.

Same conversation, different audiences.  Same result, too.  Unanswered calls (one across the room, one across the country) seeking an actual answer and a look (or sound in the case of the client) of confusion that the question was an ‘or’ proposition and that both can’t be done simultaneously (ok, I guess Cogling could’ve worn two shirts, but we’re not letting him know that’s an option).

Think this is only a one time problem?  How’s this?

Cogling [playing next to Cog while he reviews some emails]:  Daddy, can I have your little thing? [He was referring to the iPhone, people….the perverted jokes are my territory.]

Cog: Sure [handing over phone after loading one of the games].

Cogling [after Cog moves to the laptop to continue reading emails]: Daddy, can you show me Moon pictures on that?

Cog: Sure [loading up some moon videos on YouTube].  Can I have the phone back?

Cogling: I want them both.

And now….

Cog: Client, great news, the Wall Street Journal loves your story.  They want it as an exclusive.

Client: Great.  What about the Times?

Cog: Well, if we give it to the Journal [with emphasis] as an exclusive, we can’t leak it to the Times.

Client: Why not?  I want them both.

So, for all the other PR Daddies out there, consider all the frustrating calls you’ve had with clients lately.  If they feel oddly familiar, it might just be because you’ve had the conversation with your own very special (and short) live-in client.

PRCOGPR Cog is a PR Pro at a mid-size Manhattan PR agency, and father of two Coglings. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and at two blogs: PR Cog’s Gear Grindings and PRBreakfastclub (of which he is editor).