Facebook is the New Valium

I remember it well.  In the kitchen cabinet above the radio lived our families’ orange prescription medicine bottles.  Valium being one of them.  My Mom’s Valium.  Even as a young girl, I knew that it was a difficult day if my Mom took a Valium.  It wasn’t a regular thing, thank goodness, but I just knew:  Mom’s wit’s end = little pill.

I grew up in the 70s.  My formative years were full of playing outside, Brady Bunch reruns, pet rocks, disco, and this awareness that some moms took pills to get through their days.  It was never something I discussed with my Mom.  Probably because when she died I had not yet become a mother myself.  One of my greatest regrets in life is that I never communicated with my Mom, as a mom, about being a mom.  I so wish we had known each other as moms.

This was also the era of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls.  I definitely remember that movie being exotic and taboo in 1970s middle America.  The moms joked about it.  I could hear their laughter waft up the stairs during their monthly “club” nights, which were hosted in our home twice a year.  Those were the best nights.  There was something so awesome about hearing my Mom and all the neighbor ladies laugh uproariously til the wee hours of the morning.  Like, really, really loudly.  LOUD.  Just what was so funny?, I used to wonder.  And the next day would bring leftover nuts and cheese balls and treats and French Silk pie from Bakers’ Square when it was still called Poppin’ Fresh Pies.

Poppin’ Fresh Pies was hip hop before hip hop even existed, yo.

Last Thanksgiving I made what I thought was an astute observation at the holiday dinner table when I said, “Facebook is our generation’s Valium.” Silence.  Dead silence.  I still think it’s true.  A quick wiki search informs us that Valium is the brand name of Diazepam, a benzodiazepine.  It was launched in 1963 and was wildly successful.  “Benzos” as they came to be called, replaced the much more sedating, but still wildly prescribed group known as barbiturates.

NOTE:  As awesome as this gal is, she is not my Mom.  And a chicken dinner will go out to anyone who can tell me what is happening on this gal’s head!

Like it or not, a lot of moms in the 1970s and 1980s got through their days with a little help from their friend Valium.  As a mom myself now, I totally get it.  I mean, I am the mom of one (less Donna) and there are days that the little bugger frustrates me no end.  Imagining my boy and three other little ones running around with little or no help from Dad?  BAH!  I would totally lose it.

Enter Facebook.  Cue the angels singing.  I know not everyone is on Facebook.  And I know everyone doesn’t use it to the extent I use it, but in the social media circles I frequent, Facebook is totally and completely the new Valium.  Without the pesky chemicals or necessary prescription.

Think about it.  Why is Facebook so pervasive in our lives?  Why do thousands upon thousands of Facebook pages exist devoted to motherhood and parenting?  Because we need it and it serves a real purpose.  We need to be connected.  Here are just a few that demonstrate the point that mothering can make you feel a wee bit off balance:

We need an outlet to vent about the little ones who try our last nerves.  And while these pages can be vastly different from one another, we need a place to go when our kids stomp and tantrum and melt down and get under our skins in an unhealthy kind of way.  We need a place to fret about the poop that landed in our bangs, but we didn’t notice for three hours.  We need a place to laugh at ourselves when we drive our kids to school in pajamas with a towel on our heads.  We need a place to document the epic meltdown that just occurred in the Target that left us reeling and this close to losing our shit after watching our kids lose theirs.  Or even just a place to connect when we’re doing our best and it doesn’t feel quite good enough.  Moral support from others deep in the trenches.

Moms need to be connected.  Facebook is our drug of choice, the vehicle that brings us all together.  The ultimate koffee klatch, if you will.  But just like Valium, it has drawbacks.  We run the risk of being more communicative with the screen than our kids.  Dependence is a very real possibility.  I know if I take a few hours away, folks are looking for me, worried about me.  In turn, I start to get a little fidgety.  What’s happening, I wonder?  Oh!  I need to share this!, starts to feel really important.

Yeah, there are definite drawbacks.  And truth be told, I am way more dependent on Facebook than I ever believe my Mom was on Valium.  Her once a month life line on an epic-ly bad day is my daily necessity.  Like keyboard caffeine.

“Hi, my name is Mary Tyler Mom and I am addicted to Facebook.”  “HI, MARY TYLER MOM,” is what 11,947 say in unison every morning as I power up the iPad and check Facebook before the weather, news, or anything else of import.  Yeah, Facebook is definitely the new Valium.  At least it’s my Valium.

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Jack Layton is my new hero.

I had never heard of Jack Layton before this morning.  Turns out, he was kind of a big deal.  And certainly the real deal.  Jack Layton was a Canadian pol and leader of the Official Opposition and the New Democratic Party.  But this is not a civics lesson, folks. 

This morning, after his death had been confirmed, his surviving family released a letter he had written to the Canadian public just two days ago.  It’s beautiful and well, he says it best.  Aside from the fact that he is clearly a civil human being, one I wish our own politicians would emulate, the letter spoke to me as a mom. 

His love letter to Canada ends with this:

“My friends, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world.”

If that is not a call to arms of motherhood, one I wish I had written myself, I don’t know what is.  Swap out “my friends” for “moms” and be inspired. 

When we were going through cancer treatment with our daughter, I started clinging to the phrase, “Choose hope.”  It was a conscious choice, every day, to hope and imagine that our dear girl could outlast the beast that was having its way with her.  Later, when we knew Donna surviving her cancer was no longer a hope we could hope for, we hoped for other things:  to not be bitter, to not burden Mary Tyler Son with our grief, to parent more children.  Hope had become a way of life. 

And I know it sounds pie in the sky, head in the sand, but it’s not.  To have hope, I learned, is the only way I can wake up every day.  Hope is better than fear.  Trust me on this one.  Love is better than anger.  Our kids know this.  And we know this too, even when we’re seeing red after they do something so completely stupid or frustrating or asinine that we’re ready to ship them to boarding school (And yes, there is a boarding school for toddlers, two in fact:  PBS Sprout and Nick Jr.).  And finally, optimism is better than despair.  Duh. 

Mr. Layton’s Ode to Canada was just the pep talk I needed.  Mary Tyler Son is embracing being two.  He can be tiresome and tiring.  My dear girl is still dead.  Every day.  Some days, it is harder to choose hope than others.  Today, reading Mr. Layton’s words, it was easy.  So I will say to you what Mr. Layton, may he rest in peace, said to all of Canada this morning:

Moms, love is better than anger.  Hope is better than fear.  Optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.  And we’ll change the world. 

And we can.  Seriously.  We can.