Aspiring to be an eco-mom

Aspiring to be an eco-mom

My weekend is never complete without reading Chrystia Freeland’s excellent column in the Financial Times Weekend section however, a recent one really made my blood boil. Titled, “Save us from the eco-mom” my hackles were up before I’d even scanned the first paragraph. She reports to “feeling the first stirrings of eco-resistance” as she’s forced to hand wash her daughter’s glass milk bottles…and then extrapolates into a whole peeve-fest about “eco-moms’ tendencies to complicate and belabor domestic life.” Oh my!

I agree that we shouldn’t forget the emancipatory power of the dishwasher and washing machine, but I think we should also be prepared for a little inconvenience. Saving the planet is worth a little hassle, is it not?

I aspire to be an eco-mom; I aspire to recycle, buy local, drive a hybrid, reduce my carbon footprint etc., but I certainly don’t aspire to the fundamentalist eco-mom definition she describes…moms who’re completely consumed by the eco movement to the point of turning the clock back, abandoning science and technology. Brings to mind an image of  women down by the river, scrubbing their underwear with carbolic soap for hours…Oh, please!

And another thing…

I think Chrystia was so busy with her eco-warrior warnings she missed an important part of the eco-picture: that the eco-movement is pushing for scientific and technological advancement (not regression); that eco-moms are pushing for renewable energy , hybrid cars, low carbon footprints and energy saving ways to run their homes.

Eco-moms are looking for ways to get their groceries from local producers, not from half way round the world. Eco-moms want green solutions, not ways to chain themselves to the sink all day. It’s opportunity not tragedy; a wee bit of inconvenience for the common good. I reject her branding eco-moms fundamentalist: we’re pragmatic, we’re realists and we’re more than ever aware that we’re all in this together. Al Gore says it best in his surprisingly funny and self-effacing call to action

Finally: I’m curious to observe that Chrystia is the one who tries to sneak recyclables in the trash and her kids are the ones who catch her red-handed. Why is it the complete opposite in our house and I’m forever fishing plastic yoghurt cartons etc out of the garbage? Are the New York schools so much better at making the eco-message stick than the California schools? Am I pushing too hard? Fodder for another column perhaps?

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Teens plugged in! – SDForum showcases stars

Teens plugged in! – SDForum showcases stars

(Sejal Hathi)    Yesterday’s Teens Plugged In Conference, organized by SDForum, Silicon Valley’s excellent networking and relationship builder, was a feast of youthful exuberance. HP’s auditorium in Palo Alto was overrun with young geeks from 14 to 21 who were excited to share their thoughts, sell their companies (yes: some are already CEOs) and get more funding for their tech based philanthropic enterprises. Susan Lucas-Conwell, SDForum’s chief, did a masterful job keeping the peace when Internet connections stalled at 9 am, (how can this happen in the epicenter of Silicon Valley?), but technology prevailed and soon it was on with the show.

Anshul Samar, the 14 year old  CEO of Alchemist Empire launched his PowerPoint with the panache of a seasoned techy, explaining his biz opportunity: combining kids’ need to have fun with parents’ desire to educate their kids. After launching the idea for his battle-making game that teaches chemistry at last year’s conference, he’s already raised some capital and is poised to take it further. “Being in Silicon Valley makes it impossible NOT to be an entrepreneur,” enthused Samar. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for that name in the future.

Notre Dame Junior, Sejal Hathi dominated the teen panel with eloquent answers and details of her philanthropic venture: Girls Helping Girls, an international girl empowerment program fostering links between US schools and developing countries. Go girls!

Talking philanthropy, I got the chance to interview Salina Truong for my Women’s Radio show. She works with Gumball Capital, a clever nonprofit based at Stanford that seeks to teach students about microfinance by giving them this challenge: here’s a loan for $27  and 27 gumballs, go out and use your entrepreneurial smarts and make it grow. The proceeds? They’re sent to enterprising charities like If you want to hear about some of the creative projects and how much they raised, check out my radio show Silicon Valley Talks next week.

Finally and perhaps most impressive of all, I interviewed Alina Libova, the unassuming 19 year old who created an Easter Egg application using the Facebook framework, garnered 300,000 users and recently sold it to Thingi. A turning point for her was hosting a Vista Party at Foothill College, that drew over 300 attendees….this while she was still a high school student in Mountain View. Alina is transferring from Cal Poly to Cal next Fall and is bursting with ideas. With success like that, and her quiet yet compelling personality, she looks like a rising star. If you want to hear more from Alina about her inspiration and future plans, check out my radio show next week.

And one last note for those who lament the end of kids reading real books and losing the art of face to face communication, one teen panelist gave a glowing endorsement for Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to win friends and influence people.” I wonder what advice Carnegie would give for navigating Facebook, winning online friends and not sullying your employment prospects, 5 years down the line?

Motherhood and more

Motherhood and more

Click here for the award-winning siliconmom website

Here’s a peek:

Must read books for mothers


Do you ever get mad at the Hallmark view of motherhood? Fed up with the media’s soft focus lens?

Get real books

Get real books

Here’s your antidote.

This list has been compiled by siliconmom contributors for your delectation.  Enjoy the real world of mothers, laugh with them and cry with them…and don’t feel so bad when you mess up! We’ve all been there!

Inconceivable, By Ben Elton
The truth about trying to get pregnant. Witty and real.

Operating Instructions, by Anne Lamott
An achingly funny and poignant tale of first time motherhood. This should be compulsory reading for every first time mother.  Can relieve massive guilt buildup.

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a hurry, by Katrina Kenison
Vikki Bowes Mok says, it’s a great reminder to savor the moments of childhood and just let kids be kids.

Perfect Madness. Mothering in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner.

I don’t know how she does it! By Allison Pearson
A hilarious tale of investment banker mother of two, who tries to keep all the balls in the air in a mean man’s world. Excellent read for anyone who is trying to “have it all.”

Surrender to Motherhood
A mother’s journey from high flying journalist to full time mother

Mothers who think
Excellent collection of short essays from a cross-section of articulate mothers including Anne Lamott (don’t miss her essay on temper control!)

Babyhood, by Paul Riser

Misconceptions, by Naomi Wolf

The Myth of the Perfect Mother by Jane Swigart [Siliconmom contributor, Eileen Bordy says that this is a must read item and good reality check]

The Mommy Myth By Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels

Dispatches from a not so perfect life by Faulkner Fox [career choices/ family choices from Duke University teacher]

The Price of Motherhood By Ann Crittenden [outlines the major financial impact of taking time off work for your children and how other countries are more family friendly]

Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk (same authors as above)

Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey [a very worthwhile book with practical tips and age-appropriate tools to teach children the important skills of financial savvy. Joline is a financial guru for children and gives workshops and advice worldwide]

Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
Siliconmum, Deb Gales says, “it’s as depressing as H*** but even though it looks at a marriage of our parents’ generation, it has many relevant and potent themes.

Poetry Speaks to Children, Edited by Elise Paschen [read and hear some of the world’s best poetry, from Robert Frost to Roald Dahl and JRR Tolkein]

BOOKS by siliconmom contributors
Getting it right: How working mothers successfully take up the challenges of life, work and family, by Laraine Zappert

Caffeinated Ponderings on life, laughter and lattes by Shana McLean Moore

Femail, A comic collision in Cyberspace by Shana McLean Moore and Linda Sharp

Star Baby, by Margaret O’Hair

The Sport of Motherhood, By Genevieve Butcher: filled with marathon training techniques for busy mothers, from the  cable TV show presenter and mother of four.

Please contact us with your ideas!
Cheers Alison, Editor

Waiting for the IPO

Waiting for the IPO

Waiting, just waiting
Why life “on hold” doesn’t work for families



From the Mercury News Column Archives
by Alison van Diggelen, July 2000

I must be one of the few people in Silicon Valley who breathed a little sigh of relief when the stock market started to fall earlier this year.  The good news is that a lot of Silicon Valley-ites may have got a sound reality check.  Net worths are lower, but homes and families may be happier.

The “deferred life plan” may work well for the young and unattached.  Their life is their work, and their work place an extension of college life, a social club.  As Bill Gates said of his young software programmers, “if they want, we will give them a sleeping bag, but there is something romantic about sleeping under the desk.  They want to do it.” For them, “all nighters” are a form of team bonding, something to brag about. 

But for workers with partners and kids, trying out the same strategy may not work.  They may wake up one day like Rip van Winkle not recognizing their kids, their partner or themselves.  It’s hard for “deferred life planners” and happy families to co-exist in the new economy of Silicon Valley.

Sure we’d all love to share in the technology gold rush, but the problem is that all work and no play don’t mesh well with sound family life.  You may be willing to put your life on hold for a few years, but kids are different, they won’t be put on hold.  Like it or not, they grow up fast, arguably at a faster rate than it takes stock options to vest. 

Up until recently there’s been the feeling that the market can’t wait, you must ride the wave today or it won’t be there tomorrow.  But it’s only the stellar news you hear about, not the nineteen out of twenty startups that fail to scoop the jackpot.

I recently read one of my favorites Dr. Seuss books to my kids: “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”   The double page “Waiting Place” stopped me in my tracks when I read it to my kids last week.  To me, it sums up the lives of many of us in Silicon Valley.

“…You’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space
headed I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting..”
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting, perhaps for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break”

And for us in Silicon Valley, I could add,
for that first demo
or the big trade show,
or the I.P.O.
or the ratio
of the P to E to grow and grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”

I’m not suggesting people are sitting around waiting, on the contrary they are furiously pursuing some grand ambition, but are so blinded by the “gold”, the technology or their peers, that they neglect what’s going on at home.  They are working and waiting.

In “The Monk and the Riddle”, a new book about entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, author Randy Komisar of Portola Valley, says that the passion for work is often missing, replaced by some monetary dream. He says of some entrepreneurs; “They see their enterprises the way an eight-year-old sees vegetables: you must eat your peas before getting your pie (i.e. the jackpot).”

Tiffany Carboni, an associate editor for a glossy Bay Area magazine resigned her position in February due the allure of stock options at a dot-com.  When the market took a downturn in March, it made her do some soul-searching, “I decided that the goal of getting rich fast wasn’t as important as my happiness.” Her change of heart was quick enough that she came back to her old job, where her passion lay, and was welcomed back with a promotion.

So, if the market downturn hasn’t made you or your partner see the light and come home in the daylight, maybe it’s time to treat your family to a copy of Dr. Seuss’ classic, earmarked at the “Waiting Place” page and see if the Doctor’s timeless wisdom can permeate the thick Silicon Valley skin of stock-option-filled dreams.

© siliconmom

Downturn impacts SV

Downturn impacts SV

Demise of the Corner Café
By Alison RG van Diggelen
From Silicon Valley Biz Ink column archives, 2002

When I was over in London this summer, a friend, who recently left Silicon Valley for the greener pastures of Ascot, asked me how things were in the valley these days. Good and bad, I said.

After months and months of huge job cuts dominating front-page news, I told her that silver lining stories are now beginning to bud. Perhaps it’s because the downturn has been with us long enough that we crave some good news. Every paper has stories about shorter commutes, easier hiring, reduced house prices, quality of life improvements.

But really! We should be ashamed of ourselves. It’s a little soon to be making hoopla over our dearly departed. They may be in deepest Demoines but I mean their bodies are still warm. They’re probably still wired to the web, still in touch with the valley in one way or another. The way some press stories read, it’s as though those fleeing Silicon Valley fell off the edge of the earth. OK, Siliconians are not renowned for their empathy, (we’re too busy being creative), but still. For all we know, those with pink slips may have looked over their shoulders on their way out of the valley and heard us cheering, reveling in the extra room on the road now that their car is no longer jostling for position on Highway 85 every morning. Hey, shouldn’t we be showing a little more respect?

By contrast, London is still thriving thanks to a huge consumer spending boom. As I shopped with about half of the European Community in Covent Garden one Saturday morning, I kept recalling the independent café in our San Jose neighborhood, which folded this summer. It’s been sitting empty and forlorn for months. There is no silver lining in sight here, just a gradual destruction of its “Down-Under” memory as creditors come by each month to seize more fittings.

Two years ago, I was delighted when this independent coffee shop moved into the neighborhood. I rallied to support this one-woman business as she tried to swim against the tidal wave of Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee. I’d watch her red-rimmed eyes as she frothed the milk for my cafe latte and looked around the empty tables. I wondered how many cups of coffee she had to sell each day to pay the rent.

I got in the habit of going in just before my son started school around the corner. By June, her anxious manner had melted into a jolly disposition. She’d say to my five-year old, “Come on back and let’s make your mama’s latte.” He would trot round beside her and emerge moments later with a beaming smile waving a blue and white sticker or a shiny new Frisbee showing the coffee shop logo.

The coffee shop supported local charity events, turning up at the Almaden Times Classic 10K with balloons for the kids and free coffee for all. (Funnily enough there wasn’t a Starbucks cup in sight.)

One Saturday the kids and I cycled from our house along the creek path and refreshed our tired bodies with strawberry milkshakes and ham croissants from the café before we journeyed back. We sat at the table by the window and the kids counted the fluffy gray Koalas peeking out from make believe trees, their branches festooned with silver tinsel, around us. That was just days before she served her last cup of coffee.

On our return from London we went to check out the coffee shop. “What will happen to the Koalas?” the kids ask.

We peer in through the plate glass window. The trees and Koalas were gone. All that remains of them are a handful of plastic leaves strewn across the gray vinyl floor and some loose strands of silver tinsel. Wooden wall cupboards gap open; a couple of coffee bean sacks lie limp where the coffee roaster used to be. On the counter top sits a half empty bottle of Calistoga. Near the counter lies a computer box, its side ripped off, a mangle of electronic innards exposed.

We turn away, my teeth catching my lower lip, as the kids bombarded me with questions, “But why?” “Will the Koalas be OK?”

The local merchants tutt-tutt and gossip. The tenant was behind in the rent, disappeared. “We’re fed up being next to an empty shell,” they say. They’d like to see a Starbucks go in. It would be good for business.
About the author: Alison van Diggelen is founder and editor of She lives in San Jose with her husband and American born children.

© Siliconmom.