From "Silicon Valley Magazine" September 24, 2000.
Mike Cassidy's SV Dispatches By: Mike Cassidy -- Mercury News columnist ALISON R. van Diggelen had it figured out. Cambridge University education. Jobs in her native Scotland and in London and Paris as an international investment and real estate adviser. She and her husband would move to the United States to continue their fast-track careers. In 1994, they landed in Silicon Valley. Husband Frank had a marketing job with a Sunnyvale high-tech company. Alison planned to find a big job in San Francisco’s financial district. And then van Diggelen discovered she was pregnant with Lewis, now 5. ‘‘Once Lewis arrived,’’ she says, ‘‘I just wanted to stay home with him.’’ It happened, and there she was bonding with her son and thinking something was missing. Something like conversation with humans who speak in words of more than a syllable. She took a writing course. She tried some freelance work. She decided to try the Web. Van Diggelen launched siliconmom.com in January. It’s a modest site hosting a few essays, links to related sites and a message board. No, it’s not a business. More of a vocation. ‘‘I think mothering is one of these jobs that is not high-profile or glamorous at all,’’ says van Diggelen, ‘‘but it is very hard work.’’ It’s especially not high-profile in Silicon Valley, where importance is often measured by the size of the IPO, the number of stock options, or the number of hours spent at the office. Mothers work for no pay and have no stock options (some would say no options at all). You can’t be fired. But you’re often dismissed. Van Diggelen knows the feeling, and that’s the point she’s trying to get across. Plenty of people talk about the wonderful job stay-at-home moms do, but let’s face it: They just don’t get much respect. Van Diggelen has built a place to commiserate about postpartum stomachs, organizing chaotic lives and balancing high-tech lives with home lives. ‘‘People have e-mailed me, or put comments on the site,’’ she says, ‘‘saying how much it just makes them feel better that there are other moms in the same situation out there.’’ Van Diggelen works from the guest room of their Almaden Valley home, between chasing after Lewis, who just started kindergarten, and his sister, Tanera, who is 3. Like most 3- and 5-year-olds, the young van Diggelens have one speed: shot out of a cannon. ‘‘You just fit it in the odd times when the kids have play dates, or late at night.’’ The site isn’t meant to make money, so there is no pressure there. But there is pressure to be good and to satisfy a small but growing group of readers. ‘‘I’m really just letting it evolve,’’ she says. She’s encouraged by e-mail she’s received. She’s asked others to write essays. She hopes to post them and give other mothers a voice. In the meantime, she’ll continue to offer reassurance, one Silicon mom to another. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Van Diggelen’s Web site is found at www.siliconmom.com. Contact Mike Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 920-5536. For previous columns by Mike Cassidy for SV and the Mercury News go to www.sjmercury.com/svtech/columns/dispatches/.