It's OK to call this Chapel Hill mom a geek

schandler@newsobserver.comFebruary 4, 2013 

COURTESY OF CARRIE HARRISON UPCHURCH

Natania Barron of Chapel Hill won’t mind if you call her a geek. In fact, it’s part of her job title.

Barron is a senior editor at Wired magazine’s “GeekMom” blog ( wired.com/geekmom) and a co-author of the new “GeekMom” book, which offers up ideas for activities and crafts aimed at family bonding in a high-tech world (though some of the tips, like those for super-cool homemade Halloween costumes, are delightfully low-tech).

In addition to keeping tabs on the geek world, she is raising two children and writes speculative fiction. Her work has been published in several anthologies, and she’s the author of a novel called “Pilgrim of the Sky.” She recently served as moderator of several panels at the IllogiCon science-fiction conference here in the Triangle.

It’s not always easy being a geek mom, Barron says, but it is pretty awesome.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I’m a writer; my husband, Michael, is a Web analyst; and we have two kids: Liam, who is 6, and Elodie, who is 8 months. Currently Michael and Liam are really into geocaching and Minecraft, and we’re building Liam his first computer. He’s a (autism) spectrum kid, so every day is a new adventure, but we’re all learning from the experience. Elodie is just learning to crawl and starting her first forays into sign language. We can’t wait to discover what she’s like! We’re a very musical family, too; I’ve just started guitar lessons for Liam, and Elodie loves dancing along when I play the ukulele. When I have spare time and am not working on day job stuff, I’m writing novels. We also have a weekly gaming group that’s been getting together for almost four years – they’re like our extended family!

Q. What’s your definition of a geek mom, and what do the blog and the book offer to your fellow geeks?

I like to think of geek moms as moms who never grow up. We’re always learning new things, we’re endlessly curious, and we’re up for new adventures around every bend. The book is both for geeky moms who are a part of our community and who get the “Doctor Who” and “Star Wars” references (the experience of girl geeks is something that’s brought a lot of us together) and for moms who have a geeky side, too. Technology is a feature, but it’s not central to the book. It’s more about learning and experiencing learning with your kids.

Q. Is it lonely being a geek mom? Do you find a lot of other moms to talk gaming with on the playground?

Yeah, this is a struggle for us. I actually write about it in the book. I didn’t expect to fit in with other moms because growing up I never fit in with girl groups, either. I’ve had some really weird and awkward playground conversations over the years (“Oh, you blog? My friend has a blog and I read it every day!” to “Ugh, I just wish my kid liked something other than ‘Star Wars,’”… meanwhile, I can’t get my kid into it at all). Thankfully, the GeekMom community has been there to help!

Q. Has your approach to writing and thinking changed since you became a mom?

It’s gotten so much more focused! After I had Liam I had a major epiphany. I called myself a writer, but I’d only written one book. And it wasn’t very good. And I lived in a little writer hidey-hole where I didn’t talk about writing speculative fiction to anyone other than my husband and my best friend. Having my son made me realize I wasn’t being true to myself, and that if I couldn’t look at him in 10 years and tell him I’d done everything in my power to follow my dreams, then I was doing it wrong. Ultimately, that’s how I ended up meeting a great community of online writers and eventually publishing, myself. I have to be very disciplined (and, honestly, I’m not always) since I don’t have a ton of time to write. But I make it count!

Q. Does your son show any geek tendencies yet? Do you hope he will? Is it hard to go through life as a geek?

Liam is a car geek and he loves video games. He also is a little socially awkward, in part due to ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). But his geeky interests are how he connects with the world, and we do all we can to support him while simultaneously trying to show him new things. I hope he’ll embrace his geekiness because it’ll be hard if he ends up a preppy quarterback or something, just because I have no touchpoint for that. I had a pretty straightforward geeky high school experience and have no concept of what it is to be popular or anything! It’s hard going through life as a geek, or at least in those formative years, but it’s absolutely awesome when you grow up.

Chandler: 919-829-4830

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