This morning, my 4 year old daughter woke me up at 6:30 a.m. to find out what happened to the picnic basket. Rather, why the picnic basket didn’t have anything in it yet. I reached for her with eyes still closed and stroked her hair, explaining that I hadn’t made anything for this afternoon’s gan picnic, but promised that it would be all ready by the time we picked her up from gan.

And then, I started wondering how I was going to fulfill my promise to her and still attend The Israeli Presidential Conference, Facing Tomorrow 2013, at Jerusalem’s Convention Center. It was a conflict that I knew about for only the past week, which was when her end of the year gan picnic at the zoo was scheduled. Unable to change the date of the gan picnic, I faced a real dilemma. Do I attend the special Sharon Stone and President Shimon Peres panel for journalists and bloggers, or do I miss it and go to my daughter’s gan picnic instead. And, what about getting everything ready for the picnic? If I spent the day at the conference, leaving just to rush off for the actual picnic, who will do all the advanced preparation?

As of this morning, I was still pretty much undecided about what to do.

For me, blogging for The Times of Israel is a hobby, an indulgence, a way to placate that little part of me that still regrets leaving the field of journalism to pursue a career in public relations. I love the news, I love the art of the interview, I love thinking like a journalists, and I love writing blog posts that people want to read.

But then, I decided to do some math based on my experience at the conference yesterday. As a work at home Mom, I rarely go out to networking events or conferences. This event, which is something I really looked forward to, was an opportunity for me to get out of the house, see some of my fellow bloggers and Twitter friends, and listen to interesting panels.

And this is how much it cost me:

  • Getting my wig washed and styled – 250 shekels
  • Manicure and pedicure – 180 shekels
  • Facial – 200 shekels
  • Design and printing of new business cards (because, as Sarah Tuttle-Singer so eloquently put it, “attending a conference without business cards is like going to a frat party without condoms”.) – 742.80 shekels
  • Cabs to and from the conference – 70 shekels
  • Babysitter to pick the kids up from gan and watch them until we got home – 100 shekels
  • Food at conference (I brought with me since the cost of food there is not cheap. 1 cheese sandwich, a bag of grapes, 1 sliced cucumber, 1 sliced red pepper, 1 bag of cashews, 1 bottle of water, 1/4 package of corn crisps) – 60 shekels approximately

Total, not including the 8 hours of client work that I did not do in order to attend the conference: 1602.80 shekels.

That’s a lot of money for something that’s a hobby.  But, sometimes spending that kind of money on a hobby is okay, especially if you get something out of it.

Prior to the conference, I reviewed the schedule and decided which panels I wanted to attend and what I wanted to write about. The panel about a greener tomorrow was the first on my list, and it did not disappoint. I plan on blogging about that in the next couple of days. I also took notice of the Tikkun Olam panel and saw that it was being moderated by Gary Rosenblatt, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Week and my former “boss”. I interned at The Jewish Week for about six months while in college, and immediately thought of a great piece I wanted to write which would require an interview with Mr. Rosenblatt. As of this morning, however, the organizers were unable to secure that interview.

As with everything I do in life, I made a list to help me determine how best to plan my day. Of the two blog posts I had wanted to write, the second one wasn’t happening without the interview. And, after yesterday’s morning session, I had what I needed for the first blog post.

So, why go back? If yesterday was any indication, from a networking perspective, it was a bust.  I met two new people, including former MK Pnina Rosenblum, who sat next to me at a session and left to do an interview with Israel Today before I could tell her how much my husband likes her granola. I saw three of my fellow TOI bloggers, and met one new Twitter pal. I gave out zero business cards.

But then, the promise of a captivating session with President Shimon Peres and Sharon Stone was alluring. Perhaps I will walk away from that panel with new found knowledge and enrichment that would make me a better person. Perhaps I will leave the session feeling inspired, like I did following Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s speech at yesterday’s session.

I had all these thoughts while braiding my daughter’s hair this morning, clearly grappling with my desire to be in two places at the same time. And then, in barely a whisper, she asked me if I was sure that I couldn’t come to her picnic. Without hesitation, I told her that I would absolutely be there. And, as she danced around the room with glee, confirming over and over again that her Mommy, her Daddy and her little sister would be at the picnic this afternoon, I knew I had made the right choice. Because, always, Mommy trumps hobby.

So, while 100 of my fellow bloggers will be sitting in the balcony section at Schwartz Hall, listening to President Peres and Sharon Stone talk about whatever they are planning on talking about, I’ll be with my family at the zoo. I’ll be serving up toasted cheese sandwiches, butterfly ladybug salad (bowtie pasta with black olives and red peppers), ice cream cones filled with fruit salad and topped with whipped cream,  and nutella marshmallow graham cracker sandwiches for dessert. My daughter, who helped plan the picnic menu, is beyond excited about our family outing.

And the cost of that, is priceless.