The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Blog

A friend of mine once confessed that she felt guilty when she read some of my blog posts.

“Guilty about what?” I asked, shocked that this mom whom I admire so much would feel guilty about anything.

“Guilty that I’m not doing enough. All I do is be a mom and you homeschool and blog and…”

…and apparently make amazing moms feel inadequate.

First, I told my friend she does more than enough. She’s the mom of little ones. She manages a home. She’s a good, caring friend. And she’s witty and never fails to make me laugh. Then I told her she ought to ask my husband what I’m really like if she thinks I’m the picture of rosy mom perfection.

My friend and all my blog readers don’t find me crying at night, wondering why I can’t pull myself together (or why I can’t sleep when my babies are sleeping). My audience only reads the words I choose to put out there. They only see the pictures of my kids I like – the ones without the glaring red eyes or the fingers up the nose. Strangers in Cyberspace and even some of my good friends are not privy to the secret supplications of my heart. Nor do they get a chance to read the pages of my personal journal where I express my worries and fears (burn before reading!). You won’t hear the sins I confess to a priest. You have not seen the clutter on my carpets or the mind clutter that keeps me from a more meaningful prayer life. (Trust me, it’s there.)

Sometimes it’s vanity keeping me from revealing my struggles. Yes, I admit I want others to think I’ve got it all together. People have often described me as “bubbly,” and I feel like I have to live up to this perky image people have of me. To be truthful, I don’t like that adjective so much; bubbly makes me think I’m like an airy glass of champagne – fizzy and sweet but with little substance. But I do like to think others view me as someone who chooses to see the beauty in life, the goodness.

Writing helps me to do just this. It helps me gain perspective when I’m tempted to throw a big pity party. It helps me count my blessings instead of my burdens. Reflecting on my mothering journey and spiritual self helps me wade through the mire of feelings I experience on any given day. Writing – this blog – shows me walking or often stumbling toward the Light. But my real life – while very much blessed – is sometimes spotted with shadows. There’s darkness just like there’s dust on some of my bookshelves.

Although I know that the same is true for every other mom out there who shares slices of her life in the Blogosphere, I’ve fallen into the same trap as my friend and have found that blogging and more specifically, blog reading sometimes leaves me feeling wanting or sometimes even envious instead of encouraged.

This is the downside of blogging. This is the reason I sometimes stay away from reading some blogs – even those that I know are meant to build moms up not break them down. This is the reason I pray nearly every week whether I should continue blogging or not.

Even if I didn’t blog, I know I’d occasionally find myself comparing myself to some other super mom. However, blogging makes lots of moms I probably never would have encountered much more accessible.

And, of course, so many of these moms seem to have the perfect life with the perfect husband, perfect kids, and a Pottery Barn perfect home. You know the moms I mean. The ones with 2-year-olds who never throw tantrums, 4-year-olds who skipped the phonics lessons and went straight to Tolstoy, teens who would never think of rebelling, moms with kitchens that are always filled with the aromas of homemade food who are married to husbands who have flexible work hours and sometimes sneak home during lunch, and of course, these women always have an amazing talent. Maybe they sew. Perhaps they do community theatre with all their free time. Or they’re devoted humanitarians fighting social injustice.

So I’m playing with hyperbole here, but it’s easy to start feeling twinges of inadequacy when so many admirable women are just a mouse click away. And an inferiority complex isn’t the worst of it. Those twinges of inadequacy can quickly become jabs of jealousy. It’s far too easy to start feeling like other blogging women out there are living on a hillside where the grass is unquestionably greener. Before blogging, the only grass we could look at (or envy) was our neighbor’s or a girlfriend or two whom we visited frequently, but the World Wide Web has created a vast virtual neighborhood where others’ “grass” is just a click away.

Of course, blogging is not all negative (otherwise, I wouldn’t be approaching my three-year blogiversary). Like so many things in life, we have to take the good with the bad, and I do see plenty of virtues in blogging. Blogs and the Internet in general allow moms who might otherwise feel isolated to connect with other like-minded women. It also broadens our horizons and puts us into contact with women who may share different views than us. The Blogosphere, at times, can even allow us to be an extension of Christ and can transform into a ministry where we encourage one another and offer spiritual and emotional support. When I was on bed rest, I had virtual friends send me care packages as well as their prayers. This is when blogging is a gift.

But it’s no longer a gift when it incites envy or makes us feel unworthy. Or, on the flip side, if when seeing another mom’s blog and her perhaps less than perfect life, we begin to feel superior. Maybe you pat yourself on the back “meeting” the mom who admits to plying her kids with processed foods or after discovering the mom who yells more than she would like (um, not that I’ve ever done any of those things) who makes you feel like you’re a superstar. Well, at least I don’t do this or that. Or at least I do this.

Maybe you’ve struggled with blog envy, inferiority, or superiority. Personally, I lean more toward self-flagellation and have to be on guard against the “I-wish-my-grass-was-as-green-as-hers” mindset. I’d love to hear about how you keep these negative feelings in check and how you remain focused on the virtues to be found in the Blogosphere. In the meantime, here are some points to ponder that help me avoid potential blogging pitfalls:

  • Remember that uber mom’s grass probably isn’t as green as you think. None of us has a picture perfect life no matter how lovely our blog is. We all have hidden crosses to bear. Blogging makes our lives more public, but it doesn’t make them transparent. It’s extremely easy to assume the homeschooling mom of six healthy, talented children who also sews and lives in the rolling foothills of Vermont doesn’t have a worry in the world. But do we really know her? I don’t share everything even with my closest friends; I certainly don’t divulge all to strangers in Cyberspace. What’s more, the very mom you’re longing to be more like may take a look at your life and wish she was more like you. Most of us don’t have any desire to expose the skeletons (or disheveled clothing and clutter) in our closets, but that doesn’t mean the bad stuff’s not there. I’d bet that a lot of women out there have gotten pretty good at putting on their best poker face even when they’ve actually been dealt a pretty lousy hand.
  • Then again, maybe her grass is greener. And if it is, instead of feeling discontented with your own lot, why not rejoice in her blessed life? When the green-eyed monster starts creeping into your thought patterns, acknowledge your jealous feelings and then remind yourself you’re being childish. Next, ask God to help you praise this mom’s talents and gifts. Remind yourself that everything that is good comes from Him, and we should celebrate others’ blessings and strengths.

    I’m not saying this is easy. It takes a lot of prayer to turn envy into praise and admiration for a person, but it’s worth the effort.

  • Examine why you think her grass is greener. Ideally, we’d never find ourselves feeling jealous and instead would simply admire others whose lives are beautiful and good, but sometimes the beginnings of envy can prompt us to make positive changes in our lives. Let’s say there’s a mom whose homeschooling days always seem to go smoothly. Maybe you should ask yourself why. Is it because her children are perfect, studious prodigies? I doubt it. Maybe her seamless routine is the fruit of hard work and organization.

    When I feel myself growing envious of someone, I try to immediately change the language in my head from “I’m jealous of her” to “I really respect her” or, “I really appreciate how she does this (like sews; yes, I have a hangup about not being able to sew. More on that in a minute).”

    Then I think about how I might model my life after hers. I’m not suggesting I do everything this mom does. But I do try to shift my energy from seething at Miss Polly Perfect to considering how I might be able to make productive, healthy changes that might help to bring out the qualities of her life I admire in my own home.

  • Celebrate your own gifts. Not to stretch this whole “grass is greener” analogy too far, but when you’re tempted to feel envious of someone else – whether in Blogville or in the real world – take a look at your own grass. Sure, it may not be a bed of roses like Uber Mama’s (remember though her roses do have thorns), but there’s beauty there all the same.

    When we are envious of others, what we’re really saying is we are not content with what we have. God distributes gifts and blessings in different ways. I know every time I meet a mom who can sew I get all fired up that I, too, am going to learn to be a skilled seamstress. I imagine myself cranking out smocked dresses for my girls. My mom, who sews well, always chuckles when I tell her I’m going to learn how to sew. She’s tried to teach me several times, but I have no patience for it. Hand me a needle and thread, and you won’t get anything pretty. Put me in front of a sewing machine and watch out. Even loose buttons intimidate me. But you know what? That’s okay because there are plenty of other things I can do well.

    One of the reasons I admire the friend I mentioned above so much is because she’s never needed kudos or popular acclaim to see her worth. My friend is a lot like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; she’s content being a little flower hidden in a field of more flashy blooms. But she’s just the kind of flower I’d want my daughters to handpick for me: Simple and pretty without being ostentatious. Her beauty is found in her humility.

    My friend admitted she didn’t have time to do much else other than be focused on living a Godward life and being a good mom. I’d say she was a good steward of her time, wouldn’t you?

    It’s much easier to create the life we’d like to live in the blogging world, but it’s a whole different story to live it. My friend lives it. Her goal is to be a good wife, mom, and Christian. That should always be my number one goal, too. If blogging helps me to achieve this, then I’ll keep at it. But when it starts to bring me down, it’s time to reevaluate why I seek out reading others’ blogs and hosting my own site in the first place.

    Which brings me to a very, very important point:

  • If a blog makes you feel badly about yourself, stop reading it. You know what I told my friend who felt guilty when she read my blog? If my blog or anyone else’s blog did not encourage her or entertain her, then she should not read another word of it. Not one more word.

    This goes for you, too. If you have read my blog before or some other mom’s blog and have found yourself lacking or have started second-guessing yourself, then I suggest you do the same.

    Click. Away. From. The. Blog.

    Besides, there are so many encouraging books (remember, those old-fashioned things with a binder and pages you turn?) out there to help us in our journey as moms, wives, etc. All the time you save not beating yourself up in Blogville will allow you to find other ways to be encouraged as a mom, wife, homemaker, writer, etc. And when it comes to being a better Christian, there’s nothing quite like going straight to the Source. There are a lot of talented, inspiring bloggers out there, but to be truly transformed, we must spend time with God’s Word and get to know Christ on a more personal level. Secondhand knowledge – no matter how profound – is a poor proxy for firsthand faith.

    Recently, I’ve been spending less time in Blogville. I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop reading as many blogs or to cut down on my own number of posts, but it became a necessity because our busy life has gotten even busier.

    Yet, it’s proved to be a blessing because the time I’ve spent away from the blogging world has given me some perspective. I was trying to do too much, and part of the reason behind my constant striving was that I kept stumbling across other blogging moms who appeared to be balancing blogging with very, very busy lives. Too often I’d find myself thinking, “Well if this mom of [insert number larger than the three kids I have] can find time to blog, then I certainly should be able to.” So I’d push myself and what was supposed to be a source of enjoyment and encouragement as well as a means of growing spiritually quickly started to feel like a burden.

    One night I was visibly exasperated because I realized I’d never finished a blog post I’d wanted to publish.

    “Why do you keep blogging?” my husband asked.

    “Because it’s a hobby.”

    “Hobbies aren’t supposed to be stressful,” my husband reminded me.

    If blogging or surfing the ‘Net for others’ pearls of wisdom becomes a source of stress, it’s time to reevaluate the time you spend on the Internet and why you blog and/or read other blogs. For me, I discovered that writing itself is not a source of stress, but worrying about writing for an audience, thinking I was disappointing my followers with a lack of posts, and/or spending too much time reading other blogs can become a source of anxiety and angst.

    I plan on maintaining my more laid-back approach to blogging even after our life slows down. I also am scheduling regular Internet fasts – usually on Sundays as well as longer fasts throughout the year.

  • Don’t allow your blog to define you. Blogging puts me in the public eye, so there’s always the temptation to start to thinking of this blog as an external measure of my value as a blogger, writer, evangelizer, and even as a human being, especially since moms don’t get performance reviews or instant feedback. If you find yourself checking your blog stats too frequently or counting your number of followers like children count their playthings, maybe it’s time to shut off comments or get rid of Sitemeter.

    My blog and what I write on it should never be the cornerstone of my identity. If I say I’m homeschooling, I shouldn’t feel like I have to keep homeschooling because now I’m suddenly a homeschooling blogger. My decisions must be based on prayer, discernment, discussions with my family, etc. Learn to separate your blogging life from your real life, and always make sure you’re spending more time in the latter. This can take discipline. Real discipline involves saying no to things that distract us from what God is calling us to do and learning and conforming to the ways of God. St. Teresa of Avila said, “We only need to focus on God with our will. That’s all. It’s our choice, and because God loves us, we can do this.” Will yourself to love God first. That will give your life meaning more than any blog could ever do.

  • Enter the Conversation...

    12 Responses to “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Blog”
    1. Sarah Reinhard says:

      It continues to be an inspiration to see your wisdom explained, Kate. You do a great job, and it's a pleasure and a blessing to have you in my life.

      Big hugs to you!

    2. Colleen says:

      Oh Kate, you certainly have a way with words! I was JUST saying to my hubby last night that I needed a secret alter-ego blog where I could write about my all things that go wrong in my life, all my insecurities, fears, and difficulties. Because I don't really want people to know all the "worst" parts of me. I am creating a place for memories, and I don't want to be negative.

      My hubby said "Well, negativity breeds negativity…so keep being positive." Gosh, sometimes that man is 100% right (just sometimes!). There's nothing wrong with having a positive cheery outlook on life, and there's nothing wrong with trying to see everything in that light, even if you are feeling miserable inside. It can help pull me out of a funk to "count my blessings instead of my burdens" (as you said). SO I will keep on focusing on the goodness in my life, and hope that others know that I am a *real* Mom!!

    3. ViolinMama says:

      Thanks Kate for this post!!

      I've faced this too, from friends who read my blog (not that I blog much HAHAH) that say "wow, you do so much stuff with your family, etc. I love your pictures, etc…" I'm like, REALLY?" HA!

      What I tell them, is before I blogged, many of my days were spent wondering "what did I really do of value with my family, my kids, my time?" When I started blogging – it helped my outlook on life (hence my blog title). I could capture what I DID do with my family, kids, my time. I could record my thoughts, or things that uplifted me, vs the sad thoughts in my head that hang there much of the time (gotta love hormones). I could SEE that yes, I did do something other than chores, errand running, nagging lol, etc. I do LIVE.

      I think we moms or blog readers forget that when we read blogs. If I ever get that "grass is greener" way when I read a blog, I try to put on my "outlook" glasses and try to imagine the writer is doing the same thing I do – trying to capture something positive, and maybe if I feel inadequate reading it, I can refocus back on her inspiration, and see if I can then do something special in my own life that brings me inspiration when I log off,

      Not that I don't love "daily grind" blogs. The ones that record a day more like mine – I've recorded those days too – I can laugh, cry, or just feel real with them….but I also love (maybe even love/hate/LOVE again lol) posts that make me refocus on recapturing some memories or peace in my own family.

      We should try to remember as readers too, sometimes the things we read come from a learned wisdom – and if we can somehow look past the small sting of envy we ALL feel (me especially) we can see the blogger isn't rubbing perfection in our face….but sharing something uplifting and meaningful in their life that brought a perspective they want to share with us in living fallibly, but with gumption.

      None of us are perfect, but sharing a green grass moment in your life can maybe inspire some 'yard work' in our lives. Talk about living GREEN!

      Keep blogging Kate! Love your REAL inspiration :)

      Much love!

    4. Kris says:

      This is great, Kate! Not that I blog or anything, but I do follow a few. I like reading about other families in similar life situations – it gives you good ideas and helps you(me!) feel like I'm not alone in where I am with my family. Keep up the good work – your writings are always an inspiration to me – your spirit is a gift.

    5. My Chocolate Heart says:

      Spot on, Kate. You're right, of course, and I admit I'm guilty on all charges you mentioned.

      I love blogging so much because I have found "friends" like you in the world I never would have known otherwise. I get to share ideas and learn from other women, and I get to be a voice for truth and hopefully a witness for Christ.

      But sometimes I have to do just what you said, and step away from the computer and stop comparing myself to other bloggers. Stop comparing my blog to other blogs, too! That's a tough one! So many tricks I'd like to use but I don't have the tech knowledge! sigh…

      I appreciate coming here and being blessed by your honesty and openness.

      God bless you!

    6. Aubrey says:

      Well said, Kate! When I'm tempted to think that I don't do enough (it doesn't happen to me often, but if it does, it's usually when reading a homeschooling mom's blog), I remember that, just as you said, she's not posting about the 3 a.m. wake-ups or the diaper that leaked a nasty trail from the kitchen to the hallway. I don't … why would she?

      When I post to my blog, I actually strive to keep it upbeat. I rarely publish our trials and certainly don't publish pictures of my living room at the end of the day!

      It has nothing to do with whether or not people looking in think that I'm a good mom. They may think whatever they wish. It has to do with maintaining a positive read-osphere, with remembering the best parts of mothering and marriage, with paying tribute to the best parts of life.

      Best of all, as you mentioned, blogging keeps us in touch with other moms whom we may not have met otherwise. It's a huge blessing, an extension of the group of mom-friends with which I've already been blessed. And when we communicate with other catholic moms, we are a ministry unto each other.

      Great post! :)

    7. *Jess* says:

      This was a great post, Katie, and very well-timed for me to read. I also just got done reading a post on "Authenticity" by another blogging (Christian) mom who struggles as well to find balance with blogging about positives as well as negatives. Have you ever read MckMama's blog?

    8. Katie says:

      Kate- Such a great post and so true. I have fallen into the "grass is greener" when it comes to some homeschooling blogs. But, I had a funny experience today that fits your post beautifully. My husband is off from work all week. So, he was home as school was going on today. For about 5 minutes, all the boys were sitting at the kitchen table doing work. J was working on his phonics and K and A were coloring. My husband walked through and remarked at how cute they were. He ran and got the camera and took a photo. I looked at the photos just a few minutes ago and they were so cute! Those boys looked angelic! Now, what you cannot see are the crayons that my 18 month old threw all over the floor, or breakfast dishes in the sink, sippy cups on the floor, or 1 minute later, A trying to grab J's pencil from him and then screaming because he could not get it! That picture was just a snap shot,a "cheese moment" as Todd Wilson calls them.

      I try to stay away from blogging about negative things. Not because I want to appear "perfect" to others, but because I do not want to dwell on my own negativity. By the time I have a chance to sit down and blog, I usually have worked through whatever it was and do not want to dig it all up again.

      Thanks for blogging Kate!

    9. Hobo Mama says:

      Thank you for this. I've heard similar ideas floating around lately on blogs and in real life. I think it's just sooo tempting to compare ourselves with others and imagine that their lives are somehow better.

      I think one reason my blog might intimidate people into thinking I'm a better parent than I am is that I often want to write about the ideals rather than how I actually practice, with all the failings and not living up to the high standards. I want to inspire rather than always confess and be down, but then there has to be a time when I'm real. This was such a time for you, and I so admire it.

      Another thing that has helped me lately, when I'm feeling jealous of someone else's perceived success, whether that's followers on a blog or being asked to audition for a rock band or publishing a novel or whatever, is to say: "Someone else's success does not diminish mine." Someone else's happiness does not mean that mine is depleted by that much. There's more than enough of it all to go around. We have abundant life.

      See, I must sound like I always believe that, even though what I'm saying is: I HAVE TO KEEP REMINDING MYSELF OF THAT OVER AND OVER! Sorry to shout… :)

    10. Dawn Farias says:

      Oh, great post! I've been blogging for almost a year and have felt all the things you've mentioned. I like the tidbits the commenters have added here. (I got here today from Danielle Bean's shared items.)

      Thank you.

    11. Colleen says:

      Great post. I can relate to a lot here. And what I appreciate is your honesty. I want to be "Real" when I write. God bless.

    12. Roz says:

      I wandered over from your articulate comment on Julie's post about mixed marriage. You're just as articulate here, as I expected.

      This reminds me of wise counsel I got once: "We all tend to compare our insides with other people's outsides. Don't."

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