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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.