Every once in awhile, I stumble upon a blog post ridiculing a whole website or a specific blogger for being too much like Pollyanna. Recently, in fact, I read a series of posts on a self-proclaimed Christian blog criticizing another Christian blog for not being “balanced” enough and for putting too positive of a spin on life and mothering.
I’ve also seen my share of blogs poking fun at mommy blogs for being too simplistic and for only discussing things like poop or nursing. Likewise, I remember talking to a few acquaintances several years ago when the topic of mom blogs came up. One woman (who was also a mom) said she couldn’t stop rolling her eyes at moms who share photos of the product of their work – bright-eyed babies, messy-faced toddlers, and pouting preschoolers – and that any website that uses the phrase “hubby” made her gag.
I’m not going to identify any of these naysayers and/or link to any of name-calling blogs or posts because I don’t want to make this anymore personal than it already is (I do, after all, identify myself more as a mom blogger than anything else). Although I do find it terribly obnoxious when others write about how obnoxious others are (in fact, I’m annoying myself right about now), the purpose of me making a case for happy mom blogs is not to engage in a virtual gunfight.
Instead, I hope to explain why I believe blogs that focus on the good things in life and the joys of motherhood as well as sites that discuss the quotidian details of a mom’s life – everything from fashion to what’s cooking in the kitchen – are perhaps more necessary than mom-authored cheeky, snarky, “thinking” blogs that spend more time griping about the ills of motherhood or avoiding the topic of mothering and children altogether in order to come off as cultured and above all that kid stuff.
As a blog consumer, I personally most frequently look for writing that serves to inspire, edify, and/or encourage (as well as make me laugh; we all take ourselves way too seriously. Bring on the poop! Bring on the self-deprecating humor! Laugh at yourself a little). I don’t choose to squander my time reading blogs that make it their primary mission to scorn other or others’ worldview (and not so subtly elevate their own opinions), especially when it comes to mothering (I am far more tolerant of name-calling in the political realm than in the world of moms – especially Christian mom – blogs). Expressing opinions is one thing, but there’s a difference between presenting/defending my own worldview and tearing down someone else’s. Nor do I personally choose to read blogs that constantly discuss how hard it is to be a mother without ever redeeming the vocation or occasionally pointing out all the good things this vocation brings. We all have bad days, and writing about bad days can be cathartic. Suffering is real. But so is redemption. I like blogs that reveal both.
Although I do gravitate toward blogs that feature good, thoughtful writing, I also often look for a positive spin on things. We could all use a little more sunshine in our lives.
Over the next few weeks (months depending on how life goes), I plan to share several reasons why we need happy and sometimes even sappy mom blogs in our life. This week I’m exploring reason number 1:
We all know life is messy and hard, but it’s nice to be reminded that there’s plenty to be happy about, too.
I appreciate a healthy dose of realism, but I don’t have a problem with blogs that promote motherhood as something that’s 95 percent vanilla. Is it false advertising to only or mostly show the good side of being a wife and a mother? Nope. It’s positive advertising. It’s analogous to the campaign ads that highlight the accomplishments of the featured candidate instead of simply attacking the opponent. We’re not being dishonest just because we’ve made the decision to not constantly rant about how difficult being a mother is and how much it stinks to waste our brilliant minds and spend our days scrubbing mildew off the bathroom tiles. This is particularly true of blogs that promote themselves as Christian. Everything Christ did was to heal; maybe that’s what Christian mom bloggers should strive to do with their words, too. Like Ann Voskamp recently asked, we should be asking ourselves daily: What is our life (and our blog as an extension of our life) really magnifying?
Folks who regularly read my blog know that I am honest – but maybe not completely – about tough days. In fact, a lot of what I write seesaws between being endearing (and maybe even saccharine sweet) and “God, I have issues.” Sometimes I suspect I come off as too negative or too didactic. Then again, some of my darker posts and the ones I’ve been more afraid to write or put out there have turned out to really minister to people (my PPD, eating disorder, and miscarriage posts spring immediately to mind). Being honest isn’t always a bad thing. Sharing our failures and admitting our imperfections can be an act of humility. In our times of weakness, we can help others in knowing they’re not alone.
I’m not afraid to sometimes reveal my vulnerability or to admit that while I might “wear” my babies and nurse them and practice attached parenting more than any other form of parenting, my kids sometimes drive me crazy. However, I do try to end with high notes most of the time. I try to focus more on the good than the bad. Why? Because I vent and pout enough in my mind, to my close friends, my husband, my confessor, my mom, and to God (boy, does He get an earful) to host a constant whine-fest over here. Writing for me can be a good exercise in growing in faith and optimism. I’d rather count my blessings than collect grievances against my life, my vocation, and the people whom I love.
When I do share details of a bad day, I always feel sheepish because my worst day is probably a lot of people’s best day. My pain is nothing compared to what kind of pain is really out there.
You think that mom blog you just clicked over to is too perfect for you? Then don’t read it. Need more balance in your life? Then Google “human trafficking” or “bride burning,” and you’ll discover some people who have a lot more to complain about than a suburban mom. (There I go, getting all didactic. Sorry about that. The post I mentioned in my first paragraph really peeved me, and I’m taking it out on you, dear reader.)
Personally, I don’t need to see a perfect (or should I say imperfect) reality on blogs. What I really need are uplifting posts that bring more light into my life than darkness. Not that I think the authors of inspiring blogs live picture perfect lives. I’m no fool.
I know that the mom of many whose crafts are beautiful and exquisite still sometimes has hard days (lots of them probably).
I know the mom who writes about gentle mothering has probably yelled at her kids before.
Oh, and that foodie mom probably has served her family something out of a box, but she’s not going to write about it or show pictures of it when she can share the delicious details of miso-glazed sea bass with heirloom tomato salad.
And that mom who’s always writing heartening posts? Well, she just might be trying to silence her inner demons and keep her eyes on God and what He has given her rather than always writing about what’s missing and keeping her from leading a more fulfilled life. Life is hard. It’s hard for every mom blogger (and I’m willing to bet it’s even harder for a lot of people who don’t have an Internet connection, or blogs or a free soapbox to rant upon whenever they want).
I don’t need to constantly be reading about the shards of ourselves scattered across the ground. We’re broken people. I know that. I know it far too well. But we’re also given the grace to pick up the pieces. Perhaps more than reading posts that conjure up that broken image of humanity, I need reminders of that grace. I don’t need a no-spin zone when it comes to Catholic mothering; it’s okay to portray things in a positive light. As someone who’s occasionally prone to melancholy, there are days when I need to fill my mind with the sepia-toned, happy image of God picking up the pieces and holding us together.
Whether we consider ourselves mom bloggers or not, intellectuals or not, do we really need a daily diet of blog posts that chip away at us, who turn their nose at our happiness? I wish the moms who criticize the the Pollyannas out there (or assume they’re just too stupid to be sad or anxious; I’ve gotten that criticism before) would consider this: Maybe those women who always seem so damn chirpy have to make a daily, difficult choice to be happy. Our happiness doesn’t always come easy, and sometimes we have to fake it for the sake of our kids, our husband, and maybe even the rest of the world. What’s surprising about faking it, however, at least in my own personal experience is that it soon becomes easier to feel better. Just try smiling when you’re down. It takes effort at first, but then just the act of moving those muscles in your face somehow makes it feel more natural and warms you from the inside out. Maybe some happy bloggers are just trying to smile on their blog to patch things up within their homes or their hearts. I guarantee they’re not trying to make others feel miserable.
So much of society is sending us negative messages. Everywhere I turn, especially in secular culture, I’m being told that motherhood is hard and tough (and maybe not even worth it), that children are cute and all, but they’re also big burdens and raising them is all about learning how to manage an inconvenience. Oh, you know what else? Pamper yourself and toughen up at the same time. Take charge of your man. Androgyny is safer than embracing beauty and feminism and the risk of submission. And the icing on the cake? All that stuff I believe about God are a bunch of empty platitudes.
Sometimes, for me, it’s tempting to believe some of those things. I don’t need to mosey on over to a website and find a bunch of women bemoaning their endless toil and sacrifice as wives and mothers. I may not always be pining for sugarcoated picture of motherhood but if given a choice, I’d rather that than a cyanide-coated one. If that’s what floats your boat, sail on to deeper, darker waters. But what I need more than I even sometimes want are counter-cultural, uplifting words that pull me out of my self-imposed, over-thinking misery, and plop me down me in the light. I need mirthful posts that drag me away from my pity party. I need honest yet optimistic posts that ever so gently slap me across the face and say, “Look! See this cute, pudding-covered face of a child? And those stained clothes and carpet and walls? It. Is. Worth. It. The mess. The tears. The sacrifice. Don’t let society or anyone tell you anything differently!”
Personally, when I’m reaching out to fellow moms in the blogosphere, I’m often looking for the reminder that this thing called mothering is worth it, that this life is worth it, and that my belief in God is a choice worth making. Because you know what? I’m tempted to ask more frequently than I’d like to admit, “What’s the point?” There’s enough darkness and questioning and doubts in my own mind and everywhere else, why in the world would I want to go looking for more of it on a blog?
Bottom line, I’ll take Pollyanna any day of the week over Mrs. Doom and Despair who’s constantly airing her dirty laundry and sending messages like: “Life sucks and then you die. These children are soul and mind-sucking leeches. I wish I had my old life back.” Contentment is my goal, and focusing on what I’m lacking or theoretically lacking on my own blog or on others’ is sure to breed discontentment.
Stay tuned for Part II when I take a look at why blogs don’t need to be overly intellectual or have to force me to think about tough issues in order to be valuable.