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Randomalities: Let's Be Positive Now

An Excess of Fabulousness (or: why I don't read Mormon Mommy Blogs)

Confession: I don't read any of the famous Mormon Mommy Blogs. (Like CJane or Nat the Fat or even Rockstar Diaries, which is a great title for a blog.) I did, for awhile. In a way, they're comforting: an oasis of the familiar in a landscape of non-religious writing. But I stopped, and here's why: they depress me.

So when I read this article on Salon.com, by Emily Matchar, about Mormon Mommy Blogs, and how many non-Mormon, non-mothers love to read them, I got a little bit more depressed. Not to mention annoyed. Here—go read the article. I'll wait.

Back? OK, here's what annoys me: these women present to the world the face of what it's like to be a Mormon and a mother. Their "shiny, happy lives" have an appeal to the women out in the real world because they make things like marriage and motherhood seem "completely unproblematic." Which is exactly why I  don't   like reading them. The blogs portray an excess of fabulousness: fabulous dinner parties! fabulous outings! fabulous friends! fabulous marriages! Fabulous crafts and furniture and homes! The lives these bloggers live seem utterly perfect, down to the exact shade of pale blue they painted their living room wall. Not to mention their husbands. And their children.

Possibly this annoyance of mine comes across as simple, brittle jealousy. If I had a fabulous life like theirs, I wouldn't feel annoyed, right? If I just had all the right clothes, and beautiful hair, and an excess of cash to spend however I liked. Or maybe if I had a fabulously large blog readership I, too, would be content with putting my shiny, happy face forward.

But it's more than jealousy. It's also the simple fact that the world sees them as the face of Mormonism. This  is how fabulous your life will be if you are a Mormon! Isn't that just grand? The gospel will bring all of this cool, amazing stuff into your life. You will be fabulous!

And I couldn't agree less. Maybe it's because I am, at heart, a rogue Mormon. Doing my best to live it but still questioning and struggling. The gospel hasn't brought me any of the fabulous things those women have. My house is fairly lame—no one would ever think it is well-decorated. Far from the perfect shade of pale blue, most of my walls are white. White that needs to be re-whitened. My children are perfect to me, of course, but they are not perfect and I would be loathe to put such a burden as perfection upon their shoulders. My husband doesn't look like a cute graphic designer. Our marriage is so far from perfect it isn't even funny. We fight. A lot. My kids say things like "this family is pathetic" and "no one listens to me" and "why is everyone else more important?"

We are not shiny.

But, you know? Even though I really am  envious of those blogs' high readership (do they write better than I do? or is it simply their topics? or better marketing skills? or their ability to pull off the shiny-happy-plastic thing that I just can't?), I don't know if I believe the "my life is perfect" act. I don't think the gospel exists so that I can make crafts with my kids every afternoon. I don't think being a good LDS person has anything to do with the color of your walls or the shape of your husband's eyeglasses. It has to do with me wrestling with myself. It has to do with me learning and growing and trying to prepare my children for their futures. 

The gospel doesn't give you wealth. It doesn't bring you your dream home or the ability to decorate it well. It doesn't give you amazing crafting skills, a deft hand at picking out the perfect vintage dress, or the luck of finding the perfect pet (that you can dress in a raincoat). It doesn't even magically make all of your relationships blissful. What it does give you is far less tangible.

Women like Emily Matchar, "secular, childless women who may have never so much as baked a cupcake," are drawn to the Mormon Mommy Blogs because of the happy ease they present. They read them because they are different from their own experiences and provide a glimpse of an alternate reality. I don't  read them for exactly the same reason: because they are different from my own experiences, even with that LDS familiarity. My life is never going to be shiny-happy. It just isn't. I'm not sure if that is because I'm not doing enough things correctly, or if what they write on their blogs is only the skimmings—just the shiny, happy parts.

Being a Mormon—just like, I'd imagine, being a Jew or a Catholic or an aethist or a dentist—doesn't turn you into a clone. There isn't one perfect way of being. I'm not judging the Mormon Mommy Bloggers. I'm glad that there are people in the world who do have shiny-happy lives. Good for them for making their perfection into a means to support their families. But they are not the only kind of Mormon people. We are painted in extremes: extremely happy or extremely deluded. The world fails to see the majority of us in the middle, trying to live our lives, trying to be good people (whatever that means), trying to be happy despite our lack of perfection.

Comments

Lucy

My dad forwarded this article to me a few days ago, and, like you, I don't read any of them. I do read CJane, though I'm likely to stop because it feels more and more commercial and less witty and irreverent like it used to.

You know how I feel about perfection. It isn't that I don't believe these women are happy, or good mothers, or good wives. I believe they are. It's just that with their drive to seem so perfect, they ignore the equally beautiful (to me) face of humanity. Plus, I might be jealous too.

What frustrated me about that article was that it was such an unfair stereotype of mormon bloggers. I think they are as popular as they are for the exact reason the author of the salon.com article expressed - so many people want a glimpse into a life so unlike their own. I've no doubt there is some crazy talented women who draw a large audience due to their creativity and craft, but, mostly, I think it is a little like watching Ozzie and Harriet, or Leave it to Beaver. It's wholesome. It's uplifting. It's probably not real.

I love your blog. I love your mind. I really, really enjoy your friendship, which, contrary to what you think, is fabulous.

Lucy

Oh my goodness, there is a sentence there in my third paragraph that is cringe inducing. Forgive my shifting in and out of singular and plural. Wow. Me write pretty some day.

Shaunte

I guess my blog is what one would consider a palate cleanser. lol.
I could not agree with you more.
And my house is also "fairly lame—no one would ever think it is well-decorated."
We could go to lunch, and really enjoy ourselves.

CAITLIN

Random commenter here, skipping over from your link at Segullah. I'm not one to randomly respond on blogs I'm not familiar with, but I just have to say that after reading the Salon article, I could not agree more with your analysis.Thank you, your perspective is a breath of fresh air.

Aprilyn Bucklein

I used to try to keep up on Nie Nie Diaglouges and Cjane, but I quit reading them too. I don't have a perfect life, nor do I want that. My life is filled with the constant stress that having a child with Autism brings. Not to mention, I think my husband has Aspeger's too. We are SWIMMING in debt, we don't live in a home, we live in a duplex we can hardly afford. We don't have lots of extended family dropping by just to babysit so we can go out. It's just not reality. Reality is your life, and mine, and others who struggle day after day to maintain that little bit of sanity we still have left. I'm with you..being LDS does not guarantee your life will be shiny and perfect and happy. I'd like to see one of those "special" bloggers try a day in my shoes. Try dealing with the child whose clothes bother him, who won't eat, and who can't sleep. Yeah...I don't think they would feel too happy and sparkly.

Janssen

I love this post. Every bit of it.

Makes me feel better about living in a white on white apartment with one couch.

Maureen

I can't follow blogs full of happy perfection, I can't help but feel the writers are either fake, or insane. So right or wrong they are not for me.

Megan B.

From one rogue Mormon to another, thank you!

wendy

Amen.

Now I have to go clean off my wheat grinder and play duplos with my son.

That sounds good, but we won't be able to eat at the kitchen table because it's a disaster . . . again.

Valerie

I totally agree with you. Your blog and some others I read often are the blogs that are uplifting, inspirational and real. I stopped reading some of the more famous mormon mommy blogs, they are so superficial and in la-la land, also so very full of narcissim and a self-centeredness that borders on insane.

We all struggle with our faith, our family relationships, our teenagers, ourselves. But, the nice thing about you and some others, is that you put it out there, good, bad, ugly, beautiful. These are the words that I find help me in my life and my similar situations.

Thank you for your honesty and realism, I'll take any day.

Becky K

I had these exact feelings of inadequacy (an inability to decorate) on Sunday, and honestly after stopping by cjane/nienie for the first time in a while. I retracted my post because it was whiney and lame. Which yours, my dear sister, is anything but.

but your post is perfect. It is my feelings exactly. I am swimming in apathy and inadequacy. My life does not look like theirs. I have a friend on FB who fits exactly into this category and I CANNOT stop looking at her perfect life.

Speaking of antidepressants: where is mine? thinking of joining that vast army of happy mormons out there.....

Britt

I have so much to say about that article and those blogs, but I don't have the words. I'll just say this: I don't read them either. And this: I'm disappointed in the image those blogs are creating for us.

Sherry

Amy well said. I could hang with you, we could blog about the messes we get into, I think we would connect irl.

Margot/NZ

As someone who is closer (though a lot older!) to the lifestyle/philosophical base of the author of the article you referenced, than to Mormons (of any category), I can say that I've never read any of the 'Mormon mommy' blogs (and now that I've been for a look, won't be taking any of them up). I do read your blog because of your honesty.
Anyone of any philosophical base has struggles with 'life' and how difficult it is to make ourselves fit the ideals we hold most close. Most of us write about these in private, if we write about them at all. What I find so refreshing is that you write about your struggles somewhere I can see. I find common ground with you, and that is why I keep coming back to read more.
(That and your poetry posts, which are one of the best things on the internet).

Lisa

At the beginning of this year I had a massive cull on my reader. I went from 60+ blogs to just 13. I kept yours because it's real and honest. BTW I kept Karen Grunberg for this very same reason too. I love your words and your quilts. And the fact that there is definitely no excess of fabulous.

Pamela K.

Just like the writer on Salon.com, I'm not a Mormon and I find myself gravitating to the mormon mommy blogs. I like to read them for the recipes and craft ideas. But as far as their perfect children, husbands, homes and complexions, I wonder how much of what they show on their blogs are real. I keep thinking that their lives can't be that perfect. Like the others have said, that is why I love reading your blog. You show what it is like to be a "real". In my community, the only Mormons I know are the fresh faced missionaries that will show up at my doorstep on occasion. I imagine their parents being great looking and their mothers being the perfect housewives. I would hate to live under that kind of pressure. Your blog is a breath of fresh air.

cris

I haven't read the article.. don't need to, although I probably will since you have mentioned it. I don't read mormon mommy blogs and didn't really know they existed... other than nie nie, because I think everyone on the planet has heard of that. Amy, you are real and honest and that is what I love so much about you --- I love real - I become extremely uncomfortable around perfection. Thanks so much for being real - that is one of the main things that draws me so strongly to your blog.

Rochelle

I don't read those blogs either - I blog stalk you and I love the fact that you are honest and real! I love the fact that you aren't fake...or I can relate cause life isn't perfect.

And I agree - I envy/hate/am really really jealous of some of the lifes I read about - but I love reading more when people talk about things I can really relate to - which isn't perfectness

Marianne

I don't remember how I found your blog-some random link from another site, but (like many others have listed) I do love the struggles and heartfelt self examination that you present here. I blog stalk you too, and almost wish I lived in UT just to be able to know you.

I am sure that you didn't post to get reassurance from all of us, but we are all reassured by your words so it makes sense to encourage you with responses. I have almost responded often, but my English isn't perfect--but after your post I figure you won't judge too harshly.

I realized that I need to post more realistically, and not just on the good days or when something funny happened. Thank you for reminding me that my representation of life needs to include the messy things, the hard things, that even the things I'm embarrassed about. Thank you Amy.

Lyndsay

Amy,
I feel so happy that you posted this. I too can't read those blogs because they make me jealous or better yet upset that someone really honestly thinks life is that perfect!! I am with you, my house isn't perfect, my kids are great but not perfect and my husband well, like you say you fight all the time!! Ditto there.. Life just isn't that way at all. I personally think that people who think life is like that really wish their life was like that and have to make it look or sound like that just to make themselves look better!! I have a neighbor just like that. My kids aren't aloud to play with hers because who knows the heck why but she thinks they are so much better and so much prettier and so much richer and happier!! Life isn't about the little things that you have in life it is about what you have and can hold on to!! Each other, your house, your car, food, the gospel... I think people just really wished they lived the "perfect" life and that is why they have have have a "perfect mommy blog" but i just have to say blah. blah. blah. lol
Love you!
Sorry for my english too! hehe ;)

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