I called my sister in Iowa yesterday from a McDonald's playland. I was joking about how I feel poor Rachael has being deprived of all the enriching experiences my older children had when they were her age because I don't have the time like I used to to do play groups, library storytime, etc. But yesterday I forced myself out into the cold and away from my home to-do list to take her on a "stimulating" field trip to a McDonald's playland. (My "home" to-do list is always my biggest since once the older kids come home at the early hour of 2:20 that's all I'm doing--kids' homework, lessons, practice, dinner, baths, yada, yada.) Anyway, my sister said, "What are you talking about? On your blog, you're always going somewhere a mile a minute!"
And I was reminded once again how blogs can so easily misrepresent the full picture of someone's life.
And I was also reminded again of that article about Mormon Mommy Blogs on Salon.com. I chose not to read the vitriolic comments on the article that I heard about after, because I try as much as possible to just do my own thing and not get caught up in the "blogging world." I blog for myself, simply because it is satisfying for me to have a "permanent"(keep meaning to print some of this stuff into book form--anyone have any suggested companies?) place to put my thoughts and most important memories in word and photo. And for me, the writing is more fun if I think a family member or friend is going to read it, because then it's more like storytelling. Somehow it just feel good to know someone is hearing it all. It's validating. It gives me a voice, which stay-at-home moms don't always have, and I think that's why so many mothers in particular are drawn to blogging.
But wether you're journaling in private or blogging publicly, in my mind the result is the same: journaling, or "telling stories" about your life, puts everything in perspective and brings meaning to what might otherwise seem mundane. Especially if you choose to highlight the highlights! Which is what I mostly like to do.
I've been getting my chapter ready for this Power of Moms book (I've got "The Power of Acceptance") and I've been thinking a lot about parallel realities. No matter how charmed someone's life looks on the outside (what we often see on the blogs), everybody is struggling with something. It may be different than your something so it doesn't seem so bad, or you don't even know what their something is because they don't mention it, but it's there.
And while it's inspirational to read about Stephanie Nielsen overcoming something as difficult as she has been through, people read her because she chooses to see the beauty, hope and joy in her life in spite of extreme challenge. People would stop reading if all she did was go on and on about how hard and awful the hard and awful stuff is.
But for all the mommy bloggers who don't have visible scars on their face or a spot on Oprah detailing everything they've been through, there are still gobs of them dealing privately with hard stuff, but choosing to spend a little time each day seeing the beauty in their life by blogging about the good stuff.
Are some (Mormon) mommy bloggers deliberately putting on a facade of the "perfect" life to impress other people? Maybe. All kinds of people are doing that in lots of ways in all walks of life. And are some (Mormon) mommy bloggers choosing to only focus on the fun, cute, positive, happy moments and ignore the rest?
I know I certainly am.
Who wants to hear me whine about my soul-less rental home without a backyard, or getting woken up in the middle of the night by calls from the hospital all the time, or how I struggle against depression, or miss living by family and don't yet feel super connected to our home here, or all the personal challenges my children are dealing with (that's not okay to air your kids' private stuff anyway!), or how I dread getting older and am already feeling "old", or how I have some difficult family relationships, or despise the painfully boring, taupe colored cookie cutter homes that dot the Utah landscape, or how sometimes I feel like an inadequate, unbalanced hypocrite doing all this Power of Moms writing, or what a bummer it is that after 9 years of painful medical training and four years of practicing in California and selling our home for less than we bought it we now have more debt than ever (what ever happened to my dream of being the spoiled, rich doctor's wife, spending my time spa hopping? sigh . . . just kidding, you know that, right?), or how after 13 years straight of having a young constant companion with me I sometimes yearn to move on to the next stage in life where everyone is in school? (I know--oh, poor Allyson! At least you have a home, a husband with a stable job, four healthy children, your own good health, etc. etc. THAT'S MY POINT!)
I mean, I could easily go there (having spent many years as a professional whiner and complainer, I really could), but the reality is--the parallel reality--I HAVE A GREAT LIFE!! A really great life. Partly because I work at it, but partly because that's what I choose to see. I just don't like to spend much of my time and energy thinking about my "other" reality. What's the point, right?
So for all the people out there who get up in arms about the supposed "facade" of the (Mormon) mommy bloggers' cyber lives I say: start a blog. Make a point of highlighting all the most beautiful, joyful things in your little world, and you might be surprised to find out how awesome and even enviable your life really is.
I used to (still do sometimes, it's human nature) compare my life too much to other mother's lives--either the ones I knew personally, or the cyber-world ones--but now that I've been blogging long enough and deliberately choosing my focus, I really do believe most people have their own version of a "perfect" life if they could just see it that way.
(And for those who think the Mormon mommy bloggers are hiding something? Those who would love to expose the ugly, dark underbelly of the Mormon church and all it's supposed lies that keep their women barefoot and pregnant? Even if it's hard for the cynical skeptics to believe, I would say that for Mormon women, much like the good Catholic and Evangelical mother bloggers I know, our faith does in fact bring us a measure of simple hope and joy that is incomprehensible to those who see us as part of the opium smokin' masses.)
So while I don't want to give off the impression that my life is nothing but hunky dory fun and family bliss (inadvertantly making someone else feel like their life isn't as great or that I'm trying to "brag"--my worst nightmare and greatest fear!), I will most definitely continue to go out of my way to focus on the positive and create my own beautiful reality based on what I choose to see. (And I do believe there is enough beauty in this world to go around!)
The alternative is just pointless and depressing, folks!
That same darling sister in Iowa? Well, she is darling, and her home (which her husband has almost completely renovated on his own with the help of friends) is almost completely paid off, and her husband has a lovely 9-5 job that allows him to come home for lunch, and she has the luxury of being able to focus on just one child instead of being torn by the attention and needs of four--it's so easy for me to see how great her life is in the ways that mine isn't, but you know what? They've suffered three second trimester miscarriages and are now trying desperately to adopt. One life, two realities.
There is always the bitter with the sweet, and we all need to be careful not to judge other people too harshly--either up or down! (Their life is such a mess--why can't they get it together? Their life is so great and easy--they don't understand what the rest of us are going through!)
But most importantly, since there is always some sweet mixed in with the bitter (even when, maybe especially when your life has more bitter than sweet), why not see the sweet?
One life, two realities: