Conscientious Blogging

I've been planning this post for almost two weeks now.  It's taken me that long to gather my thoughts to the point where I feel I can form them in a coherent post.  And it is actually a very fitting reflection given that the first anniversary of Everything to Someone was yesterday.

Before I begin, I want to entreat you, reader, to make a distinction between my train-of-thought and involuntary reactions and the Real Me, my truest self.  They're not always identical.  And just as I can't always control my emotions, my emotions don't control me.

Now might be a good time, especially if you're a new reader, to point you in the direction of my commenting policy.

Part I

I came upon this article in my internet rambles, about the phenomenon known as "Mormon housewife blogs."  You know them, even if you don't know them.   I can't paraphrase any better, so . . . the article:

At first glance, [these bloggers] appear to be members of the species known as the “Hipster Mommy Blogger,” though perhaps a bit more cheerful and wholesome than most. They have bangs like Zooey Deschanel and closets full of cool vintage dresses. Their houses look like Anthropologie catalogs. Their kids look like Baby Gap models. Their husbands look like young graphic designers, all cute lumberjack shirts and square-framed glasses. They spend their days doing fun craft projects (vintage-y owl throw pillow! Recycled button earrings! Hand-stamped linen napkins!). They spend their weekends throwing big, whimsical dinner parties for their friends, all of whom have equally adorable kids and husbands.

But as you page through their blog archives, you notice certain “tells.” They’re super-young (like, four-kids-at-29 young). They mention relatives in Utah. They drink a suspicious amount of hot chocolate. Finally, you see it: a subtly placed widget with a picture of a temple, or a hyperlink on the word “faith” or “belief.” You click the link and up pops the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For me, they're the blogs I ogle when I should be doing something more important like, you know, living my own life, but which usually culminate in a sort of defeated feeling for not being able to quite keep up--looks-wise, weight-wise, fashion-wise, husband-wise, craft-wise, style-wise, house-wise, photography-wise, travel-wise, project-wise, blog design-wise, career-wise. etc., ad infinitum.

So I'm clicking around, and yeah . . . there it is.  And there it is again.  These blogs belong to Mormons.  Huh.

And then I'm thinking, odd.  Why Mormon mothers and housewives?  So I posted the article on my Facebook to gauge other people's reactions.  (I have a--possibly bad--tendency to withhold judgement until I hear a variety of opinions, in order to form my own.)

Now, I obviously come from a 180 degree perspective   Whereas the writer of the article is a single atheist feminist, I'm a conservative Catholic mom, albeit with a Master's degree (but what does that mean, anyway?).  So that's where the similarities end.  The author and I are both young, and we can't bake cupcakes.

According to the article,

the basic messages expressed in these blogs — family is wonderful, life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate the small things — are still lovely. And if they help women like me envision a life in which marriage and motherhood could potentially be something other than a miserable, soul-destroying trap, I say, “Right on.” I won’t be inviting the missionaries inside for hot cocoa now or ever, but I don’t plan on stopping my blog habit any time soon.

So though they don't agree with the hows and the whys, the non-Mormon readers appreciate the result.

I am probably closer in my "traditional values" and overall outlook to the Mormon bloggers than the hipster bloggers.  And yet . . . while the feminist atheists are having a coming-out party about being fond followers of their Mormon sisters, I'm left feeling . . . well . . . resentful.

That's not the sort of feeling one immediately recognizes and is able to label.  It's a nasty feeling, and it will smother peace and contentment.  So, once I am able to admit to myself the unjust dislike I have for these honest ladies, I have to examine why I feel resentful.  The reasons I came up with are these:

  1.  It's not fair.  (Infantile, I know.)
  2. Why aren't there Catholic blogs of equivalent popularity?

And I realized that I was jealous.

Jealous because these women (the ones I've encountered) aren't vocal about their beliefs, don't evangelize, and therefore are sanitized for the non-believing folk.  While Catholics tend to be more vocal, about beliefs, about politics, about persecution in the Church, and therefore scare away potential secular readers.

Which leads us to the following.  My friend and fellow Catholic blogger Masha asks,

. . . the article itself started me thinking again about the place of information and about living modestly in our written lives. 
Catholic women tend to write blogs that are too open in many ways. We over-share sometimes in areas of marital strife, fertility, birth, and our continuing pursuit of sainthood. We gripe about the world’s misrepresentation of our faith, and sometimes, we focus too much on these frustrating areas of life and less on the beauty that permeates everything in life - a beauty sometimes dark and terrible, sometimes light and healing. In other words, we fall on the opposite end of the spectrum from the happy Mormon blogs. We struggle out loud and in the open with private issues and hide the happy and easy parts of life from our readers, or - like I often do, we share our thoughts only after they've formed completely - failing to use the community we've created to shape and develop our thoughts.

So what is the balance?

We Catholics are not prone to sugar-coat.  We're the Christian version of the Jews, in a sense, in how we've been turned out of jobs, communities, positions of power, and sometimes whole countries.  And we like to remember it.  To be fair, we are called to meditate upon the Cross.  We know that tragedies and sufferings can be offered up, can be made beautiful by Christ, and in that there is great comfort.  So I'm not uncomfortable with blogs that "keep it real," as long as we as bloggers aren't laying ourselves vulnerable and inviting an intimacy with strangers and acquaintances that they didn't ask for.

Part II

It was Jenna (A Light Inside) who called my attention to another point about the Mormon blogs that rub me the wrong way.  And it ties into something I've been thinking about since even before I read the article.

Some Mormon blogs present a model lifestyle that may be hurtful to someone who does not or cannot, for various reasons, experience the same lifestyle, though they desire it.  And we Catholics do it, too.  We take what is natural and good about our lives and put them out there without thought to how they may affect others.

For Mormons blogs, the disputed details are a little more material: effortless model figures and outfit-making capabilities; supportive, attractive, Renaissance-type husbands who go to work so they can stay at home and re-decorate and take the kids on weekly excursions; their miraculous ability to grow fresh, organic vegetables, and all without chipping their nails (which are NEVER seen un-polished).

Well, what's the deal, Christie?

The truth is, these blogs make me feel bad, about me.  And though they shouldn't, I have to find the right balance between visiting blogs and taking company with, in real life as well as the internet, those that inspire rather than those who bring me down, whether intentionally or not.  There's no point in doing something that makes us feel bad.  So that's that.

What about Catholic blogs?  Well, in our eager embrace of our faith and gift of fertility, we become wrapped up in this world of Catholic home-schooling mommyhood, forgetting that many people may not, now or ever, experience that kind of life; whether they are unmarried, or unable to have children, or don't have a husband raising the children in the faith with them, or even any husband or man in the picture helping them raise the children at all. . .

Now motherhood is a sacred vocation, but it's not the only vocation.  And a person is not less or more of a person because she is a mother.  And while it is right and good that motherhood should take priority in our lives, as God has given the unworthy charge over the formation of his precious ones, there is more to life than being mothers.  We don't own our children.  My son is a person, in the same relation to me as the man in the grocery store is a person, with dignity, God-given abilities, privacy, and inherent worth and free will.  He's not an accessory to be flaunted.  And he shouldn't be my all-there-is-ever.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, I shouldn't give the wrong impression, that there's this club of happy-wives-and-mothers, in which you either are a member or aren't.

We are all people first.  And we all have different callings.  Just as some are called to the priesthood and others are not, some are called to motherhood and others are not.  One vocation is not more important or more valuable than the other.

It dawns on me that all these problems--the superficiality and my-baby-wears-Tommy-Hilfiger of some Mormon mommy blogs and the TMI birth details and twelve-kids-and-catechizing of our Catholic mommy blogs--could be solved, or at least downsized, by a shift in intention.  Rather than asking myself, "Why am I blogging?" and "What do I want to blog about?" and "What do I get out of it?" I should ask myself, "How can I serve other through blogging?" and "In what ways can I use this blog to bring others closer to Christ and His Church?"  And that, of course, means being sensitive to how what I write might make others feel.

But I can't, and won't, sanitize my blog from its Catholicism, for the exact reason that I care about my readers.  I want you to be Catholic.  If you're not Catholic, I hope you want me to be a member of whatever religion you are.  Because, if you care enough about a religion or philosophy to believe it is right and true, I hope you care enough about me to want me to know the truth, too.


Note:  I've tried to differentiate "Mormon blogs" and "Catholic blogs" from Mormons and Catholics.  The blogs don't represent the entirety of the person behind the blog, just as one person does not represent the entirety of his or her religious group.  Similarly, I mean no disrespect to any person, group of people, or religion.  As a practicing Catholic, I believe ever last person is made in the image and likeness of God and should be treated as such.


  1. There is so much Thought here, that it makes my mind all afuzz..

    ..and it's all GOOD! You really catch on to the troublesome side of the Mormon blogs (at least the hipster kind..I'm sure there are others, less popular). They do sanitize, which is not-so-Catholic..and they do paint perfect lives that we can't ever share because the lives we see are photos and words, and the lives we live are flesh and blood.

    And I love the concept of blogging for the reader, more than for the writer..or, rather, I love the idea of balancing the two. I write my blogs for myself, and I share the things I'm moved to share, but never without holding any readers I have (known and unknown) in my mind along with my own intentions for the space..But, like you mentioned, I don't want to hide myself, or my faith from anyone, I don't want it to be a tiny link in the corner..It should just be naturally there, like the Icons on my wall..I think I have more thoughts for later..but I need to read it all again to put them together.

  2. Happy Blogiversary!!!

    My nails are never seen polished... gardens and guitars will do that to a person. :P

    Now that you mention it, one of the reasons I avoid most Catholic young-mom blogs (the older women seem to do this less) is that said blogs tend to be so focused on how awesome their vocation is and how much they love their children and their husband and how cool cloth diapers are and what a blessing NFP is. (Which makes me think I won't be reading LDS mommy blogs anytime soon, either.) That heavy celebration of motherhood as the highest vocation a woman can know--and yes, it is given those words--is understandable, but I'm not there and I can't get there. I am jealous.

    In fact, I was shy about reading this blog, much as I enjoy SSiG, for fear that it would be more of the same. It's not. You have never, even inadvertently, made me feel like less of a woman for never having been pregnant.

    As for sanitizing, I'm still thinking through all that. I think there's a wide variety of options that are in the okay zone... for instance, I pretty much never talk politics... but as personal bloggers, we do have to be careful to make sure we're not cheapening or commercializing our lives by what we choose to keep offscreen.

    Will try and put together a post for next Monday! Thanks for this. So many good thoughts here. :)

  3. @Masha

    (I gotta figure out how to set the comments so we can reply.)

    You've given me good feedback in your quick response. Focusing so much on what-can-I-do-for-others can become oppressive and disingenuous; but if we focus on our natural talents and the things that we are interested in, and put that out there for mutual enjoyment, we're much more likely to be helpful to others.

    Who says, "Don't worry about changing the world. Do something that you love, and you'll change the world anyway." (not an exact quote)


    I am SO glad I've never made you feel expelled or out-of-place here, and it is my intention never to do so. As a woman, I value your advice and knowledge about child-rearing as much as the mother of twelve.

    I know what people are trying to say when they say "motherhood is the highest vocation," but I don't think that's an accurate expression. All vocations, provided that they are the ones God calls us to, are worthy of the highest praise. Who knows why he gives gifts to the unworthy and withholds them from those who deserve than more than most?

    We want to be careful not to reverse the anti-life norm of our culture and make it so that a woman only has worth if she can reproduce. Then we're turning the rightful reverence for God-given fertility and human life into a cult of motherhood, which is just as much an idol as anything.

    Love to you both. xx

  4. Oh my goodness sister! This is an absolutely amazing article. I was hooked from the beginning - - and that's typically hard to do with me. I feel like to summarized a great deal of what I am trying to accomplish with Modern Catholic Mom, right here. I don't have any aspirations of being the "typical" Catholic mom blogger. It is all about honesty and Masha hit the nail on the head in regards of not hiding my faith from anyone. I just adore this and am so happy you stopped by and commented. xoxo

  5. @ Jenna..It's interesting - with the whole tendency to elevate motherhood on 'mommy blogs'..I have the same trouble with homesteading blogs (and I try really hard to avoid sounding the same) in that the bloggers make it sound like the more off-grid you are, the more self-sufficient you are, the Better you are..and look at me and my hu-manure and my rugged arms, and yes I do always wear plaid..and it's all competitive, like I'm a bad homesteader because I have a breve addiction and wifi in my yurt..Seth actually works with a guy who homesteads, and he likes to say "Actually, I have a more sophisticated system for ___ than Seth does, see what I do is.." Nobody likes those people..and they do tend to make anyone not emulating them or living the same life feel excluded and less-than..which I'm sure is unintentional, but maybe comes from a sense of uncertainty about their own vocation, or a feeling of needing to defend themselves to the world..

    And I think you're right in that there are a lot of topics that fall in the 'ok zone' .. topics I might not write about - either because I don't want drama with family-readers, or because I don't care enough, or because they don't fall into the life I'm living..but that I'm interested in reading if someone else writes about them.

    @ Christie~
    I don't know who said it, but I think I like him! I forget sometimes that EtS is..technically, I guess, a mommy blog, isn't's broad enough in it's presentation of your life and thoughts..and (my bad) I don't usually see that in a lot of 'mommy blogs' - Another flaw, I suppose in the Mormon mommy blogs, because how can there be a lot of thought there if there is no sign of faith and nothing at all to give pause to a reader on an opposite track in life and spirit? Which again, leads me to wonder where exactly I'm going with Piekno..because I don't see it as a 'mommy blog', it's not technical enough to be a homesteading blog, I already have an artsy, sometimes it feels like a Dick and Jane book: See Masha. See Masha bake. Masha bakes bread. See Seth eat. Eat Seth, Eat! need coffee.

    Also, your blog makes it difficult to avoid the internet for long periods of time ;)

    @ Andrea..Thanks! Now I'm off to read your blog ;)

  6. @Christie: Are you thinking of this quote by Howard Thurman?:

    "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

    Possibly not, but I've always liked it. Though I'm sure it can be twisted to feed into our modern cult of selfishness.

    Anyway, I love your point about how we twist a good vocation into an idol... we can do that with just about anything, I think, and it's good to watch out for. I have areas of my own thought that I worry about.

    @Masha: Holy cats! I bet no one likes that guy. Sheesh. There's such a fine line between appropriate sharing of knowledge and being the person whose experience always has to trump everyone else's. I sometimes worry that I do that without knowing it... I hope not!

    Also, I'd call Piekno a bohemian life blog. It seems more concrete than Cyganeria (which, in being artsy, seems geared toward the abstract and ideal), more focused on practical details with its pictures and recipes and daily-journal feel. It's working, anyway, even if it's a struggle for you to define. :)

  7. @ Jenna, Nobody likes him..nobody - except my in-laws, and we can't figure out why ;) (everyone knows everyone up here!) You definitely don't come off as being a "Ben"..;)

    Thanks, I'm glad Piekno works..I like having it, even if it lives in uncertainty. And I really like the term 'bohemian life blog'..I kind of want to tack it up somewhere to remind myself of my purpose!

    @Christie, This post is really giving me a lot of direction..I think your being so very open and honest about how the hipster Mormons make you feel about yourself is a really good reminder that we don't have to make our lives look perfect online, we can be vulnerable, we can talk about the parts of life that are downright awful, so long as in talking about them, we don't fall into the trap of getting too negative. And I'm not terribly good at walking that line, so I tend to avoid under-share..which might just be a personality thing, but isn't something I should force on others..

    Jenna, you are the experienced blogger here ;) did you settle on theme and content and balancing what is and isn't shared?? Was it a process for you? Or was it just natural?

  8. @Masha, it was a very long process. In my first year or so, I just rambled off whatever came to mind. It sort of worked, looking back, though it probably would've worked better if I'd bought and made use of a digital camera.

    Then, pre-2008 elections, a wash of political opinion (some of which I've changed my mind and/or mode of expression on) came up and threatened to hijack my content... and then I went through a stage of trying to be one of those writer-bloggers who talks about how to write a novel and how to get published.

    After renouncing politics and finally deciding against being a YA publishing industry blogger, I started settling into the routine I have now. All the blogalectics helped with that (so thanks! :)) But for the first little while, I'd still occasionally come up with emotional outbursts or rants, which Lou usually talked me out of posting. :)

    There aren't many of my own secrets and struggles that are entirely off limits, but I have learned that on an ordinary day, I'm happier just not thinking about what I don't have or can't do. So I focus on what I do have and what I can do, and that's what comes out on the blog. I may never be popular--I have too little fashion sense, and a bit too much mouth... :P but that's all right. The blog serves its purpose.

  9. @Masha

    Your blogs are down-to-earth, even in their loftiness (am I making sense?) and very welcoming. I've never felt like you were preaching at me, and it's so easy to connect, that sometimes you will say something that will take me aback and I'll remember, "That's right; she lives a very different lifestyle from me." And because of this, "the very different" doesn't feel like leagues of separation, but a very intimate communion with a lifestyle whose heart and soul is the same.

    I have been put off by those types of blogs before. Even friends can veer off into the "right way, wrong way" tone of discussion, which is discouraging and inaccurate. I don't ever feel anything but happy and encouraged reading yours.

    I see Piekno as more "practical" than Cyganeria. As Cyganeria is your artsy blog, Piekno is your everything-that-doesn't-fit-into-Cyganeria-blog. It's less reflective to me and more active. At least for now, until/if you change it.

    I think there is a place for your "undersharing" in the blog universe. I don't feel that you're holding back or hiding, just that you're private, and that you're more interested in sharing moods and color of experiences that details. It's not a bad thing.

    I chose the name "Everything to Someone" with great care, because I didn't want it to be "just another mommy blog." Obviously, since I do have a child, everything I do needs to in some way take this other little human being into consideration. That's my grave responsibility right now, until he is old enough to take on the responsibility himself. But I felt very strongly that in that role of being a mother and caretaker, I brought several roles and hats to the table.

    It took some time for me to accept this about myself, but I'm not the kind of mother whose identity becomes completely entwined with that of her child's. For a long time, I thought that's what a good mother was and did. I still have my own, pre-Afon interests. I still like doing things that don't directly entertain or affect Afon. It took me some time to stop apologizing for this, too. But once I accepted it, I think it's made me a much better and a much more natural mother. And that can go for lots of vocations, not just motherhood. Not feeling bad about not fitting into the mold or perpetuating the stereotype or allowing yourself some elbow space.

    I seem to contradict myself; it's hard to communicate~!


    That's the exact quote, thank you. c:

    I think trying to fit into a genre blog mold can kill a lot of the potential we have as bloggers. For you, it was a YA industry blogger, for me it's a Catholic mommy blog . . . those kinds of blogs are a dime a dozen. And while we may lose readership and popularity with our obscure and/or various subjects and interests, we at least know we're going to attract the people that really matter . . . like Bohemian Polish poets and musically-inclined fantasy authors. c;


    Thank you for reading and commenting!

  10. I don't have anything profound to share but I just recently visited few blogs similar to what you are mentioning and saw the SAME things...I don't know what my emotion was a the time...not jealousy (although I'm sure I HAVE had that at times), but like it was too fake seeming or something...when everything seems so perfect. The reality is that blogging is just a small slice of what we really see of someone's life, kwim? I like blogs that have a good balance of the good, the bad, and the ugly. ;) Just call me Clint. :P

  11. @ Jenna. The blogalectics helped me find direction as well! And you do a fantastic job, you give just enough of yourself, that I can read and know you, but not intrude..It allows the possibility of friendship, but doesn't force friendship..Ideal!

    @ Christie. I think you've got a similar balance, because your blog isn't "omgoodness BABY" or "well, I used to love __..but I'm a mom now" And I totally understand that, because I selfishly guard my separate self. Rilke has a wonderful thought about married couples guarding each other's solitude, and that is something I try to do with Yarrow too, in a different way, guard HER solitude (in a baby-sense) and guard my own in relation to her, because women who become 'just mommy' lose themselves wrongly, the way women who become 'just wife' loose themselves..the way Anna lost herself trying to become 'just lover' for Vronsky.

    ..and I'm glad you guys like them, because I really don't have the discipline to do much changing around ;) but this:

    " And because of this, "the very different" doesn't feel like leagues of separation, but a very intimate communion with a lifestyle whose heart and soul is the same."

    made my day..because it's so true! I think Jenna and I have discussed (am I right?) something similar. And honestly, in a lot of ways, I feel more separation from the homesteaders I do know, because we have such a different purpose and focus re: the life we chose..the communion comes so much more in purpose and direction than in externals!

  12. @Masha, yes, we have talked about that... I think that's a lot of why the three of us do so well as friends. We've chosen lives that are externally different for the same reasons and in the same spirit. :)


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