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.
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:
- It's not fair. (Infantile, I know.)
- 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.
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.