I was browsing the blog roll at Jesus Needs New PR this morning and saw a link for A Holy Experience, the blog of Ann Voskamp. Ann is a farmer’s wife with six children who has just had her first book published. She is a favorite blogger among among many of my friends, and I’ve read a number of her posts in the past. Ann is a gifted writer.
Gentle piano music plays when you visit A Holy Experience, and as I clicked on the link this morning I muttered to no one in particular, “Here comes the music.” Then I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before: that music depresses me. I’ve developed a pavlovian response to it, and the response is to feel like crap.
There is an entire world of mommy blogs out there, and most of the successful ones have the same effect on me that A Holy Experience has. It’s not even necessary to read the content to start feeling lousy. Just check out the images at such blogs. At A Holy Experience everything is beautiful: beautiful children, beautiful flowers, beautiful golden light bathing a beautiful room. It’s what I see all over the mommy blogs. Lovely earth mothers in their uniquely decorated DIY homes with their still steaming loaves of homemade breadS and fresh vegetables which they grew themselves. I just visited SouleMama’s site for the first time and this is what I saw: a photo of a young woman in a sweater, hat and mittens (all knitted by the wearer), standing in the snow, holding a strikingly pretty chicken. I can tell already: SouleMama is going to make me feel like a loser.
It’s so silly. I know it is. I run across one blog at the breakfast table and my entire day goes downhill. Suddenly I’m thinking how much better off my children would be if they had a mother like Ann Voskamp who seems so gentle and contemplative. Or SouleMama, who would make them all sweaters and take them skiing. Or Brenda from The Well Fed Homestead, who would make them brownies with coconut flour. Who even knew you could make flour out of a coconut? But my children have me: messy, moody, no sense of domesticity. I’ve tried to become what I’m not over the years, and I suppose there’s still virtue in pursuing some of those goals. We do need to eat, after all, and we do need some order in our surroundings. And as for cultivating a gentle spirit, I hope to never give up on that. But it’s absolute poison to my spirit when I start comparing myself to other mothers. After all, given a choice I’d rather have Ann Voskamp for a mother than Sharon Autenrieth. But there are no re-dos for my kiddos. I’m the only mother they’ll have and I can only make the best of it on their behalf.
I’m not blaming Ann Voskamp for having a beautiful life – or SouleMama, or anyone else for that matter. I’m also not doubting them. There are plenty of articles out there questioning the gap between the real and the “performance” self on the internet but I’m taking these women at face value (as much as is possible without meeting face to face). I don’t want to add cynicism to the list of unlovely qualities I’m battling. That would not be progress. I just to have to avoid seeing what I can’t live up to, sometimes.
That’s why my favorite “mommy blog” is I have to sit down, written by Simcha Fisher. Simcha is no slouch. She’s bright and funny and has kept it together through eight children. But she doesn’t always come across as having the beautiful life. Her post on why she quit homeschooling is a masterpiece of comically brutal truth-telling. Of course, I think there’s space in blogworld for both Ann and Simcha. Ann is a tremendous encouragement to many people I know. My problem with Ann’s blog is not Ann. It’s me.
I have a friend who has told me in the past that God gave my children just the mother they needed. I think we can all bring to mind some children who didn’t seem to get the mothers they needed, but I hope – I pray – that in our case it’s true. Or more precisely, I hope that by giving the best that I have to the job, I can make it true. But my best still may not look beautiful, if the past is any indication.
There’s no real conclusion to this except to say that I’ll never see myself as a mommy blogger. Mommy, yes. Blogger, yes. But even after 19 years, I feel like an amateur at parenting. I am happy to share my experiences, but I know that experience doesn’t always equal wisdom. And if I ever add music to this blog it will be carnival music, perhaps. Something more suited to the atmosphere around here. Actually, I know just the thing, and here it is: