Since my family is going to be scattered about the country this Easter, I decided to hold a special Easter family night before we all left. I wanted to have some cozy circle time with the wee ones to emphasize the true meaning of Easter in a comprehensive but kid-friendly, way; maybe read some nice stories or show some visuals to help explain some of the deeper doctrines of this very doctrinal day. So, in my standard effort to avoid any effort, I dismissed the idea of coming up with my own ideas and turned to the Internet instead. To blogs, more specifically. To motherhood blogs, to be exact. And all I can say, my faithfuls, is: what was I thinking?
I consider myself a fairly well-adjusted, reasonably confident person. I am too old to compete with the hot young supermoms, and too young to be (totally) bitter about all the things you are doing that I’ve never done. So I’m kind of at that sweet spot in life where I’m okay with (resigned to) who I am , and less-than-interested in who I’m not. But I learned on this recent blog tour that, despite my “knowing better,” no amount of intellectual reasoning can pad my psyche against the emotional assault that is the The Mommy Blog. Despite my phony protests to the contrary, I find that I am in no way immune to this volley of Motherhood As It Should Be: creative and crafty projects, creative and crafty (and stylish!) homes, creative and crafty (and stylish!) moms who seem to have nothing but Time Time Time in which to plan, organize and execute a myriad of games, charts, service projects, and neighborhood activities that will teach their children about love, faith, civic responsibility, timeless children’s literature and, of course, the value of nevereverever watching t.v. on a Saturday morning when you could be pulling your elderly neighbor’s weeds instead. All of this is done, of course, with the word Simplify etched in vinyl over the front door.
Failing at the Craft Thing doesn’t really bother me–that ship sailed in the third grade, when I attended a kids craft day at a local church and some Mean Old Lady came over to yell at me that I was painting my miniature bird statue all wrong. (I’ve spent the last thirty years avoiding crafts just to show Mean Old Lady what she’s done to me.) Failing at the Chart Thing doesn’t really bother me either; I’ve always thought that some people keep charts as hobbies, and that’s fine, but for me, by the time I make, laminate, and help my kids keep up a chart, we could just have the freaking chores done already. So, though I’m not too hung up on the tangibles, it’s the intangible facets of motherhood–my time, my priorities, my teaching efforts–that I feel shriveling up and keeling over as I read blog after blog after EasyBreezyBeautiful Motherhood Blog.
See, there’s so much I want to do for my family in my heart, but I struggle to do make it all happen with my time. I try to teach my children a lot, but looking at these blogs, I realize I could be teaching them so much more. I try to spend a lot of time with my children, but looking at these blogs, I realize I could be making that time so much more educational. I try to impose a little structure in our family life for chores and allowance and music and homework. But looking at these blogs, I realize that I could impose so much more structure, which would prepare them so much more for their adult lives ahead. I try to have fun with my children but–goodness, faithfuls–I didn’t know how much more fun I could (and should!) be having with my children. (How much fun should we be having, you ask? The answer is: tons. TONS AND TONS OF FUN!)
Take Easter, for example. As I looked for stories and games about this holiday, I learned instead that millions (I’m pretty sure) of mothers out there are holding family devotionals every night for a month leading up to Easter, observing Lent with their children while doing so, and preparing authentic Old Testament fare for Good Friday to really bring the whole thing home. These mothers are dying Easter eggs in seventeen new and glorious ways, weaving hand-made pretzel dough into “prayer symbols” (folded arms, I guess?), and organizing neighborhood-wide egg hunts so as to fold all nearby children into their loving and capable arms. These mothers have links and videos and printables and puzzles and games galore, and they seem to have the time, energy, and will to use them. (This last one is what brings me down; I don’t know that I have that will. The intention? Sure. But I don’t know about the will.)
Now, lest you should think me a whiner (never!) let me make it clear that I am not blaming the blogs nor their architects here. I take full responsibility for my own neuroses, thankyouverymuch. It’s just that I prefer the blissful ignorance of the pre-blogging era. Reading these blogs makes me aware of the vast maternal opportunities I am willfully, ignorantly missing out on. But because I know that the blogs don’t “make” me feel anything–I indulge in these emotions myself–I keep going back for more, certain that my ego can handle it this time around. And so I keep subjecting myself to these blogs and I keep feeling deflated–sometimes even depressed–when I do so. And it’s not because I think I’m a bad mother. I know I am a good mother. It’s because I’m not a great mother, like the Mother On The Blog. And because I’m worried that, though my children are happy, they are not as happy as hers.
Case in point? The other night I was browsing one such blog and my eleven-year old daughter came and stood over my shoulder, sharing my view of a youth group barbeque that looked like the spring layout for J.Crew.
“Who’s life is that?” she asked innocently. (I inserted the bitter italics.)
“Oh, I don’t know.” I sighed. Which was true.
“Wow,” she said breezily. “Looks like a good one.” She then trotted off happily as I slumped in my chair, suddenly glum that I wasn’t giving my daughter the childhood memories that this bloggermom was obviously giving hers. Sure, my kids’ childhood was good. But was it that good? And even if I wanted to make it “that good,” where would I start? To be that good of a mother is an elusive goal with blurry benchmarks. In other words, I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing to show that level of love for my children, I just know that I’m not doing it.
And so, after spending the better part of my Monday mad at myself for being so mad at myself, I did the only thing I can do when I find myself in such a state: I called my sister. See, my sister and I have a few Standard, Self-Righteous Conversations that we default to about once a month, and Keeping Up With Bloggers is one our favorites. So every few weeks, one of us calls the other in a panic about what we’ve seen online that we’re just not doing well enough. And the recipient of this call invariably assures the caller that she is, in fact, the superior being, because she doesn’t need to do all “that stuff” to validate herself. This is a tidy process, because it relieves us from actually doing whatever it is we’re worried we’re not doing and allows us to sit back and judge instead. (It’s our own form of mommy-time-management.)
Final outcome: I closed my computer and made a rare attempt to produce rather than consume. After a heated internal struggle, I came up with my own truly original Easter program. It would consists of:
a) reading the account of Easter from the scriptures out loud to my children, and
b) talking with them about it.
Final question: If the blogs make me feel bad, is it their problem or my problem? I think that, probably, it’s my problem. But it makes me feel so much better to pretend that it’s theirs.