12.30.2012

Mommy blog syndrome.

The clock is my worst enemy right now.  Life is hard.  Insomnia sucks.  Babies who don't sleep make me LOSE MY FRIGGIN' MIND and sometimes I take to facebook to complain about it and then I feel guilty and want to hide in a hole out of embarrassment and there is lots of illness when you have three little kids who hang out with other kids and sometimes you JUSTWANTTOBEWELL, OKAY?!?!  And sleep. And be able to go to church again because you haven't been in two ENTIRE months.  The end.

Okay not really.

All of this non-sleeping business has given me a whole lot of quiet time to think.  The last three nights I've been struck with maybe the worst case of insomnia I've ever had.  Three nights ago I got up at 3:30 (that's a.m. for all you young folks), last night I was up from 1:30 to 4:00 and today I've been up since 1:30…A friggin' M.  

I'm also sick, which makes me particularly crabby when you layer illness and a few hours of sleep a night.  All with a baby who also doesn't know how to sleep.  Oh, it's fun times up in here.

So I've been trying on positivity for size this year.  It was a goal for 2012.  I think I've mostly mastered it thanks to a WHOLE lot of prayer and humbling, but there are times when I blow it big time and I become a giant ball of negativity.  Like now.  But I have been resisting the urge to write a blog post about how tough life has been recently and how difficult a time I'm having coping.  

So this all got me to thinking (you know, during all this awake time I've had) about why we choose to show the good stuff and hide the bad.

It's practically a syndrome in this crazy country of ours.  Blogging has made motherhood HARD.  Because now it's not good enough to just be a mom.  We have to stay home with our kids, make their glittered play dough from scratch while sewing their clothes, crafting with them daily, keeping the house beautifully organized (because organized isn't enough; everything must have color-coordinated labels perfectly placed on each gorgeous, matching jar throughout our homes) and filled with homemade laundry soap, toothpaste and shampoo.  Oh, and don't forget to take professional-quality pictures of all of this on your $1000 camera!  Ah, and edit them.  Perfectly.  In an $800 photo editing program.  And then put it on your blog.  That you paid someone $2000 to design.  Because that's now a pre-requisite to motherhood.  But make sure that your house is spotless.  When documenting every wonderful detail of your life to share with everyone on facebook and your blog, you certainly wouldn't want anything out of place.  What would people think?  

Don't forget to get to the gym.  You should have a flat belly, after all.  And don't cheat on that Paleo/WAPF/Vegan/Atkins/Weight Watchers/Zone/WHATEVER diet!  

Also, how's your homeschool curriculum coming along?  Have you made sure that homemade tent matches Susie's handcrafted comforter?  You wouldn't want them to clash, after all.  And don't forget that Johnny is almost out of his homemade yogurt from grassfed cows and that Susie wants you to fill her bento lunchbox with tiny organic snacks formed into fun little animal shapes.

You also probably want to refill your etsy shop.  It's getting sort of bare.

Oh, and your chalkboard wall needs to be updated with some more hand lettered witty quotes and it's about time to get a new handmade wreath on your front door.  That one is so fall-ish.  It's winter, for pete's sake!

RIGHT?!

I am as COMPLETELY guilty of this as the next Mommy Blogger.  I mean, I pretty much pulled all of those examples off my own blog.  And I seriously hate myself for it.  

Our blogs have become a representation of ourselves.  It's our branding, if you will.  And who on earth would publicize their weaknesses?  You never see companies branding themselves as "Some really good stuff intermixed with some normal flaws and sometimes we suck at these things."

But the problem is that we are PEOPLE.  Not companies.  We have feelings.  We are raw.  We are emotional.  We are sensitive and especially as women, we are self-conscious.  We so easily twist everything around into a negative.  Oh, Sally can sew?  That means I am a lousy mother because I can't sew.  

But guess what?  Sally can't cook.  To save her life.  

Sally doesn't talk about that on her blog.  She advertises her beautiful sewing projects.  And that's all Jane sees when she reads Sally's blog.  Suddenly Jane, who can bake anyone into a corner, feels like a complete and utter failure just because she can't sew.  

One of my friends was just telling me how she wishes she was funnier, like someone else we know.  If she only had so-and-so's personality, she would be more successful at her business.  It broke. my. heart.  My friend is beautiful and thoughtful and amazing with children and awesome in a million ways.  She was comparing herself to someone who is totally hilarious but has her own flaws that my friend doesn't have.  

This happened to me.  I shouldn't say "happened" so much as "happens every single day."

I can sew basic stuff.  I am not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination.  If a pattern says easy, I sew it.  Decently.  I can cook pretty well.  I'd say it's my biggest domestic strength.  I am a lousy housekeeper.  I have literally never in my entire life kept up with laundry more than two days.  I have heaping laundry piles that sometimes span the entire GIGANTIC sectional.  I'm not lying.  I clean my house like a madwoman for a few hours before anyone comes over.  God blesses each of us with strengths…and weaknesses.  And yes, I think it is a blessing to have weaknesses.  What's that saying?  Without the rain there'd be no rainbow?  Or something like that.  If life was all rainbows and butterflies and glittered hearts, we couldn't even appreciate it.  I appreciate the fact that I can sew some basic stuff because I can't knit.  Have no clue.  Know nothing about it.  But I'm in awe of those who can!  It's humbling to have a weakness (we all need to be humbled!), and it makes you appreciate the things you're good at.  Most people don't know that my house is usually a mess.  Why would I advertise that?  Why would I let anyone see my house like that?

It was so relieving last week when a friend stopped by and I didn't know she was coming.  She had called me, but I wasn't near my phone for a few hours.  So she got to see my house a hot mess.  I was so embarrassed at first.  But then I found myself relieved. Like, hey, she knows the "real" me and she's still my friend.  

What is it exactly that keeps us from showing the real sides of ourselves?  It's the fear of not being accepted.  We want everyone to like us and accept us, but the problem is that if we're not being real, then what does their friendship mean?  It's all based on a facade.  

If my friends can like me despite my lack of style, my messy house, my old van, my inability to knit, my terrible handwriting, my struggles with depression, my small house, the fact that I sometimes complain on facebook, that my marriage isn't perfect, that I sometimes flake out on commitments because my family comes first and my forgetfulness, then they are my real friends.  And those are the only ones I want.  

We say that.  It's a saying, you know.  You lose a friend and people say, "Oh, you're better off without them.  If they can't accept you for who you are, you don't need them."  It's easy to say, hard to put into practice. I'll never forget a pretty monumental point in my life, when one of my very best friends turned her back on me when I went through my first depression episode at 22. She told me I was, "F'ing crazy" and began spreading a whole lot of untruths about me.  That was so deeply scarring for me, because instead of recognizing that she was not a true friend, I took it as meaning I was not lovable; I was undeserving of friendship because of this illness.  I learned to keep it inside and not talk to anyone about it.  If I did, I would be alone and have no friends.   

When I was pregnant with Landon, I learned to open up about depression and its debilitating effects.  I didn't open all the way up and I certainly didn't share everything I went through, but I did at least write one really hard blog post and I tried to be as raw as I knew how.  I was completely terrified of the outcome.  I expected to lose friends.  I expected negative comments.  But I didn't get negative comments and I only lost one friend.  I don't even know if it was related, only that it was about that same time that our friendship sort of dissolved.  But the truth is, you truly are better off without the people who can't accept you for you.  

It doesn't even mean that those people who can't accept you for you are bad people.  We all have our limits.  We all have our own capabilities.  I myself have severed friendships because I just couldn't do it for one reason or another.  I don't blame people who don't want to be close to someone who has struggled with depression.  Perhaps they've had a tumultuous past with someone who struggled from depression or maybe your dissolving marriage reminds them of their own failed relationship.  It could even be that your pregnancy is too much for a friend struggling with infertility to bear, and she needs to step away from your friendship.  Whatever the case, let us not judge those who can't be friends with us and our weaknesses (or even strengths!).  

The point is that you don't want fake friendships.  They don't mean anything, they won't do anything for you except possibly give you an illusion that you are grander than you are.  We are weak and we are sinful and we need Jesus.  He came to rescue us because we AREN'T perfect. We are far from it, and we do a disservice to ourselves, to others and to God when we pretend that we are; that we have it all figured out.  That we have no weaknesses.

There is something so comforting about sharing a weakness or a struggle and having someone else come out of the woodwork to say, "Hey, I get that.  I understand.  I've been there.  Hang in there, it gets better."  Or whatever.  If you don't share your weaknesses, not only do you cause someone else to feel crappy about themselves because they think you're perfect and it makes them feel like they can never measure up, and you cause yourself pain because you're now trying to keep up this facade of perfection or hang on to all your blog followers (who cares?), but you deny yourself the chance to form a bond with someone who has or has had the same struggles as you.  

When I wrote about prenatal depression, I had quite a few people reach out to me who had experienced the same thing or something similar, and I had a lot of great, deep, meaningful conversations with others who could relate.  And it was therapeutic.  And beautiful.  

Stop being fake.  Start being real.  Share your struggles.  We all have them.  Mine might look different than yours, but I have my own just the same.  I don't want to read about your perfect life.  I want to see your raw, unedited life and I want to be there for you if you need someone.  You are beautiful just as God made you.  

7 comments :

  1. You are an awesome mama, wife, crafter, cooker, being hot-er

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  2. I love you girl! Couldn't do it without you. Even though we are hundreds of miles apart and only talk when our crazy lives allow, I wouldn't trade you for the world!

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  3. Interesting post, Chelsea. There are so many things I could comment on. But I'm gonna choose just a couple.

    Now. I hope that what I say next doesn't come off wrong or ugly or brash. I wish I could say it to you in person and it would sound so much friendlier (because it IS friendly)...

    This whole Mommy Blogger Syndrome and all the other stuff it's been called across the Web all comes down to ONE thing (a cure for this syndrome, if you want to call it that): RUN YOUR OWN BLOG/LIFE AND DON'T WORRY ABOUT ANYONE ELSE'S.

    Now I'm your typical mommy blogger. Most of my content centers around my family. But I'm not shy about telling you that I'm a packrat, I'm a domestic fail, and all my other not-so-great attributes. BUT! That is NOT what I choose to focus on. Ninety nine percent of my content is sunshine and rainbows. Because that's what *I* choose to blog about.

    I love all kinds of blogs. The ones with perfect pictures. The ones with the mamas who craft every day with their kids. The mamas who pour out the raw emotions all over their blog. I love 'em all. They're all different and that's what makes the blogging world so interesting. If I come across a blog I don't like, I don't read it. Simple as that. I'm not gonna be "bothered" about someone's blog being "too perfect" or that they don't show their "true selves." Who cares?

    Their blog is their blog and they do what they want.

    So this whole "mommy feels bad because she's not the perfect mommy and blogger like Suzie over at Suzie.com" is a matter of minding your own business and knowing your own limits. And feeling comfortable with who you are and what your blog/life stands for.

    And as for this whole mommy guilt thing -- that's about being secure in your role(s). For example, this stay-at-home versus working mom thing. Many of my favorite blogs are authored by stay-at-home moms. I'm not a stay-at-home mom, yet I relate to stay-at-home moms as much as I relate to working moms . I don't feel like they're better than me or that I'm better than them. I enjoy my career and am love my multiple roles each day. I also love to see stay-at-home moms enjoy their days at home with the kids.

    Every mom -- every family -- is different. And if folks would simply learn to mind their own business, then this mommy world would be a MUCH better place.

    Now. I hope that sounded friendly. :-)

    Happy Near Year!

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  4. I completely get what you're saying! And yes, I took that as friendly because it's coming from you, and you are one of the single sweetest women I've ever "met." :)

    Basically, it's your blog, you can say what you want. I completely relate to that. I understand. Technically, it shouldn't be our responsibility to make sure other women feel good about themselves. Right? I agree, it's not our responsibility.

    However, I think you may be unique in your ability to read these blogs without feeling inadequate and that's awesome. I envy that a little. :) I think for many women (certainly not all, I totally get that!), self-confidence is an ongoing struggle. A battle we just can't seem to conquer. And since so many stay-at-home moms have forgone face-to-face playdates and get togethers in lieu of blogging/being amongst the blogging community, I believe it has taken a grave toll on motherhood in general. Does that make sense? Like, when I get together with my girlfriends, we chit-chat, we talk about the good stuff...and we lament the bad stuff. We complain about the sleeplessness, the fact that we can't ever keep up with laundry, the incessant whining that sometimes makes us want to cry; all the while, sharing the crafts and the new way we chose to decorate our entry way table, etc. With blogging, we tend to keep focused on the good stuff. The "pretty" side of life. We take pictures while shoving the laundry pile out-of-sight and then display those on our blogs. It would appear as though we have it all together; our lives are perfection wrapped up in a neat package with a pretty bow on top.

    It's not that I don't want to see the good and pretty things. Oh my gosh, I have learned SO MUCH from other blogs and other bloggers. I don't have a creative bone in my body. My home is only cute because I've imitated others. I thank the Lord for this community! I would just love to see more women talking about their struggles. It takes a village, right? Perhaps the problem is *more* that we've taken to our blogs as a replacement for face-to-face communication. You lose so much when you're online only. It's not the same as sitting down with another woman/mom/crafter/whatever over a cup of coffee. Discussions often center around the struggles as much as the triumphs. I think we need that.

    Certainly blogging transparently is *not* for everyone. Nor should it be. I also get that. I hope I don't come off as, "I don't want to read a blog that is only positivity." I don't mean that. I am trying to surround myself with positive people! I just love the blogs I stumble across that are transparent and share struggles, too. It's a little refreshing and it makes me feel more normal and less inferior.

    Hope that all makes sense! :)

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  5. This is why I tend to avoid Pinterest unless I have a specific project in mind. I lose precious minutes (okay, fine--HOURS) of my life wondering if all the other moms are really doing all these crafts with their toddlers. There are weeks when I can't find time to cook dinner, much less fold laundry and do craft projects. And I definitely feel those twinges of jealousy when I see the blogs of stay-at-home moms full of beautiful pictures, neat and clean children, flawless homes, and the like. Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that I enjoy my job, toys all over the living room are no big deal, and I have plenty of value as a mom, wife, and child of God without all the other stuff. I think it's important to celebrate everyday triumphs, but I try not to give the impression that I have everything together on my blog because it's false and self-glorifying, and if there are laundry fairies out there, I don't want them to bypass my house because they think I don't need their help. :-)

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