I landed upon a new blog one morning this past week and it put me in a deep, dark, dank, foul mood. The mother/blogger had a skinny waist, smooth skin, and seven kids. She dressed like she worked on a New York runway. She was gifted with a camera. She hammed up life in ways that I don’t even dare to dream of. For example, to celebrate Easter, she created a backyard fairyland complete with a white-gauzy Sukkot tent (yes, wrong analogy), a table spread with linens and giant bouquets of flowers, real chairs, and glass platters of iced goodies, candies, and the like. Her kids were magazine-worthy in their pastels, sundresses, be-ribboned hair, and chubby pink bare feet. Clean bare feet. Everyone was flashing smiles right and left.
As I scrolled through her blog, I got grumpier and grumpier. Everything was peaches and cream to the nth degree, and the deluge of God-talk didn’t help matters. I felt like I was suffocating.
(Let me say here, the woman may be a real dear. I don’t know her, and I wish her nothing but the best. These musing just come about as a result of my quick observations, some slap-dash judgment passing, and the resulting emotions and personal insecurities. Forgive me.)
That night I ranted to Mr. Handsome about the blog. He looked at me, bemused, and said, “If you don’t like it, why are you reading it?”
He was missing the point entirely, and I told him so.
It took a lot of thinking and some conversations with some people other than Mr. Handsome before I figured out what was bothering me. It wasn’t that I envied the women (well, except for her stunning figure). I certainly have no desire to make gauzy tents in my backyard or to dress up my kids for photo shoots. Shoot, half the time my kids look like they just came out of the bush, dirty, stinky, and with burrs in their hair. (And sometimes it’s even worse than that. When I got back from town the other morning, Yo-Yo was sitting on the porch in a clown suit, a blue wig atop his head and a red clown nose strapped to his face. Miss Beccaboo was wearing a conglomeration of things, including an old lady’s blue zip-up bathrobe, a sequined red skirt with black poodles on it, a see-through cape, a scarf, and a sunbonnet. She had stuffed her underwear so that she was fat, in an inner tube sort of way. It was a sight to behold.)
No, the thing about the blog that rankled me was this: presenting life as though it consists of just sundresses and cherubic children is dishonest. Life holds both beauty and pain. To talk only of the one part cheapens the whole.
Not to mention that it puts thirty-four year old women who have to comb through their children’s hair on a daily basis to ensure all the lice are gone in a very bad mood indeed. (Excuse the bad sentence structure. I’m not going to nitpick it.) (And yes, the lice are gone.)
Plus, I have some serious issues with employing God-talk to condone peaches-n-cream stories.
The next morning I discovered another blog. This mother/writer was nearly killed in a plane crash two years ago. She survived, but her face is horribly deformed from the burns, and she’s still undergoing surgeries. She has four lively children, a lived-in house, a caring husband, and a new perspective on life. She grieves the loss of her old self, but she’s ever so thankful she’s alive, able to press her disfigured lips against her babies’ soft, perfect skin.
This blog did not rankle. I was challenged, saddened, grateful, and inspired. I stood up from the computer and viewed my own home, a home filled with clown suits, burrs, arguments and head lice, with new eyes. My life is rich, no white gauze necessary.
I don’t blog everything about my life, to be sure, but I try to be candid. When I first started this blog, I felt like a con artist. I was only writing about bits and pieces of my life. If I talked about packing Mr. Handsome’s lunch, then I worried that you would think I always pack his lunch and that I’m much nicer than I really am. If I talked about my kids cheerfully doing their chores, then I worried that you might think they always did their chores like so. But as I built my blogging history, I became more dimensional. I didn’t worry so much about pulling the wool over your eyes. I was more or less (hopefully more) showing you who I am, warts and all.
Not everyone is inclined to splat as freely as I do, and some people splat even more. Honesty takes many forms, but the bottom line? A sugar-coated life (either blogged about or not) is not at all nourishing.
Still, I have a long way to go.
Just the other day I stopped at my friend Kris’s house to pick up something and she came over to the car to say hi to the kids. She and I started talking about movies, and I mentioned that my kids weren’t going to be allowed to watch the traditional Sunday night movie because earlier that week they had, unbeknownst to me, snuck the TV up to their room and watched a movie. When I had called up to ask what they were doing, they said they were having a reading party, the little stinkers.
Yo-Yo piped up, “You shouldn’t be telling your friends about the stuff we do!”
“I tell my friends lots of things about you guys and they still love you,” I said (rather patronizingly).
Yo-Yo’s retort was swift and logical. “Well, then I should tell your friends about how you really are at home! You do all kinds of stuff that you don’t tell them about!”
Kris chimed in, graciously smoothing things out, “As do all of us. And we still love each other.”
Apparently I have not yet attained Atticus Finch’s ability to be the same in house as on the public streets (some days I don’t even try all that hard, I admit). This failing of mine is one of my warts, no doubt about it.
Maybe I engineer more gauzy structures than I’m aware of?
And that, my dears, concludes today’s ramblings.
About one year ago: The mother of his children.
Now I'm wondering why you read Uthc! Is it a train wreck you can't look away from? =)
I'm going to sleep on this one–but I tend to agree with Cookie Baker Lynn. She's so wise.
I will say this about your little corner: when it's waaay past my bedtime, and I've closed the final Word document or send the last email, I shut down the noise of the rest of the internet (yes, even Twitter) and come here.
Jen, this was a great post. You describe something every blogger (and every memoir writer) struggles with. How to share the joys of life without sound smug and pretentious and how to share the pain without sounding defensive or like a whiny victim. You hit the balance just right.
Have you ever seen the movie American Beauty? If not, put it in line for your next Netflix movie.
Hi Jen…Love this blog post. I love your blog and I will read your book when you publish it too. Thanks for your refreshing honesty… we all need more of that. I'm laughing at myself though because I just posted pictures on my fb page and they paint our life as pretty sweet. Granted they are the best pictures of the past six months, but still. And yes…I even fell prey to dressing the kids in khaki and white for a photo shoot in our yard. Groan…
It's me ...Mavis
I found it! Now I feel like I'm part of the "In" crowd… If you take a closer look at everything that was served at the Easter party… it all came ready made from plastic containers…not that anyone cares… just an observation. I think some of the most interesting blogs I read are those of people who's lives are 180 degrees from mine… Families are kinda like thumbprints… each one is unique… why would we want to emulate someone else when we can BE OURSELVES… Wart's and all 🙂
I was really starting to think I was the only one who felt this way. And, that maybe I was the only one who didn't live in a Better Homes & Gardens home, and who didn't live a Martha Stewart life. I struggle with contentment AND comparing myself to other moms as it is. So, your post…and your blog in general is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for being real!
By the way, I've been reading your blog for a while now. This post seals the deal for me that you are one of my favorite blogs to read!
Cookie baker Lynn
It's tough to strike the right balance in blogging. I try to be frank in my blog (I doubt anyone would think I'm perfect), but I try not to make it a whine and cheese party. I want my blog to be a happy place. It might be a little bit nicer than real life, but if you want the dirt, just e-mail me and I'll unload.
I feel your post is right on the money and I applaud you for finding a way to put those feelings into words. I feel similar things frequently, as my sister in law projects a "sugar coated life" to the world, though she doesn't blog. Everything is perfect and pink and rosy to those outside the family, and even to the family at times. The struggles, difficulties, and issues of real life never enter into converstations and it leaves one feeling not good enough. As though we can never have as perfect a life as she does. I have never been able to put it into words as you just have. So, I share your senitments and am grateful to you for putting this out there and letting us know that we are not alone!
I for one am glad to know that your life, your family and your cooking are not always perfect and spectacular. Just like mine!
Zoe, How many cups of coffee were coursing through your veins when you started spazz-commenting? (Just kidding! Nice new profile picture.)
Mavis, The clown suit was from a friend's dress-up box, and now it's in ours.
Crazy etc., No need to apologize… the woman is a FABULOUS photographer, no doubt about it. And thanks for the encouragement!
Margo, You don't have to write about all aspects of your life in order to be a frank blogger, which you are. I LOVE your blog. It's refreshing, classy, inspiring, and to-the-point.
Meshan, When I finished reading your comment, I realized I was smiling so hard my eyes were watering! I'm so glad you introduced yourself!
I have a confession. I've been stalking your blog for some time now. I haven't commented because I never could think of anything witty, clever, or useful. Well, I still can't, but I thought it was high time you knew I am a huge fan. I've gone through past posts, tried your recipes, envied your lifestyle, told my husband I want to just like you, looked up info on Mennonites, etc. I'm NOT a fan of Obama and I didn't like the lemon, goat cheese and asparagus pasta, but I DO like you. I haven't posted for a long time because we don't currently have Internet, but I still read others blogs from time to time. I always make time to check yours! Thank you from Nevada.
I hate when I type a whole reply and it doesn't work because I make a mistake with my URL! GRRRRR Now lets see if I can remember what I wrote!
Gosh, I think the blog your talking about is a link on my blog. Which I think I mostly check out to get photo ideas(do you hear me justifying?) Since photography is a hobby of mine I like checking out people's work.
In saying that allow me to say this! THANKS for being so honest! Not only were you honest about how it made you feel, you were honest about the fact that maybe those feeling meant something else. I've been having the same struggle with some of the blogs lately. REALLY wondering if life that PERFECT or looking that much like a picture. It only feeds my insecurities as a mother, wife and artist…..
For the record. I DO read your blog, I'm not hear for the pictures, recipes or anything other than REAL LIFE! Thank for being honest about the good and bad…..life is wonderful! Hard but WONDERFUL! Thanks again for HONESTY!
I laughed and laughed. Don't we all fly up into the sugar-coated clouds at times, drag through the bitter doldrums at others, regardless of warts or no warts (maybe they were surgically removed), kids in sundresses or kids wearing clown suits and rolling in the dirt, pretty gauzy tents for entertainment or subsistence living in a tent? There are novels, and there are memoirs, fairy-tales and facts and everything in between–does it even truly matter whether you're being completely, absolutely, 100% honest when you say you don't envy that woman? Of course, loving human relationships are what life's all about, gauzy tents and clown suits be damned. So I'd just say, let the poor woman be a Pollyanna–read her blog like a fairy tale!
P.S. Please tell! I'd like to read the fairy tale too.
I agree that sugar-coating is bad for everybody.
I've been thinking a lot about this recently: I only blog about my homemaking, what I make, and this is a very narrow slice of my life. But I don't want to contribute in some way to the sugar-coating because when I had a very bad experience with post-partum expression, I vowed that I would tell the truth about my struggles after that.
But this blog thing: it's such strange new turf in relationships. I'm frank in my personal relationships, but should I be that way with my bloggy friends? Lots to ponder. . .
and of course I'm dying to know what blogs you're talking about 🙂
It's me ...Mavis
#1 I nearly peed my pants when I read this… Good thing I have all those free panty liners!
#2 Life is waaaaay more exciting when people are themselves… who want's everything perfect anyway?…. no thanks
#3 Where did you get the clown suit?
#4 I feel VERY left out… What's the name of the blog???? Tell me… tell me!!!
Well said, well said. I do know the blog that you are talking about. I did not go back.
never mind, I think I figured it out.
By the way, do you have any idea how I'd go about changing my profile picture? I can't seem to figure out how to get to my profile.
Mmm yes, this is how I feel reading a lot of blogs, and after it makes me mad enough, I stop reading them for a time. I've "quit" blogs 3 times now. It never lasts for long. I'm too nosy! But thanks for this post. It's refreshing to know that your life isn't all lice, clown suits, and failed cakes. In other words, you do a good job of not sugar coating everything. You also do a good job of staying positive and having fun in life. I'd say you keep it pretty even!
so I googled "christian woman with seven kids and perfect life" and I got a single mom criticizing Michele Duggar.
You Can Call Me Jane
I think I have been on the same two blogs in the past couple weeks!! I had a very similar reaction to the first. I scrolled half way down the page or so and clicked away with no intention of looking back.
I worry about some of these blogs because I think they promote, dare I say, demand envy and who needs that? It only starts us down the road of wishing our lives, our husbands, our kids, our homes, our clothes, our feet (:-)) were different, better. And that's something we don't need.
There may be things I would like to be different about my life, but I'd like to come across those findings on my own because they actually concern me, not because some blog family told me I was less than perfect.
I don't need somebody else to tell me that.
Thanks, as always, for coming out and saying what needs to be said.