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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Is it all a Lie?

I'd never claim to be a perfect mother. I don't know any moms who would. I have my bad days, my challenges, and my moments of doing that which I do not want to do.

But those aren't the moments I wish to dwell on. They happen, yes. I share them, yes. But what I seek is to find peace and joy in the moment. It goes without saying that some days I find myself fishing toys out of the litter box or scrubbing poo out of the carpet in the middle of the night. But those aren't the moments that stick in my mind, because they all go straight out the window the moment I tell my toddler I love him and he replies, "Mommy, I love you!"

Becoming a mother was a turning point in my life and the catalyst for a great deal of personal growth and healing. I wanted a place to both document and share my journey towards a life governed by purpose and intention. My journey is my own. Of the other blogs I read, some are on a journey similar to mine, and others are on a very different journey. Each one is valuable. Each one is worth sharing.

And yet there seems to be a trend of deriding those bloggers who write anything considered "alternative". They are accused of being holier-than-thou, of judging others, of making others feel bad about their lives, of presenting an impossible image, and above all, of pretending to have the perfect life.

If a blogger writes about homeschooling, does that equal a slight against those who choose public school for their children? I read blogs written by mothers who public school. They talk about how their children are doing there, about how good it has been for their little ones, about what a positive it is in their family's life. I don't find that offensive, as though I am somehow depriving my children by choosing another option (unless, of course, the blogger straight-out says so, in which case I'll just have one less blog to read). I am happy for them. I celebrate their successes and joys with them. So why does writing about a different sort of educational journey mean that a blogger is somehow placing herself above those parents?

If a blogger has a positive birth experience and shares it, does that negate the reality of someone else's birth experience? If my homebirth was beautiful, I'm going to say so. If my hospital birth was beautiful, I'm going to say so. If my homebirth was awful, I'm going to say so. If my hospital birth was awful, I'm going to say so. Does speaking my truth somehow mean that I am being inauthentic, simply because your own truth may be different?

Cloth diapering can be overwhelming to get started with. If a blogger shares information to make that process easier for someone who is interested, how is that scorning those who are perfectly happy with their babies' disposable diapers? Why not simply appreciate that the information is there for those who do want it?

If a blogger finds an interesting project on Pinterest and shares the results, does it make you a terrible mother if it isn't the sort of thing that floats your boat? You have your way of winding down, of relaxing, of finding peace, of doing something just for you simply because you enjoy it. Your way might be different than another blogger's. So you're not into crafts but you love cooking. Or you're not into cooking but you like to wind down in front of a good movie. That's okay. Must every blogger keep their own ways to themselves for fear of making someone else feel inadequate? Must I hide who I am so that you can be who you are?

If a blogger finds motherhood enjoyable, is she a liar? Must every entry celebrating a positive be followed by an entry stressing how awful and difficult and challenging this all is? Are we only permitted to share the uglier side of life so as not to make anyone "feel bad"?

If a blogger really wants to avoid the so-called mommy wars, why tear down those bloggers whose lives seem to be "too good"?

If I'm having a friend over, chances are I'll tidy up a few things and scrub a couple sticky spots off the kitchen floor. Am I an inauthentic person because I don't want my guests' socks sticking to my floor? And when she comes, am I presenting a rosy picture of fake perfection if I don't share with her the nitty-gritty details of the hypothetical fight I had with my husband the night before? If not, then why am I, as a blogger, expected to showcase every dirty toilet and difficult moment in the name of "keepin' it real"?

I don't know, maybe there truly are bloggers out there who claim to be perfect. I certainly haven't come across one yet. I read blogs that are encouraging, uplifting, challenging, and inspiring, but none written by people who I presume live magical, perfect lives. I read about Robin, the Jewish mother whose children attend daycare and private school, because she has an extraordinary ability to take the most ordinary of moments and spin them into magical tales with her gift for storytelling. I read about Ann and find hope that God can redeem even my deepest weaknesses. I read about Theresa as she balances her ideals and reality while raising three children under two. I read about Dulce as she speaks out to remind other Christians that we are called to treat our children as we would like to be treated. I read the passionate voices of Sarah, Megan, Rachel, and Jen. I follow the journeys of Melissa and Enigma. Even SouleMama encourages me to let go of perfection and embrace the scarred and weathered.

I can allow my self-worth to be determined in comparison to others, or I can find joy in letting go and living fully in the present - as fully as I can, flawed person that I am.

Today, friend, I want to celebrate you. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you do, however you live, whatever your passions, whatever your challenges. Whether your life is currently hard, wonderful, or somewhere in between. Because I know that most of us are just trying to live our lives in the way that feels best to us - and our doing so isn't a slight against those who do things differently. Keep sharing who you are and what's on your heart. The world needs your stories and your truth, whatever they may be.

32 comments:

  1. "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt. That is to say, if they read a blog and feel inferior, it's THEIR issue not the blog's.

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  2. An Everyday Miracle - I use that qoute all the time! lol

    Thank you for this Hippie Housewife - you've just put into words what my heart has been feeling for months.

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  3. Yes. If we want freedom for women we all need to be free to choose what works for us - even those who do things we may not because they seem like they would be just too hard. We need to open our understanding and realize that what is hard for one, fits like a glove for another. Continuing to accuse each other is hurtful and just perpetuates the alienation of women of different sorts. Because now somehow it is okay to say only a certain type of woman perpetuates this and they suck for making all other mom's feel bad. Frankly I also find value in reading other people's passions. They make me stretch, grow, investigate why one might value living a certain way - they do not make me feel inadequate. If we only read/hung around/valued those exactly like us, our world would be a pretty small and lonely (while feeling pretty vindicated) place.

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    1. Oh, so well said, Leah. Thank you. That's it exactly.

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  4. Deep sigh.... There was a movie quite a few years ago- before "blogs". It was about the lives of a few women. One of the women was suicidal & did in kill herself in the movie, the actress was JulieAnn Moore. I'm trying to think of the name of the movie...... Anyway- there were many people that DID NOT like the movie and there were others that LOVED it.... It's all about our different perceptions and experiences and attitudes that shape who we are. I became a single mother of nine children when my oldest was 14. It was completely hideous!!!!! I completely lost my mind!!!! I became homicidal and suicidal. Luckily no one perished. Six years later I unexpectedly had another baby.... She reminded me of who I really was. So, six years later- I am still essentially the person I always was.... But my perception and attitudes have greatly shifted. The "things" that I thought were "SO IMPORTANT" aren't nearly as important as I thought they were..... I still like the colour pink and adore my children. Just my perception and opinion- "Life is never easy!! But, it does not have to be as hard as I can make it!!" I'm a peace junkie now. Only five children at home now. Still single. I still struggle with moments of depression. I try to keep my life as simple as possible. I know how to say no without feeling guilty (well, sometimes) and I know my boundaries. Bottom line, it is up to me to decide what I will and will not do.

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    1. A peace junkie - I love that. Yes, it's so true, isn't out? Our boundaries are up to us. We choose what we will and will not take on. One woman's choices do not have to become our own if that's not what we want in our lives.

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  5. The problem is the WAY crunchy mamas bloggers discuss their choices. Saying you're having a homebirth and you're excited about it doesn't put me down, saying you're having a hoembirth because you love your children and don't want them to be born all drugged up DOES put down someone who's had an epidural. The insinuations made, intentional or not, matter. "I feed my children organic food because I love them." DOES imply that people who feed their kids conventional food don't love their children. It's rude. It's condescending. And it's really getting old.

    It's true that no one can make you feel anything. But it's also true that our words and language matter. They send messages to people. You can choose to hear or not hear that message, and you can choose to apply it to yourself or to not apply that same message. But what you choose to do with the message has no bearing on whether or not it was sent. Making implications about other people is rude. I choose not to read blogs of people who do that.

    I have a tendency to use language that is riddled with implications. It's a struggle, and I am working on it. But I fully accept my responsibility for the language I choose. And choosing to speak words that tear people down is my sin. It is wrong. And I will not pretend that it's the listeners fault for hearing something I said.

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    1. That right there is exactly what I mean. "...the way crunchy mama bloggers discuss their choices." All of them? Truly? They all discuss their choices in rude and condescending ways? And this is something that remains solely the domain of "crunchy mama bloggers"; non-crunchy bloggers never do the same thing? ("I'm giving birth in a hospital, of course, because I would never endanger my babies life by giving birth at home...")

      Choosing to speak words that tear people down is indeed a sin. But sharing our reasons for our choices is not tearing people down. Must we truly all keep our reasons to ourselves because someone else might read into them an implication that doesn't exist? I would have missed out on a lot of important insight - from crunchy and non-crunchy mamas alike - if they hadn't (politely, gently, non-condescendingly) shared the reasons behind their decisions. Whether or not I ultimately come to the conclusion that I agree with their reasons, the information and subsequent self-examination is immensely useful.

      We should all speak words of love and kindness. We should all understand that one person's choices - and reasons behind those choices - are not implying a criticism of our own different choices. Crunchy or not has nothing to do with it.

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    2. No, you are totally right. Not all crunchy mama bloggers do it. That attitude is prevalent in any group of people. My theory behind why crunchy mamas have gotten so tied up in it is this:
      Attachment Parenting, Natural Birth, Breastfeeding, all these theories and systems are research based. Usually correlational, not causal, but research based nonetheless. So our language *does* (IMO) tend toward the certain. The definite. XYZ is the best choice. When really, XYZ is the best choice for you (or me) given a specific set of circumstances.

      The relationship between implications and inferences has long been a tricky one. The significance and relevance of authorial intent has long been debated. This world of blogging brings about such an immediacy to the conversation that I think our tone and words choices become MUCH more difficult to regulate. It is so, so much easier to pop out a blog post without noticing the way it sounds to people listening from a different perspective.

      Do you remember those facebook messages that were supposed to bring about breast cancer awareness? The ones that said "I'm 9 weeks and craving chocolate!" People who were struggling with infertility were hurt over and over and over. The people posting those messages didn't mean anything by it, but people *were* hurt. I truly think that a lot of bloggers are doing the same things. Unintentionally, but successfully.

      The AP community may just be one population that happens to be a target right now, but we're also guilty of having committed those sins. Individuals maybe not, but as a whole I do think our rhetoric has taken that tone. As more individuals become aware of it and working to do better, our rhetoric will change and likely our reputation will follow.

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    3. I understand and agree with what you are saying. As I've said, we should all choose our words with love and kindness. You make an interesting point about the "crunchy" community tending towards the research-based and therefore by its very nature coming across as more hard-and-fast when it comes to best choices. However, all of those ideas are tangential to the attitude I was writing about.

      I was writing about those who tear down other bloggers simply because of the choices they make. Not because they're one of the bloggers who writes about those choices in a condescending tone. Not because those bloggers put down others in their striving to be right about everything. Not because those bloggers imply or infer or straight-out say anything about those who make different choices than they do. Rather, simply because those bloggers make those choices and write about their lives.

      There is absolutely nothing kind about suggesting that a blogger must be lying or putting on a show simply because her life seems to be "too good" (heaven forbid any of us enjoy motherhood!). There is nothing defensible about mocking those who enjoy crafting or cooking or even childbirth. There is nothing encouraging or positive about a caustic post tearing down those who make alternative choices simply because those choices are different than your own. One person's choices has no bearing on the validity of your own.

      Writing about the way people share their choices is one thing; tearing down others simply for making those choices is another thing entirely.

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  6. We are not just idealizing lofty platitudes. We are talking about ideals that we strive for. If we do not set ideals for how we should raise our families and live our lives, what then? Bloggers who share their ideals, in whatever sense, are constantly undergoing examinations of conscience...where could I improve, how could I deal with this better...it is a constant calling back to the ideal. Thank you for the post.

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    1. Oh yes. What a perfect way to phrase it.

      Can I also say what an encouragement it is to read blogs from mamas like you who have been there and come out on the other side with a healthy relationship with their grown children? I so appreciate the life experience behind your words.

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  7. Oh, my friend! I wa reading along and nodding and thinking to myself 'sing it, sister!' and 'this is exactly why I write out my imperfect life - because we need to share our imperfections maybe even more than our pure successes' and imagine my surprise when I found my own name right there in your serenade!!??!!

    I'm humbled. Thank you.

    (A small correction, though: my eldest isn't in public school -- she's in a private Jewish school. We want her learning the words of Torah and our prayers in Hebrew, just as I was fortunate to do as a child and my husband wished to have learned them.)
    (But- I believe very much in the public school system, and I'll tell you that during the early weeks, when the transition to school was still challenging us, I considered ditching my career to homeschhol her. I believe that a healthy community is based on the foundation of healthy families, and we each need to decide what's best for our own kids, and also support each other's decisions. And that's why I believe in the good of a supportive blogging community, and why I enjoy reading you, despite some fundamental differences between us.)

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    1. Ack! Look at me, not paying close enough attention. Correction made (thank you!).

      I do, though, very much remember those early weeks, feeling your pain during that difficult time of adjustment for her. It was amazing to watch her journey to the other side of that, and I am grateful that you shared that with your readers.

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    2. I don't think I ever explicitly said either way, until now. I don't think you missed anything :) it's a good example of this exact conversation, though -- we live in the highest ranked county school system in the state, and the state is ranked highest in the country. Arguably, our kids could get the very best public education the USA has to offer, and we spend thousands of dollars to send her elsewhere. Some people truly don't understand that choice, and criticize it. But our choice is ours to make -- Judaism is a communal religion, almost impossible to practice alone, and also faces astounding rates of assimilation, and so we immerse her (and one day, her sibs). And it's only money, right? :)

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  8. Oh, how I love this. Thank you for crafting such a thoughtful post and focusing on kindness. You have written what I have been thinking, although more eloquently. (Also, I'm pretty sure we may have read the same post recently. Just guessing.) I, too, love the ER quote a previous commenter included; I have it posted on my personal FB page, thinking of adding it to my blog as well. Thanks again for a wonderful post. It's encouraging to read other writing mothers and see their perspective. I don't feel intimidated, or inadequate, or offended, even when it's something I disagree with. I feel inspired. I feel moved to do things differently, or a renewed confidence in doing things my own way. I could go on, but I hear wee voices . . .

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    1. Well spoken, Momma. (And yes, I'm pretty sure we read the same thing as well!)

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  9. Whilst not a mom this spoke to my soul in a different way. I just had a moment reading this where I realized "I needed to hear this today."

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  10. Thank you for this really fantastic post! You speak for so many of us so well <3

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  11. I really enjoyed this post. Reading other blogs has really opened my eyes to new ideas and challenges me to consider new viewpoints and to truly analyze my own goals and desires within motherhood in order to ensure that I am being the mother that I want to be and not just the blogger I just read. It can be a new kind of peer pressure! But, I'd like to think that blogs are a way to encourage thought and a deeper understanding of one's goals. If you are truly offended by ideas in someone's blog and feel it a personally attack, then you are free to tell them so! And, I hope you do! I never imagined I would enjoy blogging or reading other blogs as I am typically a quite person, but I have found they are a completely new way for me to educate and express myself. Certainly not a lie!

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  12. I’ve seen this from both sides. I see moms who are very “traditional” offended by the “crunchy” moms, and I see “crunchy” moms offended by “traditional” moms. As I started my journey into gentle parenting, I could not read posts about spanking, because all of my doubts came rushing back and I worried that my kids would grow up into horrible monsters if I didn’t spank them. Then as I became confident in my non-spanking stance and started dealing with the pain from my own childhood, it physically and emotionally hurt to read posts that were positive towards spanking. Now I can read them and I’m OK, but I still have to be careful. I’ve had a similar journey with homeschooling stuff, I follow moms who homeschool, and I enjoy reading about their enthusiasm. But every so often I stop following a blog after they write several posts aggressively defending homeschooling as the only loving choice and how anyone who send their kids to school is brainwashed or whatever, because I was brought up believing that homeschooling was the only way, and it is still hard for me to think of sending my kids to school, even though I know it is the best option for us. All that to say, there are bloggers out there who write very aggressively positive posts on their own choices or scathing critiques of others choices, and it is up to me as the reader to decide what feeds me. I am not afraid to un follow someone whom it hurts me to read. And you have never been one of those bloggers. Thank you for your encouragement.

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  13. What a great entry. I couldn't agree with you more! I remember after having my daughter (and actually before having her when we realized we'd be doing an induction) I didn't want to write in my online diary because of fear of being judged. Then when I had an epidural there was mixture of relief and then the desire to not share my birth with my diary community because I knew people would judge me.

    I am all for women making informed choices (I side with the natural and plan to hold out all the way to 42 wks next time around) but the point is one shouldn't have those fears. You shouldn't be afraid your 'friends' are going to be negative and judge you for a choice you made.

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  14. These are wonderful, wise words. :)

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  15. Discovered your blog through the Introverted Church website. Enjoyed this post and certainly resonated with many of your experiences and thoughts.

    "Does speaking my truth somehow mean that I am being inauthentic, simply because your own truth may be different?" This is such an important question.

    One scripture in particular comes to mind as I read your post: 1 Corinthians 12 - One body, many parts. We all have a different role and are going to have unique talents, interests, and experiences.

    This question hit home with me as I've been on both sides of infertility in particular. On the one hand, I remember how it felt to see friends upon friends posting pictures of bellies and babies. I think the feeling was a sorrowful joy. I always felt incredible happiness for my friends yet there was an underlying longing in my heart. Then, once we were blessed to carry a child to full term, of course, I wanted to share my experience, this time, with a cautious joy as I wanted to be sensitive to those in the boat I once sat in.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Thank you for writing this blog. It resonated with me on many levels. After years of community in an online group of friends {we connected on a parenting website when we were all pregnant with our first children}, I decided to be really transparent about an area where I was struggling. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the path that conversation would ultimately take. To make a very long, emotionally damaging story short, several of the ladies {who I would've referred to as some of my closest friends, albeit only in the virtual world} began ripping me apart, limb by limb, accusing me of being judgmental and opinionated for sharing some of my choices {breastfeeding, choosing not to fully vaccinate, attachment parenting, not taking narcotic meds after a c-section because I didn't want to endanger my breastfeeding or bonding relationship with my newborn}. One gal even went as far as to say that I was "without tact". I was absolutely heartbroken, and it rocked me to the core of my being. In "real life", I had never been accused of being judgmental or opinionated. I really contemplated why, and determined two things: one, the written word can often be read in a different tone than it was originally intended; and two, perhaps I feel a greater freedom to share about my decisions when I'm writing {not getting interrupted every two sentences is empowering! ha!}.

    I love what mamapsalmist wrote about the "crunchy" choices being more research-based. I'd never thought about it that way. But yes- I have done tons of research about how I want to be a mom. So, when I make a decision, I feel a great deal of certainty {granted, any decision as a mom is subject to change at any given moment!}. Perhaps, then, when I share about a choice I've made, it comes across as being haughty or proud {in a negative way}, because I am so certain after doing hours of research.

    We all have the privilege and responsibility of doing our own research and making our own decisions. When reading about other people {especially other moms} and their choices, we would all do well {myself included} to refrain from assuming malicious intent. So hard.

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  17. Thank you. Just found your blog and I'm inspired :)

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