Sunday, January 22, 2012

Your Mommyblog Doesn't Wear Combat Boots

Last year, mommyblogs were all the rage, and Mormon mommyblogs were especially au courant. Slate published a shamefaced essay, written by a self-proclaimed feminist who couldn't tear herself away from all the shiny, happy young women who were photoblogging and writing love notes to their impossibly handsome husbands. Emily Matchar, the author of the Slate article, wrote about her cringe-y, self-judging relationship with these blogs: as a young feminist,she wasn't really looking to become a young stay-at-home wife and mother, making pom-pom garlands and jellies. But Matchar talked about craving the other side of the post-feminist discourse, the one that doesn't focus on BPA in the baby bottles, episiotomies, and work-life-balance fraught terror of screwing up your kids while your kid, in turn, ruins your own professional and personal life.

When these sprightly blogs cross my path,I fall on them like wolves on sheep. I want to read every entry of each blog, but as I go through and look at wedding pictures (the dresses are all sacks, the bride and groom are undergrads), I feel a creeping queasiness. I'm jealous...and also angry...and then glad they're not me...and then jealous again.

The Mormon mommyblogs seem so simple: gratitude flows from each entry. They're the polar opposite of most young people's personal blog. I've always had more glass-half-empty stuff to say, and online, it become very easy for a blog to become a litany of moody song lyrics, YouTube videos that will somehow express how I feel, links to bummer news stories, and Instagram posts of half-done crosswords, half-eaten meals, and half-drank pints. We're kind of a downer, at least on the internet. Compared to the mommyblogs, which feature sweeping images of the Utah mountainscape (so gorgeous I would consider converting just to live there [Not really. --Ed.]), my life is blah, boring. Their sun shines constantly.

One of my high school teachers once asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated. I shrugged and said, "I dunno, what are the qualifications for becoming a mom?" I've never actually had huge biological clock urges - even now I feel worried about things like baby weight and whether or not it's okay to let your infant just sleep on the floor (on a mat! I suspect the answer is still no, though). But there's something very primal and instinctual about becoming a parent. These young women have become more than parents, though. I would say that they're super-moms, but I don't mean that their parenting skills are any better than mine would be. They just seem to have their shit together, in a way that I am very far away from.

Part of the appeal of blogging, as Matchar points out, is that not everything you do, say, or think needs to make an appearance. My own blog, through sprawling in its scope, doesn't touch on everything, and the Mormon mommybloggers keep it even tinier. There are lovely photos of their young children and of large family parties. There are posts about pregnancy, and dinners with friends. There are video montages about Christmas. But their professional lives don't get mentioned - it's easy to imagine that these women spend all their time grooming their toddlers and choosing the perfect red lipstick, and that jobs are something for husbands and fathers, not for them. Larger social issues almost never get raised - these girls will never post about Mitt Romney or fiscal responsibility, not when their kids are doing something adorable.

The effect of these willful blind spots is that these writers seem to be transmitting from inside a snow globe - their lives are so beautiful, so magically perfect, that it's impossible to see if they work at the magic, and if they do, how hard. None of the seams show, but that also means there's no crack for me to sneak through. It's life, in a vacuum, with the perfect shade of red lipstick.

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