Monday, January 24, 2011

meet heather


This is my friend Heather. She and I are kinda soulmates. Last year I went over to hang out at her house and we lost track of time and I ended up staying until 4 in the morning. She originally posted this to her blog about a week ago, but her blog is private so not very many people had the chance to read it. I really liked it. It's about an article that has been making its way around the worldwide web and getting a lot of attention. 

{p.s. does the title "meet heather" remind anyone else of those American Girl books?}

I had some thoughts after reading this article about Internet Culture and "Why I can't stop reading Mormon housewife blogs."

While I appreciate her general "praise" of Mormon Mommy Bloggers, I thought some of her conclusions were a little misguided.
I had an interesting experience this past week. My next-door neighbor, whom I've had "hi" "goodbye" contact with, recognized me from a popular "Mormon (non-mom) Blogger"'s blog. She didn't know the girl behind the blog, but she knew me...the girl in the blog, standing outside "her" apartment complex, next to "her" lake.

I realized right then and there, the blogging world is a lot closer to home than I thought.
She, like the author of this article, is "completely obsessed with their blogs. On an average day, [she'll] skim through a half-dozen Mormon blogs, looking at Polaroids of dogs in raincoats or kids in bow ties, reading gratitude lists, admiring sewing projects." Blogs of women she has never met yet knows an odd amount of personal information about.
It's this premise that I'm going to talk about. The idea that they 'think they know' about these women and what life as a Mormon would be like by reading their blogs, or being married to an ex-member of the church.

I think what this "from the outside in" article seems to be missing is the understanding that some Mormon Mom's have the understanding of what "life in the real world" is all about. That some Mormon Mom's are just as "overly-educated" as she claims to be. She seems to think that they're ignorant to what life in the working, godless, world means (not that the world outside of Mormonism is godless, the author just labels herself as an atheist). That somehow these blogs are a look into the simple kind of life completely ignorant of the world around them.
She tells that her friend G. says, of her fascination with Mormon lifestyle blogs,

"'I'm just jealous. I want to arrange flowers all day too!' She doesn't, really. She's just tired from long days spent in the lab, from a decade of living in a tiny apartment because she's too poor from student loans to buy a house, from constant negotiations about breadwinning status with her artist husband. It's not that she or I want to quit our jobs to bake brownies or sew kiddie Halloween costumes. It's just that for G., Mormon blogs are an escapist fantasy, a way to imagine a sweeter, simpler life."

Instead of viewing Mormon Mom's as existing in a fantasy land, I would view it as a choice. A choice of how you can live your life if you choose family, God, and happiness. And, according to her, homemade Halloween costumes, robot themed birthday parties, and cupcakes.

My view of being a stay-at-home mom is that I chose to be a mom, so that is what I want to be. I don't view it as competing to "have it all." Or even a rejection of having it all. I view it as a conscious choice to be a mom. I don't think you can be a mom, when you're not being a mom. You can't say you're a better chef when you're not in the kitchen actually cooking. That's what I don't get about the argument that taking a "break" via a 9-5 job makes you a better mom. You're not there for 8+ hours of your kid's life. Assuming that they're awake for 11 hours a day, that's 3 hours that you're "on the job." I just don't understand it.

The author of this blog rejects the idea that she is drawn to the Mormon Mom world because she might actually buy in to the idea that you "can't have it all." She says:

"'There's been a lot of talk in recent years about 'the New Domesticity' -- an increasing interest in old-fashioned, traditionally female tasks like sewing, crafts and jam making. Some pundits see this as a sign that young women yearn to return to some kind of 1950s Ozzie and Harriet existence, that feminism has 'failed,' that women are realizing they can't have it all, after all.' That view is utterly nonsense, in my opinion..."

However, she doesn't have kids yet. She hasn't made that choice of mom or career. I think more people need to look at motherhood as their full-time job rather than a side-job. I don't understand what is more important than being just that, a mom. If you're not being mom, then someone else is doing the job. It could be daycare, it could be grandma, it could be anyone else besides you, but why would you choose that? I know that not everyone has a choice. There is death, there is abuse, there is addiction, there is adultery. Those complicate the situation. But with those situations there is still the choice to be a mom. And sometimes choosing to be a mom is choosing not to "have it all" but to "have what is most important."

I don't think the author of this article is trying to be demeaning or patronizing, but I feel that she is a little misguided in her assumptions of what it means to be a Mormon Mommy Blogger and why life looks the way it does on the computer screen. She seems to think it's not real life, and while yes, not every part of someone's life is put up on the computer screen...what you see is real. It might be the happier times, but they are real.

I'm sure I've been, inadvertently, satirized all over the blog "Seriously So Blessed," but in general...the average blog-going American really is blessed.

I just think there's more to her love for "Mormon Mommy" lives than just a fun little escapism habit.


Holly said...

1. Yes, your title did remind me of the American Girl books. I guess your purpose in life has been achieved?

2. I love what your friend wrote. She had some really interesting ideas and insights, especially on what it really means to be a mother and how it's a full-time commitment, not an on-the-side job. Thanks for sharing. :)

Heather Lee said...

thanks girl. I do feel like we were MFEO, or at least meant to be life long friends.
I appreciate your support with my thoughts. I got some "heat" for it on my OWN PRIVATE blog, but really no harm in standing for what you believe in. And just a little * I wasn't coming up with these thoughts to attack working mothers, I was defending the choice to be a stay-at-home mom.
I learn a lot from you. Really really value your friendship and opinion. Still a little mad you didn't buy the other set of our friendship rings.

Kristin said...

I read the post Heather talks about last week and had a lot of the same reactions to the writer's condescending attitude toward stay-at-home-moms, women who've supposedly dropped out of the real world to make crafts all day. Obviously no sane progressive woman could live without a 9-5 office job/full-time course load/anything besides raising children. Taking care of kids is sooo Ozzie and Harriet, don't they just raise themselves these days?

I just don't appreciate sweeping generalizations and judgments like these. But I really liked your response, Heather -- I hadn't been able to articulate to myself what bothered me about it as well as you did.

Thanks for reposting, M.C.! Loves to you both.

Margaret said...

I didn't want to respond to this because (a) I'd rather talk to you in person next week so there would be more of a dialogue than monologue, (b) others might judge me based on what I wrote, (c) there is so much to say about this article and commentary, and (d) there are too many points I want to make (in case you haven't noticed already).

But to sum up, the core of my thoughts is that I hate the limits of empathy. Because my personality meshes so well with Provo Mormon culture (or clashes head on), I have difficulty understanding mindsets outside of what I know and have experienced. Sometimes I wish I felt passionately enough about the outliers so I could truly understand the struggles of both worlds. Yanno?