Mothering as Me: My Battle With Blog Envy

I love parenting blogs. Blogs about moms who home school and only use wooden toys and spend their evenings working on family knitting projects around the fire. And the ones by artsy moms who give their kids access to every possible art supply and have funky paint-splattered studios where their children make monumental messes while creating four feet sculptures from recycled treasures. I love reading about families who integrate spirituality into their daily rhythms and have gratitude cards wrapped in raffia on their dining room table… beside the Gathering Candle…and the freshly baked multigrain bread. Or the ones who create enchanted outdoor play spaces for their children, lined with baskets of wood chips and pinecones, where their children craft fairy houses and wear gauzy white dresses. Or who are living on a local whole-food-only diet. Or instill a life-long passion for writing in their children by plastering words everywhere on quaint chalkboards and giant whiteboard walls and have writing nooks in every room.
And not only do I enjoy reading about their days, I love the photos. All those artistic close-up shots of jam jars and baby toes and aerial views of a table of three year olds finger painting, taken with a top-of-the-line SLR camera, no doubt, or a really cool vintage film camera. Or sketched by the mom on a piece of handmade paper while holding a baby on her hip and revising her new book being published this summer.
It’s just all so inspiring and lovely that I spend hours perusing the blogs, jumping from one to the other like an addict, jotting down recipes and craft ideas and new life philosophies. You would think that after all that inspiration I’d be, well, inspired. And a little more of an artsy/peaceful/healthy/ active/organized/spiritual mom, at the very least. But the truth is that one evening of idealistic family-life voyeurism sends me into a tailspin of self-loathing, and when I finally break away from the computer screen, I head straight into the kitchen to eat frozen cookie dough out of a toxic plastic container and lament my failures as a mother.
I’m not trying to disparage all those amazing blogging moms. I’m sure their lives really are just that wonderful-though hopefully not quite all the time- and that their children are benefiting in countless ways from the magical childhood they’re creating. I’m just not one of them.
God knows I try. Just recently I ordered a pile of beautiful wooden toys from Germany for my four month old daughter, determined that this time around, my baby wouldn’t suck on cheap BPA-infused plastic. She humoured me by glancing at them and even holding them for a while when I dangled them in her face. But it didn’t take long for me to wash off the ratty hand-me-down plastic rattle that her older sisters have been chewing on for years, because it’s just so much more satisfying to suck on than those clunky non-toxic wooden balls.
I have a candle on my dining room table, but I only remember to light it once a month or so, and it usually causes an argument about who gets to blow it out and someone keeps sticking toast crusts through the holes in the candle holder. There’s our enchanted outdoor playspace, which is an old plastic table on the lawn, littered with yoghurt containers and fast food spoons. I haven’t quite managed to whip up those gauzy dresses yet, so my daughters are still wearing their cheap sweatshop-produced t-shirts. Occasionally, I try to take artistic photos of the girls engrossed in their play dough but the lighting is always grainy, and against all my better judgment, I just can’t help but commanding that they turn and smile, ruining the magical moment every time. And newly inspired by a healthy, happy, yuppie family blog, I recently even made a commitment to serve only whole foods to my family. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet gone grocery shopping for the week. My husband called to say he’d be home for lunch but it needed to be quick, and within four measly hours of my noble commitment, I was boiling a pot of macaroni and cheese. (And it wasn’t the organic kind).
On and on it goes. I have so many noble ideals and keep gathering more and more ideas but somehow they never fully translate into my reality. I could use the excuse that I have three girls under the age of five, but half the blogging moms I read have five children, with twins on the way, and home school the oldest two. The truth is even when I had just two- okay, even when I didn’t have any children at all- I wasn’t knitting by the fire or baking my own bread or tending an organic garden. So why in the world do I think that if I just read a few more blogs and jot down a few more ideas I’ll suddenly be one of those moms? And not just one of them- I want to be all of them, if I’m honest. Which is exactly the problem: I want to be someone- a mom, a woman, a person- that I’m not. And when I admit that to myself I realize just how ridiculous and harmful all my blog envy is. Because even more than being artistic, healthy, earthy, organized, or inspiring, I want to be authentic. I want to be a great mom, but I want to do it as me, with all my strengths and foibles and macaroni and cheese lunches.
Which is why the other night, after a particularly deflating round of blog posts, I turned off the computer and sat down with a good old-fashioned pen and blank piece of paper (store bought, you can be assured). I drew a big lopsided circle in the middle and labelled it Parenting. Then I wrote down my main parenting values- the things I really do care about and want for my children. The list wasn’t overly profound- lots of unstructured play, exposure to music, a culture of empathy. I included creativity and time outdoors, but envisioned it on a realistic scale: a basket of accessible washable markers, lots of masking tape, our outdoor plastic table. I listed prayers and silence, lots of reading, and high, consistent expectations. That’s it. That was my list. And as I wrote, I finally felt inspired. Not by someone else’s version of mothering, but by my own. It’s not that I don’t want to grow as mother or that my list won’t change in a few months. I still sit down at the computer looking for a new breakfast cookie recipe or art idea involving toilet paper rolls. However, I refuse to get sucked into the demoralizing cycle of trying to imitate someone else’s blog life. I’d rather spend that time actually mothering. As me.

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