I saw an all-call on Facebook this week from a fellow craft blogger who is fairly connected in social media circles. She was soliciting input for an article for a large media outlet and posed the following question: “Are the Mommy Wars over? Or are moms still judging moms?”
I’d never heard that term before, but knew immediately what she meant.
So after reading the thoughts of fellow craft/mommy bloggers and leaving my two cents, I emailed the reporter. Here’s what I wrote:
Yes, the war (if you want to call it that) still rages on with both sides gaining ground using the same weapon: social media. The pervasiveness of blogs, twitter and Facebook make the crushing weight of comparison available at a mouse click. The glossy, air-brushed triumphs of the moms on screen are often weighed against our own un-showered, weakest moments. The context and perspective are lost, leaving in its wake the damaging illusion of perfection. However, this same medium is being used more and more as a voice for women to drop the illusions, ‘keep it real’ and bravely reveal their short falls, fears and insecurities. Interviews I’ve read in the last few months from a few prominent mom-bloggers reveal that their ‘here’s where I lost it/came apart/totally failed’ posts resonate most with their readership. On my own blogs, I’ve found this to be true as well. This message of being compassionate and patient with ourselves and others is a welcomed counter balance to envying the Jones and their blogspot.
It’ll be interesting to read the article when it comes out and see what direction the finished piece takes. But for now, the question of moms judging moms has been spinning in my head, helping me bring together thoughts about several things that I’ve been thinking about for the past few months—appearances, judging and chasing the illusion of perfection.
A while back my camera went missing. For days I couldn’t find it until one night Mr. Thrive found it in the bottom of our closet … in his guitar case. Naturally.
It was pretty clear that some little body had snuck it back there and played with it for awhile. When Mr. Thrive pulled it out, the new long-life batteries were almost dead, the lense had been messed with and all of the settings had been tweaked. But the worst part was that all 118 images on there were gone. About half of the pictures I could live without, but I had spent hours on a tutorial and had lost all of it. Given the recovery location, I was sure it was kid #5 who walked off with the camera and did all the damage. And though I was so bummed about what was lost, I was surprised by how not mad I was.
I’d been in a funk over the camera thing and surprised by how much this small love turned huge passion meant to me. I’d missed recording some pretty cool things in our family’s life that week and it bothered me. I was seeing how this medium of blogging and photography was helping me finally keep something of a record of this one wild, crazy and precious life I get. Loosing my camera that week felt a little bit like loosing a part of my history—in a very small way, sure—but a piece nonetheless.
I’d been so inspired by the photography of my cousin’s wife and especially love the pictures of her kids. Not only does she capture their souls, but the way in which she does that with her camera also captures her love for them as a mother.
A while back she and her husband almost lost their son to bacterial meningitis. Seeing their son in his ICU bed, in the back of an ambulance and hooked up to wires was heart wrenching—yet they captured this experience in pictures and later wrote about that experience.
“I needed to record the whole process as part of my life, as difficult as it was. This is my life, and perhaps these would have been our final moments. These images would have been even more priceless to me: those last memories of feeling my baby breathing. Whatever they were, I wanted them remembered forever.”
A lot of people openly questioned how she could take pictures during moments like that, let alone share them. But I understood why she felt compelled to record and then share these moments amidst tears.
We are the Facebook, Twitter and TV Generation; a generation that is used to both carefully packaged programming and live on the scene coverage that records life as it happens. And taking pictures is what we do–how we record what happens around and to us. I bet most of us have hundreds of pictures of our family’s life and history, but little journaling or written stories. Blogs and scrapbooks have become a new way to start recording and capturing our lives so that our children and grandchildren will have a record of what we went through.
But part of that new form of recording seems to gloss over the painful and uncomfortable.
In our desire to paint the illusion of the perfect life, perfect family and perfect experiences, the imperfect but powerful forces in our lives are too easily deleted. And what doesn’t get deleted, we wouldn’t dare share: Don’t let them see me weak. Don’t let them see this mess. Don’t let them see this pain or struggle or hurt.
A few years ago I would never have taken pictures of myself stressing over bills or broken down on the side of the road. But today I probably would so that I could look back and remember how precious life is … how difficult moments have an amazing ability to immediately reorder priorities and clear away the crap in our lives … to remember how much we love our kids despite the messes and whining and drama and work, and how shattered we’d be if it was ever gone.
I reread a post this morning on my family blog that I’d wrote a while back on one of my lowest days as mom. I was trying to put into words why I felt driven to record a moment that was hard to look back on, “… to acknowledge that ‘I was here today,’ even if today sucked…” and I think that’s exactly it. In every experience, good or bad, I need to record that I was here today, even if today sucked.
I think it’s why I cried and snapped pictures and cried and snapped pictures when my two youngest wound up in the hospital, just weeks apart.
I think it’s why I drug my camera along for the ride one Thursday when I fought back tears as I was bombarded by broken water lines and standing water and kid barf and vermin and three back-to-back tantrums by three different kids in three different stores all before lunch time–and then felt compelled to blog about it.
I was here today, even if today sucked.
And I can’t help but look back at history and wonder how different it would be if those accounts were recorded scrapbook or blog style with the goal to impress, not recount honestly.
What if all we had from Washington crossing the Delaware was a smiling group shot of the troops in Trenton?
by Peter Fiore, from When Washington Crossed The Delaware by Lynn Cheney
What if no one recorded how bad the storm that night was, or how trapped the American troops were, or cropped carefully around the shoeless feet of those hungry troops who nearly froze to death on the march there because no one wanted to remember just how bad it was?
Or what if the only record we had of the Martin and Willy handcart companies was a picture of the group heading out and then arriving in the valley?
“Ever Onward” by Joseph Brickey
What if no one recorded just how bad the storm was that pressed in on them, or how devastating their losses in the Cove were, or the impassioned words of Brigham Young to go rescue those stranded on the plains, or the courage of those brave men who risked their lives crossing the icy river to bring those pioneers home?
How different would our lives be, even generations later, if we didn’t know what they went through?
Those moments that are the hardest to record–the ones we want to look back on the least–are the ones that mold us, shape us, steel us and sanctify us. They are our Delawares and Martin’s Coves … those places were we are tried, tested, broken and delivered … the places were we find our faith and our God and our strength to keep going.
I was here today …
I’m feeling more and more that the greatest favor I can do my for children, my posterity and especially myself is to be honest and complete as I record this time we have together. Otherwise I worry that the scrapbooks, blogs and status updates I leave behind will be at best, just a hollow highlight reel that teaches them and me nothing, or at worst, a devastating weapon of illusion that another woman uses to beat herself down with. It’s time lower those weapons of false perfection, step away from the air-brush and ease up on the cropping. It’s time to raise up the camera, even if there’s toys on the floor, dirty faces or faces without make-up–and share them. It’s time to be more patient and forgiving of ourselves and trust that others will be, too.
I was here today …
So as I sit here un-showered at the computer this morning with my flat caffeine-free Diet Pepsi, bed head and Mother’s Day hash browns, I issue a reminder call to all of us out there to take a deep breath and embrace the imperfect, un-edited version of our lives and share them—please.
Stuff Doesn’t Matter. Life is Precious and Short. Perfection comes in every shape and size.
I was here today.
Happy Mother’s Day from me and my imperfectly, perfect crew.