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Why "Worst Mom Ever" Soothes the Weary Soul

The need for mommy blogs
Why "Worst Mom Ever" Soothes the Weary Soul

It isn't supposed to be like this.

Thanks to serial childbirth and adoption, I was suddenly home with three children between the ages of two and four and a half. One day blurring into the next, I was overwhelmed by crying, laundering, fussing, feeding, bathing, and diapering.

And there were also the children's needs.

One afternoon, during the magical two minutes in which all three naps overlapped, it hit me: It isn't supposed to be like this.

Didn't women in days of old raise children and grow vegetables and bake bread together? If memory served, Laura Ingalls Wilder's mom did not wake up wondering, How much time can I kill today at the McDonald's climbing structure?

Around the same season of my life, feeling very lonely, I first learned the (now antiquated) phrase "web log."

Enter the mommy bloggers.

Over the last decade, mommy bloggers have taken off. Mashable reports that almost four million North American moms—one in seven—are blogging, with millions more reading. Whether sipping coffee over a tablet before leaving for the office, or peeking at smartphones while kids play at the park, millions of mothers today are getting our needs met in the virtual presence of other moms.

Worst. Mom. Ever.

A few days after Jen Hatmaker's May 2013 "Worst End of School Year Mom Ever" post went crazy-viral, an administrator at my kids' elementary school forwarded the post to a "select" group of parents. (Her carefully selected "worst moms" list? Possibly.)

The soul food we receive from mommy bloggers refreshes those of us who are exhausted from trying to appear a bit better than we actually are.

In it, Hatmaker confesses,

Yesterday Remy brought her books to me at bedtime—an hour notable for its propensity to incite rage and trauma—and chirped, "We need to read for 20 minutes!" and a little part of my soul died.

"No, we don't have to read tonight."

"YES WE DO!!! MRS. BURKE SAID!!! WE HAAAAVE TO!!!"

"We already read."

"NO WE DIDN'T!!! YOU ARE FAKING ME, MOM?"

"When I talk to you during the day, that's like reading. You have to listen to the words I am saying and then make sense of them. It's really hard work for you. It's called auditory reading. We've been practicing all day. I'll write the minutes down in your log."

Honestly, amidst the endless parade of progress reports, report cards, permission slips, reading logs, and violin-practice logs, that single post still helps me sleep at night.

A la Hatmaker, the recipe for a winning mommy blogger seems to be two cups of honesty, a measure of vulnerability, and a tablespoon of wicked hilarity. The soul food we receive from mommy bloggers refreshes those of us who are exhausted from trying to appear a bit better than we actually are. Truth be told, I am psyched to peek at another mom who blows her top the seventh time her toddler colors the dining room wall with a permanent marker. I'm secretly dying to know that other parents will toss Jell-O and Cheetos in front of their kids in lieu of the broccoli and tofu we lead others to believe we're serving. Show me a mom who's too exhausted and angry at bedtime to read Bible stories and pray with her kid? I'm in "bad mom" heaven.

The perfect mother myth

It hasn't always been this way.

The polar opposite of Hatmaker's delightful confession—and the honest gritty wisdom of other blogging moms I love and respect, like Rachel Macy Stafford and Kristen Welch—can be found in the 1940s women's magazines that were the staple in my grandmother's reading diet. As the world struggled to rebalance after the devastation of war, the pages of Woman's Day and Ladies' Home Journal were filled with images and stories of perfect women with perfect hair, perfect homes, perfect husbands, and perfect children. These pages that reflected a societal desperation to return to some form of "normal" were, I'm convinced, the very genesis of the "perfect mother" myth.

Now those of us crumpling under the pressure to appear as though we have it all together have been given the delicious freedom to admit the truth: our lives are messy.

I think it's fair to say my grandmother has no category for Jen Hatmaker.

And yet, as recently as yesterday, a friend's post on Facebook sort of bragged, "I am the worst mom ever!" (She had completely lost track of her child and didn't know he was missing, so she may actually qualify.) While women once wore "Perfect Mother" as a badge of honor, we now show off "Worst Mother Ever" with the same sort of pride.

Thank you, mommy bloggers.

It's not just Hatmaker. Recent headlines at Scary Mommy read:

  • "How to Survive as a Newly Single Parent"
  • "Being a Good Mom is Making Me a Bad Wife"
  • "Parental Attention Deficit Disorder"
  • "Celebrating Birthdays When Your Child is Autistic"

Now those of us crumpling under the pressure to appear as though we have it all together have been given the delicious freedom to admit the truth: our lives are messy.

Stuff that matters

Many of our families live out of state. We, or our mom-friends, spend most of our days in the workplace. Our single-family homes, especially in the suburbs, can be geographically isolated from neighbors. The reasons moms like us are hungry for what mommy bloggers offer is no secret: we desire community.

We long for connection, yes, and maybe also for something more. Mommy bloggers like Kristen Howerton also allow us to connect to things that actually matter. Over at Rage Against the Minivan, some of Howerton's most popular posts have included:

  • "Where is the Mommy War for the Motherless Child?"
  • "Six Reasons the #FitchtheHomeless Campaign is Problematic"
  • "The Inconvenient Truth About Your Halloween Candy and Forced Child Labor"
  • "You Don't Need to Adopt to Care for Orphans"
Though we want our lives to matter, the day-to-day grind of screwing on sippy-cup lids and folding endless piles of laundry sometimes makes it hard to recognize how they do.

Though we want our lives to matter, the day-to-day grind of screwing on sippy-cup lids and folding endless piles of laundry sometimes makes it hard to recognize how they do. And while many of our elders assure us we're doing "the most important work there is," the slogan can quickly wear thin. When the biggest achievement of my day was scouring vomit out of car seat crevices, writers like Howerton paint pictures of how I can be the person God made me to be at home, at the grocery store, and in the world.

Nothing new under the sun

Searching for someone who knows what our lives are like, and who might even be able to teach us a thing or two, is nothing new. Since the days when aunts and mothers and sisters were baking bread shoulder to shoulder—if those days ever really existed—we've always found substitutes for side-by-side mommy mentors.

The moms a generation ahead of me had the wickedly funny syndicated columnist Erma Bombeck, who quipped, "My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be." On the heels of Bombeck, parents found side-splitting relief in the stand-up comedy, and then actual network television living room, of Bill Cosby's "Cliff Huxtable" on The Cosby Show. Today, the wit and wisdom of mommy bloggers are as close as the cell phone in our back hip pockets.

What I do know is that in every generation, we're all doing the best we can.

And what we gain today from our favorite mommy bloggers is fourfold. In their daily posts we receive:

  1. Companionship: "I'm not alone."
  2. Relief: "Today, my best is enough."
  3. Purpose: "I can make a difference in the world God loves."
  4. Hope: "Hmm . . . maybe that will work for me too."

Would I have been less lonely when my kids were littles if I could have worn a shirt declaring I was a "Monkee," a fan of Glennon Melton's Momastery blog? Would raising my kiddos have been easier if I had some of these mommy-blogging friends, like the ones over at MOPS at my fingertips? Maybe. Maybe not. What I do know is that in every generation, we're all doing the best we can.

And, today, that's the good gift of mommy bloggers to moms like me . . . and you.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.

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