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Do inspiring blogs make you feel bad about yourself?

by Meagan Francis on August 20, 2012

mom blogs

When The Frugal Girl’s post “You Don’t Have To Be Good At Everything” post popped into my email box the other day, I found myself nodding along. It reminded me of a post I wrote around this time last summer, arguing that when inspiring blogs (or Pinterest) make us feel less-than or depressed, it may be because we’re imagining an Ideal Mother on the other end who just doesn’t exist. Here’s the post!

I have always been drawn to inspirational writing. The way I see it, my house is already full enough of sarcasm and peed-on toilet seats, and the world is already full of enough hardship and mundane details. I don’t need to seek that stuff out. When I read I want to feel uplifted, encouraged, that life is full of beauty and possibility.

Of course, there’s always a downside to seeking all that beauty and possibility. When you’re drawn to inspiring writing and inspiring people, it’s easy to start wondering if you’re really good enough, just the way you are (the way you REALLY are, too, not the way you would like to be.)

When I was a new mom – in the days before blogs – I joined a online mothering forum. The group was made up of dedicated, passionate mothers who discussed and debated the finer details of, well, everything, from birth to breastfeeding to babywearing to cloth diapering to positive parenting to education to communal living to organic farming to green toys to natural skin care to political activism to volunteerism.

Everything. No details were left un-examined, no opinions left unshared. The ideals and passion in that group were amazing, and energizing, and dynamic. And because I so admired some of the stronger, more ardent voices in the group, I convinced myself that a) every mother embraced each of the others’ ideals equally (so, for example, I somehow internalized that because one of them was committed to an all-organic raw diet, they all were)  b) that because they held to their opinions so fervently they were right, and c) that their strongly-held values and opinions were also their daily reality.

Sometimes I believed that because the mother in question conveniently forgot to mention the parts where she struggled and fell short of her own ideals.

But often, I believed it because I wanted to believe it. Because if they could do it – create these lives that measured up to all their passions and convictions – well, I could, too. (Right….?)

At first, all that possibility was exciting and heady. Later, I became depressed and disillusioned. As it turned out, I didn’t have enough energy or passion or time or money to live the life I had wanted to believe others were living. And I started to realize that a whole lot of them weren’t exactly the people I had wanted to believe they were. You know. Perfect.

I was thinking of that the other day while clicking through a roster of inspiring mom blogs: the kind I like to pore over, filled with photos of interesting craft projects (that I will probably never do) and recipes for uber-wholesome tofu-and-sprout snacks (that my children would probably never touch). And I thought about people I’ve talked to who have told me that these kind of blogs make them feel bad about themselves.

It got me thinking: With whom does the responsibility for “feeling bad” lie?

And I have been thinking about it ever since. As a blogger who writes to inspire, albeit in a different way than the craft blogger or the healthy-food blogger, what is my responsibility to my readers? What is the crafty blogger’s or the foodie blogger’s or the positive-parenting blogger’s responsibility to me?

Here’s what I think I’ve worked out: writers – and, in a larger sense, all of us mothers – have the responsibility to share honestly, not to paint our lives as something they’re not. That means acknowledging that while we might be really great at some things or really passionate about others, we don’t “do it all” and we all fall short. Some writers are great at this. I love, for example, how bloggers like SouleMama and Kelle Hampton note right in their FAQs that their blogs are a small portion of their lives – the parts of their lives they want to celebrate and document – not the whole story.

But as a reader, I have a responsibility, too. If I’m going to read blogs that move me to do better, to try new things, to seek beauty and patience and creativity and possibility, I have to allow those bloggers to inspire me without hanging my self-worth on whether my actual life measures up to the (probably unfairly ideal) image I’ve created of theirs. I have to own not just my choices, but the values that lead me to those choices. And I need to not just accept, but embrace my limits, and allow my priorities – my priorities, not anyone else’s – to guide the decisions I make.

Following the “green living” example, am I a hypocrite if I work hard to get my family to recycle more and reduce waste, but also use disposable diapers? Or if I sometimes let my kids dunk their locally-grown carrots in HFCS-laden ranch dressing? Or if I can’t really ever see myself robbing our emergency fund so that I can buy the children only organic-cotton clothing? I don’t think so. My conscience feels clear on the trade-offs I’ve made.

At the same time, I think recycling and reducing and natural foods and reducing pesticides are wonderful goals, and I am grateful for the mothers who feel so strongly about those things that they are willing to be the passionate voices inspiring me to do a little better, a little better, a little better.

It’s not another blogger’s responsibility to make sure I feel great about my life when I visit her online home. Only I can do that, and the first step is getting really clear about what my values really are, and what choices I am able and willing to make to support them – doing as well as I can with the resources I have at any given time, and leaving my defensiveness at the door so that other people’s lifestyles and opinions don’t feel like a personal commentary on mine.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that what I’m drawn to is not a specific lifestyle, or parenting style, or perfection. What I am drawn to is people living out their convictions, seeking their own personal bests, carving out a life that fits their values.

But their values do not have to be my values.

And my priorities can only be decided by me.

It’s true: I have high ideals. But they are backed by merely human resources. And that’s okay. Life is not an all or nothing proposition. It’s okay to look to others for ideas and information without adopting their values wholesale. It is also okay to have ideals of my own that I can’t – or choose not to - always live up to. 

Because what other mothers do isn’t about me, and it need not a prescription for the way I live my life. We all have our limits. We all have the issues we’re willing to go to the mat for, and those that just don’t matter to us that much, or those we will get to later, or those we simply don’t have the time or energy to get really educated about right now, or those that will just never get us excited enough to give them much thought. The better we know ourselves, the easier it is to recognize whether that twinge of “not good enough” feeling is coming from an imaginary lizard-brain critic, or whether it’s a quiet nudge from our own best selves.

So, those inspiring blogs? I say keep ‘em coming. Because to me, encouragement is just as important as raw, in-the-trenches accounts or been-there-done-that commiseration. And it’s just as real, too.  Inspiring blogs speak to us because our deepest selves want to do better, want to be better. Not perfect. Not ideal. Just… a little better, in whatever ways we choose, in whatever ways matter to us.

Personally? I’m grateful for the reminder.

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{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

susie August 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm

great article! sometimes when I look on facebook and see other photos of families doing fun things I get a little jelous, then I realize that they probably have just as many home days as us… a photo is just one second of their lives.

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Shan@FamilyBringsJoy August 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I am SO with you on this! This is excellent! I wish I had your talent with writing, however, I know we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Maybe over time I will be able to express my thoughts into my writing as you do. Recently I just tweeted this: Instead of comparing yourself, say “I want to do that.” “I like that!” I think as soon as we begin comparing ourselves, WE are responsible for our feelings of inadequacies. We have the power to feel one way or another. Blogs have inspired me to do things I never thought I would ever do…and for that I am extremely grateful!

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Hands Free Mama August 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Oh, the timing on this post is couldn’t be better. Thank you for delving into this sensitive topic so thoughtfully. Someone who was recently critiquing my writing told me that while reading my inspirational blog she sometimes gets the “I am better than you” message. I was crushed. It was so far from what my readers tell me when they say how much they love my realness and admire how I am willing to share my imperfections and struggles. It was what I promised myself when I started writing … just be honest; just be real. So tonight your words helped me put this other person’s hurtful comment into perspective. I am “living out my convictions and seeking my personal best” (as you stated so beautifully) and I need not hang my head about that. THANK YOU!!!!!

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 6:54 am

I definitely think of you as somebody who is inspiring but also very “real”, Rachel, and very accepting of other people having different opinions/priorities than you do. Keep on keeping on!

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Hands Free Mama August 31, 2011 at 8:45 am

Thank you, Meagan. That truly means a lot coming from someone who I see as beautifully authentic!

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Lisa August 30, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I like inspiring blogs, but I need to balance them with the very honest, “it’s not always” easy type of blogs, or books, or even conversations. I also find I have to make sure I pepper my reading with some Mothers of Multiples blogs and some with Moms or parents dealing with special needs kids. If I were to solely look at inspiring blogs, it would be easy for me to forget some of the valid reasons I can’t always do what I’d love to do in my home and with my family.

If I sense myself heading toward too much comparison to others at all, I find it’s best to take some time away altogether and gather my focus back through my own spiritual activities – like prayer, meditation, etc. I also find that I could never live without my tight real life mom friendships. Is there anything better than laughing with a close friend over a nice glass of wine? I think not. :-)

(unless it’s my kids…, but then, not with the wine…aww okay, I digress…)

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Jennifer August 30, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Funny, I read 3 blogs regularly…Soulemama, Kelle Hampton and yours. I find all three calming and beautiful. I don’t feel bad or incompetent, just inspired. I dream of having a money making blog that supports my family so I can homeschool and can my own veggies from my organic garden. To write my own book on mothering…to tell my story. But, my reality right now does not include these things. I am a 1st grade teacher trying to balance a career and 4 kids and pay our mortgage on our new house in a crumbling economy. And you know what…I’m OK with that. So, until I can write a book and blog that earn enough family income so that I can stay home again…I wake up everyday at 5:15, get myself and my 4 kids ready and out the door for school, teach all day and come home and do the best I possibly can for my family. I can live vicariously for now…keep the inspiring blogs coming!

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Elizabeth @claritychaos August 30, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I hear you, and love this comment.

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Jennifer Margulis August 30, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I, too, am totally inspired by this comment. And I love Meagan’s blog! (It’s probably the only ‘mom blog’ I read regularly.) One of my other favorites is PROJECT HAPPILY EVER AFTER, which is a marriage blog by Alisa Bowman that always inspires me (probably b/c she’s so honest about her shortcomings and such a kind, generous person.)

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Kim August 30, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I found a mommy forum in 1999. And some of the women I met there are still with me today. They are the ones who could accept that the big picture of motherhood is healthy, happy moms and kids. And there are about a zillion different ways to get there. Now a couple of us are grandparents and some of our” newbies” are still in the toddler stage. And it is all good!

One other thing. I live in Utah, second driest state in America. Water is a most precious resource. Disposable diapers are a green choice!

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Karen L August 31, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Kim, yes, I loved it when I learned that the answer to the question of whether disposable or cloth is the more environmentally correct option is: it depends.

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PlanningQueen August 30, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Really loved this post. People blog for different reasons. For some bloggers it is cathartic for them to share their inner most details and turmoil. For others it is about passing on tips of what has worked for them in the hope it helps someone else or something completely different again.

Through a blog you cannot see all of a person – you see what they choose to share. And I think you are 100% right, that is up to us as readers how we choose to take this information. I want to be better at being a parent and I love reading about how others are going about their family life with success.

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RookieMom Whitney August 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I Love This Post.

Superhero Andrea tackled a very similar topic this week: http://www.superherodesigns.com/journal/archives/002231.html

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Meagan Francis August 30, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for that link! She wrote a great post, and interesting discussion afterward.

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agirlandaboy August 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Well said, and I couldn’t agree more!

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jenny August 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Thank you for this! I enjoyed reading every single word. I began my online life with a message board and I swear my husband heard about the “March Mommie’s” every hour. Then I transitioned into blogging and it can be a struggle if you let it…or simply inspirational if you don’t! This was the first post from anywhere I’ve loved enough to share…thanks!

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Adventures In Babywearing August 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Same here. I’m so grateful for the reminder and I often am the one in need of a good butt kicking to get up and DO something I love already. You know what? They INSPIRE. That’s what I need! :)

Steph

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Elizabeth @claritychaos August 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Meagan, I love this and shared it on facebook. I think for non-blogging/non-blog-reading people, facebook itself does this same thing. You see who is going out for girls nights out, play dates, what families are up to, who has beautiful shots of themselves in beautiful places, where they’ve checked in… and of course it’s the fun stuff, the pretty stuff. I think it’s good to remind ourselves it’s not the whole picture. We need the reminder repeatedly.

I wrote last November about my own personal experience with the online facade – http://www.clarity-chaos.com/2010/11/disclaimer.html Thought you might be interested, given the topic and discussion here.

best,
elizabeth

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hannah singer August 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm

i LOVE this.
thanks so much, for communicating so richly to me through this!

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Wendy August 30, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I remember hearing once (at BlogHer? somewhere else?) that so often when we are reading blogs and getting that feeling that we don’t quite measure up “We are comparing our worst to someone else’s best.” That one sentence entirely changed the way I view other bloggers and their blogs. I love reading about other people’s best ideas and projects and I’m so happy they are willing to share it with me so I can decide if I want to try something similar.

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 6:52 am

Yes, Wendy! It was a panel at Mom 2.0. Erica Diamond of Women on the Fence said it and I was so struck by the quote (seriously, it sticks with me still today!) I wrote about it here: http://thehappiestmom.com/?p=3160

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Adventures In Babywearing August 31, 2011 at 6:58 am

I remember that! Yes! And I have to say that I prefer to give my readers the benefit of the doubt- I’m not going to add a disclosure to my happy pretty posts that I also have crappy days. I think and hope everyone gets that.

Steph

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Wendy September 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

OK, I guess I heard it from *you* because I wasn’t at Mom 2.0! Ha. It had a big impact even 2nd hand though…

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Wendy @ mama one to three August 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm

When I became a mother finding friends and inspiration that spoke some kind of truth to me became essential. Critical even as I was so unhinged by the experiences of early motherhood. I appreciate and love those women that speak their truths, even and sometimes especially when they aren’t necessarily the same as mine. I hope that if there is anything I can achieve through blogging — besides meeting cool people — it is adding my own humor and honesty to our common experiences of struggle and triumph. That said, I still read blogs and think “wow I am not that good.” I am human. I live to be better.
Great post; thanks.

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Robyn Beazley August 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Absolutely AMAZING blog Meagan! From a “new” follower :)

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Angela S. August 30, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I can really relate to this post. Some mom blogs make me feel a little bad about myself and others inspire me. I agree that it’s important to blog transparently and not make our lives appear to be something that they aren’t. If someone is blogging and they are being honest, and it makes me feel bad about myself, that’s my problem. I tend to compare myself to others more than I should. It’s important to remember to be unique and embrace who I am and not try to be the lady behind some awesome blog I read.

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Jenny Meyerson August 30, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I LOVED this post and my husband and I discussed it at length tonight at dinner. I see this from a couple of perspectives. The first is that reality is tough. Everyone has tough issues in their lives and obstacles to overcome. When I go to a blog I want a balance of an authentic voice peppered with optimism. So if I go to a parenting blog, I expect the reality of tough days and feelings of exhaustion, yet I want that inspiring spirit of optimism to peek it’s little head to make sure to expose that silver lining.
Another perspective is the flip side. When I surround myself with pessimistic people or read blogs that constantly spew pessimism, I leave feeling emotionally and physically drained.
I choose to read inspiring blogs and surround myself with optimistic people because it makes me a better person. Not perfect. But better. And I only feel inadequate when I allow myself to feel that way.
My goal is to go to bed a better person than when I awoke. And inspiring blogs often help me towards that goal.

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Hands Free Mama August 31, 2011 at 8:48 am

Love this, Jenny!!! What a great way to look at this complicated topic!

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Mom101 August 31, 2011 at 6:23 am

Fantastic post, Megan. I’m not drawn to dogmatic or preachy blogs. If there’s “one way” to do things…I’ll do the opposite. Eh, I have authority issue.

But I love finding inspiration from who see beautiful things in life like Karen Walrond and Jen Lemen; those who describe their own self-improvement journeys without too much preciousness, like Gretchen Rubin; and those who make me want to do things better without making me feel bad for never getting around to it–like Gwen Bell.

And then there’s you. I put you in the All of the Above category.

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 6:44 am

Aw, thanks Liz :) Yes, Karen and Jen and Gretchen all do a wonderful job of inspiring without being too precious or preachy. Dogmatic blogs somehow never feel inspiring to me, only bossy. I guess the old writer’s advice to “show, not tell” particularly works in this genre!

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Wesleyjeanne August 31, 2011 at 8:09 am

I agree with Liz on all of those people she mentioned, including you, Meagan. About six months ago I stopped reading many of the blogs I had been following because I was full-up with advice. I only kept those blogs that 1) felt authentic and 2) talked more about the writer’s own experience than telling me what I should do (using “I” language). Your blog, Meagan, was one I actually added after quitting so many others. And I added yours for exactly the type of writing in this post. This post was written from your perspective, the “I”, rather than the “you should”. You “show, don’t tell.” To me that’s inspiring. I get plenty of advice–and not to mention I actually kind of most of the time know what I’m doing and don’t actually need advice. I need inspiration from people like you. Kudos to you.

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Wesleyjeanne August 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

I want to add that I think there is a balance many bloggers lack–either it’s all sunshine and roses and nobody ever poops or has a bad day or eats something from a package OR (bad sentence structure I know) the blogger talks too much about the negative and is too cynical and sarcastic.
You’re absolutely right that I am responsible for how I feel in reading blogs, but I can’t seem to help having oogy feelings when someone is hugely popular and successful (and getting rich) from something that comes across as false to me.

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 9:56 am

Oh, definitely! Though, if you think about it, people have been doing this forever – building big careers and names for themselves on a false image. I think it feels particularly “oogy” (great word!) coming from mom bloggers because they feel like one of us, not some far-off celebrity or business mogul. That said, maybe those sunshine and roses blogs do something for some readers…maybe it’s brain candy or a little dose of uncomplicated happiness or…who knows? The great thing is that there is room for all of us to decide what we want to write and what we want to read. And there’s no shame in reading something for a little while and then thinking ‘You know, I just don’t like how I feel after reading this,” and reading something else.

Kara August 31, 2011 at 6:33 am

But one of my main blogging enjoyments is making other non-running moms feel bad! :P

I loved this post, and as a very non-crafty person, I tend to avoid blogs that remind me of that, but it’s not the other bloggers’ fault. I just love how much I can learn from reading blogs!

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Jennifer Fink August 31, 2011 at 6:53 am

This is brilliant, Meagan: “I have high ideals. But they are backed by merely human resources. And that’s okay.”

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Theta Mom August 31, 2011 at 7:10 am

THIS post? Sheer inspiration. Thanks so much for the reminder.

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No Drama Momma August 31, 2011 at 7:15 am

Thanks for this. I love the idea that there’s plenty of space between the unattainable perfect and the barely adequate where we can all manage to do just a little better than we did before.

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Brandi August 31, 2011 at 7:19 am

Great post! On the flip side, sometimes when I’m feeling super upbeat and positive and write an uber sunshiney post, I wonder if I’m being authentic, if people are going to think that I’m not “keeping it real” about the challenges of life. Then I realize…I can write how I feel, right at that moment, at that particular point in my life, and not be apologetic for being happy!

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Jennifer Probst August 31, 2011 at 7:53 am

Do you know why I love twitter? Because I find amazing blogs like yours to follow! I love this topic, and you nailed it beautifully. We are always reading about other people’s lives and wondering, “Why can’t I be like that?” or “Should I be like that?” It is a fine balance of knowing who we are, pushing ourselves to be better, and accepting and liking ourselves just as is. Thanks for a great topic and a reminder we are all in this journey together!

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Elaine August 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

Such a great post because there’s so much truth in it all. And you wrote it so well! Not sure I would be able to organize my thoughts on this NEARLY as well as you did!

This line really spoke to me: “Because what other mothers do isn’t about me…” as did your entire last paragraph.

I think it’s amazing that we have this community here to inspire us in the first place and I hope we can all reap the positive benefits from the spaces we choose to visit and be a part of!

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Rachel August 31, 2011 at 9:05 am

Meagan, You do such a great job speaking what the rest of us are feeling. Why in the world do we (I)…without the internet or not…tend to think that everyone else seems to be holding the world together while I have stacks of unfinished projects all over my house? I love your idea of balance and finding a way to be inspired without wanting to go hide under a blanket with a bag of Cheetos. :) Thanks so much for sharing…

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Christy August 31, 2011 at 9:20 am

Great post! Definitely agree with you in both the need for inspiration and the choice to not let an ideal take over our life or let it make us feel bad about it. Thanks for the reminder!

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d August 31, 2011 at 9:33 am

Brilliantly put. I have struggled with this privately and openly over the last several years, mostly spurred by my geographical and social juxtaposition to one famous and fabulous mommy blogger in particular. I like what someone said about comparing your worst to their best – that’s exactly what I’d been doing. The more I just AM in my life and focus on my own life, the less I ALLOW myself to compare my dark parts to someone else’s bright shiny parts. There’s nothing to compare; I am, you are, she is and our common goal is growing and fostering as much love in our lives as possible. Be well mama.

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Tragic Sandwich August 31, 2011 at 9:39 am

I tend to be inspired by people who don’t sugar-coat. I’m skeptical of solely “inspirational” writing, because I believe it’s more likely to be “aspirational.” Someone who writes about the challenges and failures, as well as the successes, is more likely to be someone who makes me want to try harder.

But I agree that as a reader, it’s important to maintain your own perspective. One of my friends has three children, including a baby who is not much older than Baguette, and cooks amazing meals every night. We both work outside the home, but her commute is shorter than mine by about 50 minutes. That gives her time at home that I don’t have. So while I’m impressed and a little envious of her ability to prepare and serve those meals, I also recognize that she and I just have different lives. And that’s fine for both of us.

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 10:00 am

I have one of those friends, too :) and I realized that not only are our lives different but so are the things we put our time into…I think cooking can be fun, but when it really comes down to it I’d rather write than cook. Henceforth, I put more of my time into writing than cooking! None of us can do everything and life is much more fun when we can enjoy the fruits of one another’s time and talent rather than begrudging those who are doing what we wish we had the time or interest to do, or begrudging ourselves for not being superwomen!

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StephJ August 31, 2011 at 9:58 am

Thank you for this honest post, Megan, and I second the PP above who mentioned FB friends with similar issues. It may be the most inspiring post I ever read because it’s so nice to know that insecurities are something we all share, along with the desire to be the best moms we can be.

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oilandgarlic August 31, 2011 at 10:50 am

I think I get envious because I tend to breeze through several blogs per day, and like you I confuse one green mama with another foodie mom with a well-dressed mom etc..

I do try to remember that it’s really one facet of the blogger’s life. Because I’m anonymous I don’t think I share the downside as much as other bloggers and may seem more “together” than I really am.

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Karen L August 31, 2011 at 11:24 am

I have a pretty thick skin, when it comes to this sort of “life-style” inspiring blog. So to answer the title, no, they don’t make me feel bad about myself. And I get your point about the benefit of regular reminders to aspire to be a little better. I do for example, read a lot of blogs about social justice, marginalization, and privilege (so not exactly “inspiring blogs” more “educating and persuading blogs”) and those *do* sometimes make me feel bad about myself but it’s exactly because I need to examine my privileges and improve.

Now, I’m sure this is going to come off as, well, defensive, and definitely rambly, but I’ve noticed a number of bloggers writing posts about the respective responsibilities of writers and readers. Some are inspirational blogs, some are not. I think that it is important to have an appreciation for the source of the defensiveness. In the case of people with a “target” audience of mothers, it is important to remember that motherhood has been used against women – it has often been twisted and marketed in a way to oppress women and serve patriarchy. So, rail all you want about people’s “responsibility to not feel judged” when you write a post mocking a toddler-leash user [obviously not _your_ post] but realize that you’ve just egged many of your readers on to mock toddler-leash users, which adds to the IRL pile-on. (I don’t have a leash, it’s just a post that comes to mind.) So it’s kinda convenient, even pernicious, for a writer to take a position that s/he and the reader have equal responsibility, especially if that writer is in a position of privilege relative to the reader.

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 11:37 am

Hm, I definitely see your point, Karen. To be more clear, I don’t really think readers have a responsibility to ME, except maybe not to send me really nasty emails or something. But I think we do have a responsibility to OURSELVES to check in with how we’re feeling after we read something, and examine what feelings might be coming up and why. In the case of somebody writing a nasty post like you describe, well, of course a leash-user would feel that way because they’ve been openly attacked. And that’s jerkiness on the part of the writer, and bad feelings resulting from the post are pretty understandable (I mean, no matter how thick your skin is, if somebody openly criticizes you, it stings.)

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Karen L August 31, 2011 at 11:56 am

I should say, Meagan, that I actually really admire how well you’re balancing the inspiration though. I don’t think *you* are adding to the pile-on on mothers, but some inspiring blogs are. You’ve written a couple of things that really show that you get it. I remember, for example, “I said happiest mother, not best mother” (or something to that effect) and I loved the Bertha Stewart post on Voices.

Also, sorry for messing up the threading with a post below.

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Karen L August 31, 2011 at 11:51 am

Agreed. The leash thing was a bad example (and I knew it when I pick it but couldn’t come up with something better quickly) except that it illustrated the “one more” thing being “marketted” that I was going for. Women are rightly sensitive to suggestions that make motherhood more laborious. Again, agreed that they should be checking themselves on whether that is impact of what they’re reading. And, of course, people can take advice/suggestions/inspiration or leave it but, at the same time, anything surrounding motherhood is entangled in patriarchy. Women are not-coincidentally worn-down, which, yeah, can make them defensive. Though I hate anything that smacks of a you’re-just-being-too-sensitive derailment.

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Kristen August 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm

It’s those crafty mom blogs that make me feel bad as a mom–those twee projects and handmade stuff they have TIME to do with their kids. Makes me feel guilty for not fingerpainting with my toddler or making handmade birthday cards for his friends. This reminds me of the 1st chapter of the 10 Habits of Happy Moms. That author talks about it a little over on her blog (megmeekermd.com). So, she says that once we realize our VALUE as mothers, the rest is gravy. It helped me feel better.

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Meagan Francis August 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I need to read that book – the author lives in my home state, too! I think what I finally realized about the handmade stuff and crafts is that if I REALLY WANTED to be doing that stuff (not just looking at pretty pictures of other people doing it) I would. The fact that I almost never craft and actually want to run and hide when the librarian busts out the craft supplies at story time pretty much shows me that it’s not a huge priority for me, ya know? But we all have our own strengths and I really don’t think that one day my kids are going to look back on their childhoods and think, “You know, it was pretty good, but Mom never made things out of felted wool…”

When I think back to childhood I remember the things my mother DID do – especially with a smile on her face and enthusiasm – not the things she DIDN’T do.

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Sarah August 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Beautiful post! I so agree with this…I was with some mom friends the other day and realized that as each one described her latest accomplishment (making creative invitations for her kid’s birthday party, or cooking a wholesome meal for her children, for example), the other moms’ instant responses were, “I hate you! Now I feel terrible!” This would be immediately followed by a disclaimer from the “perpetrator”: “Oh, but it was so easy to do, and I have fun with it,” or “Yes, but my house is a disaster.” While I think moms need to reign in the apologies, it strengthens the bonds between mothers when they are honest with one another, when they admit that while they may excel in one element of motherhood, they do so because they’ve thoughtfully chosen to focus on a few specific areas instead of trying to be perfect. Thank you for writing this!

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Tamara Watson August 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm

We were just talking about this very thing at a bookstore where I picked up Amanda Soule’s latest book – funny how it seems to be on everyone’s mind lately!

I started wondering if I was being inauthentic by keeping everything positive in my own blog – I even started working on a post about the idea in my head. Then, by chance, I happened to reread my very first blog entry called Shiny, Happy Mamas which was about this very topic. I basically said that blogging is part of my attempt to embrace the kind of life that I want, a life that is very much inspired by other bloggers. So bring on the inspirational blogs, because they make me want to be a better person and live a better life!

Nevertheless, I have to say that reading the FAQs on Amanda Soule’s website was refreshing. Thank you for pointing that out – it will be reassuring to me as I sit in a pile of unfolded laundry reading her new book.

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Nicole September 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thank you so much for this. Constantly measuring myself against others is something that I really struggle with. I even have to stop reading certain blogs for a while so I can remember that I don’t have the time or the energy to live the lives these other women are living.

I do love those blogs (they are beautiful and inspiring otherwise I wouldn’t want to read them in the first place!) but I have to remind myself that they are not day to day reality.

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Margie September 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

This is a tough topic to tackle (*giggle* alliteration not intended!) but you hit the nail on the head, I think.

It IS exciting to read about the passion some feel about parenting, or about the environment. I would never want to give up hearing the other moms’ perspectives just because I don’t always share them, or because I don’t choose to place those ideals as a priority in my own life. We can learn so much from each other if we give up the defensiveness. I guess that’s sometimes easier said than done!

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mudmama September 2, 2011 at 1:26 am

YES!

I only read a few blogs these days – yours, Soulemama, Farmama ColdAnterFarm, and Waldorfmama and I haven’t been blogging just because real life stresses are sapping my energy, but yes yes yes to everything you’ve written.

Something else I’ve noticed is that the “writers voice” can seem “perfect”…like Little Bear’s parents, such carefully chosen words, so calm, so sure- some blogs are just beautifully polished writing…and that can be intimidating because the text on the page is a kind of smooth wall.

Then twitter came along and that 140 character peek into jotted down thoughts gave me a totally different view of the writers and suddenly I heard all their writing in a different voice – more real and textured, more humour, more frustration, just more real.

I wonder what the next evolution will be with regards to online writing by mothers?

I think that measuring up will always be there, I mean it existed before the internet. In the 50’s you didn’t hang less than perfectly spotless lauundy on your outdoor line, it dried away from sight on a rack or line inside. It was about the owners ideas of propriety and maybe embarrassment about stained undies, not a comment on others laundry.

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Nina Parrish August 22, 2012 at 5:22 am

I love your post. I love to create inspirational writing too.:0

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Tiny Blue Lines September 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I immediately clicked on this post, because I think about this alot. Sometimes I come away from reading blogs thinking two things. 1) I just wasted so much time reading blogs and 2)why did I waste so much time reading blogs when I should be doing all the fabulous things other bloggers are clearly doing?? Siigh…It’s hard to balance the inspirational with the practical, nitty-gritty of life.

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Alison Alfredson September 3, 2011 at 10:29 am

Thanks Meagan, I agree. I don’t read many blogs though when I do browse I can feel exactly like you mentioned. But the one part you wrote about feeling hypocritical for being a recycling proponent and still using disposable diapers is a perfect picture of me. I had to stop feeling guilty about it since I’m recycling about 75% of my home’s waste. I do what I can do and I have to accept myself for that. I’m definitely not close to perfect and that’s okay.

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Michelle September 30, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Interesting blog post. I am not a mum although look forward to being one in the future and have found *mummy* blogs to be a endless and dynamic window into some of the things I may experience in terms of both motherhood and blogging about it.

Admittedly as a non-mother (if that is even a correct term) I know that I am not going through what other mothers are when I read about how others are “choosing” to parent their children but to answer your blog title question, NO blogs do not nor could they ever MAKE me feel much of anything. I have to remember what my own mum often tells me – believing that others (or their blogs) have the ability to dictate your emotions is giving that person (or blog) too much power.

Women, especially mothers, really need to look within if they experience an overwhelming feeling (be it negative or positive) after reading a blog. Why of all emotions is guilt/anger/jealously/inspiration/optimism/better about yourself/etc what you feel when you read about certain things? Just my opinion of course but I feel that we’d all be better served by questioning ourselves instead of blaming a blog for the emotions we feel.

On the other hand, if in fact a mother believes that said “inspirational” blog it is actually a horrible web space, whom’s writer’s sole purpose is to criticise and spread hatred then just maybe the reader should consider… I don’t know something crazy like… NOT reading it.

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Nina January 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Wonderful article! I don’t have any children yet, but I really want to write to inspire others. I agree that we writers need to be honest about our lives while we try to uplift others. Thanks for the good read! :-)

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Baby by the Sea March 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm

This post is pretty important stuff. When I feel inspired by words and/or ideas, I take what is useful for my life and my surroundings. Sometimes, blogs seem like a first impression where best fronts are forward. When my head hits my pillow at night, I try to remember what was beautiful from the day. Sometimes I have to really fish for the beauty in the day when it has been *one of those days.* And when I put words down, sometimes that my intent, to remember all that I’m thankful for. And sometimes I unleash my dispair, but no one wants a friend who is a downer ALLTHETIME so, since I celebrate what is beautiful in life, I make sure my blog has balance – a balance that leans to the giggly side of life. Thanks for writing this. It was so, so very well put.

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Caroline March 23, 2012 at 10:17 am

YES!!! Thank goodness we are all so very different, for these differences inspire us and help us mold how WE feel about the world around us. Your advice is right on – take responsibility for yourself. After all, we can choose what we read, where we direct our attention, what we believe, our perspective and what we do with our thoughts. In my opinion, herein lies the biggest gift of the Internet – this vast amount of information at our fingertips requires most of us to take a more proactive approach to life if we are going to thrive. It is an exciting new chapter in human evolution and I appreciate that you are facilitating the conversation.
Thank you,
Caroline

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Meagan Francis March 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Very cool way of looking at it, Caroline. But you’re right – we now have the information unfolding in front of us; we truly have the ability to choose, but that gift comes with responsibility.

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Kristin Shaw March 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

I loved this post! I quell the voices of doubt in my own head and remember that I am a great mom too, but maybe in a different way.

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The Orange Rhino March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I loved this post. It was so beautifully written and so incredibly insightful. I just launched a blog about my challenge to go 365 days without yelling at my kids (turns out I can do it! I am on day 44!) and I often worry that I am making others feel bad that they have restarted and are on day 3 of their own challenge. Why do I feel this? Because that is how i would feel…I always feel inadequate compared to other moms! So I have wanted to stop my blog…so that I didn’t make other moms feel bad. But this post, that I just came open, made me feel okay. And it inspired me…to be me! Thank you! So excited to have found your blog!

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Meagan Francis March 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Inspiration and reminders to do better are so hugely important, and the fact that you’re so conscious of what the other moms are feeling tells me that you’re sensitive about the way you portray your life and your journey. Keep it up!

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Jessica Farnham March 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I am a new mom of a 13 month old, and have so often felt these very same things. You put into words what I’ve been feeling lately as I have become drawn to a few local mama’s blogs, and how there are times that I leave their online homes feeling so relieved to hear their honesty about themselves as parents and as human beings, and there’s times I leave feeling sad, depressed or as you put so importantly, that feeling of not-good-enough. Why can’t my life or my husband, my kiddo, my home, or my financial situation be like that? Its defeating for sure, but as you said, it is truly my responsibility as a reading to hold myself accountable for my own emotions and feelings. I might just have to tune in to your blog more often, as I too seek inspiration but most importantly, honest inspiration :)

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Meagan Francis March 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm

So glad it was helpful to you, Jessica! It’s so easy to compare our worst private selves to somebody else’s best game face, but such a losing game all around. Sometimes all it takes is realizing that to put a new spin on things.

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randa wolf April 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I really appreciated your view on writing “as you are” and not “as you would like to be.”
The idea of perfect stunted my growth for many years.
I try to live life as the best “ME” that I can.
We each are unique and offer a different needed aspect to life.
Loved this article
Thank you

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Kathryn May 1, 2012 at 8:01 am

I know I am SO late to the party but this post is just perfect and wonderful and true! I love it when people articulate the things I have kicking around in my head but can’t quite get out!

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Andrea May 1, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Me too! I loved this! Im saving it this link because I know I will need to hear this again.

I avoided social networking for as long as I could because of my severe ambivalence about online image-grooming. I love and hate it. I love looking at only the beautiful, easy pictures of my life – it reminds me to be thankful and that a good story is being told through me. But it fuels a perfectionistic bone in me that really, really needs no more fuel.

Thanks for your empowering words!

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Alicia July 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Reviewing some various blogs’ posts I had previously bookmarked. This one is still something I need to remind myself. I found a quote recently that sums up the feeling I (people in general?) get when we see all the great stuff others do on Facebook/Pinterest/Blogs/etc.

“One of the reasons we fight insecurity is we’re comparing our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”
-Steven Furtick

I posted that quote on my refrigerator to constantly remind myself!

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shelly walker August 20, 2012 at 8:28 am

thank you!!!! Since becoming a mom 2 years ago I have often struggled with my sense of self…..none of the old parts fit anymore, so who am I….other than ‘mom’???? Add this to all those blogs, Pinterest, and even Facebook and sometimes I allow myself to get pulled into not feeling good enough, or even feeling downright bad about myself. This is a good reminder to put all this into perspective and also to take a break when it gets out of control! :)

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Dawn @ PricklyMom August 20, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thank you! Out of my 371 pins on Pinterest (most of them in the “Stuff to Do with the Boys” and “Recipes” categories), I’ve probably followed through on fewer than 20. But I think that’s okay, because the bottom line is that my boys know they are truly loved. As far as the topic of “mom blogs,” I’ve looked at my own and wondered, “why am I doing this? I don’t have a theme.” But I guess I DO have an overall goal: to be there for any mom who might have a chronic mood disorder (like me)…just to let her know she’s not alone, and it CAN be done. I suppose that could be classified as “inspirational.”

I would never be able to do this mothering thing without the help of mom bloggers. :)

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Amy @ Frugal Mama August 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I’m loving reading all the comments on yet another grounding article, Meagan. Gives me food for thought about the way I run my own blog.

I see my blog as both a way to be useful to others, as well as a way to create art. That’s where I work at editing the text until it flows, and why I labor over getting just the right photo. It’s a how-to site that tries to be beautiful.

Speaking of writing how-to, Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors, said recently that we have to know how to fail in order to teach people to succeed. He thinks authority is built on experience, and lots of mistakes; not managing to get it right the first time. (More here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/books/review/how-to-write-how-to.html)

This advice can be hard for people like me, who are sometimes insecure and want to show just the “best,” but I tend to think he’s right. It’s always comforting when someone we admire admits to struggling with a problem. The inspiration comes when they try and try and conquer that problem.

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Nina August 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm

I don’t see inspiring or beautiful blogs or ideas as too bad of a thing. When I see well-photographed crafts, I think they’re very creative, but I also doubt I’ll do them. That doesn’t mean that they’re not useful to someone else. I think the problem is when we feel like we have to go all out and do all these mom things to be a good enough mom. I try not to get too caught up in that because maybe I’m just too lazy and can’t imagine making every little craft when I can just buy them at a store, all the while knowing my kid will probably appreciate either one just as much.

As a blogger, I write with the purpose of helping others think about their own parenting techniques or providing useful info. I do this by sharing what I’m learning as a mom, mistakes and everything. I’m usually the first to admit when I’ve gone against something I just said I would or wouldn’t do, and I think that’s fine. I think we all benefit from reading about how we’re growing as moms from our accomplishments as well as our less-than-proud moments.

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Renata January 7, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I am glad I found your blog and it lead me to read this. Life here in my country is so different, and since I discovered this world of blogs I have been feeling bad about myself, like I should be like these “perfect moms” and find the time and ability to be a DIY master and a chef and only eat organic and breastfeed forever and have the most beautiful house and not have a cleaner and still smile at the end of the day. Aaaafff. So you ladies are not that perfect, and I am not that bad! lol. Thanks!

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Betsi June 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Totally late to this party, but just had to pop in and say what a great post this is! My mantra to myself, my children and friends is “comparison is the thief of joy”. When we take our eyes off ourselves we can appreciate the beauty and greatness in others, without it robbing anything from our own self worth.

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