I’m supposed to have it all.
As I sit in my basement, my dutiful husband taking care of the baby and making dinner so that I can finish my PhD, I continue to fight the urge to escape onto the internet.
I realize this isn’t anything new. Everyone wastes time on Facebook and Twitter while they should be working, but that’s not where I want to go. Nope. I want to check in with my favorite Mormon Mommy bloggers.
Over the last decade or so, I have collected a group of about 10 LDS mothers who give me something no one else can. These beautiful, quirky, stylish women with a slew of children swarming around them soothe something inside me that I can’t explain. And I’m not alone. There have been quite a few articles from incredible working women who also use their down time to check in with their own groupings of happy, religious, stay-at-home Mormon moms. People from Alice Gregory’s “Why So Many of your Favorite Beauty Personalities Are Mormon” at Allure to Emily Matchar at Salon who wrote “Why I Can’t Stop Reading Mormon Housewife Blogs.”
As I look down a seemingly endless amount of days of struggle and fight, these women are just so happy. They genuinely seem to love being a mom to their impeccably dressed, unstained children all the time and just fawn over their handsome, fit, impossibly well-dressed husbands. As they come up with clever DIY home improvement ideas or insanely adorable art and crafts for their kids, I have thrown yet another frozen PB&J at my toddler as I ashamedly daydream of a weekend totally free of my two under two so that I can eat a hot meal, watch a movie, and down a pint of chocolate ice cream in my underwear.
I want to go to there.
I know it’s somewhat of a presentation. I know it’s manicured and, you know, their “highlight reel,” but I don’t care. I want to love being a mom THAT MUCH. I want to love being a supportive wife and I want it to come naturally. I want to find that much joy in those roles and I want a husband and family that is that dedicated to going to church and making God a part of their lives more than one hour a week (or, more honestly, a few hours a year). I want what they have. Sign me up.
I’m jealous. I want it. And being a Mormon Studies scholar I know that this is the LDS. The family is up there with God and Jesus. The family is a part of heaven and salvation. It’s the whole deal.
But that is as much as I know. From there all I am is a bundle of confused and mixed emotions.
Do I want to be LDS? No. Are these Mormon mommy blogs making me want to be Mormon? On certain days, yes. Does the leadership of this massive church realize the power these moms have? Honestly, I don’t think so. Do these bright and shiny Mormon mommies know the power that they have over us mere mortals? How many bedraggled and tired feminist moms have decided that the family on Instagram is worth at least a visit to the local LDS place of worship? How many women like me have decided that the world lied to them? Women can’t have it all (or as a wise mentor recently broke to me, “You can have it all. Just not at the same time”).
While churches spend countless hours and money training and worrying about outreach, these “lowly” housewives have thousands and thousands of followers. They get book deals. They get to meet Michelle Obama and go on inspirational speaking tours. Hotels all over the world contact them to put their entire families up for splendid weekends…but they will never miss church on Sunday and weekly family night (religious instruction with board games and a home cooked meal!).
And I lap it all up.
I often wonder if I could give up my mainline church with female and LGBTQ religious leaders for a world that revolves around the family as a religious institution. If I could ignore the Mormons church’s history of racism and exclusivity and seat my white family in the back row of my local Mormon church. Into a world in which I don’t have to drag my family, kicking and moaning, to church…and there really are days that I think I can.
I really can’t, though.
My progressive views developed from my religiosity, not in spite of it. Turning my back on that would literally be turning my back on God. But there must be countless other women who think, “You know what? Screw it. I want that life. I’m in. I can live in the complexity.”
But why isn’t my beloved progressive church a place where the mother is as powerful as the female lawyer or community organizer?
Why aren’t my theological prayers, perspectives, and theologies uplifted to the level of the seminary professor or celebrity preacher?
Why isn’t my progressive church the stronghold of family values? Family values that I can recognize.
Why can’t I find the family as a religious institution in any place but on my conservative social media connections?
It’s no secret that the church was built and sustained on the backs of women. This isn’t an opinion. We’re the ones that have always shown up. We’re the ones that have always loyally followed. So I find myself blindsided at the realization that the modern church is missing the best missionary of all. The woman at home.
To be clear, I don’t think the LDS or the conservative religious know fully what to do with the “mother”. I don’t think they get the perspective of womanhood right and I don’t think they are lacking in severe misogyny just because I have a little holy envy. But at least they try. Even so, although the LDS uplift the mother and the family to heights I have never seen (of which I am constantly green with envy), I am certain that their leadership do not see Mormon Instagram and blogger mommies as on the front lines of the mission field.
But I do. I see it and I see how amazingly well it works.
So what’s the point?
I’m not sure.
I want my progressives to embrace the sacred religious institution of the family and offer a different angle on “family values” with the same fervor as conservatives. I want mothers to be as lauded as religious leaders/teachers as my seminary professors. We are on one of the front lines of the future of the church. I want the mainline mission field to be as entrepreneurial as Mormon mommies have made it. I also just want to go to the bathroom by myself without two little boys in tow.