Why some feminists can’t stop reading Mormon housewife blogs

Guest post by Stephanie Kaloi

Photo by Taza of The Rockstar Diaries.
Emily Matchar published an article at Salon about her fascination with Mormon housewife blogs.

The first two paragraphs totally sucked me in, and the article is definitely worth a read:

At first glance, Naomi and Stacie and Stephanie and Liz appear to be members of the species known as the “Hipster Mommy Blogger,” though perhaps a bit more cheerful and wholesome than most. They have bangs like Zooey Deschanel and closets full of cool vintage dresses. Their houses look like Anthropologie catalogs. Their kids look like Baby Gap models. Their husbands look like young graphic designers, all cute lumberjack shirts and square-framed glasses. They spend their days doing fun craft projects (vintage-y owl throw pillow! Recycled button earrings! Hand-stamped linen napkins!). They spend their weekends throwing big, whimsical dinner parties for their friends, all of whom have equally adorable kids and husbands.

But as you page through their blog archives, you notice certain “tells.” They’re super-young (like, four-kids-at-29 young). They mention relatives in Utah. They drink a suspicious amount of hot chocolate. Finally, you see it: a subtly placed widget with a picture of a temple, or a hyperlink on the word “faith” or “belief.” You click the link and up pops the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read the whole post, and then lets talk:

I’ll be the first to admit it’s never occurred to me to google “Mormon housewife blog,” and until reading Matchar’s piece I had no idea they were such a cult hit.

I get it, though: as if getting a glimpse into the parenting styles of others isn’t enough, reading about a lifestyle that is in stark contrast from your own (and especially one that you may not initially think you’ll be interested in) can be totally fascinating. It’s sort of like a train wreck, but less awful and more, just … fascinating.

Now I want to know: What are your favorite parenting blogs that you didn’t think you’d like? What other gems have I overlooked?

Comments on Why some feminists can’t stop reading Mormon housewife blogs

  1. The things these women do are amazing, but I can’t help but wonder how much of this domestic perfection is a result of the church essentially grooming women to be wives and mothers from an early age. The church strongly encourages its mothers to be SAHMs and only work after the children are grown or out of necessity. That part really upsets me, especially when I think of women who might not necessarily want to be SAHMs but feel a lot of pressure to do so from their community (also, why not the pressure for the dads to SAH? The church expects men and women to be equal partners in the home, but does not encourage men to eschew careers in the same way).

    The blogs definitely provide some amazing ideas, but I just can’t bring myself to regularly read a lot of them. It feels too stepford-y sometimes.

    • You nailed it. I was raised LDS and even though my parents were on the more progressive intellectual fringe of Mormonism and encouraged me to be a feminist and pursue an education and career, I was very intensely brainwashed at church and by my peers and their families from a very early age. People told me that my family were not following the church’s teachings and that I needed to put my own selfish educational and career aspirations aside and not waist my precious college years when I could be finding my “eternal compaion” (i.e. future husband). I got sucked into it very hard and dropped out of school to get married at the age of 19. I worked 3 jobs to put my (now ex) husband through school until we had our first child, then I went on to have 2 more children. I had my 3 kids in 4.5 years.

      I live in Utah so the culture here is far more pronounced. These women who appear so serenely happy are often times suffering from depression, feelings of inadequacy and loneliness as they raise their children while their husbands often have to juggle several jobs just to provide for them. Working outside the home is considered a very last resort and women who do maintain careers after having children are chastised at church. Within the last few years a talk from the LDS President told the men that they should not be allowing their women to be more educated than them. They found it troubling that despite all their teachings about women’s places being in the home, that there was a growing number of LDS women who were pursuing Master’s degrees and beyond.

      If you read on Feminist Mormon Housewives, you will find there are a lot of women who get chastised by their church leaders for being highly educated and career driven.

      Also Member Missionary service is just as pronounced in LDS culture as it is in Jehova’s Witness culture. Women are expected to make sure their families are the epitome of good manners and proper appearance so as to entice others to see how wonderful their family is and to inquire what their “secret” is. Then they can lure them in to finding out about the “Gospel” and hopefully convert them.

      These women are doing the very best they can with the circumstances they have to work with. I think our culture does indeed devalue motherhood greatly and that is sad. I have since left the LDS church yet I do hope to see more and more of its female members pursue higher education and to not automatically marry young and raise large families by default. Women should always have choices!

      • Oh no, I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that! Thank you so much for sharing that, I think it helps put things into perspective for women who see those blogs and feel inadequate. And good on you for leaving such a toxic culture. You must be so strong. I wish more people would speak out against the damage that patriarchal religions cause.

        • Yes patriarchal religions are very damaging indeed. It’s especially disheartening for women who are never able to or even want to marry and have children to find community in such a religion. Yet their belief in heaven is that they will be having babies for eternity with their sister wives populating their “world”, so yes motherhood is very very idealized. Everyone aspires to be a “mother in Zion”. I suppose some may find this concept of heaven hopeful, but many, myself included did not. The culture and the expectation to be perfect and to have lots of babies and send lots of children on missions to bring in more members is very strong.

          As a young mother, I had battled depression, even suicidal depression for years. I always thought there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t being spiritual or faithful enough. But I later realized, after almost putting a gun in my mouth, that it wasn’t me that was flawed, it was the system. I left and my depression left as well. My family therapist told me that he sees this a lot in LDS women. They battle depression so much and if they do get the courage to leave all of a sudden the depression vanishes. It was not easy to leave. I had no education and no means to support myself because I had been subjugated to my husband for so many years. But I stood up for my integrity and left with my children. I am strong because I had to be. The religion was killing me. Literally. I could not bear another day thinking that my daughters would be raised the same way. Many told me that when I left that “wickedness (i.e. apostasy) never was happiness.” I laugh now when I look back on those dark days. Because I never knew what being truly happy felt like! lol I am blissfully happy now and engaged to a wonderful dear man who loves me for *me* and not for what I was *supposed* to be. I am very thankful for my experiences. It has opened my eyes immensely. And I am very grateful for a second lease on life. 🙂 I feel truly blessed indeed.

      • Having grown up in the LDS church, and as a current active member, I have definitely encountered many who have confused their cultural beliefs with doctrine. I apologize, Tabitha, for those who belittled you or your family because of their construed standards of the “perfect LDS family”. They have either not read, or incredibly misunderstood the doctrine and teachings of the LDS faith.

        These are the same people who are shocked to find out that one of our earliest modern-day prophets, Brigham Young once said, “If I had a choice of educating my daughters or my sons because of opportunity constraints, I would choose to educate my daughters.”

        Over the pulpit, he taught:
        “We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physic[s], or become good book keepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large. In following these things they but answer the design of their creation.”

        They might also be shocked to find that the Relief Society, the LDS church’s women organization established in 1842, is one of the world’s longest running, global women organizations. Or that Utah granted women the right to vote in 1870, 50 years before the 19th Ammendment to the Constitution granted the right nationally.

        I feel incredibly validated and supported as woman in the LDS faith. Growing up I felt an expectation, not only from my family, but also my religion, to pursue the highest avenues of education possible (I’m currently a Special Ed. Teacher looking at law schools). The LDS Church does indeed believe that womanhood is divine. We also believe that ALL women, with or without children, are called to be mothers to the world.

        Our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, taught:
        “One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”<–I like this quote so much I plan on hanging it in my nursery. 🙂

        • Many thanks to all of you for sharing your variety of experiences, good and bad, with LDS. It’s a religion and culture about which I know very little and it’s so interesting to hear about the different ways it can work.

        • I’m happy that you have found this religion fulfilling for you. It was also my understanding that the LDS faith is very encouraging of higher education for women, which is laudable. But it sounds like such a farce when they encourage women to become highly educated, and then discourage them from actually holding careers. I’m very curious: Has this been your experience also, or do you find that discouraging careers in favor of motherhood is something that happens in only particular segments of the Mormon faith? If you have children, have you found that your community and/or leaders prefer you to not pursue a career? Are some careers considered more “okay” for a mother to have than others–like if you wanted to lead your state’s Department of Ed instead of teaching? And do you find that the choice to not have children or to delay having children in favor of a career is discouraged?

          Sorry to inundate you with questions! I find hearing about differing experiences with religions (especially religions that keep very tight communities) to be endlessly fascinating.

          • Don’t worry about asking questions, I’m always happy to talk about myself! lol

            1. Do you find that discouraging careers in favor of motherhood is something that happens in only particular segments of the Mormon faith? If you have children, have you found that your community and/or leaders prefer you to not pursue a career? Are some careers considered more “okay” for a mother to have than others–like if you wanted to lead your state’s Department of Ed instead of teaching?

            The idea in the Church is that the best person to look after children are their parents. So, ideally, a parent should be home with them, especially during their early years. Dominant culture in western society, especially in the earlier generations, promotes the idea of a working dad and the stay-at-home mom. This is where I believe the pressure for women to stay home comes from. The culture of my religion can be very “old fashioned” at times, so I would definitely agree that the amount of pressure differs depending on the community. (Side note: if you want the straight-up doctrine on families in the LDS faith check out “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, our manifesto on the matter)

            I live in Southern California where the majority of mothers in my congregation hold jobs. Family life is an integral part of our religion, with this considered, both men and women are encouraged to pursue careers that will not detract from the time necessary to form tight bonds within a family. Education often guarantees you great health benefits and the same holidays and vacation time as your kids—so it’s definitely an attractive career. For those who enter into other fields, many try to find careers allowing them flexible hours, the ability to work from home, and/or involving their family as much as possible. Some examples: A woman in my congregation has a great career as a civil engineer and works exclusively from home. Many women in my congregation serve on the boards of schools districts and other community and/or service-based organizations. My cousin is a very successful CFO of a large corporation and a mother of two. My aunt is an accountant. I have several friends who are lawyers and many of my girl friends have started their own businesses.

            2. And do you find that the choice to not have children or to delay having children in favor of a career is discouraged?

            As I mentioned before, the family is central to our religion. We are often criticized for how early we begin to talk and prepare our daughters for motherhood, but very little attention is paid to the fact our young men participate in the same preparation. We are taught, starting at a very young age, that the most important thing we will ever do is become mothers and fathers. We believe that true and lasting happiness is found in family life (which I believe to be one of the reasons why LDS folks tend to marry so young and have large families). So yes, I would say delaying having children or deciding not to have children when you have the opportunity to start a family is discouraged because it is considered delaying the possibility of added happiness and fulfilling your potential.

            Here’s a little glimpse into my situation:
            My husband and I want a large-ish family (he’s the youngest of 10, I’m the eldest of 6). My mother’s side of the family is infamous for having (unplanned) 3-6 year gaps between kids. Having watched my awesome mother bear children well into her 40s, I decided I didn’t want to delay kids, just in case I also carried that genetic trait. That said, my career ambitions point towards law school.

            I decided to put my career plans on hold and teach for longer than planned, not exclusively for family but for financial reasons. Although my teacher’s salary is not excessively large, it is enough to provide for my husband while he finishes his education and balances the daytime childcare of our future baby. After he finishes grad school (which will be in a long while… he’s still pushing through his BA), I’ll complete my law degree. As for what we’ll do after we’re both on our feet and all credentialed up? We’ll just have to see when we get there…

            I hope that answered some of your questions. Sorry, for my lengthy response–short and concise was never really my thing… ha!

  2. As a “Mormon Housewife Blogger” who is neither a housewife or a professional blogger (I’m a high school Special Ed teacher–woohoo!! YAY LITERACY!!), I was incredibly surprised and delighted by the article.

    Like the writer observed, church members are encouraged to journal and record their stories (we’re HUGE on genealogy) and blogging seems to be the easiest way of doing so.

    Some of us have been able to make wonderful careers of it out in the blogosphere, but many of us use it to record our family’s history and stay connected with family and friends. And blogging, at least for me, is WAY more fun (and doable!) than scrapbooking! lol

    I apologize if many of the blogs come off as sickeningly sweet. (I can assure you that we definitely don’t fart sparkles and rainbows!) But family life is so precious, and I’m sure we all have adorable stories about little ones around us–if you compiled them all together, they’d probably out-sweeten a lot of the Mormon Mommy blogs you find.

    P.S. I LOVE Offbeat Mama!!! Being the daughter of a metalhead Hawaiian hula girl who bucked tradition and has rocked the Pixie cut since the early 80s, I’m looking forward to passing down the offbeat tradition to my future babies.

  3. Consider the idea that Mormon Mommies might read Offbeat Mama or Offbeat Bride… Is it invasive?

    I am a Mormon Mommy (although not Peaches and Cream), and I find a lot of my lifestyle choices mirrored in these sites I have followed for years, since my own (2nd) marriage.

    I garden and can, craft and sew and knit and DIY, have unmedicated births (with the most amazing Mormon Mommy doula who is pricessendre.blogspot.com and a killer blogger), appreciate a family of any dynamic as long as there is non-toxic love, have been a veggie for years, aim to be “back to nature”, teach my children to love everyone, and so forth. I may not look the part of an offbeat mama, but I feel related. And I know that most of my Mormon Mommy friends feel the same.

    It’s okay to be our real life friends too… I always find it fun when an OBM friend introduces me to her friends, explaining that “I’m okay.”

    If you encounter a judgmental “It’s my way or my way” Mormon Mommy, do what I do, and leave her be. She’s happiest in her own world.

    • I totally love OBB and Mama! Just because I’m Mormon doesn’t mean a lesbian wedding with a Companion Cube cake isn’t awesome.

      Plus, I use to feel like I was offbeat since I was the only one out of my friends who didn’t get married in the temple.

      (I still had the white dress and reception at the country club. The horror.)

  4. I love reading blogs especially those who are different from me! I feel like I am learning so much and keeps me grounded while challenging my belief system. But in all honesty I think it’s like reality t.v we all have a weird fettish of peeking into other people lives. Lol I mean let’s face it, people are fascinating no matter how different or the same!

  5. WHAT. I did not know of this mormon house wife blog explosion and now that I’ve looked into it I CAN’T GET ENOUGH AND IF I AM NOT AS STYLISH/LITTLE/YOUNG/CUTE AS THESE MOTHERS I FAIL.

    Not really but wow.

  6. I just want to know when this happened? I grew up “Mormon” (my family is, my mom mainly took us to church as an excuse to dress us up, since the Mormon church is still one of the few that hasn’t gone over to blue jeans), was baptized Mormon, all that good stuff but…maybe it was because it was the ’90s or because it was Midwest but the women I went to church with looked more like the Duggars when they were still 16 kids and counting, all big poufy curls and long floral dresses…I noticed when my sister recently decided to embrace the faith and be baptized as an adult that Mormons had become hipsters and it *almost* made me want to start attending church again–maybe some of their supermommy magic would settle on me and I could be a fraction as wonderful–but I just don’t believe what they believe nor do I want to give up alcohol.

  7. I binge watched all 8 seasons of Sister Wives in a similar fashion. I was absolutely enthralled with this lifestyle that was so different from mine. It really had me questions why I do what I do, and if I really believe in the things I have just fallen into without much thought before. The biggest thing that surprised me so much was how much they worked at keeping open communication with all one hundred million of them in the family (well, compared to my 3 person family, it might as well be that many). I know relative shows aren’t really “reality”, and blogs leave a lot of room for filtering out the more gritty parts of life. Regardless, I am still enthralled with viewing the world through other peoples eyes, both to learn more about the world around me and to help me shed light on things I might have otherwise never thought to notice.

    • Hi! Mormons aren’t polygamists. The family in Sister Wives has a different religion.

  8. I love reading Kristen Duke’s blogs, like Capturing Joy. She doesn’t exactly fit the mold, since she has a photography business. Still cheery Mormon lady, though. And I’ve learned so many great photography tips from her.

  9. Not a Mormon or religious blog BUT I don’t consider it an “out there/lifestyle shock” blog for me, as she reminds me if me — but The Bloggess/Jenny Lawson is literally the best thing ever.

    I’ve also taken to looking at extreme house reno blogs with 100+ year old houses that are falling apart or chateau revivals in France… in an attempt to dissuade myself from buying one that will end up being a money pit.

  10. I also find these blogs really compelling!

    I had a college roommate who was LDS and openly only in college for her “MRS degree” (ie to find a husband). Her parents encouraged her to major in education so she could be a better mother someday, which she did. She loves crafts and cupcakes and childcare – and she left campus life at age 20 to start having babies with a handsome, quirky military officer.

    And even though it was a lifestyle I’ve never wanted, I would still get envious over her simple evenings in the dorms of drinking hot cocoa, scrapbooking, and having so much fun with every little thing. And once she left, I remained envious of how Facebook showed her life – an adorable view of a devout woman with a loving husband and a flock of perfect babies.

  11. For all of the wonderful non-judgement in the Offbeat Empire, you all missed the mark in comparing my lifestyle to a “train wreck.” I’m so sad that this comparison was used, especially since OBE seems so accepting most of the time. I’m a feminist, Mormon, all-things-goth-loving housewife, and my life is awesome!

  12. I’m a outsider looking in when it comes to reading some of the blogs here. I am Mormon, and a huge tomboy so I don’t always fit in with the stereotype goody two shoes wear an absurd amount of layers for “modesty sakes” Mormon . The overly sweet blogs with the anthropology homes and the my family is forever mushy gushy make me puke. I came from a “broken ” home so my perspective is a bit different. I don’t believe God gave us talents to languish at home all the time but making sure your family is fed ,clothed and loved are important. I’ve worked most of my married life. I like ACDC, and rock , I use cloth: pad,diapers and wipes/hankies I’ve made and I’m not a huge drop everything to go over the top decorating to make a church lesson special kind of gal . I’m sick of the Mother in Zion oldschool mentality crap with equating to being only stay at home mom while your family suffers. Its made my husband depressed he can’t provide because of school and no experience and me depressed because my dreams of doing what I love were shattered because of my sheltered naive belief that if i helped my husband get through school our lives would be okay once he got out. I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I’m standing up for myself and going back whatever it takes to keep my family out of the poor house. My experience is probably not the only one ..but it isn’t everyone’s who is a Mormon. Now, that being said there’s nothing wrong with being happy and trying to share that happiness some women/parents find by being stay at home mom but only sharing the good not the bad as well does people a disservice.

  13. My thumbs up for representing the blog in a most informative way. Actually I’ve read some blogs about mormon mommies and this post has given me some extra motivation so thanks!

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