Happy! Happy! Happy! Mormon Housewives

January 28, 2010

My response to this article.

If you're Mormon, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when I write the phrase, "Relief Society Voice." For those of you who aren't Mormon, let me explain.

Twice a year, the LDS Church holds it's semi-annual General Conference. Basically, the leaders of the church, men and women alike, give talks to members all over the world from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. The talks are broadcast on the internet, on television (even on basic cable in Maine), on the radio, and everyone is encouraged to listen to each of the four two-hour sessions.

The female speakers, who tend to hail from the West, all seem to have the exact same sing-songy voice, or as it's commonly coined, "Relief Society Voice." Even my father-in-law, who is the Momonest Mormon in the whole entire universe, can sometimes be seen quietly excusing himself from the room when the "Relief Society Voice" comes on. It's a great time to refill your bowl of peanuts.

Now don't get me wrong, the talks given by the women are usually the best talks of them all. But the voices, ohhhhh the voices, are not so easy to swallow. Usually, I end up reading their talks after the fact because I love the content, I just don't love to listen to them. They're deep and insightful and lots of times they make me cry--but only when I take 'em in through the church magazine. The audio brings me to tears in an entirely different way.

There's this particular talk called "Hold On" by Ann M. Dibb that's become one of my favorites. I've used it over and over and over in Sunday School lessons and Seminary because the message is completely powerful, but hoo boy, it's a perfect example of this phenomenon.

As reluctant as I feel to do this (because it's a great talk, she's an amazing woman, and I don't want people making fun of someone who's trying her damnedest to make the world a much better place), here's the link to the talk on Youtube. You only have to watch the first minute to see how cheerful! Sister! Dibb! is! as she describes a completely tragic accident.

I'm sure she was nervous, and in the end her talk has a positive, encouraging message. But the tone and the voice is really kind of strange.

And really kind of normal for middle-aged Mormon women.

You don't hear it so much in Maine, but you hear it a lot when visitors come from out West, and I heard a whole mess of it in Texas. Enough to last me a lifetime. Also enough to lead me down the path of swearing.

But this voice, this Relief Society Voice (by the way, Relief Society is the name of the women's organization of the LDS Church), never ever comes out of the mouth of a thirty-something female Mormon. The voices is saved for women who are forty and up--and probably more like fifty and up.

So what happened to the Relief Society Voice? Where did it go? Why has my generation failed to carry it on? It's a well-known fact that that energy can't be created or destroyed--and this voices appears to take a hell of a lot of energy--so really now, where has this energy gone?

Clearly, the voice has morphed, and it's taken on the form of the current day Mormon Mommy Blog.

You might know what I'm talking about. They have three or four kids, they haven't hit thirty, they're beautiful, and they bake. Considering all these factors, why should today's Mormon women be so sing-songy? Makes no sense when they can make a blog header with little happy birds, and a model-looking husband, and kids with perfectly mismatched clothes.

These blogs portray perfection. And you know what? No one is perfect. These blogs place an intentional slant on life. I doubt that those fifty-year-old Mormon women used to yell at their kids with happy! happy! princess! voices! And I know for a fact that these picture-perfect bloggers aren't happy! happy! happy! day in and day out.

I don't consider my blog to be the typical Mormon Mommy Blog--or a Mormon Mommy Blog at all, but to be fair, I'll admit that my blog is just as slanted as theirs' are. They paint it to look like their husbands fart flowers, and I've pretty well convinced you all that I'm the life of the Tupperware party. Trust me, I'm not. Total party dud....right here.

I wrote about a tween flashback sometime last week, and a couple of commenters couldn't believe it was true. "How," they questioned, "can so many funny things happen to just one person?"

Well, I guess I could have summed it up this way, to make it sound more believable:

Once upon a time there was a really frazzled mom on my street. Her kid was an only child and he was bored. She paid me five bucks a week to take him up to the park and play so he wouldn't be so annoying. The End.

But that's no fun, now is it? These Mormon Mommy Bloggers are doing a really similar thing. The only difference is, they have some serious photography skills.

If I had to guess, those girls watched Sleeping Beauty when they were little, and wished, wished, wished for a prince of their very own. I, on the other hand, watched Pee Wee's Playhouse diligently, and still want a set of talking chairs so, so, so, so badly.

Different perspectives, same degree of slant.

Bottom line? These girls are sugar coating the sh!t out of their lives. And maybe I am, too.

Do Mormons tend to be happy people? I guess so. I think most people who find truth and meaning in their religion (or community, or a cause) tend to be happy--at least most of the time. But we haven't cornered the market on happiness, or family fun, or cute husbands. And as much as Mormons value motherhood, we haven't cornered the market on the fact-of-life either.

I was Catholic for my first twenty years, and trust me, that whole Mary thing? That's some very powerful stuff when it comes to venerating the role of mothers.

And don't even get me started on my super hippy friends. They not only stay home with their kids--they sleep with their kids, cloth diaper their kids, grow food for their kids, knit hats for their kids, nurse their kids forever, write songs for their kids on the guitar, and you get the picture.

It's an absolute true fact that Mormons have something that outsiders don't. We believe certain things that make atheists roll their eyes and give some born again Christians a nervous twitch. But every religion has a richness that other religions don't--and if you believe what you're devoting your existence to, chances are, you'll be very happy.

But just because you're happy, don't expect to have kids who wear Mini-Boden, and a perfectly decorated house, and vintage party dresses, and perky boobs, and an insane sewing talent.

Because that? Well that's art. And Photoshop101 is the prerequisite.

(Aaaaaand commence with the hateration. Or the love. Either way.)

39 comments:

MommyJ said...

No hate coming from me... I think you make some very good points. I think there are blogs that are glossed over, picture perfect, everything is butterflies and fairy tales all the time. But see, I don't know a whole lot about them because I don't read them. You can see through the fake, I think. You can see when stuff is totally superficial. But there are also blogs that are real and sincere, and still, for the most part, tremendously joyful, written by all kinds of women, Mormon or not.

And OH, the voice. I know it well. It's one of the reasons that I love our current General Relief Society President, Sister Beck (among other much more valid and important reasons). She doesn't have the voice!

Mindy said...

AHA! I thought the very same thing about that very same talk by Sister Dibb. It made me want to hurl, and that made me feel like I was a really bad person. I'm glad to know that you noticed the very insane relief society voice too. And then everyone! :) died! :) It was so! sad! :) :)

Oh, and I'm about to turn 36... I'd say the relief society voice has to be much closer to 50, or even 60. I sure as hell don't sing my words, I can tell you that. Maybe it's not an age thing... maybe it's a righteousness thing, which would explain why I don't have it.

All love from me, Sister Lawson. I think your points are right on. ;)

Riddlez said...

Total love.

funderson said...

Amen my sister. I think they sugar coat the sock out of their lives unconsciously hence the huge prescription drug problem. The dark and ugly is hard to face and easy to ignore. Way more healthy to let the "ugly" out and laugh at it like you do. Just my opinion... ALSO, I have to say the Gen Conf men's voice (granted it's been awhile) is very similar to RS voice and WAY more annoying out of a man's face.

Heidi said...

I don't know if they sugar coat the hell out of their lives (maybe it is possible to be so happy! so fulfilled! so delighted! by changing diapers) but I do know that what I came away from that article with was the distinct feeling that Mormon women bloggers were being pigeon-holed. You have only to read your blog (or mine) to realize that being Mormon does not have to encompass perfect housekeeping, hand sewing, and photography.

Mormon women come in all shapes and sizes. It seems a shame to define us by one type.

Anna said...

Amen.

AMiller said...

Oooh. I like your take on the whole article and the whole blogging scene.

I hadn't read the referenced article before. I kind of liked it. I don't regularly read those "Mormon Mommy" blogs because I don't want to compare my life to theirs. I thought they were dumb. BUT, if their blogs shed some light on the happiness that can come from being a dedicated mom/wife, then more power to them.

I like your blog better though. It makes me laugh. And I would much rather laugh than worry that my two-year-old isn't wearing hip clothes.

And please keep embellishing and sugar-coating - it makes my day better.

Marc and Megan said...

I was so glad to see you wrote up your own response to the Mormon Mommy Blog article. I love it! I've been thinking up my own response, but haven't gotten very far with it yet. And, chances are that's how it'll stay. Whether or not you consider yours a Mormon Mommy Blog, it's one of my favorites and YOU are one of my favorites! Love, love, love you!

David said...

Simply brilliant

Christine said...

Here's some more total love. Keep the posts coming.

Melanie Jacobson said...

Amen.

Jane of Seagull Fountain said...

I think you're right, although from my slant I think you have more fun seeing the world as funny and they are maybe more happy through choosing to see/focus on the happy. I know I am more cranky because I see everything wrong with the world.

Do you read CJane? (she bugs, oh she bugs sometimes), but part of her response was right on and almost caustic.

And, I elaborated my objections (but no pressure to read, just fyi. is that self-not-promoting-enough?) http://www.seagullfountain.com/2011/01/18/dont-be-offended-nobody-sees-you-clearly/

Jane of Seagull Fountain said...

Oh, also -- did you see NattheFatRat's response on BlogHer? very masterful combo of snark and complimentary chumminess.

I think also the commercial aspect can't be ignored. some of these women (like Design Mom for super example) make a fine living with their blogs -- I say more power to them that they've been able to find a monetizable voice/product.

Would we shout hypocrisy about fiction writers who write flowers and hearts?

Charlotte said...

I do love photoshop.

Morgan -Ing said...

I don't like sugar coating much. Blogs are a snippet. Some people's snippets are photoshopped to be sure. Mine? I really do try to keep it real. Sometimes my snippet is, "henry smeared poo on the wall," and sometimes it is "My life is wonderful." Just keepin' it real, one post at a time, like most every other blogger on the planet. :)

That was a long-winded "Amen" to what you said.

Natasha said...

I remember that Dibbs talk and was all "What the heck?!" on Twitter, in our little Twitterconference. I was one of many who were creeped out by her talk. She also gave a talk at a Canadian stake conference that was even more cheerful.

I definitely know some older women who speak with that voice and I definitely know some younger women who write in it.

No, Sister Beck doesn't have the voice but she's one of those very judgey people, in my mind.

Dirtius Wifius said...

I've lived in Utah off and on for more than 14 years (12 of those as an adult) and I've never heard of "Relief Society Voice". But I do know what you mean and I agree. Much harder to listen to but great messages.

Also, I see nothing wrong with focusing on the positive aspects of life, as long as there's some kind of acknowledgment that that's not all there is.

Maybe some of them are the kind of people who can't talk about the bad or they'll just go into deep depression. Or maybe they're just trying to count their blessings.

Either way, it's a bad idea to judge an entire religion based on just a few examples (by their voice or by their blogs or by their rebellious teenagers, whatever). Kind of fun to peer into another culture. We all do it, don't we?

Amanda said...

Amen! Amen! A-freakin-men!!!!

I don't think I've ever commented before, but I love your blog! I have my Mom hooked on it too.

I am a Mormon and I'm a happy one. I do have a good life, but I don't blast it all over my blog like some I've read.

I most recently learned that a dear Mormon friend of mine was having marital issues, but you would never know from her lovely blog. People only let you know what they want you to know. Real or not. She was telling me all about how exhausting it is to keep up the happy appearance, but she doesn't want people to know that she's dealing with it.

I just don't get it. She's putting more pressure on herself to be "perfect" for everyone else.

I personally like the blunt, honest, TRUTH telling route!

HL said...

And here I thought you were just awesome because you talk about farts. But now I see your value among the niche. :)

Keep keepin it real, yo.

kaila sue said...

No hating here, but...People like to be around (or read about) happy people. Hence why you have readers, you find the funny in life. No one wants to read a blog about someone's crap-fest life EVERYDAY! I think the reason the housewives sound so perfect is that they have followers that they please. They make crafts, treats and only take pictures of their kids/husbands when they look awesome!

Just my thoughts...I have been around since the post about the communal toilet for peeps, one of my all time favorites!

Chelsea said...

The only "Mormon mommy blog" I read is NieNie and I don't read it because she's a Mormon mom. I wouldn't even call her blog a mommy blog. I read because she is so inspiring and she is funny. Since I don't read others I can't comment about those but I do know that most people who have blogs sugarcoat them- Mormon or not. No one wants others to know how they suck at laundry or yell at their kids when they're tired.. (besides you of course- which is why I love reading your blog: you keep it "real").

Dale said...

Amy,

I have never heard the term "Relief Society voice" before, but oddly enough I learned about it from an English professor at BYU. It happened in an English Usage course I took fall semester 1998. He got off on a tangent one day and started analyzing the different grammatical constructions church leaders used in General Conference addresses. And he pointed out that all of the Relief Society presidency members -- from way back when up until then -- had used the same sentence structure, form of delivery, and sing songy voice. That was a revelation to me, and I've been very conscious of that phenomenon during every General Conference since.

dearjenn said...

True story. When I was 15 years old I was hanging out with the wrong crowd in school. I met a nice Mormon boy who took me to church a few times. I chose baptism and for my remaining high school years I lived out my life as a happy Mormon teenager. I credit it for saving me from certain unplanned pregnancy and other miseries of the awkward high school years.

There are a number of things I can no longer agree with the church on (namely alcohol and caffeine consumption) and so I no longer practice. But that doesn't stop me from loving the balance that Mormon Mommy Bloggers seem to be able to find. All of my high school friends are Mormon and so are still influences in my life even though I no longer practice.

I adore them as people- they are kind hearted, generous, and would come clean your house if you were ill. Matter of fact, and I don't know how this happened, my name is still on the church roster and although I hadn't practiced in some 15 years I did have people from Relief Society knocking on my door three weeks after I returned home with my premature infant, offering to assist in any way possible. It took everything I had not to take them up on the 14 loads of laundry in my hallway.

The long and the short of it is I love my Mormon Mommy friends and I love reading their blog. Not because they are perfect- although they appear to be. But because they really do have kindness within them and are not too jaded to show it. However, I absolutely love reading your blog because you show us that being a Mormon Mommy isn't all about using your Relief Society Voice.

And because you curse. Which I find very, very funny, like 4th grade funny. Because I typically don't curse.

Lindsey said...

I kinda feel the same way as dearjenn. When I read those blogs, I totally in no way shape or form take it at face value. Because NO ONE's life is perfect. However, I like the slant. And I like your slant. . .and I always try to write my blog in "real" mode. Meaning, if I am happy, i'll be happy, and if I am not I won't. Unfortunately, sometimes when I am not happy, I am not very inspired to write. Which could be the case with some of these bloggers. Sometimes I wonder if I just don't want to spread the pessimism. Or, if being down just causes me writers block. I am not sure yet, but I think everyone is entitled to their own voice. And who are we to take anyone down for it. Isn't that what being Christian is?

Lindsey said...

PS- I am not saying you are taking them down.

Team O'Connor said...

Amy, you just summed up my entire Mormon career. I have always hated the Relief Society Voice but never had a name for it! It's so good to know that others have noticed and suffered with me. You have to admit though, the guys have a voice too when they're giving the General Conference talks. Anyway, yeah, I always wonder how in debt all of my friends are that have eleventy billion kids, a brand new house/car/boat, etc. and all of their furniture is Ethan Allen or whatever. I definitely prefer your sugar coating than most other people's. If it doesn't make me laugh I really just don't like it...

i. bloggit said...

maybe not only sugar coating but also the sugar high that is talking?

but props to them for the positive thinking.

saundra said...

I watched the clip. The voice was completely overshadowed by the big smile on her face. I couldn't take it and bailed after about 40 seconds.
I'm not Mormon or atheist, but I think I prefer comic relief over sugar-coating any day.

Laura said...

Amy, I'm not Mormon and I'm not a mommy, and I don't think the sugar coating is limited to that subset. I definitely feel the blog pressure to write in a certain style (which is my style, don't get me wrong, but not all the time) and tell certain stories that fit what readers expect of me. I don't post about the days my job is boring, the Friday nights I stay in to watch TV and not go partying, etc. I stopped posting for such a long time because I was depressed and could no longer sugar coat the fact that I had an abusive boyfriend (though all you'll ever read of him on my blog are the times he was wonderful). I'm just starting to challenge that now (see my post last week, To Travel or Not to Travel, but it can be hard to be that honest sometimes... and I still felt pressure to end the post on a light note. Still working on the honesty... I think it's really something a lot of bloggers struggle with, Mormon mommies or not.

Michemily said...

I think we Mormon women have this tendency to talk about everything as if we live in Candyland, but it's not really that way. There's something amazing that happens when people are honest and real. I don't like the fakeness I see either. For that reason, I have never yet liked a (paid) female seminary or institute teacher (I'm sure that since it's a calling for you, you're better). Call me evil. But I'm glad to see your response.

Katie said...

I liked what you had to say.

I sort of look at Mormon Mommy Blogs as scrapbooks. That's what a lot of them use it for. My SIL, for instance, prints her blog as a book at the end of the year and that's the family scrapbook. Each family is unique, and each fmaily wants to see a different "type" of scrapbook. I'm not sure if this makes any sense at all.

One last thought. I think sometimes mommy bloggers (whether they blog about being a mommy or not) tend to want to show off the things they are doing because they need some sort of recognition that husbands don't always know how to give, and that 3 kids under the age of 8 can't give. It's an outlet for them to be appreciated. Why do you think people like comments so much? I'm not saying this is a bad thing, nor am I criticizing them for doing it. I've done it. Sometimes you want to show something off because you are proud of what you've done.

Just my two cents. (or nonsense)

Sheila said...

Oh my!! LOVE IT!!!!And AMEN!

Sheila said...

PS--My friends and I always called it the "Primary Voice".

I have been the RS and Primary Pres, but I am not and never will live in Utah so I will certainly not acquire "the voice". :)

ellen said...

It's "releasesociety" -- all one word. :)

Caitlin said...

In my opinion, it just seems like no one really starts a blog, expecting it to become popular. They start it for their family and friends. And why do most problems arise? Family and friends. You're not going to write a post about how your mom is driving you absolutely crazy when she's your most dedicated reader!

Kimi said...

Amen, Sister Lawson!

Mrs. Clark said...

Love this! That singsongy tone and the Utah accent ("reeetcheen out to her sisters...") really get on my nerves. I wish they'd hire someone to help them with their public speaking. However, I concentrate on the messages during "contfrence" and just tell myself to get over it. (We do count how many times the word "supernal" is used.)

When my son came back from his mission, he had a weird vocal tic, too, which he's fortunately lost. He spoke very quietly with a lot of hesitation between words. Drove me nuts when he gave his first talk. I have since heard this from other RMs. I think they just get into this reverent-teachy-preachy mode they learn from each other.

agirlandherboy said...

Where have I been the last few days? This post is awesome. It's right up there with your "banana theory" you gave me way back in the day.

Right on, Am.

Winthrop Green Committee said...

Amy, I may not be a Mormon friend, but I love being your super-hippie friend!! You rock!!!!!