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Meet the Meanest Mom

By Kathyrn Lynard

Jana Mathews made her debut blogging as
The Meanest Mom in the summer of 2008, and has since received national recognition for her blogging, including being voted Parent & Child Magazine’s Best Mommy Blogger of 2009. “Every mom has moments with her children that she would just as soon forget,” she says. “This blog reclaims the feelings of desperation, frustration, anger, and humiliation that we experience on a daily basis. In doing so, it reminds us that what doesn’t seem funny at the time, really is.” Segullah is pleased to spotlight Jana in the following get-to-know-you interview.

You have a PhD in Medieval Literature, which totally intimidates me because I barely made it through Beowulf. How did you come to choose this path in your academic training?

I totally understand why you are intimated by Beowulf: he is HOT!  I wanted to date him too the first time I read the poem.  What’s not to like?  He’s ripped, he’s rich, he slays monsters for a living, and he speaks in alliterative verse.

In all seriousness, I fell into medieval literature by chance. I started grad school as a Victorianist (Jane Austen and friends).  In my first semester, I took a required Chaucer course simply to get it out of the way. Within a week, I switched my focus to medieval studies.  I fell in love instantly with the literature, the culture, the languages, the history, everything. Of course, it helped that I had an incredible professor.

How has your education enriched your current life as a mom and a writer?

I think what I’m supposed to say here is something about how my degree gives me an enlightened perspective on life that I’ve instilled somehow in my children.  In truth, it’s quite the opposite.  My kids are very diligent about reminding me of the fact that on the playground, a Ph.D. is equal in value to a pile of poop.  In other words, no one cares.

What surprised you most about switching hats from academic to domestic?
In many ways, stepping outside academia has been very liberating.  I no longer feel pressured to write in complete sentences, for example.  In other ways, it has been devastating.  I feel like I’m in the middle of bad, unwanted break-up.

In one of your media profiles you mention that you started your blog after finishing your dissertation and thinking, “What next?”
Yes, I didn’t realize how central writing was to my life until the day after I defended my dissertation.  After my kids went to sleep that night, I sat at my computer, just like usual, and, for the first time in my adult life, didn’t have anything to write with a due date attached to it.  It was a very uncomfortable and anxious feeling, yet a strangely exciting one at the same time.  I’ve come to realize that writing isn’t just something that I can do, but that it is something that I have to do.

How do you find a happy balance between privacy and candor in your blog posts?

Weirdly enough, I consider myself to be a very private person. Sometimes  I falter, but I try to stay off the soapbox and out of the confessional.  Most of the stories I tell are about one brief chaotic moment in a very long day.  My readers have access to that two minutes; the rest of the time is mine.

How did your blogging experience change after receiving national recognition?
More people read my blog now than when I first started out, but the experience of writing it hasn’t changed all that much over time, nor has the reason why I do it.  This blog is for my kids. It’s as close to a journal as they are going to get out of me.  I love hearing stories about the crazy stuff that I did when I was a kid.  I’m hoping (cross my fingers) that my kids will feel the same way when they are older.

Your three oldest children were born in the same calendar year (2003). Holy cow! Tell us about some of your traumas and triumphs that crazy year.
I have a testimony of Darwin’s theory of Survival of the Fittest. Does that tell you how the first year went?  While there were certainly some dark days (most of which involved cost-cutting measures such as DIY hair coloring kits and homemade baby food), the gratitude and joy of being blessed with three healthy children far outweighed the difficulties brought on by the timing of their arrival.  My husband and I know how lucky we are.

Your blogging platform is “The Meanest Mom,” not “The Meanest Mormon Mom,” but I imagine your religious/spiritual life can’t help but leak into your writing. How does your faith figure into your blogging?

For a long time, I had an “I’m a Mormon” link button on my sidebar, but one day its presence struck me as odd.  You never see “I’m a Methodist” or “I’m Jewish” link buttons on other people’s blogs.  That’s when I figured out that such buttons are not required.

Being Mormon is an intrinsic part of who I am.  I am very proud of my religion and do my best to uphold its values and principles in my writing.   With that being said, however, I don’t feel the need to talk about my religion just for the sake of talking about it.  There are other blogs for that.

What do you think is the greatest challenge that Mormon women face today, and how do you manage that challenge?

That’s easy: GUILT!  It’s painful to listen to some of the confessionals in Relief Society.  Fill in the blank: “I am such a bad person because I a) didn’t read my scriptures on Friday b) don’t have my family tree filled out to the Anglo-Norman Conquest c) slept in and missed half of sacrament meeting.”

To be sure, some women say such things to get attention, but an alarming number of others really and truly believe that their stock in heaven is diminished by being human. Don’t get me wrong–within its proper context, guilt is a powerful motivational tool–but I think that it’s become way too powerful a force in the lives of many LDS women.

Now I feel guilty for saying all of this…and for wishing that I could taser half of the women in my ward. So clearly I’m a perpetrator as well.

Well, one thing’s for sure: you’re in good company. Thanks, Jana, for the dialogue!

About Kathyrn Lynard

(Founding Editor) is the author of the memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press, 2009) and the editor of four published anthologies. She contributes to Mormon forums from Meridian Magazine to Sunstone on a variety of topics including gender issues, disability, mental health, sexuality, family life, and spirituality.

21 thoughts on “Meet the Meanest Mom”

  1. Oh my goodness, Jana. Now I'm going to spend the whole day fretting over whether I'm in the half of the ward that you want to taser, or the other half.

  2. Beowulf is hot–ha! I'm going to have to read it now.

    I'm also going to have to check out your blog, Jana.

    And tasers . . . I'm with you on let's cut the guilt. Maybe tasers would be akin to rubberband therapy, only more fun for the user. 🙂

  3. I have been laughing since I first read this blog. What a breath of fresh air! Jana is like that funny mom in every playgroup who has everyone in stitches because of her honesty. THANK YOU, JANA!

  4. I have been reading her for a year, and just yesterday wondered why she has never been a presence here! Yeah! Love her and her crazy family. (I say crazy with all the love in my heart!)
    Thank you!

  5. What a fun post. I have a dear friend who has a degree in Renaissance Lit and has spoken about some of these same feelings of being torn. She is also at home with her kids and finding that writing is something she has to do. I am going to share this with her. And I'll check out your blog Jana. You sound like such a fun girl! And very human too! 😀

  6. Yeah, Beowulf is a studmuffin, but I had a really hard time with memorizing lines from Chaucer. Old English is cool, but it took too much brain power for me.

    Jana – your blog cracks me up and, at the same time, shows me that all kids can be really rotten/creative/crazy – not just my own. But at the same time, they can be good kids without being perfect. My kid is a good kid without the pressure of needing to be perfect – that's what I realize with every one of your posts. 🙂 Thank you!

  7. I'm going to check out your blog, Jana; it sounds like something I would have really enjoyed when I was a young mother. Posts like this make me wish blogging existed 20 years ago!

  8. I love your blog; really funny stuff. But I gotta ask, as the mom of twins plus others close in age, how did the 3 born in 8 months happen? Did you adopt your first? Were the twins born early? Are these questions too nosy? =)

  9. Can all of you please move to Philadelphia and, more specifically, into my neighborhood? On second thought, can I move out of my neighborhood and into yours?

    You guys are hilarious! Thanks for the comments and encouragement. Really. My blog is a ton of fun to write.

  10. I love your blog…ironically my husband found it first. We laugh about your mothering adventures because they are a little too close to home. I wish I had the gift for writing that you do, i certainly have the crazy children to fill the pages with stories!

    F.Y.I. I am a mormon mom with very little guilt…not sure if I am just in denial or what, but I find it hard to dwell on my shortcomings…NO TIME!

  11. I have to say, Jana is as funny in person, as she is in her blog! I've known Jana for a couple of years, and she is a strong woman who knows how to keep things real and still have the time to be funny about any situation!!


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