The praise I receive most from readers of this blog is regarding my honesty. How I am not afraid to tell it like it is. And while I must confess that I have shared some nitty gritty details of motherhood and parenthood (and gotten in trouble for it in the past), I have found myself censoring my thoughts more and more lately.
A couple of months ago, The Skeptical OB wrote a blog post titled “Are the young children of mommy bloggers ‘fair game’? Their mothers think they are.” According to Dr. Amy, mommy blogs are selfish and damaging to the bloggers’ children. She asks, “How would you feel?” if your own mother had shared with the world her woes and disappointments regarding motherhood and her children? She goes on to say:
Most likely you would be embarrassed, angered and deeply hurt . . . . The internet never forgets. What a mommy blogger writes about her children today will be there for them to read when the children are older. It will be there for their children’s friends to read when they are teenagers. It will be there for their employers and professional colleagues to read when they are adults. . . . . The children of public figures are not fair game … so stop using your children to promote yourself.
What do you guys think? Do you agree with Dr. Amy that mommy bloggers should be silenced?
Personally, whenever I need to decide whether to share something regarding my children, I ask myself if I would be upset to discover that my own mother had written it about me. And as much as I can be brutally honest about some subjects (i.e., not believing my children to be the cutest babies in the world), I choose to remain mum about others.
In gathering my thoughts for this post, I remembered how Dooce, the so-called “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers” admitted that she has been writing less and less about Leta, her older daughter:
I’ve also felt a protectiveness growing about her as she’s gotten older and knew that I’d be writing less as that feeling continued. I’ve said before that the story of most babies is pretty much just like the story of all the other babies who have ever lived in the world: pooping, crying, screaming, sleeping (and a lot of not sleeping), and then more pooping . . . . That’s why I feel like it’s okay to write so much about Marlo, because it’s the same story of a million other babies hopefully told in a way that we can all laugh about it enough to want to wake up tomorrow morning.
I too, have been writing less about Claire as she gets older and is developing her own wants, desires, and aspirations. Because as she gets older, the more complex our relationship becomes…and parts of that relationship are to be treasured and protected. Just as I do not write too much about J and my relationship here.
As for what I have already published about her and Aerin? I honestly do not believe that they will be hurt or damaged to read these thoughts. I still receive numerous comments and messages relating to what I have written about my daughters, and for the most part they are thankful. I am glad — and even a bit proud — that Claire & Aerin’s early stories can have such an impact on others.
There’s also the fact that I am not a mommy blogger, or at least I do not consider myself to be one. I am a blogger who is a mother…as well as a wife, a geek, a bibliophile, and much, much more.
So I’m not quite sure where I stand on the mommy blogger issue raised by Dr. Amy. Do mommy bloggers treat their children like commodity? I’m sure some do — but the ones that I read are anything but written out of love for the children. Additionally, there is so much I learned from mommy blogs that I wouldn’t have heard/read elsewhere.
But the ones that mother for the sake of their blogs? Yep. Those have got to go. (Or the bloggers need to reevaluate their priorities.)
Ok, so I’m not the most tech savvy person out there, but the whole “everything on the internet is FOREVER!” seems like a vast exaggeration. I deleted my blogger blog that I wrote back when I was planning my wedding with my ex. There’s not a single shred of text out there on it, and I’ve gone looking. Yeah, there’s caching, but to think that somewhere the internet servers are caching years and years of posts and comments and images is just absurd. Nothing can store all that information. So the odds of teens getting a hold of your posts on Claire should you choose to delete them are minimal.
Secondly, I may not be as qualified to comment because I have more of a DIY blog than a mommy blog, but I do post on motherhood and my daughter. I use her name. I post pictures. I do draw the line at any nudity though, and I only have one bath time photo that I took on my phone because I’m just really weird about photos of nudity, even if it is a baby. But that’s a total aside. Back on point: No, I don’t think we’re abusing or exploiting our children by blogging about them. The “Mommy Blog” slants more toward being a mother than the children themselves. Besides, don’t you sometimes wish you could peek in on how your own mom and dad parented you? I think it would be interesting rather than insulting. Memory keeping was much more limited back in the day. We have hours of home videos, but it wasn’t until I had my own child that I found out so many things about my mom. Like how she was the sole caregiver of two under two for an entire year while my dad commuted to Massachusetts from Texas. He was only home on weekends. For a YEAR! My whole outlook on her changed with that fact. I never knew she could be so resilient. Now I wish we knew what her day to day life was like back then, because she says she can’t remember but I think she blocked it out 😉
All that to say, I think there are some cases where this doctor’s idea holds true, but for the most part she’s overreacting. Our society sensationalizes all of the things parents do that “ruin” their children every day. It’s either my blogging, or not giving them enough chores, or pushing them too hard, or five thousand other things. So, whatever. I’ll keep on doin’ what I’m doin’ and I’m sure Charlie will grow up healthy and well-adjusted, blog or not.
The same thing has happened with me and my mom! Sometimes I wish she had kept a journal or something (especially since my parents didn’t have a camera back then) because she has trouble remembering the details.
As for an archive of old blogs, there’s a good chance that your blogger blog may be archived in the Wayback Machine (http://archive.org/web/web.php) — I know that my old Xanga and LiveJournal blogs, both of which I deleted, are on there.
And this is exactly why I stopped blogging. I couldn’t come up with a balance between too little, and not getting an audience, and too much and having my life out there for people to pick apart.
Sorry, I don’t have anything to add to the discussion. I just wanted to say, “how can you not think your kids are the cutest babies in the world?” 🙂 They are adorable.
Oh, I *do* think they’re pretty stinkin’ cute. 🙂 No doubt about it. I just don’t think they’re the cutest babies in the world, and I believe that there’s a difference there.
I am grateful you are sharing your mommy experiences on your blog. I am a SAHM fairly new to the city away from family therefore I feel that your blog serves as my emotional support as I journey through my life with two young kids. Living in a new city away from family and being that I am older (as in no longer in school), I find it hard to connect and find new friends at this age. Blogs are where I’m able to share and read the different mommy stories.
I am also aware we are living in a social world where privacy has a thin line but I find that the benefits outweigh the cons and as long as bloggers use a little discretion, I don’t see the harm.
I definitely censor myself regarding my blogging. I keep a private blog with my kid’s shennanigans for family and friends who want to stay in the loop. I love blogging and toy with the idea of making it public. However, I’m not comfortable making my private life public, so I keep it underwraps.
I think you’ve found the right balance. You haven’t written anything that I think your daughters will be embarrassed about when they’re older. It’s obvious that you love them and are very proud of them.
As for mommy bloggers treating their kids like commodities – I think that’s bull. Blogging is a way to sort things through, think things out. And how can we all learn how to be better parents if we’re not sharing our experiences by TALKING about our children?
Obviously a parent can go too far with putting their kids out there to the world. I used to watch Toddlers & Tiaras for the train wreck factor, till it just got too painful to watch, but that’s usually one example. I’m sure some “mommy bloggers” (which I define as people who only talk about parenting, their kids, and kids’ products, as opposed to female bloggers who are mothers and talk about their families in a larger context) probably cross the line as well.
But at the same time, I’m pretty skeptical of these “think of the CHILDREN” arguments. The vast majority of the time, any information shared doesn’t seem damaging. I see it as just another excuse to criticize women for their parenting choices. And I think it’s really, really important that people talk about parenting in larger society. There are still too few stories out there talking about the vast range of experience in real people’s family lives. Telling mothers they shouldn’t write about their kids in public is, whether intended or not, a way to silence mothers in the public sphere and to reinforce the messages that motherhood and the stories we tell about it aren’t really that important to society.
Hmm. It’s probably going to be another 5-10 years before I have kids, and who knows if I’ll still be blogging then? I imagine, though, that my writing would be more introspective rather than outwardly focused on the kids themselves – what motherhood means to me and how it’s changing my life. Or at least that’s how I think I would tackle it, because blogging for me is very much about navel gazing.
As you know, I am a big fan of Anne Lamotte’s writings, Her ‘momoir’, “Operating Instructions, a Journal of My Son’s First Year”, which she wrote about her son, Sam, being my most favorite. I recently finished the sequel to that book, “Some Assembly Required, A Journal of my Son’s First Son”. In the preface, Anne’s son, Sam, directly addresses the biggest question he receives about his mother’s writing about him for the past 21 years:
Personally, I write because I need to write. Writing on a blog, is different than writing novels or published works just as much as it is different than a personal journal that you keep to yourself for no one to ever see. For me, I compare writing to when I was expressing myself through singing. Not many people know this these days, but I am a classically trained singer; by the time I graduated from college, I had 10+ years of private lessons, including being a voice performance major in College. Somehow along the way, I stopped singing. It became to pressure-filled for me; and I burned out. But I need creative outlets and for me right now, writing is that. When I was singing as my creative outlet, I would have considered it ludicrous to expect me to sing just to myself. Now that I write (and do other more graphic arts inspired ‘art’) why would anyone expect me to keep my writing to myself. A blog is a way to ‘perform’ in a way. A way to remain polished and write for other people to understand your voice. Is a creative voice anything if it is not heard? I don’t think there is a blanket answer to that question; only personal reflections.
The subject that I know and am most passionate about is my life and my family. And therein lies the greatest choice in writing. Do you air your laundry out or not? It is a personal decision for me based on several things. In the end, I am very aware that the internet is forever. I am aware that I do not get paid enough to write to be considered a writer, and thus exempt in some people’s mind from the rules of what-we-do-and-do-not-put-out-there. I am cognizant mostly that not everyone will agree with what I have to say and having experienced the backlash of being fired for writing creatively, I definitely always have that in the back of my mind. I do sometimes take extra consideration on how something that might be perceived negatively on my blog could potentially ‘help’ someone someday, but for the most part, I write to be creative. I write because I feel things inside of me that have a primal need to get out of my body and putting it on ‘paper’ not only helps me process it, but creatively releases something in me that is indescribable.
Ok, I’m going to try not to be emotional as I think this one through.
My parents were not terribly censored when we were growing up that I could tell – they’d tell us plenty of stories, cautionary, or funny, or sad, or humble – all teaching stories to some degree. But they were pretty honest, I think, about how they felt about us at the time: happy, frustrated, angry, sad, disappointed, thrilled, whatever. They were expressive parents and I was really comfortable with that. And they didn’t particularly put up fronts with our family and friends – expectations were expectations – we were their kids and were to perform to standard, pretty much. That wasn’t unreasonable.
But what I started to learn as I got older was how hard my mom’s job really was, as our mother – and I wish I knew more about her experiences as our mother in those earlier years when we were too young to ask these questions.
She’s gone now and I’ll never know. My dad can’t answer those questions, he wasn’t there. And he wasn’t her. And the unvarnished truth wouldn’t hurt me. I already know that I was a tough baby to raise – I was a fussy crier for months, and I was a *cranky* kid and so on. The pictures show me that, as well as the stories, and I *remember* just being difficultly grumpy. I remember feeling grumpy a lot for no reason. But I don’t know how *she* dealt with it. I don’t know how she survived. And I really wish I could ask how she got from one day to the next, alone and isolated with no help and no one to talk to. Because she never complained about it. She mocked and teased me and we joked that I was a brat but she never actually complained and I know she didn’t have anyone to lean on, so I have no idea how she coped for years in solitary emotional confinement. And if her way of coping was thinking dark and angry thoughts, somehow, I think I might actually feel better about it, even, I don’t know. At least .. I would have some basis for *knowing*. I could start somewhere instead of simply knowing absolutely nothing about that period of time.
So the way you blog your way through the kids’ childhood and think these things through – you’re not being hurtful. And morbid as it might be to think, wouldn’t it be nice for them to have the ability to know and read for themselves how you were thinking and feeling at the time they were growing up?
I go back through the tough times of my family on the blog and realized that my own memories don’t match up precisely to the reality at the time, for better and for worse, and it’s not overall a bad thing. It’s nice to have that reality check for myself. I would imagine that it’d be nice to have the journalled reference for the kids, perhaps curated, later down the line.
Ultimately I only really blog for myself, navel-gazing as eemusings says, but it does become an archive.