news item: blogging about your kids

Every once in a while, an article or blog post comes along that totally jives with something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I’ve been in luck lately because there have been several in the past week and a half, all centering around privacy, ownership, agency and parental discretion on the internet

Do you blog about your kids?

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Anyone who’s ever read my blog knows that I do. I blog almost only about my kids, to what is probably the detriment of the rest of my life (although my kids are still little, so there isn’t much else going on around here). For a while, my blog was called “The Adventures of Chicken and Ham.” I wrote about their daily activities, their development, their complete and devastating lack of sleeping through the night all summer. Those stories were also the stories of, respectively, what I did all day, how I felt about them growing up, and how freakin’ exhausted and miserable I was all summer. It was more than overlap– the two were on in the same.

I did have a few restrictions. I never posted nude below-the-waist shots (or even took them, really; there are very few and they’re mostly “creative angles”). I did my best to vent my frustration without ever saying anything that could, in the future, upset my children to read. I tried, and still try, not to label them too much even when it’s positive because they are always changing. And I took down their real names and replaced them, in every blog entry, with nicknames. Still, though, I posted constant photo updates and detailed anecdotes, and for a while that was almost all I ever wrote about. This was the level of comfort I had established with what I wanted to reveal and protect.

But then I did some reading when a few brilliant posts came across my radar… and I locked all my entries up, removed photos from my Twitter, and decided to take a brief hiatus while I made some decisions. I panicked.

My girls are beautiful, smart, witty, funny, and sweet. I truly want to share them with the world. But now, I wonder how much of their story is mine to tell. Do I still feel the same way about blogging about my family as I once did?

Jjiraffe covered this last week with two posts on being original and being authentic (and, though it’s relevant to those blogs but not to this article, if you choose to do additional reading on the topic I recommend her previous post as well on what bloggers do and don’t owe their audiences). Who are we when we blog? What do we share about ourselves and what do we hope others will see? What is the difference between originality and authenticity?

I’ll add another line of questioning here myself: When you write your world, and your world incorporates other people, what do you share about them? How much does the world get to see of your family? Where do you draw the line between sharing your story and sharing theirs?

Most of this stems, for me, from the original article from The Atlantic that I linked above: The Ethical Implications of Parents Writing About Their Kids. The crux of the author’s point is here:

…anyone looking to question the ethics of parental overshare faces a tough audience. The ubiquity of confessional writing has spilled over into confessions that implicate not so much the author as the author’s still-underage offspring. Readers are meant to celebrate confessional parenting-writing for its courage, perhaps also because it is a rare creative (sometimes lucrative) outlet for women who identify primarily as mothers. Yet these parents’ “courage” involves telling stories not theirs to tell. Confessional writing is about risk. An author telling of her own troubles risks her own reputation and relationships. But an author doing the same about her kid risks primarily his, not hers.

I’ll admit to enjoying the “confessional writing” style to a degree. I like its relatability the same way I like Liz Lemon– “I’m a mess so it’s okay that you feel like a mess, too, and I make it fun and cute so it doesn’t feel like a bad thing!”– but I do think sometimes it can be a bit forced. I guess it depends on the skill of the writer. Either way, confessional writing definitely comes with risk, and yes, sometimes that risk is sharing something about a third party who might not want that story to be told.

For a counterpoint to the Atlantic article, here is Lyz Lenz’s take on the situation: Why I Write About My Baby.

… like every first time parent I was consumed. I felt like I had ceded myself and my body to my child. Her story was my story and it still is. So much of her life is about my life. So much of her needs and wants emanate and reciprocate through me. It’s consumed, exhausting, baffling and overwhelming, but it’s my life. This is my story. For now.

She’s already started to separate. Soon she will be two and tell me that she doesn’t need me. She will tell me this over and over until she has her own child and then, she’ll need me again. But by then, it won’t be about me. Parenting has it’s seasons. I write about my child (and my little baby inside) because for now their stories are mine. But soon their stories will be their own and as parents, we need to know that line. In a few years, I won’t be a parenting blog anymore. I will always be a parent, but I will begin to cede ownership of my children’s bodies and lives to themselves.

This, for me, helped me round out my thoughts on the implications of using Facebook as a photo storage facility and my blog as a full-on photo dump and storytelling soundboard. My very young children and their daily adventures are my life, too. I had essentially no filter because my life had no filter– it was babies, babies, all over me, tangled in my hair with sticky fingers, screeching and scratching my face because I’d forgotten to trim their nails. I decided I might need to refine my filter in a more meaningful way so I could be reflective about how I tell my daughters’ stories, because I do feel that their stories have been my story up until now. I’m also trying to find what else I could say when blogging about myself, just myself. Where do I separate from them?

I want to end with this– I have plenty of friends who are very open on their blogs, who post with their full names and their children’s names alongside photos of the family. I assure you, I fully respect that choice! This is not meant to be an evaluation of the “right” level of openness vs. the “right” amount of privacy; as you can see in the links above, there are several different thoughts on the matter. I am definitely curious, though, to learn how you all, like me, came to make decisions about what level of exposure you choose to have in your blog and how you feel it affects your sense of originality & authenticity about your story, and how much of your children’s lives you feel comfortable making publicly viewable. Some of you are fully anonymous, some partially, some not at all; some have locked journals or select entries and others don’t. How did you come to that decision and are you still comfortable with what you decided?

entries and others don’t. How did you come to that decision and are you still comfortable with what you decided?

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How do you blog about your child(ren)? Do you have any rules about what you will and won’t post?

How do you feel about the story you own and blogging about someone else’s life?

Has anything ever caused you to revisit this topic and change how you blog about your child(ren)?

If you have a child who is old enough to have an opinion about your blogging habits, what do they understand about it and do they mind when you blog about them?

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