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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Comments

  1. I blogged about this last spring when I was just a few months into parenting and starting to worry more about this – http://mycheapversionoftherapy.com/2012/05/28/my-childs-privacy-and-my-blogging-mutually-exclusive-or-not/

    Basically, for now I DO post about my child’s life (and use our full first names, though not our last names), and I post respectful pictures. When she is old enough to express an opinion (and I’m not sure when this is – age 5 perhaps?), I plan on asking her before I post anything about her and being much more discrete when choosing what I do/don’t share with the world wide web about her life.

    I am comfortable sharing pictures, though I do watermark a lot of them now for security reasons, but that is something that is always in a state of flux as the internet changes. I’ve thought about locking down picture posts, but since I’m a picture freak and use them in nearly every post, that doesn’t seem sensible either. For me, I am MUCH more likely to follow/interact with a blogger who posts pictures about her life, so I try to return the favor.

    I’m curious what others think about this. 🙂

  2. For me the line is drawn at no pictures on the public page – I password protect them, but I give out my password pretty liberally. I’ve seen bloggers have pictures of their children taken and used by others for illegitimate purposes (like pretending to have cancer) and I don’t want my page to be an open invitation to that sort of thing, though I recognize it could happen anyway. Substance-wise I won’t talk about my child’s health or adoption background. I try to make the stories about her lighthearted and positive, and as she gets older, I intend for her to have more say into what goes online and what doesn’t.

  3. I’ve always had one rule: would this be okay to read in court? If no, then it’s either private or unwritten. And it took a lot of asking Ian if it was okay to post pics of Abby before I stopped asking and took consent for granted, because he’s the legal parent. *Everything* on my blog has come down to legalities at some point; the question of ‘will this hurt our case?’ has always been there.

    I’ll have to comb through my archives, but I don’t think I’ve written about this, just commented on others’ posts. On my story vs someone else’s: once you start lying about me and my family to everyone you come on contact with, you relinquish all rights to calling it your story. It’s mine and I can tell what of it I like.

    I think I will write a post on this later today when I’m out of a waiting room and am free to exclaim and make faces. 🙂

  4. I never thought about not blogging about my daughter. She is a big part of my story. Is she all I blog about, no, but she is the majority. I like Josey include LOTS of pictures. It’s my way of documenting our family life. I do not use my real name or my husband’s. But I do use my daughter’s. I’m not sure why I chose to do that. I water mark every picture I post, both on my blog and generally on FB. Instagram is something else. My blog is semi anonymous, not really searchable, at least according to my stats page, it hasn’t been searched since I switched from blogger to WP.

    There is nothing on my blog in which I am ashamed. Nothing I wouldn’t say to my daughter or anyone else in real life. When my daughter is old enough to communicate, if she asks that I take down pictures of her as a baby and asks that I not blog about her, I will adhere to her wishes. However, if my daughter is anything like me, her life will be a completely open book as well, so she probably won’t care.

    Obviously at this time, I’m very liberal with my sharing. As time goes on, we will see how that changes. I may go back and PWP more posts. Like Missokay, I’m relatively liberal with my password, but I have to have some sort of relationship with the person, be it online or IRL. I have denied my password to some. Initially I felt bad, but those posts are protected for a reason. For now, I’m not planning on changing anything, but in the future, things may be different.

  5. My blog is anonymous primarily for my safety, but also because we have a weird name that is highly searchable. On my personal facebook page I try pretty hard not to mention the kid’s first name so my postings aren’t found when someone searches her later in life, and I try to keep it to stuff I’d say to anyone at any time. There are a few pictures of her posted there but I’ve cranked down to “desk appropriate only” pictures (and I should watermark them, but haven’t bothered yet).

    I know how the kid would answer if I asked if it was OK to talk about her or post her picture for other people to see. She’d be thrilled. That’s where I think that understanding and being able to really give consent is key – she has no idea what it means to have someone search you and use what they find to demean you, and she shouldn’t. I won’t be asking her permission for some years because she can’t understand enough to really consent, but I have no plans to monetize my blog either (and I feel like making a living writing about your kids might be different than just writing and having a very little blog in some back corner of the internet). I try to focus what I write on my experience and limit how much she is a major player, and that’s a lot easier now that she’s bigger and does things without me, because our lives are separate.

    There’s also a lot of stuff I write and never publish at all (because once it’s out there, even “protected” it can be found) because I decide it’s too personal or identifies someone too much. I really struggle with this, because I read a lot of very popular mommy blogs/parenting blogs where blogging alone supports the family and they write almost exclusively about their kids. So while I’m not contributing loudly with my own oversharing, I certainly consume other people’s… and is that any better? I’m supporting something I find ethically dubious…

    It’s an ever-shifting balance though, because there’s discussions around here that photos of a baby on the blog are a possibility because all babies look alike (and they totally do). I think the reassessing is good and keeps us honest, but I at least keep remembering that once it’s out there, I can never take it back, so I try to err on the side of extreme caution.

  6. First of all, Blue Milk had a great post in response to the article http://mypreconceivednotion.blogspot.com as did Balancing Jane http://www.balancingjane.com/2013/01/sharing-lives-what-stories-are-ours-to.html.

    I used my real name for my Twitter account, even as I was trying to be semi-anonymous on my blog. It became too confusing, so I gave up the semi-anonymity and started using my real name on my blog. My name is very identifiable, so it’s a chance I take. However, I don’t hit publish on anything I wouldn’t be prepared to defend if questioned. There is freedom in using my name and not having to remember pseudonyms and scraping overly-identifying information.

    There’s a lot of topics, subjects and experiences I’d love to blog about. LOVE. But I don’t because some aren’t entirely my stories to tell or are too private (or embarrassing). I don’t blog about my mother, my marriage or about issues that might be going on. For example, I really wanted to post about a horribly potty training phase Daniel was going through several months ago, but I didn’t b/c I didn’t want it to be out there forever to embarrass him. It sucks, though, because there are some things I really could use some commiseration and advice on, but I can’t talk about it them. Or won’t. For what it’s worth, reading the GOMI forums provides a gut check for me on what is appropriate and inappropriate. My authenticity rating may suffer, but that’s when I have to remember that my family and I are real people, not simply fodder for a blog.

    Sometimes I wish I hadn’t started using Daniel’s name, but that cat is out of the bag. I don’t post naked pictures of him, and actually, most of my pictures are pretty bad b/c we don’t have a digital camera other than our iPhones, and I’m a horrible photographer.

    Why does every article about mommy blogging have a faint whiff of sexism about it? Why are we so afraid of mothers speaking up and telling their stories?

  7. A lot to unpack here, and some very good questions.

    My dad was a journalist for a major newspaper with a circulation of millions growing up. He wrote about my brother and I a lot. We were also featured in a yearly fashion pictorial (the Back to School issue) each year. I also modeled as a child and a teen (and so did my brother.) So my answer is informed by this experience.

    I was and am fine with what he wrote, and I enjoyed being in the photos. I try to use the same guidelines as he did: there are lines I won’t cross. I also don’t use my children’s real names.

    Good post. Thanks for raising these questions.

  8. I do blog about my children. The one who lived and the one who didn’t. But I blog anonymously so I never post photos or names of any of us. That is not something I see changing in the future.

  9. Definitely an important topic to consider (I think, anyway). I’m careful with pics of my kids and switched to WordPress entirely because I wanted to have the ability to password protect or make private picture posts. This is all also reminding me to get a watermark app and start watermarking my pics as well. I definitely don’t post nude/bath time pics of them or anything that might attract some sicko and my blog is straight up not searchable (I do hate missing out on the fun of reading the crazy reports of search terms that led to my blog though, dangit). There’s no amount of careful that can entirely protect you once you decide to post something on a blog though, which I try to keep in mind.

    My measure of what’s okay to post (as far as the whole “my story/their story” thing goes) is influenced largely by how I think my girls will value what I’ve written when they read it later in their lives. I try to imagine them as adults, maybe mothers themselves, and think about what my words will mean to them. I started my blog as a “baby book” for them, and although it has evolved, I still write in the spirit of them one day being my audience. My big question is at what age should I “reveal” it to them… I may have to password protect the entire thing until they’re way out of their teenage years. 😉

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. It’s a great reminder!

  10. I do not try to be anonymous in any way. Nor do I overtly give out our personal information. But for me it came down to a couple things. 1)I’ve taken enough technology/internet courses and done enough reading to realize that we live in an age where true annonimity is a rarity. I can still find posts about my xcountry 5k times from 10 years ago that local newspapers published.2) I have a very rare and unique first name, and then married a guy with a unique last name. In the entire country, there is only one me with this name combo, so even if I just used my first name, I’m very findable. 3) My husband is a pastor, we are known by EVERYONE in the community. And we are foster parents, meaning our names are in court records and documents for our foster kids. So I just don’t really try to be annonymous, and I don’t care to be. I like being open. And so far I have had no issues with security or other downsides of not being annonymous. As for “whose” story it is to tell, I side on the “it’s mine right now and she’ll have input when she is older.” There are a lot of things I don’t blog about because I do have family and friends reading it and I figure if I won’t say it to their face, I better not blog it. This has taught me a lot of restraint.

  11. I keep coming back to this post, knowing I want to comment… but still not knowing how I even feel about this whole topic. I currently blog using my real name, my husband’s real name and my daughter’s real name. I mention where I live, even the exact town a couple of times I believe, I mention our non-profit… I am not private on my blog AT ALL… except that it is private from my real life friends and family but that is so that I can feel it is my space to vent if needed. However, if they want to find it, they can. However, recently when switching to WP, I do like the idea of PWP posts if needed and did think about putting a PW on all old posts and starting to use nicknames for myself, husband and daughter. And also watermarking photos which I have yet to do. But at the same time I think that I never say awful things about my family, never post photos that I feel would ever cause them any harm, so I don’t know whether I should be or not, but right now, I’m not feeling too worried. I am so confused about what to do but loved hearing all of your opinions of the topic!!! So thank you for sharing! 🙂 I actually did close my old ‘googleable’ blogger blog this week and emailed Google with requests to take down any photos still in ‘their system’ because it seems the photos are still searchable. Then at least my new WP blog isn’t googlable.. I don’ think… so that is my start and I’ll go from there… wherever that may be! Ugg…yah… not a great comment but like I said… I just don’t know!!! 🙂

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Jules shared a great news piece that looks at the issue of blogging about your kids and lines we draw about our own personal blogging. Are you a “put it all out there”, an anonymous blogger, or somewhere in between? We’d love to know what you think on this topic. Check it out in: news item: blogging about your kids. […]

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