For many, blogging is essentially a personal journal – public diary that strangers can stumble across but that’s OK because if we didn’t want strangers to stumble across it we wouldn’t have put it out there. There are of course varying degrees to this personal journaling with some people more or less putting it all out there, ugly warts and all, and often including the assorted characters in their lives in the stories, often without real names being changed to protect the innocent.
As social media and the assorted platforms have grown and evolved, there has been an on going debate on how much is too much when it comes to “sharenting,” especially as folks have turned the life and times of their children into incomes. It’s only over the last few years that the subjects of many of these stories are coming of age and finding out just how much of their private lives weren’t so private.
Christie Tate, lawyer, writer, mother of two children, came face to face with this this past Christmas when her fourth-grade daughter received a new laptop and did what people do: searched the names of those she loved.
“What’s all this?” she said. The screen was covered with thumbnail sketches of her as a baby, a toddler and preschooler — each paired with an essay or blog post I’d written on the subject of parenting. “Why are all of these pictures of me on the Internet?” She wanted to know, and she had a right to know
I’ve tried to be respectful of my children’s lives on social media. My personal accounts where most of their photos are shared are private. The stories I share are moments of joy and curiosity, the highlights of our moments together. I’m not about to pull back the curtain on the nitty gritty details of their lives because, quite frankly, it’s either no one’s business but my family’s or it’s not my story to tell.
That said, if one of my children came to me in the future and said they had a problem with what I had shared, my immediate response would be an apology, a hard stop, and to work with them on how we remove it and turn it into a life lesson for both of us on the permanence of the web and responsible usage. Because as a parent that’s my job.
So this bothers me:
Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her. So my plan is to chart a middle course, where together we negotiate the boundaries of the stories I write and the images I include. This will entail hard conversations and compromises. But I prefer the hard work of charting the middle course to giving up altogether — an impulse that comes, in part, from the cultural pressure for mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing on behalf of their children. As a mother, I’m not supposed to do anything that upsets my children or that makes them uncomfortable, certainly not for something as culturally devalued as my own creative labor.
My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that’s who I am. Amputating parts of my experience feels as abusive to our relationship as writing about her without any consideration for her feelings and privacy.
Words. I have none.
OK, I do have some (clearly, I’m writing a whole post here, afterall) but I think Waldo Jaquith nailed it in his tweet here:
This woman is teaching her daughter to only share things with her mother that she’d want published for the whole world to read. She has permanently poisoned her relationship with her child.
And then she went and wrote about *that* in the Post, too.
Are there cultural pressures for a mother (and father, to be honest) to self-sacrifice on behalf of their children? Yes, it’s called being a parent. That doesn’t devalue anyone’s creative labors, in fact, it provides different opportunities to be creative. It’s a challenge to be embraced, not pushed aside because it’s difficult or requires a sacrifice.