The term “mommy blogger” sits uneasily on me.
From the early days of this blog, I promised myself that I would never become one of those moms, shilling their kids on social media for the sake of free stuff and paid sponsorships.* I would never expect them to live their life online and would always respect their individuality and right to privacy. I swore up and down that I would never be a mommy blogger.
* (I am still not receiving any free stuff or paid sponsorships, but this post isn’t about that.)
I was kind of like one of those people who knows all about raising children while having none of their own. Before I had children, I was the perfect blogger with children.
And then I had children. What actually happened is that my blog died a slow, dragged-out death. Or, at least, a very prolonged illness. Rather than becoming a mommy blogger, a title that makes me feel so uncomfortable, I just stopped writing. (There are other reasons I stopped writing. Any parent can tell you that it’s a crazy, sleepless, difficult time. Women who can maintain a blog while keeping brand new humans alive have all my love and respect.) My blog descended into the banality of monthly updates; posts became even fewer and further between as Isabel got busier and Eden’s arrival loomed imminent.
These days, as I attempt to relaunch something on this platform that I loved for so many years before I had children, I’ve discovered that I’m a new person. Sure, I’ve got all sorts of things to write about. But those girls? They’re my life. They’re my every waking moment, whether I’m with them or not. They’re my purpose – or at least the largest part of it. If I am going to create a blog space that is true to me and my voice, I can’t exclude them.
Last week, an old blogging friend of mine, Jen from Rambling Renovators, and Erin from DIY Passion Blog took to their blogging podcast, In The Storyhouse to talk about the issue of parents over-sharing their children’s lives on social media and the question of how those children will react to their well-developed social media presence as they get older and enter adulthood.Will they be embarrassed by every moment of their growing up being easily accessible online? Do we share too much?
Jen says, “At some point those kids grow up. And you think, hey maybe I haven’t taken into account their need for privacy, right? Do they want to have their life exposed on the internet? There’s the chance that you might feel you’ve exploited them in many ways.” These worries resonate with me: can I write about my family, about my children, and still honour their needs as humans growing up in a social media world? Or do I really just need to put this blog to bed and take a gigantic step back from social media myself for their sake?
If you follow me on any platform, you know I share my girls. About 90% of the pictures I post on Instagram are Isabel and Eden. Almost everything I’ve written on this blog in the past 4 years has been pregnancy, baby, toddler, and motherhood related. I share share share and I have to admit, I really don’t want to stop. So many good things come from sharing our day-to-days: connection, community, creativity. I’ve met people on social media, I’ve gotten advice about how to handle situations with the girls, I’ve developed a few photography skills and found an outlet for my writing and creativity. I’ve chased away feelings of isolation with honesty and authenticity. Despite its problems, I like social media.
But, I do believe we have to be careful. We don’t know how our children are going to feel about their social media presence as they grow up. Will they be embarrassed by their mom and her preference for uncomfortable honesty about her experience with motherhood? I hope not. Will they be angry that their early years were put out into the world for random strangers to follow? I don’t know. But I do have to think about it.
So, I’ve thought about it, I still want to share because I enjoy so much of participating in social media, and I’m hopeful that there’s some sort of balance that I can find to make sure I don’t ruin my kids lives – or at least their reputations and online presence. A few ideas:
- Seek consent. I ask Isabel every time I pull out my camera if I can take some pictures. If she says no? I honour that. This teaches her that she has a right to her photograph, a right to step out from in front of the camera. At 3.5, she’s started saying yes more often than she says no, and loves to check out the shots with me after I’ve taken them. A year or so ago, I wasn’t so good at being consistent about this, and it quickly became clear that she hated it when I pulled out the camera, purely because I didn’t give her a choice in the matter. And what about Eden, at 15 months? Even at that age, it’s easy to tell when she’s not in the mood for pictures. And even at that age, it’s important to honour her wishes.
- Seek consent times two. It’s important to ask permission for the picture, but what about posting it on social media? This is something I’ve just started to do with Isabel – and, admittedly, am not very good at yet. When I take a particularly cute picture, I try to ask her if I can post it and share it with “mommy’s internet friends”. More often than not, it’s a yes. Occasionally, she has disagreed that it’s a cute picture and has said no. Once again, it’s important to honour that request.
- Treat them like people. If they were an adult, what would you post? Obviously, this sounds simple, but can be a little bit more difficult to navigate than you might expect. Should we not share things about diapering, and potty training, and temper tantrums because, from an adult perspective, these things could be embarrassing? No! Sometimes, parents just really need help with some of these things and sharing can be an avenue towards not feeling so alone in the struggles of motherhood. But, if we think about our kids as individual people – and not merely an extension of ourselves – maybe we can find a way to talk about these things in a more respectful way.
- Focus on yourself. My story might feel so entangled in my children’s stories: that’s the nature of parenthood. But, if I focus on my story rather than theirs, turn the spotlight onto me, rather than on them, maybe I can find the allusive balance between sharing and oversharing, honouring and dishonouring my children.
I recently read an article about providing children the opportunity to erase themselves from the Internet, to edit the online reputation that their parents created for them. It is my hope that what my children see here won’t embarrass them, that they won’t have a desire to delete my social media presence from theirs.
But if they do? They won’t need to hire a lawyer to make it happen: We’ll do it together, me and them, scrubbing my accounts clean from what they don’t want the world to see.
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