blogging about kids: where do we draw the lines?

Recently, I received an email from a reader curious to know why I don’t include my children more frequently on my blog. You might think that with four kids (and let’s face it, that’s plenty of ’em) I’d be provided with more than enough colourful anecdotes to fill these pages. And you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking so, or for being curious. But given that my “babes” are no longer small—two teens and two twenty-somethings—they have defined boundaries themselves, putting their own stamp on the internet. They also have a lot to say about how they choose to reveal themselves through their on-line identities and use of social media. For the most part, I veer away from representing them on my blog, even though they hold an enormous place in my day-to-day life. Any engagement on-line is solely on their terms. But this question prompted me to think about how I perceive my identity as a blogger, and the degree to which children in general are permitted private lives in the very public forum of blogging, particularly “mommy blogging”.

The tag “mommy blogger” makes me bristle and recoil. Women who blog, who happen to have children, are just that—bloggers. Or writers, as the case may be. Thankfully, we don’t qualify female pediatricians who have children as “mommy-pediatricians” or female teachers who are mothers, as “mommy-teachers” despite the focus of both being child-centered. As a parent who blogs, I acknowledge—first and foremost—my identity as a mother. While I write only occasionally about my children, their enormous importance in my life informs my perspective and my positioning as a blog-writer. But I’m not a “mommy blogger”, if by this, you understand the term to mean someone who writes characteristically through the lens of motherhood. And even if I did, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t ever self-identify as a mommy blogger. Perhaps mommy-blogging can be viewed as an act of reclaiming and reframing the experiences of motherhood. But I resist the notion of narrowly defining and reducing those experiences through the singular label of “mommy”. It’s not that being a “mommy” isn’t somehow enough. Rather, I want to know about every shade of that experience. The mundane, head-banging aspects and so much more. But even if my children were younger and the central focus of my blog, I’d likely never be at peace with my inner conflict over the minutiae of children’s intimate lives being splashed about the internet, without their informed consent.

I should state clearly that I respect the choice of those who blog abundantly and thoughtfully about their kids, particularly when those kids have a say in the content that is shared. But do we, as parents, retain the right to blog indiscriminately about our children simply because they’re ours? At what point do you draw the line to honour your child’s privacy? As a mother, connecting with those who share their parenting experiences on-line can provide a sense of community, support and much-needed humour. There are a number of blogs I adore reading that are written by women who have children. But the balance of power always rests with she (or he) who holds the keyboard—and the password. Chronicling your kid’s life on-line is simply an extension of that power. Small children don’t have an insatiable need (or any need at all) to pin, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and blog their adorable faces. Does the allure and instant gratification of self-publishing mean that some parents over-share simply because they can?

There isn’t any other time in history in which children’s lives have been so publicly documented by their parents as they are now. And that raises some important questions about a child’s right to privacy and dignity. How much veto power does a pre-schooler have? And even in the case of older children, the internet is wildly populated by blogging parents with seemingly fewer boundaries than their teens. Or worse, those who overstep boundaries altogether, become embroiled in controversy, and ultimately need to extract themselves from “mommy wars” (cringe).

Will the children of tell-all bloggers look back as teenagers, and be riddled with embarrassment and conflict over having had their childhood photos and anecodotes made everlasting on the internet? How is a sense of privacy and self-restraint instilled when seemingly every occurrence in their lives is made blog-worthy or chronicled through social media? What is the cost to children, in terms of their well-being, when parents cut too close to the bone content-wise to harness a reader’s interest in their blog or social media pages? What happens to those mommy-bloggers when the balance of power shifts, and their children refuse to allow personal details of their lives to be shared with strangers? Particularly those women who monetize their blogs. Or those who take a no hold’s barred approach to blogging, believing that an authentic portrayal of family life means micro-reporting daily events. I would imagine their focus would shift, quite organically, with the growth of their children. After all, as parents we’re constantly re-negotiating our identities as our children evolve. Though I do wonder if the seeds aren’t being sown for a generation of blogged-about children, to write their own whomping backlash confessionals.

There’s about a hair’s width of me that’s tempted to justify this wordy, angst-filled departure from the usual visual goings-on here. But parenting is about working stuff out. And so I have, and continue to do—without apology.

I’m curious to know about your observations as parents, whether our views align or not. What parameters do you set when it comes to blogging about your kids, or including them in the social media you use? Where do your comfort levels lie in all of this?

As always, I like to celebrate images on these pages. And as a way of widening the blog embrace a bit, I’m happy to include some photos of my Number One, Zoë. I’m more than wowed by her talents, achievements and style, so it’s pretty special to receive her thumbs up on sharing these. And I confess, apart from loving her, to really liking every bit of her! I hope you enjoy them and that perhaps they give you a little glimpse into another area of my life. The part of me that contributed to the making of a truly fine human. All photos were taken by either Zoë or her partner, Aaron, in Toronto and Palm Springs.

bliss

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photo credit: nine of cups

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