Friday, January 6, 2012

Documenting childhood

CHILDHOOD by Nazario Graziano

I see a lot of "mommy" blogs out there these days (I always feel like that term is a bit condescending, like oh that's just a mommy blog, but maybe that's because I'm  not a big fan of adults using the term "mommy" as a self-description...but that's neither here nor there)(also: BITCH magazine totally did a story on the perception of mommy bloggers recently, but my work computer filters out the word BITCH which makes finding it a little hard right now)(not that I'm writing this at work).*

Anyway.  Mom blogging.  That's cool.  I follow several.  I read Offbeatmama religiously, too.  They (the blogs) can be interesting sometimes (though I do hate reading a good blog that suddenly turns into 98% family pictures as soon as the kid arrives).  I like reading blogs, and mom blogs are no different when they're blogs that are inherently interesting (sweetfineday is a good example off the top of my head -- it's about a family, but also running a business etc etc). But the thing I wonder is: at what point do you stop?  And what if you don't?  Is there an age where the kid should be asked, "Is it okay that these are pictures and quotes that lots of people can see and read?  Do you want people to know these stories?"  And what if the kid/tween/teen says they don't want to be a part anymore?  Ethically, is it okay to create a "brand" based off your kids before they have a say in the matter, knowing that the Internet it basically forever?  For example, Girlsgonechild is interesting -- and someday, what if one twin wants to not be featured on the blog?  (Woolf may have obviously thought this out, but I don't know!  And the question stands for tons of similar blogs, so I'm not trying to single one out by any means.)  Do you give the kid a different name for the blog's purpose?  Do you ask the kid to re-evaluate their appearances periodically, given that a kid at 10 might not mind, but a kid at 12, 13, 14 might?

I just wonder -- would I want my whole childhood documented online?  What will kids in the future do with this -- will it become a part of life, where so many kids have their lives documented online that it's not even something to bat an eye at, or will it haunt some kids into adulthood?  Is there an ethical line in the sand?  Will one become apparent?  I think part of the issue is the medium -- documenting your kid's antics on Facebook is, I think, inherently different from publicly blogging it.  And I'm not saying either is wrong -- I'm just wondering if there is a point where it becomes hazy.  And even when it's not wrong, how will that information online affect the kid?

*Edit: Hey, the Washington Post had some things to say about the term "mommy blogger" too:

When the consumer marketing firm Scarborough Research released a report this past fall on the state of “mom bloggers,” the group defined the group “as women who have at least one child in their household and have read or contributed to a blog in the past 30 days.” (By that definition, if U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton read up on risks in Burma on the State Department blog, she’d, technically, be a mom blogger.)

Is that okay?

I put the questions to a group of female Washington writers last week:

“It’s demeaning,” said Shannon Frankel who chronicles her stay-at-home life after working in a law firm on her blog, But I Do Have A Law Degree.

“Mommy is the name only your children have the right to call you. When someone other than your child calls you that, it’s an intrusion, a trespass,” said Valerie Young, who writes the public policy blog Your (Wo)Man in Washington.

“It’s so condescending,” sneered Petula Dvorak, a columnist for The Post. “If you write about parenting, if you write about childcare, you’re considered a ‘mommy columnist.’”

On the other hand:

“It’s a label that exists. Why do we have to label it as negative? Why can’t we own it and make it what we want?” said Monica Gallagher Sakala, who writes opinions about parenting issues on the Wired Momma blog and also for Huffington Post. “It’s a way to connect the public and the private spheres.”

Later, Monica e-mailed me to add: “If we as women and mothers buy into this idea that mommy blogging is shrill and a negative label — then how can we expect anyone else to take us seriously?”

Her perspective is a key point. Is it possible for anything labeled “mommy” to be taken seriously?


  1. We don't have kids yet, but this is a very important concern to think about in advance. I like Pacing The Panic Room's approach. Once the critter hits 5 or 6 they are no longer an exclusive feature of his blogging. We still here about LB (boy with Smith Magenis Syndrome), but not as much. I also appreciate that he gives him a little alias (LB), though I suppose knowing his daughter's name, his name, and his wife's name would semi-negate that attempt at privacy. Anywho, his blog contains a long, complicated story. I think that baring all on one's blog is similar to being that parent with a million photos that they will show to anyone and to whom they'll tell any embarrassing story to. This is maybe just the next level.

    It does make me laugh to think that there will be parenting books that have a chapter on whether or not to blog about the kids..."Blogging about your children is a very personal choice made public...yadda yadda etc etc etc".

  2. At least with initials or an alias, it's not *as* easy to immediately get his just by searching someone's name (one would hope). I think the main difference between sharing in person and sharing via blog is that with a blog, it's out there for anyone to see, whereas with a million photos being shared in person, it's much more selective. I'm really surprised I haven't seen a million "Blogging about your children" how-to books yet!

  3. yes. to me that kind of things just screams fodder for bullies. Blogging is a huge part of my business and so if I'm ever fortunate enough to have kids I'll have to blog about them a bit, but I'm also going to be VERY careful about it.