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why I do not "mommy blog"

Subtitle: "A Cautionary Tale"

This is actually something I have been wanting to touch on for a while, and the article "Blogging Your Baby" on CNET this weekend finally pushed me into actually starting this post. Now, I'm not talking about all blogging about parenthood and kids, I'm talking about the specific type of blogging they discuss in the article - the public blogs with intimate details of children's lives, written by their parents for whatever reason. In the article, they basically seem to be saying "well, maybe it'll bother them but we'll wait and see". I am here to tell you, you don't have to wait. It has happened, and it can be absolutely devastating.

You don't need the internet to "mommy blog" your way into nearly ruining your child's school years. Let's go in the wayback machine to my middle-school years (which do, in fact, predate blogging). My brother and I were good friends with a classmate of our who lived in our neighborhood. He was a nice kid, if a little on the geeky/awkward side at times. (Let's call him..."Bobby".) Bobby was in that middle ground at school - not bad-looking, but not a guy the girls swooned over. His parents had money, so he had the right clothes and stuff, but his goofiness made him a little uncool. You know the type...not really popular but definitely not unpopular.

As you may recall, middle school can be the worst....everyone is breaking down into dating and non-dating groups, most kids are just starting to really be interested in the opposite sex...things are very uncomfortable, and it doesn't take much to make you everyone's scapegoat. Right as all this was going on, someone discovered that Bobby's mom wrote a column every Sunday for our local paper. About her family. Mainly, about her kids. And in this column, our entire school learned (and this is just what I remember):

That Bobby had had a skating rink "date" with an easily identified classmate who hadn't told anyone about it (and the date didn't go well although his mom thought she was "cute" and called her hair "fluffy")

That when he had his first boy-girl party (which I attended with my best friend) his mom bought him cans of soda and he had a tantrum because he wanted bottles to play spin-the-bottle with (as we girls all said, AS IF!!)

That he had gotten really upset at another boy-girl party and called home (supposedly crying) to be picked up because the action was, well, out of hand (my brother and I were at this party, and the action was in fact out of hand because parental supervision vanished. I don't remember Bobby crying, but he did freak out a bit.)

Can you imagine the seventh-grade mortification that ensued? His mom had to pledge to never mention him again; and everyone scoured their parent's old papers for any more dirt. He did live it down, and although he left our school a year later I am pretty sure it was to go to a private school or something. He did have this air of being uncool until he left, though.

I can't even imagine what would have happened if it had been a blog that was discovered. No way was anyone motivated enough to go to the library and look through the microfilm for old columns, but online? We'd have all sat and read them for a week until we knew every horrifyingly embarrassing detail of his life. And even if he'd gone home and flipped out, it would have be very hard for his mom to erase all the things she said...they'd have been quoted in other blogs and articles, and depending on the type of blog she did, probably archived forever in the Internet Wayback Machine! If Bobby's mom had written even 10% of the things I have seen people reveal about their kids online...he'd have left our school that week.

Now, he was a little on the over-sensitive side, and like I said, not one of the "coolest" kids to begin with. But I think a lot of kids are in that position. So...what's my point? While we do mention Emily (and heck, take her to appearances with us) I plan to do my best to protect her from suffering even the smallest version of Bobby's fate. And I sometimes shudder at what other mothers post about their (identifiable) kids, when I think of what happened to him. Maybe he should have been "stronger"...but I think that's a bit to expect of kids at that age. Yes, he did get over it...but it really shouldn't have happened at all. And yeah, maybe if he'd had a MySpace page he'd have written about all these things himself...but having a parent be the one who screws you up at school is very different from being a blabbermouth yourself.

I don't think every most parenting blogs go into this territory. And I'm sure that plenty of kids are going to be fine with the world knowing all the mortifying things they did and do. And I'm sure the parents that do write these things about their kids could care less what I think! But I'm just saying....you don't need to wait and find out what might happen if you may be invading your child's privacy. Because one spring long ago, it did. And it wasn't very pretty.

I'd just like to add, I meant to save this in draft mode, not publish it, when I had some immediate toddler demands on my time. I won't tell you what she did, though ^_^. I think I could have written some of this better but...it went up so a few quick edits and I'm just going to leave it as is.

What did you say?

Uh-oh, Sarah, why do I have the feeling that you may be talking about me here?

I have thought hard about this very issue. Thank you for fleshing it out for me.

On my site I talk a lot more about my five-year-old than my nine-year-old. I don't think that's an accident. I am more sensitive to what my nine-year-old might perceive to be a violation of his privacy. My five-year-old does not even have a developed sense of privacy yet.

But it may all come back to haunt me. I hope that not revealing details about where I live helps, but I draw the line at not using the kids' first names.

Hmm. Maybe I need to close down the blog. Oh, dear.

SM - actually, I sent you an email to let you know I was NOT talking about you! I think you do a really good job of deciding what to reveal and what not to reveal. And I don't think you post things that would come back to haunt them at all. In fact, mostly you are talking about YOU and your reactions...not them. And you're going to embarrass them with your own feelings and behavior no matter how hard you try not to! I think I would be a little more circumspect than a lot of people, but that's because I can't hide our location or Emily's full name, they're public knowledge. The poor kid's got enough to live down!

Insecurity rears its ugly head...

We 'mommybloggers' are on the defensive lately, thanks to assaults on a number of very public fronts (e.g., The Today Show, The New York Times...).

Thanks for the reassurance!

really? (on the bad press, that is). I had no idea. Don't we have better stuff for people like that to worry about?

amen. I think some guys get it very right but some are really pushing it. I know that some are really well written but I also know that if my peers knew that I had an insane constipation problem as a 3 year old that was passed down to me from my mother, I'm sure I'd be asking to be home schooled!
Again, not that they aren't entertaining and some have great value as writing but it's amazing that some seem like they don't realize that these kids are going to grow up with thoughts, feelings and opinions.
eh, just my 2 cents. God knows I'm too lazy to keep up my own damn blog! ;)

i wanted to say this and much, much more. i find it strange that some bloggers can't even see how all the info. they write affects their kid. i mean, can you imagine the school library in 6th grade when kids google themselves? i try to be really careful about what i write about my kid. that said, i am blogging less and less about her and more and more about other stuff. it's kinda refreshing.

My boyfriend's mother wrote a memoir about her divorce and later regularly contributed the old "Hers" column in the New York Times; the columns were later published in a book. Most of this material focused on her, but some of it was about her kids. My boyfriend claims it didn't bother him, but I often wonder how that can be true. What seems weirder than what she revealed about her kids was what she revealed about her sex life at a time when her kids were in middle school and knew most of New York was reading the column. One side effect was that he and his sister really will discuss anything and ask people anything; I often remind him that not everyone grew up having their lives publically exposed. I do have to say it has been fascinating to be able to read so much about her and the family at that time, but I often wish I had a little less information about, for instance, how she lost her virginity.

I don't "mommy blog" for other reasons (though yours is a perfectly good reason, poor kid!) I just figure nobody but me and the grandparents want to hear about my kids, and I can email them. Mommy blogs bug me, I really don't need to hear the intricate details of some toddler's GI tract.
I have had a website since 1998 and didn't become a parent until 3 years ago... so its still about ME, and being a parent is only part of me. Its good for me and doesn't make me less of a devoted mother either. That's one of the reasons that I enjoy checking on your journal - you have so much going on and are so creative yet you have a little one and find ways to include her too.

Barbara: exactly. I wonder if some blogging parents don't completely realize how web-savvy their own kids will be?

Kate: interesting! I would be a little scared to have access to that much info....although I think parents are going to embarrass their kids to death no matter what they do (or don't do). I don't plan on writing explicitly about my sex life but I don't see us worrying about Emily being embarrassed by our own work about ourselves. If it's not that, it'll be my hopelessly outdated clothes or something.

Jenna: that's really a perfect way to put it. I personally LIKE it when people who blog mention their kids. I just don't want to read the gory details that make me think "that poor kid is going to be humilated". And by the way, OMG is your stuff adorable!! Everyone, rush over to Jenna's site and check out those clothes!!

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