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A Letter to Mommy Bloggers from a Blogger with Grown Kids

Dear Mommy Bloggers,

I have come to the conclusion that some of  you apparently don’t think your children are ever going to grow up.

Let me assure you, it will happen.

mommy bloggers, photos of children, privacy, respect, raising children, living online, blogging, midlife, midlife women

I have come to this conclusion because sometimes some of  you post things about your children that will someday be humiliating and infuriating…to some of them. I add the caveat because for some of your kids, writing about their worst moments – complete with ugly cry photos  – won’t be a problem. For some kids, it will be an amusing footnote to their online presence – which, by the time your kids are grown, will be, possibly, their every waking moment.

I recently read a post – complete with a series of photos – about a child’s temper tantrum. It was written by a popular Mommy Blogger (I will not use names), and I was horrified. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but it’s upsetting to me, as a mother, to see images of a small child in the midst of a very ugly cry. 

Quite possibly, some day – when this girl is eleven or twelve or so, in the midst of adolescent angst and social insecurity – one of the mean girls at school (and you know there will be mean girls) will find those photos and show them to other mean girls. This child will be upset and angry to have her little kid ugly-cry-face shared around school. And guess who will be the focus of her anger? Not those nasty tweens.

You. Yes Mommy, she’ll be seriously pissed off at you. You, who are supposed to be her safe haven and her protector, will have unwittingly exposed her to the world in ways she may not want the world to see her.

You see, your little kids, whose little lives you use to create content on your blogs, are going to grow up and have identities separate from you, and you don’t know for sure yet what they’re going to be like. Their personalities might be quirky or odd. Your children might be shy or circumspect. They might be very private. They might look at the years and years of posts you’ve written and  resent that their childhoods have been co-opted for Google ad clicks and free Pampers. They might not. But they might.

I do think if you’re writing funny, loving and entertaining stories about them they’ll appreciate the historical documentation of their lives, much like my kids’ baby books and childhood photos – the paper versions, not the digital. The ones I keep in a closet in my home.

But be careful about those posts that make them look bratty, stupid, spoiled, klutzy, ungrateful, or out of control. No one wants to be reminded of their worst days, even from when they were tiny kids. And if you’re putting those days out there on your blogs, lots and lots of people will see. And if they’re Mommy Bloggers too, they might think:

“Well hey, she’s getting a lot of views on this ugly cry tantrum post, I’m going to do one!”

I am so grateful that I was never a Mommy Blogger. I have never written a post about or shared a photo of either of my grown kids without asking their permission. You who are Mommy Bloggers with itty-bitty kids can’t really ask for permission, so you go with your instincts and write about them in a way that you feel is appropriate, which is what you should do.  And for some of you, writing about their (and your) worst days is cathartic and liberating. Lots of writers have done that, long before the internet. Erma Bombeck or Anne Lamott, for example. And most of you write about those miserable days with respect, love, and a wink and a smile.

What your kids may really, really not like are the photos. If little Madison is having a temper tantrum about wanting to wear her princess slippers to pre-school, please don’t take photos and put them on your blog. It’s just not right. Imagine how you would feel if someone shared images of you during a particularly bad PMS episode. Or when you dropped a carton of eggs on the floor. Or got fired from your job.Or when you were fighting with your husband. Or worse.

As Mommy Bloggers 1.0 you are trailblazers and example-setters for those who will follow you, both literally and generationally. You are doing something revolutionary – living your lives online. But please be careful with your children while you build your brand and attract sponsors.

Having raised my kids to adulthood, one thing I can guarantee – your kids will remember the wonderful moments and the horrible moments. If you’re doing the parenting thing right, most of their days will be blissfully ordinary, which is why those exceptionally good and bad days will stand out in their hearts and minds. They don’t need a photographic reminder of the worst of them. Sometimes they don’t even need a reminder of the best of them (like the Bar Mitzvah pictures…). And believe me when I tell you – they will remind you of those bad moments when they’re grown. And that can be painful for both you and your kids. Even without pictures.

Your children are small for a very brief time. Let them be all the things they will be – happy, sad, angry, tantrumy, loving, poopy, adorable, annoying, smelly, dirty, wet, sleepy, hungry, clingy, whiny, sniffly, huggy and kissy – without taking photos of every moment and sharing them all with the world. Keep some of it for yourself – and for them. Especially the worst moments. Especially those.

Thank you for listening.

Sharon Greenthal

Sharon's blog, <a href="http://www.emptyhousefullmind.com">Empty House Full Mind</a>, focuses on observations of the world from the midlife empty nest. Sharon is the Young Adults Expert on <a href="http://youngadults.about.com/">About.com</a>. Sharon writes for the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharon-greenthal/">Huffington Post</a> and <a href="http://purpleclover.com">Purple Clover</a>. Sharon is the mother of two grown children - a daughter, 26 and a son, 24. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Instagram: sharongreenthal

Sharon Greenthal

Sharon's blog, Empty House Full Mind, focuses on observations of the world from the midlife empty nest. Sharon is the Young Adults Expert on About.com. Sharon writes for the Huffington Post and Purple Clover. Sharon is the mother of two grown children - a daughter, 26 and a son, 24. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Instagram: sharongreenthal

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Jamie Grumet

Tuesday 18th of March 2014

"Quite possibly, some day - when this girl is eleven or twelve or so, in the midst of adolescent angst and social insecurity – one of the mean girls at school (and you know there will be mean girls) will find those photos and show them to other mean girls." Ah! NO nononono this teaches our children that victim blaming is an acceptable form of social behavior! Sorry, I know this post was written to get bloggers thinking, but this one part I felt compelled to comment on this particular section.

With that kind logic we would be blaming Ruby Bridges' mother for forcing her to go to a desegregated school, or Elizabeth Glaser for disclosing her children's HIV positive status to the public. Making decisions based on an ignorant society makes absolutely no sense.

As parents, we need honor our children in all aspects of their life. What we share and decided not to share is because it is right or wrong for our children, our family, and society as a whole- NOT because we are succumbing to cultural standards of behavior. Bullies target everything - from the name of your child to their body type. Some things we can control and some things we cannot. However we should NEVER make our parenting decisions based on an intolerant "bullying" culture.

Like other primates, our species learns through observation. What are our children learning from us when we make decisions based off of how "mean girls" may react? Studies have shown it teaches them to either be the victim or victimizer- and that children almost always learn this type of social behavior at home, not from the schoolyard. It's a terrible cycle of abuse.

So yes, honor your children when you share information publicly, but don't do it for the mean girls- do it for your children and your family. We aren't supposed to make life easy for our children, we're supposed to make it better.

Sharon Greenthal

Tuesday 18th of March 2014

The point of that sentence was, in fact, in the sentence that followed it. The child will be angry at the mother, not at the girls who found the photo. And how you can equate Elizabeth Glaserand her children being HIV positive with a blogger posting photos of her child having a temper tantrum is hard for me to understand. One was a global problem, one was a bad afternoon. There was nothing to be learned from those photos except, yes, another child has bad days too.

Gabriela - Living La Vida Normal

Wednesday 5th of February 2014

Absolutely! My kids are 11 and 18. From the very beginning of my blog I decided that I would keep the stories about them more vague and general. I don't want them to look back and feel like I was abusing their privacy or that I was only sharing about them to profit.

laura

Tuesday 4th of February 2014

I'm so relieved to read this post and know there is someone else out there who feels the same way about this topic as I do. For one, as a military wife I was always scared to post to much information about my family in general. We have this whole PERSEC thing. So I created code names for everyone. Then, when I scrapped the military wife niche blog with all the mommy life posts, I wondered if now that I was on a new site if it was OK to post names? No. No I don't want to. For one, I'm liking keeping my blogspace MY space and not overly run with kiddo posts. And two, I started this whole blogging adventure. I put me and my life out there. I decided to be a freelancer and private contractor. They didn't. And when they are online they can decide what they want to be a part of, post and share, and so on... which guidance of course. haha! (jeepers I'm rambling...) Anyhoo, I agree with you.

Susan Williams

Tuesday 4th of February 2014

You know, I really agree with so much of what you've written here. For me, it boils down to being loyal to my kids. I don't post something about them that I wouldn't be comfortable with being posted about myself. It's the Golden Rule, in action. I know that as Moms, we NEED to know that we're not alone in some of the crazy, crazy situations in which we find ourselves. I have laughed at and loved things people have written for their honesty: I love knowing that I am not alone in the midst of some of the insanity I have endured as a Mommy. :) But, I'll tell you: some of the insanity in my house hasn't been ALL due to my kids (whether they were toddlers or teens...things can get all crazy from time to time!). Some of the insanity might have occasionally sprung from the mouth of Mommy, Dearest. You know what I'm saying? So, I try to never, ever dishonor my kids, while at the same time, keeping it very, very real. It's a fine line. But they DO grow up. And my relationship with my kids will (hopefully) keep me warm, when blogging is but dust.

Mary Anne Payne

Tuesday 4th of February 2014

Sharon-loved this Nd so true. I am so glad I didn't 'mommy blog' when empty teen was little because, knowing me, I would have probably over shared on some stories -she has a memory like an elephant and already has enough struggles as a teen I'd hate myself if I added to it to get popular. What I'm really wondering is what's going to happen when these moms -who write about their 'little assholes' have an angry teen in their house. And pimping your kids out fir blog numbers and book deals will not be worth it in the long run. Great post!

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