Mommyblogging: entertainment or exploitation?

by DaniGirl on April 29, 2008 · 14 comments

in Meta-blogging

Four of you lovely bloggy peeps have e-mailed me the link to last week’s Globe and Mail article on mommyblogging. Thanks for thinking of me! I haven’t been into my feed reader recently, but I’m sure the article has been discussed ad infinitum throughout the momosphere. For those of you who missed it, the article asks whether we have the right to blog our children’s stories, and whether it is “exploitation” to tell their stories for our own edification or, in some cases, fiduciary gain. While I think it’s a good question, and common sense to be aware that what you put out on the Internet stays on the Internet forever, I think the Globe was fairly exploitative in framing the question of privacy against a backdrop of “mommybloggers are earning $40K a month to blog about their children’s potty training.” I wish!

I’ve said before that when I started the blog one of my primary intentions was for it to be a sort of a digital scrapbook, mostly because I didn’t have the time or patience for the fancy scissors and pretty paper. It’s a version of the story of me, of my thoughts and observations and opinions, and of my life. In my life, there is a cast of supporting characters that include Beloved, the boys, my folks, my friends, my relatives, my neighbours, the cashier at the drug store, the guy who sold us our van, the mailman, and a chorus of other characters. Inasmuch as their paths intersect with mine, I feel I have the right to tell their stories. In the case of the boys, at this point their stories are so deeply intertwined with mine that they are practically the same story. But that’s beginning to change.

As they are growing up, I can see where they are beginning to own their own stories. Her Bad Mother took a lot of flack in the comments on the Globe and Mail site over her quote about her daughter being “my property, my work of art.” I’ll admit that while I cringed when I read this, I remember feeling the same way when Tristan was a baby. I think this particular feeling is something all new parents have, and you grow out of it as your children grow, just about the time you begin to realize how very little control or contribution you have over their personalities — that they really are their very own person and not just an extension of you.

I think the key here, as it often is, is moderation and discretion. There are bloggers out there who could use an editor, but that’s not restricted to the niche of parent bloggers. I don’t see a problem telling you stories and anecdotes from our daily life, as long as I do it with respect and consideration of the boys’ future selves. From the start, I shared the link with friends and family, and have been fairly liberal with our identities, both of which have kept me honest and made me conscious of what I was putting out onto the Internet. I have loosely followed the old rule of thumb from my day job in communications: don’t put it out there unless you’d be comfortable seeing it on the cover of the Globe and Mail. (Heck, those of you who know me well know I’m *aspiring* for the cover of the Globe and Mail!) In other words, I’d never tell a story on the blog that I wouldn’t tell to someone face-to-face. And the very few times I’ve tried to use blog for nefarious purposes, it has come back to bite me in the ass rather spectacularly. Lesson learned.

Sometimes I worry, though. So many people have asked me how I can be so open on the blog that I wonder if maybe I am a little too honest and open. And I’m more liberal with my own stories than I am with the rest of the family’s. I mean, I have no problem telling the Interwebs that I wet the bed, but I don’t see the need to ever tell you that one of the boys has done it. And though I dearly wanted to, I did not in fact publish the photo I snapped of Tristan “nursing” Simon on the rocking chair in my room. Just to be sure, every now and then I’ll google the boys’ full names to see if the blog comes up in the search results. It doesn’t. If it ever does, I’ll probably go back and see if any of the old stories need to be pruned, but on reflection I can’t think of anything in particular that I’d take down.

This is not a new issue; remember the blogstorm from about a year and a half ago, when the question of ads on blogs first came up? If I remember correctly, it was right around then that Jen from MUBAR made the statement that was picked up in the article, about how her children’s stories are now their own and she doesn’t feel comfortable blogging them. I have a lot of respect for Jen, and have been considering what ‘ownership’ I have over the boys’ stories ever since. It was also right around then that Marla said she wouldn’t put ads on her blog because she wasn’t comfortable “selling” her daughter’s story, nor the eyeballs of the readers who perused her blog. Both excellent arguments and perspectives that I’ve been conscious of in my blogging ever since.

What do you think? Are we exploiting our kids, or creating a record of those moments that might otherwise be lost to the speeding blur that is their childhood? Has or will your blogging style change as your kids grow up? Would you want your teenager to read your blog, now or in fifteen years? Will we be using our meagre blog profits, as some have observed in the comments section of the Globe article, to fund family therapy years from now?


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cinnamon gurl April 29, 2008 at 10:11 am

Great post! I firmly fall on the scrapbooking side. I think I’m capturing moments that would otherwise be lost. The problem is, though, that I have very little sense of privacy, I have very few personal boundaries. In other words, I blab everything in real life, and that tends to spill over into my blog. I try to stick to the not saying anything I wouldn’t say face to face, but I fail a lot. Mostly when things upset me. I’ve always thought that if someone’s secret upsets me, I have the right to talk about it so I can feel better.

As for whether I want my child(ren) to read my blog when they’re teenagers? I think that could be a whole other post. More importantly, would THEY want to read it? (Probably not!)

I don’t make any money off my blog, except for the people who buy my pictures, and then I only make half the money and feed it back into my photography. The other half is donated. Still, I don’t sell pictures of Swee’pea, and I’m self-consciously aware that other people’s kids are in the photos I do sell. I’m not sure that’s strictly ethical, but other people’s kids seem much more anonymous.

2 Rebecca April 29, 2008 at 10:40 am

Ugh.

I think *most* of us fall on the scrapbooking side. I’m sure there is a very small minority who do it in hopes of noteriety, a book deal, money, whatever. But I think most moms think like I do… it’s a great way to record your children’s lives and to share bits with far away family and friends. But then I’m not a “heavy-hitter” an never will be.

As for changes as the kids get older, I don’t see that as a factor for me, considering my older child is almost 12, and has in fact, guest blogged for me. As long as I respect his privacy in certain issues (and I have, and will continue to), then he doesn’t mind, for the most part. He enjoys seeing what I’ve said, and enjoys reading most of the (few) comments we get. So I guess I could say he’s a bit involved, and I’m not doing anything without his feelings in mind… so it’s not a problem.

That whole globe article… I just don’t think it speaks of the majority. Not even close.

3 Marla April 29, 2008 at 11:42 am

Comment: Redacted on a account of if you can’t say something nice…

Captcha oracle: man fined

4 Lucy April 29, 2008 at 12:25 pm

I suck at the paper and scissor scrapbooking so like you, blogging is my way of capturing moments. I’ve only been blogging for a few months and already I find myself looking back at posts and reminiscing.

My son is only a year and a half, so I can’t speak for how he feels about being my favourite blog subject. I can say that I would love to have a blog written by my own mother for my childhood. So many moments get lost in the shuffle of life. Blogging just acts as a back-up memory bank.

As my boy grows, I’d love to have a blogging buddy like Rebecca has with her son. Hopefully my blog will mature and change as my family does.

5 Theresa April 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm

I agree with blogging as a record of what you’ve done. Since most of your life revolves around your kids, it should be ok to blog about them. You are only writing your perspective, and I think you are taking the same license as journalist’s do when they write about people…at least you don’t blog in a tabloid way…but some how society even accepts those! (They must – cuz they’re everywhere!!!)

I blog. I’ve chosen not to ‘mommy blog’ (I want an escape from mommyland when I blog…) I write what I’m up to in other area’s, but even if I’ve avoided ‘mommy blogging’ per sey – it still spills over into my blog from time to time. We are moms, it’s what we DO! I guess if we can’t blog about our kids -we should probably be banned from talking about them, or photographing them, or videotaping them….cuz you wouldn’t want to EXPLOIT them….would you?!?! (sorry – getting on a wee sarcastic rant there…..some people will do anything to make a big deal out of stuff…..to sensationalize things….uggg!)

As for you, Dani, I’m sure I can speak for most people on here when I say how much we love it when you bare all!!! I’m not sure how many birth stories are as well recorded as yours are….and if people don’t like it – they can quit reading!!! They are very rare moments when people get a chance to see a glimpse inside another person’s world! It’s a good thing! Keep it up girl! It’s a privilege to read about your life – mostly cuz it makes things in mine (and others I’m sure) seem so valid, so NORMAL! And normal is GOOD! It’s those descriptions of normal, everyday occurrences, that hook so many readers….it’s life’s juice…..

Pat yourself on the back and keep on writing girl!!

6 alison April 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm

I tell some stories about the girls, and I choose not to tell other stories about the girls. Some things that happen to me make it onto the blog, and others are only whispered and laughed to my best friend over the phone with a glass of red wine late at night when the girls are fast asleep. It’s all about the choices. I think that I unconsciously try to put the innocuous, the amusing but not embarrassing out there regarding the girls. I post pictures, and their first names, and Leah, at 8, knows about my blog and sometimes suggests things for me to write about. I think I’ll probably pull back when she becomes an adolescent (if I’m still blogging) and concentrate more on me then. Or if she asks me to stop writing about her. I don’t have ads on my blog, so ‘selling’ my children isn’t an issue.

All in all, I think that she (and her little sister) will enjoy reading the stories when she’s grown, the way she likes to look at the photo albums and see what she was like as a baby and toddler. If it wasn’t for the blog – yours, mine, all the others – think how many stories would be lost, stories that will be told over and over again, because they were written down and remembered.

captcha: one comic

7 Jen April 29, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Great post Dani. How you are able to knock these post out with such a wee one in tow: inspiring!

Tralee (the G&M reporter) did not seem to have any sort of agenda when she talked to me (it’s the second time she’s interviewed me and never did I get the sense that she was trying to back me into a corner of say something I did not want to say). In light of the babble guy’s decision to hang up his hat, she wanted to know what I had left mommy blogging. I had a lot of reasons, most of which were personal (kids are older, privacy is more critical, less time in front of computer since they do not have WiFi in the parks, new opportunities have opened up for me because of blogging like the Cori Howard book), and some of which were systemic (the ad infiltration of my email box asking if I wanted free baby stuff was ridiculous. If you are going to offer me free stuff, make it good!)

I was surprised at the direction the piece took but a controversial quote or two will do that. I only wished that the $40,000/month stat was debunked. Come tax time, I bet we’re all getting audits!

8 nomotherearth April 29, 2008 at 3:26 pm

I absolutely do it because I have no time or patience for scrapbooking. I keep looking to my mom for advice on childrearing, and while she always has an opinion, she doesn’t remember much the details of our childhood. I would love to read a blog about me, written by her, and I hope my boys will someday appreciate it too. Likely, though, they won’t even want to read it. But I will want to pour over the memories! I do try to draw a line about super-embarassing things, but honestly – if I read a post about how I had trouble learning to go to the potty when I was a toddler, I wouldn’t be at all embarassed. (Now, if you blogged about how I have trouble learning to go to the potty NOW, it would be a whole different story…)

9 Barbara April 29, 2008 at 10:28 pm

I’m a mommyblogger because my memory sucks and I’m better with words than scissors (though I do love those scrapbooking stickers!) I thought I was pretty good at keeping my full identity off my blog but after reading that Globe and Mail article, I searched for Reid’s name and my full name. Reid Elizabeth returns the blog but not her full name. My full name returns the blog as the first result. That creeped me out. When I looked at the results, I realized that I mentioned a family reunion, the family tartan, and other random references to my last name. I haven’t decided whether to anonymize those posts. I guess we do what seems right and hope for the best as much in the blogosphere as anywhere else in our kid’s lives.

But then I did provide that information about the ways little girls choose little boys and you could tell your boys… It’ll be like breaking a covenant.

10 Swirl Girl April 29, 2008 at 10:37 pm

I blog because I am.

The only thing that I try not to do, is be insensitve or air really dirty laundry – partly because of the privacy issue – and partly because the very dirt I want to blog about will read my blog and know it is them. I would love to use this forum as my own personal bitch slap – but if I risk hurting someone close to me…it is not worth it.

A blog is instant gratification for a frustrated writer. I find it cathartic.
Better to let it all out in a constructive way then to write some memoir of distant truths sometime in the future.

http://www.swirlgirlspearls.blogspot.com

11 BeachMama April 30, 2008 at 7:29 am

Good post Dani. Well, as you may recollect, I blog because somebody I know started this addiction and I can’t let go! LOL, seriously though you introduced me to blogging and for that I am so thankful. I started posting because I wanted to have a little something to share for all the wonderful posts I read but, now I do it because it gives me fulfillment. I feel like I get a chance to write, create, think, all the things that sometimes go by the wayside as a Mom.

Do my posts about my kids change as they grow? I think so. At the beginning I talked a bit more about my stepson, but as time has gone on not so much. And that is mostly because he is a teenager and really, would he want me to share his life on the internet? I don’t think so. Unless of course I became famous, then he probably wouldn’t mind.

As for J and Apple, well they are both young but even though I prefer to share fun stories and things we do rather than the cracked nipples and painful feeds. It helps me to find my happy place each and every day. Once in a while I have splatta posts, you know, the ones where you just splat out all your thoughts but for the most part, I try not to.

And heck if someone wanted to pay me $40K to blog, I would share a lot more, that’s for sure.

12 annika April 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I have to say that I personally find the “I don’t have time to scrapbook” excuse for blogging about the kidlets to be a bit ridiculous. I totally agree that scrapbooking is a time-eater (I also have zero time, nor the interest, for it). But, if you just want to keep a written record of your children’s growth and development, you could type or handwrite a journal and show it to them when they are older.

The question I have for mommy bloggers is why they want to go a step further than a written journal and post these memories/anecdotes online for the world to see. Is it for attention? Is it because they are isolated? Dani, in a recent post you eloquently described feeling socially awkward in playgroup settings (as we all have at one point or another!)…so is it partially a matter of it being easier to connect to people when it’s not face-to-face?

Dani, do you ever worry about the personal security issues? I think that’s what has held me back from starting my own blog.

Thank you for commenting on this story…I read it last week and thought of you! I don’t think the Globe article presented a thorough enough look at the issue.

13 kgirl April 30, 2008 at 3:12 pm

The comment I’ve been making is one I’ll repeat here: our blogs are love letters to our children. They are not written with malice, embarassment and certainly not exploitation or invasion of anyone’s privacy in mind. The people that commented on the Globe sight don’t get it – any of it.

And as bloggers, we are free to go as far (or near) as we feel comfortable with. Ads/pictures/real names are a decision we each have to make, and should be left to do it without judgement.

14 smothermother May 1, 2008 at 8:14 am

As a relatively new blogger (been at it for about a year and a half) none of these issues ever came to mind. Perhaps because I began to do it to allow friends and family to follow along with my first pregnancy and trials and tribulations of being a first time mom. Then it turned into more of a diary, a convinient way to capture moments in my life as well as my son’s.

I think the article focused too much on blogs that are “popular.” I really don’t have any other readers than a few dedicated friends, and I don’t think I am the only one. There are thousands of mommyblogs out there that are more like mine than like the ones mentioned in the article. And I didn’t like the inference that mommybloggers are make a whack load of cash. The Dooce is definitely an anomoly.

As to what I think about the privacy issue, I don’t know yet. I guess it is something that I should start to consider. I do agree with many of you, thinking it would have been fun to have some sort of documentation of my own childhood. I haven’t put a time frame on the length of my blog. I figured I would do it until I didn’t think it was fun anymore. And you know what, talking about some of the most dificult and funny moments in my life and then reading about another mom that has the same moments makes me feel like I am not alone, I’m doing something right, and there is a community out there for me.

Long live Mommy Bloggers!

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