Drawing the line

Last night the funniest thing happened. Thalia said the sweetest, most wonderful thing that a mom could ever hear, followed by something she did by accident that was so inadvertently funny…it was the perfect story.

Only, she was horrified by it. Tearful. And very very embarrassed.

Lots of hugs, tissues, and a bowl of emergency gelato later, I promised her I wouldn’t tell anyone. And I wouldn’t write about it.

So, I guess that time has come.

As bloggers and memorists, I think we all struggle to identify that proverbial line–the one that separates “our stories” from “their stories.” I know it’s something that blogging friends and I have discussed with great intensity.

On the second episode of the iVillage series, The Conversation Thread, we touched on the recent outrage around the blogger who got all Sophie’s Choice on Babble and admitted to loving one child better. You know, should the daughter die and not the son, that would be okay. Let’s just say this is one of the few topics all four panelists agreed on easily. And don’t get me started on the follow-up post that seemed to justify it with 1. well I’m just more honest than you are, and 2. you know you feel the same way and that’s why you’re mad at me.


I think it’s outrageous not because we feel the same way as the writer, but because we can’t imagine writing something quite so sharply painful, that will live forever, cached and searchable, for our kids to discover one day.

Not that I won’t hurt them in a hundred million other ways. Or embarrass them intentionally simply because I can. (Teenage years, here I come!) It’s just that this one seems so very very avoidable.

The whole shebang harkened back to my pregnancy days, to the time when Ayelet Waldman wrote her now infamous essay about loving her husband more than her children, after which she was forced to answer to Oprah, God, and 8 million furious moms on Urban Baby. I must confess, back then I was on those very message boards defending her right as a memoirist to tell her story; even as I was mortified by choice to do so.

I can’t say I was too surprised this week to get an email from a major network show, hoping to stir the shit again. No doubt they were a few months behind on the Babble story, and not 6 years behind on the Ayelet story, when a producer asked me to put the APB out to my readers about an episode on moms who feel guilty because they don’t love their kids as much as their husbands.

My response: that is was no way I’m going to hang a mom out to dry on national television with this topic. Sorry.

I’d love to help in other ways though; maybe next time I promote the topic when they’re casting for oh, say, moms who start awesome businesses in a recession. Or moms who refuse to take their toddlers to get pedicures at the salon. Or moms who bring their kids into the voting booth with them.


What if they held a Mommy War and nobody came?


So now here I am, confronted with the very first time that Thalia has specifically told me not to write about something. Which means I have to start determining if my own line not to cross has somehow shifted.

Generally, I tend to go forward with posts if I’m fairly certain I will not regret writing them later. Not that I don’t miss once in a while. I think there are still a couple that my brother is pissed about. (Sorry Jeff.) I’ve also decided as a general rule, that despite what my amazing memoir writing instructor advocated, that going so deep with My Truth that it creates major conflict with  people in my life is not where I want to be. I do believe I’ve got enough of my own inner conflict to delight you with, without confessing every one of my neighbor’s sins.

Unless they’re really, really funny.

If you’re a blogger, where do you draw the line when you write about your family? Do you ever ask permission to write about something? Do your kids get a vote?


62 thoughts on “Drawing the line”

  1. My kids don’t get a vote; they’re way too young for that. But at the end of the day my kids are more important to me than my site rank. So even if it is “hilarious” and would attract a million comments and a billion hits, if there’s a chance of my kids taking offense to it later in life, I just won’t go there. Now, my husband on the other hand, well he’s fair game!

  2. I’ve thought about this issue a lot this week, probably because my oldest is turning 8 tomorrow. I notice that he appears less frequently on my blog than my younger two, most likely because I’m more sensitive to his privacy. My children aren’t the focus of My 3 Little Birds, but MY feelings and experiences as a mother are, so it can be tough to stay on the right side of that line.

    1. That’s so interesting, Mary Lauren! I find I write about my oldest more, because her experiences are newer to me and I grapple with my feelings about them in a more profound way. Perhaps that will change now.

      1. I have the exact same sentiments as Mary Lauren…lately I found myself showing less of my kids faces esp. my boy who is turning 8 in November. But my girl loves seeing herself on my blog, so I guess, whenever appropriate, I’ll still include them in since my blog is really about my family, and my kids are the main inspiration 🙂

  3. I try to keep it about me and be sensitive about what I am saying about others. I may write about other people but mostly it’s about how I felt about a particular situation. I have asked permission to write about people. My kids are still too little to get it but I have been trying not to write about them so much. If they ever told me not to tell something I hope that I would respect that. That’s how we build trust isn’t it?

  4. Ah…This is something I struggle with. I have kept my blog from my family for the most part. Not because I what I write would offend them, but because they don’t understand the whole idea of blogging and writing about one’s life, etc. I have made it a rule to not write about my husband and the intimate details of our marriage–this isn’t his blog our even our blog; it’s mine and it’s where I write about my feelings, etc. I write about my kids…and will continue to–keeping in mind of course that someday they will read all my words and asking permission as they get older.

    My blog started as a journey to family. I started it when we were in the process of adopting our son and I needed someplace to share my feelings and things–none of my friends were adopting and much like others, I needed to share. I met amazing people who were also adopting and have made life long friends. My blog gave me a sense of community.

    I couldn’t imagine not writing it. I am a writer and have always been a writer and the blog has become my outlet for many things. Recently a post I wrote about my joy of reaching candidacy in my PhD program and how I had put myself through 10+ years of college, because my parents couldn’t rubbed my mom the wrong way (and the whole reason she even read my blog was because my step mom does and she couldn’t be left out) and started a huge family fight. I never thought something so mundane could offend. I am much more careful and your last paragraph really speaks to me–I try to write things that won’t hurt others.

    Sorry for the long comment (post)…this is such a thought-provoking topic.

  5. The older my kids get — they’re 12 and 14 now — the less I write about them without their okay. Same goes for photos and video. They have to be okay with them. For instance, my older son has turned down the opportunity to appear on TV, while other times, he gladly participated.

    As a writer, my story is my story. But my kids are old enough to have a say in whether or not their part of the story will be shared.

    Remember bloggers: Your kids will be able to read what you wrote online someday. Also, they’ll be able to write about you. Think about that before you hit “Post.”

    1. “Your kids will be able to read what you wrote online someday. Also, they’ll be able to write about you.”


  6. My kids are little – 20 months and 3 months, so right now everything they do is the cute, typical toddler and baby stuff. As they get older though, I expect to have to filter. When they’re 12, if they or a friend of theirs reads about how I wanted to drink my face off after a long weekend of no naps, well that’s Ok. But if find a story about how my daughter’s feelings were crushed when someone made fun of her. That’s not.

    For the rest of the family, I know they read it. So I don’t write anything that I wouldn’t say to them personally. And my husband coaches football which means I’m on my own a lot from August until November. I start having a tough time with that around September 1, so if I’m writing about that, I have my mom or a friend read it to tell me if I’m being unfair to him.

    Maybe it makes it less real, but my family comes first. I try not to be too “puppies and sunshine” and only share the good stuff. But my blog isn’t an outlet to throw someone under the bus or even to rant and rave over something someone did to piss me off.

    1. I initially started my blog to just START writing in a more formal way….

      But, the topic was my husbands journey to completing his first Ironman race in Sept. of 2010. I was alone A LOT (like Krista), and I too would ask a friend to read my posts before hand to ensure my comments and story were coming from the right place — which was more of the perspective of a mom and wife and supporter of my husbands goal and dream…

      And honestly, I have a hard time putting some feelings and thoughts on paper (or on a blog) just because I fear the words will be hurtful and permanent, whereas the emotion and reaction to a situation is not…

  7. I’m very careful about sharing my kids’ stories. I think about how personal something is to them for a long time before deciding if it’s okay to share something my daughters said or did. I share a lot being the editor of a parenting site, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

    I’m not so private when it comes to my own life and my family. I recently starting writing about my childhood on my personal blog and I’m sharing things that would probably make my family hate me if they read it. None of them have computers, so I feel safe for now.


  8. I don’t ask for permission from my family to write about them—that’s just too far afield from the ” journalism” I was raised on. But I do look to share stories that have “meat” but aren’t horrifically embarrassing.

    This whole “loving my husband more than the kids” thing is interesting. While I struggle with how it fits into the discussion, I rarely use my husband as fodder. He didn’t choose for me to share our families stories, and I would never feel comfortable making him uncomfortable. The kids, though—-maybe I feel some sort of weird “ownership” over them. I genuinely feel each one of their stories belongs to me.

    I also rummage through rooms and would read diaries if any of them kept them–no privacy in this house.

  9. recently one of my daughters did something horrifying to another child’s pet (by accident!), and I danced around telling the story because I didn’t want to seem like I was accusing her of being a bad kid. I didn’t even use her name (although I’m sure my 10 readers knew which of my children it was). I needed to hear some feedback from my (small) community about it, but I didn’t want to be on the record as exposing how “awful” my child was. It worked for me, but I find myself walking this fine line as well. And my kids don’t even know I have a blog, per se. I write less and less about them, and more and more about me, including parenting difficulties I have. Because, for me, the blog is mine and about me, and not about my kids. Although, at the same time, I did post a hilarious story the other day (hilarious to me, anyway) about my older daughter and boy and girl parts. So, you know, mileage varies.

  10. A parent’s standpoint on this line – its existence and where it lies – evolves as our kids grow up. I first self-censored when my oldest was five – not because she asked me to, but because I knew her 12 year old self would be mortified. Now that she’s nine, we have many discussions that would make for thought-provoking blog fodder, but I simply don’t feel right putting that much of *her* out there. She’s my child, but she’s still her own person, and I respect and honor that.

  11. I think about this a lot. Because these stories don’t just belong to our children, they belong to us, as their parents too.

    I’ve been where you are, where I so much wanted to share a funny, hysterical thing that my son did but I knew, without him telling me, that he would not like it.

    But I’ve shared other things on my blog that he has explicitly told me not to share. Like the puberty discussions at school. But to me that was different. Because it wasn’t about him personally, it was situational. Or so I told myself.

  12. I appreciate that you weren’t willing to farm out another mother who would claim to love her husband more than her kids, or really any issue that could cause a mother to be portrayed in a negative light. You don’t need to feel that guilt when it all goes badly, as it inevitably will. I would love a network showing kids voting with their parents – a network showing all the positive things parents do with their children could really change the narrative.

  13. My kids are too little to get a vote yet, but my husband does. I find I tell fewer stories about my kids as they get older, and I think that is pretty common.

    But I also decided to not include any real names in my posts- actually my husband felt strongly about this for the kids, and I feel strongly about it for me. So even though people who know me in real life easily recognize me from the blog, it won’t pop up when a stranger searches on any of our names, which is sort of how I want it. I can’t imagine my stories about sleep deprivation would do me any good if a potential employer read them….

  14. Can I just say “Bravo!” to you for turning down national exposure because you don’t want to be part of the problem.

    I adore you for knowing who you are and what you want to say about parenting, about being a mom, about being a person doing their best. That’s the reason I read you, btw.

    I think you are always thinking about how what you write here, and how what you say impacts the world, your kids, your family. I think you are always reading that barometer. I also appreciate that you aren’t spewing more crises, neuroses, hatred, jealousy, angst, guilt and fear into the world. There’s enough of that going on already. I’ve never read anything here and felt badly afterwards (or like I needed to shower). That’s wonderful.

    I never watch those shows anymore. The ones that pit stay at home moms against working moms, moms who feed their kids Cheetos for dinner against moms who cook dishes made from organic kale, parents who beat their kids against parents who let their children run like wolves. There was a time when vetting these issues seemed important, like the first time someone publicly talked about incest or rape or stopped feeling shame, or living in secrecy. But that’s not what this is anymore. Now, people are just making up controversy to talk about it. There’s nothing like two women ripping each other to pieces on national TV to get those ratings up.

    Thanks for recognizing that.


  15. I don’t blog (although seeing as everyone else does maybe I should get on the bandwagon) but I do cringe when bloggers write things that are too personal, bitter, or embarrassing about themselves or their family members. If I know that it isn’t something someone is 100% comfortable with sharing, I don’t enjoy reading it anyway, so what was the point of writing it?

    When I was about 6 or 7 years old I cut my sisters hair, badly. I got in trouble, cried, and then begged my mom not to tell anyone because I was so embarrassed. Later that afternoon I overheard her telling the whole story to a women she had over for coffee. I was so hurt that she would promise not to tell anyone and then break that promise and somehow I remember that moment and feeling over the numerous Childhood birthdays and Christmases that I’ve forgotten. I realize now, of course, why the story was funny and why she retold it, but as a parent one of my goals is to never promise something if I know I’m not going to keep it.

    I think you’ll find the right balance of blogging and privacy for your family, and I always find your blog posts thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    1. Thanks Ashley! I agree, there are some things that are so uncomfortably personal (like that Babble post) that I didn’t actually enjoy reading it. But then there are some bloggers who go places I do not (I think about some of Motherhood Uncensored‘s inlaw posts) that I still think are great reading. The way David Sedaris writes about his family is an apt example of that too.

      Yes, I just put David Sedaris and Kristen in the same paragraph. You’re welcome, Kristen.

      I think the “breaking a promise” aspect you bring up is a great place to draw the line. I do continue to wonder whether some things are unspoken promises too.

  16. I stopped “mommy blogging” a few years ago because my kids who are now 19 and 16, well, the stuff they did wasn’t cute – and if it was by chance amusing – they certainly did not want to be able to Google it.

    Having your teenagers trust you is worth more than a great Klout score. Trust me.

    I’ll reference my kids – tell any story that would make them happy or proud – but the la-la-la parts of single-mothering two teenagers is not what mega-blog hits are made of.

    I also grew tired of writing about my life. So now I write fiction.

  17. This has been a really interesting and new challenge for me recently. I have written about my son, who is now 7 (8 in August, he’d want me to say), for a long time: in a magazine I used to run, on Facebook as a form of art, in a book I wrote about my divorce from his father and all the lessons it brought. So in all those writings, he was a sideshow, rather than main stage. (And he *loved* that my book was dedicated to him, and to his father.) But then we tumbled through an unbelievably hard year (both my parents died, I left my job, my boyfriend moved in with us, a good thing, but still a hard change), and he went into his own crisis (which I didn’t write about). And then he didn’t come out of the crisis. And then a new crisis started. Which sent ME into a crisis and has so completely consumed my life for months. End result: he has ADHD/anxiety disorder. And he will be fine, but life will be hard for a while. So I didn’t write about it, and didn’t write about it, and then, I just had to. Because ADHD is not something to be ashamed of and it won’t be his “secret”; it will be his way to understand himself: his mind just works differently than other people’s. Plus it is THE central and defining experience of my life right now. So I curate what I tell—no exacting details of his challenges, none of the particulars of what we’ve been through in the last months—but I think the larger story is important to share. For me AND for him. We will struggle but we will not be ashamed. I want him to be proud of who he is, and writing about the sheer normalcy of his specialness (while still protecting his tender heart) seems like the “right” thing to do.

    1. What a thoughtful mom you are–and all the commenters here, really.
      I just love knowing that people have thought about this so profoundly. And sharing it here really helps me articulate my own boundaries too.

  18. I have five blogs’ worth of material about my husband and daughter I won’t use. Something so scary happened last week that I wanted to write about so bad (actually two scary things), but I couldn’t write one b/c there is too much info inherent in it about where we live and the other b/c I promised I wouldn’t. And we have to honor those promises.

  19. Me & David Sedaris? No way. That’s my new tag line.

    I joked about changing my blog header to read “Motherhood Uncensored” but with the “UN” crossed out because as my kids get older and more people read my blog (like the neighbors, for example), I feel less comfortable sharing anything hugely personal because I’ll hear about it at the pool, or worse, my husband will hear about it. And I feel like at a certain point in time, which is almost like now for my oldest (now just about 7), her life is her story to tell. Not mine.

    But the in-laws, shit, I’d happily write about them FOREVER.

  20. There’s a line, for sure. And much like the Supreme Court pornography definition, I know it when I see it. My little one is 2 and fair game. I mostly write about her anyway, because she is the one with health issues and special needs, and connecting with other families who face the same challenges is the reason I write. The 5-year-old is different. Yes, I write about the funny things she says, and maybe one day she will be embarrassed by the cute stories about how overly dramatic she is. But there is a LOT that goes on in the background that I will never, ever touch. And when she is old enough to ask me not to write about this or that, I will have to respectfully comply and pay the therapy bill. Which I do anyway.

  21. I haven’t had to come face to face with this yet, with my only still in diapers, but for what it’s worth here are my thoughts: The stories I share are MY stories. My blog is MY experiences. I would not want to share a story that is his. When I write I write about things from my point of view, which is really a very fine line to draw. It doesn’t matter too much in the early years but later, oh man. If there were something he didn’t want me to write about I would totally respect that. But I’m still a person, not just a faceless mom-machine, and I get to have my own feelings about what’s going on too, know what I mean?

  22. You could not have posted this at a more perfect time. I’ve always written candidly about my kids because they’re little and everything they do is cute…including driving me nuts.

    However, one of them has recently developed an alarming medical condition. What lies ahead for us are neurology appointments, experiments with diet and medications, and a whole lot of learning.

    More than anything I want to reach out to this community that has shown me nothing but support…but for the first time I’m fighting this inner voice that is telling me this is not something she’s going to want publicized anymore than it has to be.

    I guess I found my boundary. Though I can’t say I’m particularly happy about that.

  23. I do think about my kids when sharing and ask myself if it is something they really want to read when they get older. If the answer is “no” – then those stories go into their private baby book/journal and not for me to document for the internet.

    My eldest daughter is eight and she does sometimes say “you are not going to share that on your blog, right?” – So I know her privacy needs to be respected.

    However, I have paid her to share a super funny story about her. She is not above a bag of peanut M&M’s.


  24. Stacy took the words out of my mouth. I perhaps talk more about my son’s autism than some people think is wise, but to me it’s part of the overall experience of 1) processing his challenges in a way that helps me get to the place where I’m most helpful to him, 2) giving him a record that essentially reads “Holy crap this was hard but we love the snot out of you and refused to let this be what defined you, or us, as a family,” and 3) sharing with others in similar situations. My mother basically calls to scold me every time I write about my son being an Aspie, because “the label will haunt him,” and I’ve so far been unable to explain to her that the label is something he embraces and which has enabled all of us to live more happily with his particular set of foibles.

    Basically I’m using this as an example, but the same goes for my daughter, too—someday they will read what I wrote, and I hope any embarrassment will be temporary, but the lasting impression will be “Mom didn’t sugar-coat it, but she loved it all, even the hard stuff.” Because that’s my story. I will always carefully curate (to steal Stacy’s word) out of respect for them, but also out of respect for them I refuse to fall silent because other people think I should.

    1. Awesome Mir. I agree, sugar-coating is not the answer. Then you’re not a blogger, you’re a scrapbooker.

      (Don’t hurt me, scrapbookers!)

  25. It amuses me that the majority of my blogging friends are just starting to deal with this issue now, because their children are no longer toddlers.

    When I started my blog five odd years ago, Fric and Frac were 10 and 9. I’ve *always* had to keep their boundaries in mind and I’ve always given them complete editorial control over whether a story appears on the blog. I’ve also used my own common sense to deliberate about how much harm a certain post would do if I published it even with their consent.

    This is not to say I have always been successful and there has been a post here or there that they’ve regretted (or I have,) but for the majority of all my posts, there has been little conflict.

    My kids also have full rights of refusal for any pictures that appear on the internet courtesy of me and that includes the weird phase where my son was all, “PUT ME ON THE INTERNETS AND MAKE ME FAMOUS MOM!” while my daughter insisted I black bar her face in every picture.

    My kids are now closer to adulthood than they are their childhood and they have suffered no scars because of the things I’ve written. I intend to keep it that way always.

  26. I find that I don’t write very often, at all, about things my kid does just for the sake of writing about what my kid does. My blog is more a space for me to expose my own fears and worries and foibles, not his–though sometimes those are created through the process of mothering. So I write about how I worry I’m doing a bad job as a parent because my kid is biting, not just a story about how my kid is biting. The differentiation makes sense in my head.

    My son isn’t yet two, so I know I’m not facing the real issues yet. As one blogger I read said (and I wish I could remember who), before a certain age, the stories are often similar: babies poop, parents are tired, milestones, etc. It’s as they get older and more individual that the worries start for me. But I think as long as I’m THINKING about it, and putting my stories before his stories, I’m going to err on the side of ok.


  27. What a wonderful and timely post, and great discussion it has opened up. I have been thinking about all of these issues a LOT lately, and it has been really helpful to me to read your (wise) thoughts on it, and all the great comments.

    I ditto everything The Yummy Mummy has said, and in my thinking am close to Stacey & Mir. I write about my autistic son very openly because by this point I am fairly certain he will never have the level of self-reflective thought to be upset about anything I have written. (I would love to be proved wrong.) And the truth of our lives is really important to share, I know has already helped others.

    My other son is trickier. I try to be sensitive to his future self reading my posts, but I also want to make sure I am still truth-telling. He, like Stacy’s son, is at the verge of an ADD/Anxiety diagnosis, and will probably begin medication for the next school year. I want him to be proud of who he is, and not feel “lesser” for having a somewhat different brain, for needing help. I feel it is important for other families to see what we are doing / how we cope. And yet I am also balancing this against what, say, a future college recruitment officer or employer might see in his online past.

    It’s actually giving me a headache as I try to parse out the fine points of what to share and what to withhold. Thanks again for opening up this thoughtful discussion.

  28. My mom never talked about me with people outside of the necessary. She never relayed funny stories or embarrassing moments. She never even bragged. I asked her once why she didn’t do these things and she told me it was because I was shy and she was trying to honor that about me. At the time I thought she had sacrificed a great deal to put me ahead of her own need to vent; but over the years I’ve come to understand it was really a comfort for her to be so stoic.

    Now that I’m a mom, I’ve stopped seeing my life in terms of how it would be different if my mom had done (fill in the blank) differently.

    I’ve always tried to be mindful of the things I write/say about my kids, but I know I’m destined to be the root cause of someone’s therapy bills someday. Honestly, I think I have more to worry about with the pictures than the prose, but my hope is that in time they will come to accept that the stories I told about their childhoods were really about my experiences in motherhood/womanhood, especially when they take offense at my having crossed a line.

  29. What a thoughtful discussion! Reminds me of the one over at Her Bad Mother about whether to post pics of our kids or not. Being so thoughtful about it can only be a good thing.

    I struggle with this too, even though I am a small blogger, with just my friends, family and thirteenish random strangers regularly tuning in. I always give my husband editorial rights (as he is much more private than me) and I write less and less about my oldest. I try to mostly write about how *I* feel, what *I* think, *my* perspective.

    The hardest thing for me: at what age can kids be considered old enough to have informed consent? I’m not sure my five year old can tell if she’s comfortable having something on the internet forever and ever. I feel I have to ask her AND I have to step outside of it all and try to make the best decision for her future comfort. Our relationship is much more important than any story I may wish to share.

  30. When I first started blogging, the privacy issue was always about me – what am I willing to share? But as the storytelling became more about them, I took a step back…like mama kat, I’ve experienced a situation with my daughter that started early last year and as much as I knew the blogging community would have embraced it, I chose to keep it private because it’s what felt right for me and my daughter.
    Thanks for always giving us things to think about and a space to really talk – about the kind of topics that affect all of us.

  31. Definitely writing less about Julian (6.5) these days, although I think he’s fascinating. I showed him the post about a recent craft project we did together and he loved it and asked me to show him more. I showed him a post from his 5-year old birthday but then as I started to read it outloud, I realized it was too mature in content. I decided that although I’m not writing stuff that would embarrass him, it won’t necessarily be appropriate to share with him for a very long time. Even stuff we write about our babies reveals our feelings as adults/parents and is therefore potentially embarrassing to them. (My mom cried over nothing/thought I was goofy looking/missed her job/talked about her boobs nonstop/lost three hundred dollars in Las Vegas and laughed about it)

  32. Generally, I don’t ask my husband. He trusts me not to embarrass him or say too much. If ever I have a doubt, I will get him to read something before I post it. 9 times out of 10, he’s okay with what I write, though occasionally he makes suggestions.

    My son is only 3 and for now, I get to decide what I write about him. But even in that, I’m careful. We’ve had challenges that stress me out and I don’t share too much about that out of respect for him as he gets older and this becomes part of his permanent record of sorts. I try not to write things that could embarrass him more than is perfectly normal and acceptable at his wedding in 30 years (or whenever).

    I read a post on Dooce last year when she talked about how she’s not talking about Leta anymore. And when she does, she checks with her first. It was the first time I really thought about how this blogging thing could evolve over time. The perspective Heather presented had such an impact on me that I think about it nearly every time I share something about my son.

    I think it’s great that your daughter can trust you enough to say she doesn’t want to be written about in certain circumstances and also trusts that you’ll respect her wishes. To me, it’s a great opportunity for those of us who are active in the blogosphere to start teaching our kids about being responsible online.

  33. When I first started writing my blog for Babble, several family members approached me to say they were worried about me over sharing about my children. I assured them that the blog would really be about my point of view and not the same thing as the emails they were used to getting that included more intimate details of our lives. But I did invite my relatives to tell me at any point if they thought I was going too far. To date, no one has had a problem with what I’ve chosen to write.

    But there are times I wish I could open up to readers about some of the more interesting problems we face. There are topics that I know would embarrass my children so I could never post them, but that I’m sure readers might have useful input about. I kind of teetered on that line a little bit when I recently wrote about my daughter being sick. I knew she wouldn’t want me to write about it, but I deemed it not scarring in the long run, and I sincerely wanted (and received) helpful feedback by putting up that post.

    When I communicate with other bloggers directly I am always fascinated by how interesting the details of their lives are that they choose not to put in (virtual) print. I think those lines are always moving and changing, just as we are always changing as people, so I don’t think it’s practical or necessary to come up with hard and fast rules. Just like parenting, a lot of times it’s just about being able to wing it.

  34. I just devoured the commentary in this blogpost, savored the words you wrote before them … this, this is where I am. Pondering a blog where no one knows my name to make sense of some of the stories that shaped me to be the person I am today. But … not to share with my family, because even tho they are my stories, they are also their stories because they are my family, and it would affect them too …
    My childrens stories are their stories, do I wonder what I should or should not share -always. Infertility, adoption, transracial families – so much to share, but to tread so carefully …
    LOVED reading everyone’s feedback here – thank you so much for posting!

  35. Liz, I don’t write about my husband. At all. It’s not because we have a bad relationship – far from it – but because he’s asked me to leave him out of it. On a very rare occasion, if it’s something that’s really funny, or a pic that I especially like, I’ll ask permission first.

    I also very rarely write about my teens anymore. It was really brought home to me when my son, in 9th grade at the time, told me that his teacher was reading my blog during a test that he was taking. Also knowing that the teachers and staff of the younger kids school reads means that I’m very selective about what I say. Childhood/the teenage years are embarrassing enough – no one needs to have their exploits highlighted on my blog for their friends/friends parents/future college or employers to read.

    1. The teachers at school read my blog, too! And then they mention things to my kids. I had pretty much already stopped writing about my boys when I learned this (they were 10 and 12), but I stopped writing about school.

      I recently started a blog for the new-to-us house we just bought. Though there will obviously be many house photos on the blog, I haven’t decided whether I will post pics of my boys rooms. Might they get teased? Will lovesick middle school girls begin stalking my blog and memorizing the details of my boys’ rooms? (I totally would have done that if it was possible back in the day.)

  36. I love this post.

    I’m not a mother but I am a wife, and sometimes the decision to write about my husband (or his family, who make up a large portion of my world since I don’t live near my own) is quite murky. I have to pay a great deal of attention to my insides, which type of “rush” I get from hitting post – am I genuinely excited to put this out into the world and receive feedback, or am I a bit nervous about the response? Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate the two. I had once incidence of overlooking a “not-quite-right” feeling, and in hindsight it was definitely a poor decision to post that particular story – even though it was a very pivotal issue in my life at that time.

    Most times – the gut, it knows something.

  37. Hi. I love the design of your new site. Very exciting. This post really captivated me — I can’t respect you more for turning down that TV show. And it’s so sweet that your daughter asked you not to write about her secret. I think it gets back to the personal vs. blog personal that I asked you about recently.

    My husband often jokes that Harper is like the Truman Show b/c I write about him like mad, and readers are watching his every change, and my fear is that one day he’ll open the door and say: Why did you do that? So much of why I write my blog is to record and remember all of these memories for us, but there’s the inevitability that he’s going to read it someday and think: Mom? Wtf?

    While I try not to self edit too much, I do think that some mothers will say horrible things for attention and couch it in: “I’m just being honest.” But let’s face it: There are some things you should keep to yourself. There are many things that I just keep to myself.

    The measure of a great writer isn’t in what you say, it’s what you don’t say.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. 🙂


  38. There’s a lot I don’t write about, and interestingly I have already begun to move away from my kids’ stories and my stories as a mother. Part of that is because our adoption experience was years ago now, and a lot of the logistics have changed, and part of that is that my kids are older and I struggle to find ways of talking about their special needs and the situations they create without it just being venting.

    I think Mir handles this very well, BTW. I find myself nodding in recognition often.

    I have to find my “not just a mom” voice, and I haven’t been writing as much because most of my “not just a mom” life has been taken up with work, and of course I can’t write about that, either.

  39. I don’t have many hard-and-fast rules, but I know the line when I see it. For example, the whole circumcision argument is something I’m careful about. I won’t ever reveal the state of my son’s penis. I think I figured that out when a dear friend spent weeks regaling everyone in town with tales of her son’s undecended testicle, and I felt it was weird to do that to her son. I mean, these are the people he’s going to grow up with and everyone and their mother is going to know he only has one functional testicle? I knew then I wasn’t going to talk medical issues casually. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t discuss anything with anyone, and obviously people who are there when I change his diaper know, but it’s not a discussion.

    My oldest is especially easily embarrassed, so I just don’t share much about her without the go-ahead. Then again, she relishes the power to say no to mom, so that’s been frustrating. Still I honor it.

  40. I have a blog and it is ALL about my kids (age 5 & almost 2), but it is unsearchable/not finable, not measured or ranked or whatever that stuff is called, not read by the public (as far as I know anyway – and based on the blogger stats, no worries there!)- it is just for family as I live miles from most of them. I also have a twitter feed that is basically just the funny things my children say, but it doesn’t identify them by name. For those who have public blogs, thanks – I enjoy reading them and hopefully your kids will, too 😉

  41. There isn’t much I can say here about my own policies or thoughts about this that other people haven’t already said, but I do have an interesting story about this. And guess what? I asked permission before coming back here to tell it in the comment field.

    So it’s about my mom.

    When I started my blog, my mother asked not to be a part of it. She had her reasons and I understood them, so I agreed. And, true to form, I have mentioned her only a few times. Every time, I have explicitly asked her permission and provided her with the text of the post I planned on publishing. I have told other stories about her – but I always say they’re about a friend or a neighbor or a stranger I met in a shop. She almost never reads my blog, but one time she did and she couldn’t stop smiling for a week. She loved how often she recognized herself being described as a ‘good friend of mine’ or ‘one of my closest buddies.’

    A few months back, someone in my life accused me of lying on my blog. I said, “Excuse me?” And they said, “You heard me. You lie on your blog. I can’t trust you anymore.” And I said, “Excuse me? Give me one example.” And the example they came up with was this: my mom never shows up. They know me well enough, so they know that my mother is an enormous part of my life. She and my father live down the road so we see them several times each week.

    I explained that the reason my mom never turns up on my blog is that she has requested not to. SUDDENLY, all of my so-called ‘lies’ were forgiveable because they were committed to protect someone’s privacy, and you know what? It really, and I mean REALLY, pissed me off. How dare she try to chip away at the integrity of my stories – MY stories – without trusting that I might have told them a certain way for a certain reason! Every time she laid out a ‘lie,’ I told her the ‘truth’ (for example: I combined two events into one to streamline the tale, or I said something happened in one location but someone corrected me later that it was in another location but I didn’t fix it because I didn’t think it mattered much, or I said an event at the park involved a 5 year old boy yesterday when it really involved twin girls three weeks ago) and every time, she said ‘oh, okay, that makes sense, I’d do the same thing, thanks for clarifying’ blah blah blah. And then, even though I’d established this on my blog MULTIPLE TIMES PRIOR, she said that she felt that I had an ‘obligation’ to tell my readers that this occurs, this blending of the exact details of reality. So I did, just to shut her up. I reminded all of my readers that, as I’ve said before, I take liberties with the truth to protect peoples’ privacy.

    I shit you not, I received over two hundred e-mails about that topic. And for once, every single person agreed with me. None of them thought it was lying at all.

    What I learned from this experience – besides that I have pretty much zero respect for people who think they know me, my family, or my blog better than I do – is that every single person has a story to tell and that almost as important as the story itself is allowing the person to tell the story as they choose. I do not feel comfortable telling certain stories frankly, such as those that include my mother, for my own reasons and so I do not. Just as you do not feel comfortable telling certain stories frankly, such as those your daughter asks you not to disclose, for your own reasons and so you do not. It’s the same thing. You aren’t lying. Your story-telling is not fundamentally limited as a result. These are the tales of YOUR family, in YOUR words, by YOUR rules.

    I do not agree with, not one little bit, the woman who wrote that piece on Babble. I think it’s a shitty thing for her to do and that it isn’t fair to her children. I think she’s wrong and I am mildly repulsed by the entire affair, HOWEVER I do believe that it is important for me to respect her tales of her family in her words by her rules.

    I think that this is the beauty of blogging, the beauty of writing, really. We are all, each of us, capable of drawing different lines in the sand. When I was Skyping with a university blogging class recently, I was asked about what my lines were and I said that it really didn’t matter because everyone’s are different. I really stand by that.

    1. How much do I adore every word of this, Sarah. Thank you. And I couldn’t agree more about defending a writer’s choices, whether or not we agree with them ourselves.

      Consider me the 201st person to tell you that no, you’re not lying. A lie implies intent to deceive. I think we’re all entitled to a little license.

  42. I do struggle with this, not just for my son but for myself. There are things I’ve written about that may have crossed the line into Things You Just Don’t Say. For example, I wrote a post (http://www.outrageousfortune.net/2011/04/worst-thing-anyone-has-ever-said.html) in which I suggested I wish my son had died instead of lived with brain damage because then I could get a “do-over.” I know that’s not how it works, and I knew it even then, but that’s what despair does to you. Or at least, that’s what it did to me.

    It would be wonderful to pretend like I picked myself up out of the doctor’s office with a smile, but I felt like I needed to stand up for the women who aren’t saints so that they know they aren’t alone. I hope I can raise my son with enough compassion that he will understand that if/when he ever reads that.

    1. I would imagine that most people would agree any grieving mother is entitled to say anything she needs to.

      1. Hmm… that’s an interesting concept. So say instead of that Babble mother (I haven’t read it) saying she loved one child over another, if one of them had actually died, would it be OK for her to say she was glad it wasn’t the other one? Would the issue then be because the “lesser-loved” child would never grow up to later read about her Sophie’s Choice?
        I don’t know one way or the other, but it’s an interesting discussion.

        1. Oh good lord! Can you even imagine a grieving mother writing such a thing about her dead child? Shudder to think.

  43. Well, my children are too young to really have a say…2 years old and 9 months. But I do try to keep in mind what they would and wouldn’t be comfortable with once they are old enough to understand and read. For me, I’m more concerned about photos being posted to social networks, like Facebook. I really don’t like when I see naked baby pictures posted. I mean, yeah, those bathtub pictures are cute but I shudder to think of whose hands those pictures could land in. And I know I wouldn’t be pleased with my mom if she posted my naked baby pictures to her Facebook.

  44. Good one. You’ve got me dying to hear the story and praying you don’t tell it. I think you found the line nicely.

  45. Funny that we wrote about the very same thing on the very same day. But even with all the great feedback we both got, I’m still lost.

  46. You’re a Virgo. What did you expect:gray? You’re a black and white/wrong and right/yes and no kind of girl. Thalia will have enough to hold against you as she grows up; glad this is not one of them. Good on ya for coming out as the ethical woman I know and love.

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