A few weeks ago, Baltimore-based writer Elizabeth Bastos wrote a piece for The New York Times titled ‘Why I Decided to Stop Writing About My Children’.
It’s an interesting piece for all mom bloggers, aspiring first person writers, and even those who simply post photos of their children on Facebook or Instagram—most of whom have likely, at one point, asked themselves, ‘Should I be sharing so much about my child?’, or, ‘Should I be posting this photograph?’.
But, in this day and age, when what you put out there in the virtual world, is, well, out there in the virtual world forever, I find very few people think twice about what they share, especially when it comes to parenting. Call it mom-petition, because it sometimes seems that mom bloggers and writers try to ‘out-share’ each other with their parenting tales and children’s antics.
Bastos shares how she’s written ‘extensively’ and ‘intimately’ about her children for ‘seven years without once thinking about it from the point of view of their privacy.’
I can beat her in this department. I started writing about my now 12-year-old daughter, Rowan, when she was a fetus, and over the years she has become a mini-celebrity in her own rite, as a result of me sharing many photos and many details of her life.
Unlike Bastos, however, I am very careful what I put out there (even though I can be so brutally honest, sharing details of my children’s lives, it may seem like I don’t give it one iota of thought.) But I do.
Three of my books are based entirely on my daughter, which works out to be almost 900 pages. Children and babies provide a lot of relatable fodder for a lot of other parents—especially ones who feel isolated during those early years.
The question, perhaps, should not be how much you share about your children, but should there be a statute of limitation on writing about your children? Should you stop writing about them when they know how to Google? Should you stop writing about them when they hit a certain age? And, if so, what age should that be?
Bastos stopped writing about her children because her father read a piece she wrote about her son’s first signs of puberty. ‘Elizabeth, are you pausing deeply to consider what you’re writing about?’, her Dad asked her.
Like most bloggers who are called out for possibly, depending on your sensibilities, oversharing intimate details about their children, she was at first defensive. Writing about her children got her through postpartum depression. Writing about her children also ‘made the joys and the hardships of parenting into stories,’ as they do for thousands of bloggers.
Her father’s question hit her hard. ‘His words went to my heart’, she writes, adding, ‘I thanked him honestly for his feedback, got off the phone, and cried into my daughter’s stuffed animals…’
It’s not clear to me if she was crying because she realized she may have crossed a line, or because she realized she would never again write about her children, which seemed to be cathartic to her, as it is, again, for many.
She now is sticking to writing about nature.
I wanted to write about Bastos’ article when it first came out, but I didn’t. Perhaps it took me this long to find the words because my daughter is hitting puberty and now I am wondering if writing about going to get her waxed for the first time, or bra shopping with her for the first time, is a line I’m now crossing. After all, she can not only speak, she has a voice.
Here’s the thing. I don’t feel guilty for writing about my daughter. That’s because she likes to read about herself, and also asks me now, ‘Are you going to post that on Facebook?’ To which I’ll respond with, ‘Do you care?’ So far, she doesn’t. And yes, now that she’s entering teenhood, I do ask her permission before writing about her.
Here’s what it comes down to for me. Yes, my children are fodder for my writing. But I like to think of them more like springboards into a larger conversation about parenting in this modern age. My stories are about them, but they’re more about parenting experiences, and are, I hope, highly relatable to other parents.
For sure not every child would want to be written about. But my daughter loves hearing stories about herself, from her drunken conception to her crush on her music teacher when she was three.
Then again, she has grown up in the age of YouTube and Google, where she has seen and read much more disturbing things than anything I could possibly write about her. Of course, the second my children ask me not to write about them will be the second I stop writing about them. That’s my statute of limitation.
Do you think twice about what you post or write about your children?