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blue milk also writes for The Guardian and Fairfax publications. You can read more about her at her own blog, blue milk.

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13 responses to “The controversy in writing about your children”

  1. tigtog

    There is something to be suspicious about whenever people jump on a bandwagon against a practice almost entirely pursued by women, which parent blogging overwhelmingly is.

    Indeed. Richard Glover has made a 20-year career of writing newspaper columns full of disarmingly hilarious anecdotes regarding his marriage and parenting mishaps, some of which he also reads out on his radio show, yet I don’t hear him being criticising for over-sharing or potentially embarrassing them.

    It is a fraught area. I used to blog a bit about my kids, and then they asked me to stop it, so I did. The occasional piece about them since I’ve always asked them whether it was OK for me to blog it, and mostly they’ve said no but just a few times they’ve said yes. I’d like to blog about them more, but I have to respect their wishes.

  2. Arcadia

    In the ‘too sexy for breastfeeding’ section, I see an inappropriate apostrophe (‘Who own’s mine?’).

    Otherwise, I agree with you.

  3. Aqua, of the Questioners

    This reminds me of the abortion controversy – in many people’s concern for the fetus or child, the existence and humanity of the pregnant person or mother disappears completely. And it’s always a zero-sum conflict, somehow the pregnant person or mother can’t be trusted to make decisions that take anyone else into account, despite a lifetime of social conditioning that we always have to put others’ interests above our own.

    So, yes, absolutely a feminist mothering issue. I can’t assume feminists who aren’t mothers will care, mothers who aren’t feminists may not have noticed or questioned the cultural norm, and as for the non-feminist, non-mother mainstream, Maltz Bovy is typical in my experience.

    I’m not convinced mothers writing about their children are a magical special exception to all the cases of people writing about other people they know. As tigtog mentioned, men get much more of a free pass when they write something about others those others don’t like. (“But it’s a fictional character! Maybe inspired by someone I know…” “Why does this character use my exact words?”)

  4. Helen

    There is something to be suspicious about whenever people jump on a bandwagon against a practice almost entirely pursued by women

    It’s telling that the sentence I copied as I read in order to comment on was also the one which TT picked. It’s a litmus test, ay?!

    Also, what Aqua said.

    I have had the same experience as TT in that my kids are now older and one of them has asked not to be blogged about. A shame, because he cracks me up on a daily basis ;) (I hope that’s not a violation of the agreement – he didn’t specify comments!)

    As far as “almost entirely pursued by women”, that got me to thinking, and I remember a columnist i the 60s and 70s – I think it might have been Ross Cameron but don’t quote me – who regularly wrote colunmns about his family and his daughter “little Nell”. I don’t remember ever seeing any criticism about it. I do think about that late, great blog, LookyDaddy. He used to post about his daughter’s epilepsy, which makes one wonder whether an unaccomodating employer might find that on Google one day. But unlikely, I think. But I don’t remember anyone chiding him about that. (Not that I’m recommending that!)

  5. Helen

    Jeez, one fucking wine and my ability to write coherently goes out the window :-/

  6. tigtog
  7. Ariane

    Bill Cosby made a goodly part of his living telling jokes about his kids – another bloke who seems to have dodged analysis.

    There’s stories my mother has told so often it’s almost certainly reached an audience as large as my blog. The stories are a shared experience, and she’s telling her side of it. I was a complete shit as a child, and my mother deserves to tell the tales of how she helped direct those personality traits into a person who I hope is not a complete shit as an adult – at least not all the time.

    Our lives are made up of our side of the stories, and it’s impossible to talk about your experiences without involving other people. Children are tricky because they can’t consent, and can’t be kept anonymous (unless your whole blog is and stays anonymous), but on the other hand, they also can’t be held accountable later in life for their tantrums at two. As kids get older and feel more responsibility for their actions, they might ask not to be blogged about, and that makes sense to me.

    The embarrassment argument doesn’t make sense to me. because the things I did as a kid were part of growing up and learning to be a decent human being. That didn’t come about without mistakes and some horrific behaviour – there’s no point being embarrassed by those things, they were a necessary part of the learning curve.

  8. Helen

    The kid asked not to be blogged about after a post about his accident with a scientific experiment explosion, but it’s actually quite a good cautionary tale.

  9. mimbles

    I didn’t really ever have to wrestle with this because my kids were already old enough to have opinions by the time I started my blog and they’ve always had veto rights over what I write. They don’t often say no and I’m sometimes surprised by them expecting me to have posted something when I’d assumed they might not want it done – they’ll ask if anyone has commented.

    I don’t really get the embarrassment thing either, are we all supposed to pretend we sprang from the soil as fully grown adults and that having other people discover you were once a kid is somehow mortifying?

  10. Lauredhel

    I’m not sure whether it’s all about embarrassment though, is it? I think it is really important to acknowledge that children are people – which is where any comparison with the abortion debate fails dismally, and is I believe counterproductive.

    I think it’s important to acknowledge that the damage done to children by blogging about them identifiably could in some circumstances be unforeseeable by that child (so veto powers don’t necessarily help), and potentially extreme. I’m talking about blogging about children’s mental illnesses and other disabilities or illnesses. Insurance companies are already combing the web for information about people’s health and lifestyles (cf the woman who had a claim denied because she was seen on holiday smiling in Facebook photos; also, personal experience of mine with this issue on which I will not elaborate). I think we are looking at a future in which certain children may be refused jobs, educational opportunities, life insurance, disability insurance, and even in some countries any health insurance, because of what their parents have blogged or otherwise published (yes, I’m including newspaper and magazine articles) about their health and mental state.

    This is not remotely a call to parents to stop blogging about two year old tantrums and what it’s like to be a mother. Just that there is another side to this debate that isn’t all about the kyriarchy trying to keep women silenced.

  11. Ariane

    I agree that it’s not all about the embarrassment – I was just responding to that particular bit of the argument.

    I was also conscious of the fact that I wasn’t addressing the problems with potential persecution on the basis of broad categories kids fit into. They are valid, and it’s relevant in my family. Like other decisions we make for our kids, we have to make the decisions about what is or isn’t ok to publish to the best of our ability – and it’s definitely important to consider the issues you raise. Blogging (and other writing) about kids who fit some profile that may be used to discriminate against them can help change that discrimination, but as you say, it can also make them a target. It’s a tricky thing to navigate, for sure.

  12. blue milk

    Lauredhel – I like your point and I think about that a lot.. for instance, where is my line on this type of writing and children’s non-voluntary participation in it and how it is presented/promoted/viewed and my response to some of Bill Henson’s photography and children’s non-voluntary participation in how that is presented/promoted/viewed? I don’t know.

  13. Aqua of the Questioners

    The issue with how publicly available all kinds of previously private information has become, I think this is a general social problem of the information age we haven’t found a solution for. And I think it’s best to talk about it broadly, all the different ways it can occur, and not just in the context of mothers blogging about their children. I don’t think that accounts for more than a tiny fraction of the problem.

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