I started blogging shortly before I got pregnant with my son, Isaac. That’s a lifetime in blog years but only nine years ago in reality. I kept the pregnancy itself under wraps from my readers (all 12 of them at the time) until the moment I thought I had miscarried. In the end, it was unexplained bleeding, but the experience rocked me to my core. Through blogging, I connected with other parents-to-be who were also expecting their first babies and, after I wrote about the experience online, the outpouring of support buoyed me through those scary few days. I guess you could say that’s how I became a “mommy blogger,” because I didn’t look back after that, eventually writing about everything from the struggle to find a nursing bra to the gory story of my labour and delivery. No detail was too personal to share.
In hindsight, many of those details really were too personal to share. I found that out the hard way, when a male teammate on my triathlon team told me he got a kick out of my bra shopping story and that I didn’t look like an F cup at all. It’s a good thing I was already red-faced from my workout because at least it covered up how much I blushed at the remark.
But as embarrassing as that moment was, I didn’t stop blogging. I also didn’t stop thinking about the reach and impact that a post would have on myself and my children. I always believed that I would be helping another parent through a tough time by sharing a personal story because, let’s face it, parenting is sometimes lonely and frustrating. Striking a balance between what is too personal to share and what will help other parents has become increasingly difficult, and I’m not alone in feeling this way. Last October at BlissDom, the late Tracy Chappell and I talked long into the night about that balance (and I could relate to why she stopped blogging). Recently, I talked with Yummy Mummy Club’s Sharon DeVellis about writing about our kids, which is why her post this week about what she wished she’d known about blogging hit home—and I agree with her 100 percent.
At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, if you’re venturing into the world of parent blogging, here are five things I think you should know.
1. You are the steward of your child’s digital footprint.
Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal suggested that, rather than rattles and receiving blankets, what parents really need to buy for their babies is their own domain name. “Having the ability to create your own personal page as your domain name could give your child a huge edge down the road,” wrote wealth management expert Ted Jenkin. “In fact, if she becomes the next Taylor Swift, the domain name could be worth millions.” I haven’t bought domain names for Isaac or Gillian (yet), but I’m keenly aware of the fact that what comes up when their names are Googled is all my doing. In putting their names out there to the public, I’m establishing their digital footprint—and I feel it’s my job to ensure that it’s a positive one.
2. You are your child’s online role model.
Even if you choose to keep your kids out of the spotlight by using pseudonyms or cropping their faces out of photographs, your online words still have the power to show them right from wrong. As a new blogger, you are your child’s online role model. Choosing to be kind and helpful rather than snarky will show them that the Internet can be a kind place and that online bullying isn’t acceptable. That goes for any comments you leave on social media as well.
3. That viral post isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Every new blogger dreams that one day she’ll have a post go viral—and, yes, I get a bit of a thrill when a post of mine does especially well. But the flip side of that 15 minutes of fame is that your kids ride the wave along with you, for better or for worse. Julia Fierro (the mom of the young girl made famous by the “mood swing” meme) said it best to The Huffington Post: “I want to be one of those parents who have made (and stuck to) a vow of not posting photos of their children online so that every creep in the world has potential access to them, but isn’t it too late for that? How would I erase all that I’ve already (over) shared?” The short answer is that you can’t erase it—ever. Make sure you understand that before you hit Publish.
4. You will be judged.
Are you a pro-formula parent? You will be judged. Co-sleeper? You’ll be judged again. Regardless of your view on any parenting topic, there will be another parent out there who will judge you on your actions. Some parents are kind with their comments, while others are aggressive and downright hurtful. If you don’t have a thick skin (and I certainly don’t), be selective with your stories.
5. Even when shared from your point of view, their stories are not your stories.
Writing about Isaac and Gillian seemed easier when they were babies—and, literally, without voices of their own. But as they’ve gotten older and their personalities have developed, I try to be respectful of the stories I share. I try to share from my point of view, but their stories are invariably deeply entwined with mine. As Sharon rightfully pointed out, asking a child permission isn’t the right move because it’s an adult decision. Do I get this right all the time? No. But, like everything along the parenting journey, I’m doing the best I can.
Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences of giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.