On blogging, dirty laundry and respect

Penny Raine recently posted a nice entry on Respectful Mom Blogging, citing some of her concerns she has with blogs which perhaps reveal too much about the young children placed in our care and the “dirty laundry” some seem to feel compelled to air.  It’s good advice, but I stumble over a couple of the “rules.”

I don’t share a lot about my family on this blog, although I have been known to go into lengthy tangents about pencils as well as share a few very personal struggles.  And I do have a more personal blog where I share some of my reflections on parenthood, the silly things my children say, a bit of misbehavior, and just tidbits of my life as a homeschooling mother of four.

For me, it is difficult to come up with hard and fast rules about what to share and what not share about our lives.  When I write an entry, I am inviting my readers into a part of my life.  And I clean up a bit, just as I would straighten my house before you came over for tea.  Excessive compliments would not drive me to leave my children’s laundry scattered about the house and the sink full of dishes the next time you came, but I also wouldn’t pretend as if my house always looked that way.  The blog is a curious medium, part diary and part public address system.  It becomes personal, and we begin to feel a very personal connection with those readers who comment regularly as a sort of community begins to develop around our blogs.  As our sense of community in our own neighborhoods diminishes, I think we will see more and more people seeking to fulfil this very important human need online through these virtual communities.

Whether or not a particular story I read on a blog bothers me has more to do with the purpose behind the sharing than exactly what is revealed about the life of the blogger. If it seems to be about sacrificing the esteem of a child in exchange for traffic, I, too, would be a little uncomfortable reading the entry.  If it is about sharing a little humor about the often trying task of parenting, I may be inclined to share a story of my own.

I hope some day that my children can look back on what their mother has written about them and see a different side to our relationship that perhaps they do not see as much right now.  After all, my children saw a very humorless mother the day they dumped a storage tub full of books and a fifty pound bag of dog food on the laundry room floor.  Looking back over these events, however, I hope they see not a mother making fun of them, but a mother who truly delights in their developing personalities, even through the inevitable struggles of parenting young children.

And some of us are truly struggling in relationships with parents, children, spouses or other significant people in our lives.  Of course we need to be careful how we discuss those in a public forum, but for every person willing to talk about their struggles there are many thousands who feel isolated and as if they have no one to talk to and no one who would understand their problems anyway.  My most recent article for Heart of the Matter certainly gets into the deeply personal, and involves a bit of “dirty laundry” that I, too, would just as soon not read about on other people’s blogs.  But it wasn’t about traffic or recognition.  And the last thing I want is sympathy or anyone to take “my” side.  It is more about giving purpose to a difficult issue and hoping that others can find some eoncouragement in dealing with their own personal struggles.

I am not too good with rules, anyway, but I think for me a better guideline is not specific topics that we should discuss or that we should shy away from, but asking ourselves what the purpose of sharing any particular topic is.  Is it uplifting and edifying?  Great!  Would it fall under bearing one another’s burdens?  With some common sense applied, terrific!  Is it about bringing attention to ourselves?  There you’ll have to be the judge of exactly what kind of blog you want, and the kind of community you want to build around that blog.

0 comments
  1. Mrs. C

    I think the wishes of the child and the age also play into it. I’d happily blog about a three-year-old having a temper fit but it’s more difficult when your child is autistic and 13. Where is that line, exactly?

    I try to be respectful and apply that Golden Rule. I also for this reason blog MUCH LESS about my older children than my younger ones. It’s not that they don’t do lots of funny and cute things that really DESERVE to be on my blog. :]

  2. Sunniemom

    I tend to keep family life rather vague on my blog, and only post about family members after I have asked permission to do so. It’s a tough line to draw, because on the one hand, if you don’t talk about the problems you face, it sounds like you are trying to present a wrinkle-free facade, but if you reveal too much, you are betraying confidences and embarrassing your loved ones. Then I’ve read some blogs that make their family sound seriously dysfunctional and are just a bit scary.

    It’s definitely a worthy bit of advice- that we should ask ourselves “Why?” we are posting about a person/incident- who does this information benefit and what purpose does it serve?

  3. Dana

    Very true, Mrs. C. Actually, my eldest gets a little jealous because the younger ones get a little more “air time” than she does on my blogs. My other children smile and want me to read what I’ve written about them over and over and over again.

    It is like a little story book about them. 🙂

  4. Melissa Wiley

    My older children read my blog, and so do many of their friends and cousins. That’s a nice, built-in check-and-balance system for me. Like you and Mrs. C, I post more stories about my wee ones than my older kids. The older ones like to go back and read the archives, which have become sort of our storehouse for funny family moments. 🙂

    I sure wouldn’t have wanted my mother broadcasting my foibles at age 13, so I keep that in mind when I’m writing about my older children. The Golden Rule is a good way to think of it.

  5. Dana Hanley

    Yes, that seems to be a very sensitive age. But the blogs I read that do share stories about struggles with older children tend to focus more on themselves and their own journey parenting rather than on the mishaps of their children. I think there is an important difference there.

  6. Janel

    It is a difficult balance. I agree with Sunniemom and her comment about a wrinkle-free facade.

    My basic rule is: If this is something that would embarrasse me or the person I’m writing about if they see it or if I would not say it to them in person, skip writing about it. I crossed the line quite awhile ago, and while what I wrote was true and my perspective and would have said it to them in person, it wasn’t mine to write. That’s why I’m vague sometimes. That’s why I don’t share more about the kids or am general about situations.

  7. Julie

    I think it has a lot to do with what your blog is about. Lately, I blog quite a bit about what it means to be parenting a teenager with FAS. The education classes I attended prior to adopting her were insufficient to prepare me for parenting a young person and never addressed financial considerations (housing, insurance, etc.) once the adopted “child” is no longer a child. The classes were written as if the adoptee would be a perpetual child.

    My basic understanding of what it means to be human includes the principle of freedom. I write about the challenges I face as I try to find a way to emancipate Marissa… I write about my personal struggles as I strive to replace my own desire to “heal” her versus inclusion… I write about seeing her disability as an integral part of who she is and accepting her. And, yes, I sometime share the event that precipitated a change in the way I parent her.

    I share. I don’t share everything… but I have learned that much of what has made Marissa’s life difficult is not her disability. It is what we value in America — the ability to reason quickly, to choose our emotions, to be organized… all these things are difficult for her. She is devalued by the community. I don’t always respond well.

    Because, in reality, while others read my blog, I blog so that I can look back over my entries and see God’s hand. When there is something very problematic or personal, I make the entry private. I have four private entries.

  8. Shawna

    My biggest issue with the Do’s and Don’t List is that I never considered myself a mommy/mamma blogger. In fact, I was surprised the first time I heard this phrase from a friend. I had never thought about blogging about my kids or from the aspect of a parent. Yes, I might post about some aspects of our lives–but that’s about me. I’m a part of the “family” relationship, I am part f the “parenting” relationship… both are parts of MY life.

    So although some of those rules are very good ones, I am not too concerned as I still don’t see myself as a momma blogger.

  9. Dana Hanley

    Shawna, I sort of recoil at that label and I don’t even know why. My other blog is more family focused and more about parenting and being a “mommy.”

    And Julie, that is an excellent point. There are a lot of people in unique situations where there just isn’t a lot of information or support. From my understanding, FAS only barely came into recognition in the 70s and it took much longer for it to be more widely recognized. Even now, people don’t really understand it. I had some reservations placing a child with FAE in a home where they assured me that with love and consistency he would be “fine.”

    Yes, he would be better off in such a condition, but it is easy to have unrealistic expectations about something that is so difficult to understand. After all, the child seems normal, and even the misbehavior is stuff that all kids do…just not to the same extreme and not all the time.

    But society as a whole needs some education in this regard so that our communities can better support families struggling in these situations…and that can’t be accomplished if no one is willing to share their personal struggles.

  10. Dana Hanley

    I wish I remembered the magazine, but awhile back I read an article about a mom who developed her career around writing about her children. Her children would be greeted by people they barely knew who already knew about whatever the latest escapade was. She said it wasn’t always easy and there were times when her children seemed to resent just how much she shared.

    But then when they moved out, they called and wanted specific essays sent to them. It was a journal of their lives, and she didn’t write them out of spite or malice. They were all written with love. A lot of such things are received depends on the relationship we already have with our children.

    When Nebraska was in all the news because of our law allowing parents to drop of children of any age at a hospital, I cringed at the number of entries I came across where people were joking about dropping off their teenager. Or advocating showing the law to teens to “give them some perspective” to change their behavior. I know that we all have our online persona which may not be a bit like who we are in person, but I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps their would be less tension in the home iv the parents were a little less inclined to publicly joke about such things.

  11. mrs darling

    My blog is all about my daughter with sensory issues. She figures prominently in it. I tell all her ups and downs in the sensory world she lives in. My goal is to help others and thats exactly what my blog has done. Of course I draw the line at certain things but why blog if you cant tell it like it is?

    Bloggers who only show the pretty side of life are contributing to the wave of women out there who are feeling inferior because they cant attain that same level of perfectness with their children and home. Its a shame that we have to always make things look unreal to the reader.

    My home is grand central for my friends and so is my blog. Many days I open my door to find a friend there just needing a place to hang out where things are real and they know they are loved in spite of everything. This is real life folks and real life is not just sunshine and roses.

  12. Mrs. C

    Yep. I wish I could pull from memory the link about Tink hiding in her blanket during homeschool time Mrs. D posted a while back. I so identified with that. :]

    Mrs. D has sunshine and roses, too, though.

  13. Dana

    I’ve always viewed your blog as more of a personal journey, Mrs. Darling. My children don’t have sensory issues that we know of but I’ve learned a lot about the subject by reading what you share. You are always respectful of your children, and I think it is the disrespect shown that can be troublesome.

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