Monday, 14 November 2011

Sharing too much

Writing, be it a blog, journalism or books, inevitably draws on your own life and experiences. For this blog in particular, without the constraints of editors, I write about what I am interested in and this is sparked by what is happening in my own life. Which means I have an ongoing dilemma about what to share. This is not because I mind sharing personal things - anything that appears on here or published by me elsewhere I have thought through and decided I am fine for readers to know - but because many things that happen to me are not just mine to share.

Stories about my family life aren't just about me. They are about my husband, my daughter, my parents, my friends, my colleagues and others. So every time I write a post I have to ask myself the question 'is this mine to share?' Sometimes I probably get this wrong. But I am trying hard to ensure that while this blog is about me, and about parenting, and about my thoughts on parenting (with some books and products thrown in), it is not about my child in particular.

This means I have to censor some posts before I write them. Because it is not for strangers to know personal details about my daughter, be it her health, her name or what she had for breakfast. Occasionally I persuade myself that she won't mind, but then I delete the post before it is published. And whenever I almost slip up, I remind myself of the journalist who many years ago wrote an article in a national paper about a rare health problem his children have. Some years later I saw this journalist and his children out and about, and found myself scrutinising them for any signs of this health problem, which was of course absolutely none of my business.

Where do you draw the line though? If you write about problems bonding, or depression, or breastfeeding issues, might your child one day read your back catalogue of work (yeah right, as if they will take an interest in what you do!) and feel it reflects on their ability as a lovable child, as a source of happiness, as a competent feeder?

I remember the journalist Jon Ronson, whose funny column in The Guardian frequently featured his son, explained his decision to stop writing it as something he had always promised to do when his son asked him to stop, which he did. And Julie Myerson has made a career out of exploiting her children, which ended in tears when they found out they were the subject of her column and when she wrote a book about one son's drug addiction.

The publishing industry is to blame for some of this. My daughter sparks many ideas for articles I would like to write without giving her story, but parenting magazines do not want an article about an issue without a personal touch and preferably a picture of the two of us hugging. And journalists are to blame too of course - I don't want strangers to know about my child but it is my job to persuade other people to tall readers about their stories and the stories of their loved ones.

What it comes down to I suppose is that we all have our own line we will not cross. I do not think I will mind if one day my daughter says to me "I've read the cache of your blog mum and apparently parenthood is like, totally brilliant but totally terrible too." Perhaps it will spark a discussion about my love for her and how this trumps absolutely everything, even bitten nipples. But I don't want her to ever turn to me and say she saw a stranger looking at her oddly in the street, as if, you know, they were wondering about her health.


  1. Really interesting post Ellie. This is something I have thought about a lot, especially since my children started reading my blog. I am careful with what I post about them, so no full names, no embarrassing photos. I don't post anything that I think could be used to tease them about in the future.

    But at the same time, I feel I have a right to express my opinion on what's happening in my life. But since I don't post anything too personal, what this boils down to is that my kids were appalled when I said I didn't like The Smurf Movie.

    Here's where we discussed this on my blog:

  2. Great post!

    I think everyone needs to find what works for them, but sayin that I also think we all need to sit back and think once in a while what we're writing and about whom.
    Obviously we want the blog to be personal yet keep our privacy. I've met readers whilst together with my girls where the reader excited have said; Oh you must be B and you must be A -I already feel I know you! Don't think the excitement was not mutual so to speak... So I evaluated and do think I expose the girls a lot less now, yet still share our life and living.

    Anyway -thanks for the reminder!

  3. I do use my son's name on my blog but am conscious of what I say about him, or anyone else.

    I agree with your post though and have to admit my eyebrows raised a bit when I've seen some blogs wherein women post their Fertility charts and detail their spotting and bleeding patterns. I try not to judge, but that just isn't my style.

  4. Jennifer left a comment yesterday but I pressed delete instead of publish by mustake - sorry. PLease do post again Jennifer with any links. Here is the comment as rescued from my email inbox though:

    Jennifer has left a new comment on your post "Sharing too much":

    This is something that I do think about and it does concern me a little. I try to keep things a bit vague, but I do use names and photos on my blog and it would be pretty easy to find out my location as I blog about local things.

    I'm not worried about it at the moment as my children are very little. What worries me is future employers googling them (or me!). They won't discover anything that I don't want others to know, or anything embarassing or personal, but they will find out more information than they would otherwise from a job interview.

    I'm also not sure how I feel about people I know in real life that I'm not that close to reading all about the details of my daily life!

    If my children ever asked me to stop writing about them I would, but I am aware that everything I have written is all stored away somewhere in a cache, so even if I hit delete it will never be gone forever. But I did start the blog in order to have a record of their childhood years, and when I've been going a bit longer I intend to start printing at least some of it out to keep as a record, so I do write with that in mind.

  5. Hello, that was me, thank you for finding my comment!