Privacy

by singlemomseeking on September 7, 2009

child_grassy_feet

Six months ago, I wrote about my intention to keep my blog posts about my daughter to a minimum.

I haven’t exactly stuck to this plan. Some of you know that my kid was one of the main “characters” in my book about dating as a single mom, Single Mom Seeking. When I wrote my book, she was a cute toddler who threw tantrums. I knew that someday soon she would become a reader. And someday, she might very well want to read what I’d written about her.

Believe it or not, I’m fine with that. But now that she is nine — and I’m still writing about her here – I have to wonder: Am I exposing too much? Should I be thinking more about her privacy? Is this even appropriate?

This week, Dr. Leah Tweeted about an article in the New York TimesThe Memoir and Children’s Privacy.

One writer in my area whom I know — Melanie Gideon, the author of the memoir, The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily Ever After – speaks very openly about this issue in the New York Times article.

“I told myself I had until my son was 10 to write about him,” said Melanie. “After that, any appearance is an invasion of his privacy.”

She went onto explain: “Everybody is material in some way. But should they be?”

Another writer, however — David Matthews, who wrote the memoir Ace of Spades – disagreed.

“For me, everything is grist, everything is worthy of sacrifice if it serves the story… I try to take care that legal concerns are attended to: names changed, etc., so that the actual persons referenced are not easily identifiable, but that’s as far as I go. Friends, relatives, lovers, are all fair game.”

Others folks, however, likened this “tell all” approach to exploitation.

Parents are supposed to protect you, not expose you,” one New York Times reader commented. “Want to write about your kids? Fine, use a pseudonym, disguise details effectively, and never tell a soul you’re the author. Or if you think your career is more important than your children’s well being, don’t have children.”

That sounded a little harsh to me, but in the end, we all know what matters: our children’s well being. Right? (In my daily life, I’m that parent who’s always barking out, “Look both ways before you cross the street!”)

I’d love to know your thoughts on this one.

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September 7, 2009 at 7:53 pm

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Crazy Computer Dad September 7, 2009 at 4:15 am

I would offer a different perspective. We tell stories about our children to friends and family and that appears to be ok. Those people may also tell that story to other people, and thus the story gets around. Today, we use blogs (facebook, twitter) to share those stories and keep in touch with our friends and family.

I grew up with three brothers…not much more apart than about a year or two a piece. If I did something embarrassing it made its way around the school and the family in no time, and vice versa.

Exploitation, in my opinion, happens when you purposefully put your children in a position to fail or in harms way just to have something to write about….especially for profit.

For the most part, the experience was shared and it is as much your experience as your child’s.

In many cases, a lot of parents that write about their children are doing so in order to ask for help or advice for a situation they don’t know how to handle. For me, I took up writing about my son and his issues because I wasn’t finding the help I needed through doctors, counselors, teachers, etc. I couldn’t find other parents that were having similar issues. By writing and sharing, I have found other parents with children with the same issues. I have also found the help that I needed for my son when six years of paying professionals couldn’t.

I am a huge fan of collaboration and sharing in my line of work too. Talking about mishaps and symptoms of elusive problems with your peers does more to increase knowledge and fix issues than any class I have ever been to.

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Lovebabz September 7, 2009 at 5:26 am

I think you a caring woman and mother. I don’t think you would share anything in a malicious way to harm your beauttiful daughter. I think you will discern what to share and what to hold. I think when she comes of age she will apapreciate your life in its totality. She is a part of your life…she is not your life. I think your sharing her stories about your life together is heart warming and so full of teacheable moments…not just for you but for those of us reading along.
Privacy? what is that exactly? LOL! Everything is open for review and public display believe it or not, it is.
.-= Lovebabz´s last blog ..A GIFT…GIFTS…GIFT. =-.

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Amy Sue Nathan September 7, 2009 at 6:16 am

I saw that New York Times article as well, and I think that for me, telling a family story about the first day of school or about my experience of being a mom — without giving specifics about my kids — is what I try to do and it’s OK. I don’t tell tales about my kids — frankly — teenagers don’t do too many “cutesy” things. But will I write about how I feel about my son going to college? You bet. The admission process or his trepidation or where he does or doesn’t get in. No way.

As for memoir, revealing their life, which I believe is their story to tell and not mine, is why I put that project of mine in the trash. Wouldn’t do it to them when I realized what it would entail. Again, not my story to tell.

I think that blogs have opened up this to the masses. So many people write details of their family life online. That’s a choice. Not mine. But I also think it’s enticing because the more people reveal on blogs and in books, ,the more people read and that’s seductive to people who want attention.

I’d rather have fewer readers and be true to my children.
.-= Amy Sue Nathan´s last blog ..My sixth sense =-.

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Robert R-H September 7, 2009 at 7:12 am

As for as blogging about our kids is concerned, I think it’s also possible that we’re overthinking the issue. For us, there’s still an element of “Isn’t this WEIRD?!?” to the idea of writing about our children online. But for our kids, this kind of online existence is a fact of life. It’s something that they as a culture have embraced entirely, and it’s very likely that as much as we might possibly write about them (and trust me, I’m one of the worst about that), they will most likely share much more online about us. And not generally in a flattering way, I suspect.

Does this change our responsibility to write about our kids with caution and an eye towards preserving their dignity? Not at all. But I suspect that when kids of this next generation reach the age where they are aware of what we’ve been writing, it’ll be less about invasion of privacy and more about their ability to explore some layers of their relationship with their parents that would otherwise be unavailable to them. And it won’t seem nearly as strange to them as it does to us, even to those of us who’ve been doing it for years.

If you’re posting photos of them as toddlers taking their first poop on the toilet, though, you’re on your own. They’re going to hate you for that. (They might just hate you anyway, though. So, you know, you might post it anyway.)

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singlemomseeking September 7, 2009 at 9:42 am

Robert: I’m honored to hear from you. (If any of you haven’t read Robert’s book — yet — you must!!).

You, too, blog openly about your daughter. Our kids are around the same age, and I also wonder if someday, “they will most likely share much more online about us. And not generally in a flattering way, I suspect.”

Thanks for making that point. So, do any of you have kids who are blogging? Or, writing about you on Facebook?

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Phil September 7, 2009 at 7:56 am

Most of the people who post here are bloggers, and most are single parent bloggers, so you will get a biased answer. As a non-blogging devil’s advocate – would you blog about your daughter when she is 25?, 18? 15?… at some point it is an invasion of privacy. Exploitation is a very negative word, but this blog is here to make money, you aren’t just sharing stories with friends. I’m not saying it’s bad. Your daughter might grow up and cherish these blogs about her, or she might be very resentful of it. It’s your call.

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Nicki September 7, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I try not to share anything about the kids that they would have a problem with. They have friends that read the blog and make appearances here and there. And they love when I write about them, tell their stories, share their accomplishments. Would I for one moment do it if I considered it exploitation? Heck, no. And I never share anything about my relationship with S that he hasn’t already approved. I think that’s just being considerate.
.-= Nicki´s last blog ..Happy Monday! =-.

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StudentMama September 7, 2009 at 6:08 pm

There is a turning point when children are using the computer for recreation as much as we are. When there is a real danger of them coming upon it, or even her friends seeing it, and there is concern on your part for how she will feel about it – I think this is the turning point.

My relationship with my daughter is a two-way street. I listen to her opinions and frequently open up discussions to give her age-appropriate choices. I, personally, would rather make available what I had written about my daughter when it is the appropriate time (for me, probably, high school years) – rather than her “finding out” another way. Then we can talk about appropriate boundaries and her comfort level. I know many readers may think that is giving your child too much power, but I think it’s teaching them mutual respect.
.-= StudentMama´s last blog ..Staying positive =-.

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singlemomseeking September 7, 2009 at 7:42 pm

@Student Mama: Thanks. I like the idea of “using” a blog as a way to open up dialogue. I’m so curious to know if any tweens or teens are open to this. Or, does it feel too public?

And, as you pointed out, I do my best to always talk to my daughter about any issues on my mind — before I blog about them.

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lovebabz September 7, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I mean I think the same sort of deal applies to blogging about significant others too. We do it, some of us try to protect as best we can…change names and so on. I think Robert R-H is right, our kids are already living in this virtual world and are quite comfortable. Maybe we are over thinking it a bit. I am enjoying this discussion very much. I have a 12 yr who is ready to get on Facebook and I am supporting it with all sorts of checks & balances in place.
.-= lovebabz´s last blog ..COMING FULLY =-.

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kim/hormone-colored days September 7, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Good topic and discussion. I agree with Amy Sue in that as kids age, there are less cutesie stories to share. And I agree that their stories belong more to them than me. I cringe when my boys tell me they’ve mentioned my blog to teachers (I’ve written critically about school and related issues), but my real fear is my boys’ friends (or worse yet, enemies or school bullies) happening upon my blog.

So, no, I don’t write about them as much as I used to and I think it’s a trend that will last for years.
.-= kim/hormone-colored days´s last blog ..You get paid for it?! =-.

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OMG chronicles September 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm

I have wrestled with this, too. I often think we bloggers share way to much, even if our kids are oversharing on Facebook or MySpace themselves; that’s their choice.

I recently wrote a blog on Red Room about one of my sons that was profiled on the home page … and then I felt really bad. I hadn’t asked him first if I could share some of the things I wrote about and I should have.

And yet comedians and the Erma Bombecks and Dave Barrys of the world have always done that, used their family as fodder. Still, I think it’s up to us, the bloggers, to be sensitive to how our kids feel about it.

And, God knows what they’ll say about us one day!
.-= OMG chronicles´s last blog ..A picture-perfect family? =-.

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singlemomseeking September 9, 2009 at 6:35 am

@OMG Chronicles: I’m so curious to know how your son responded. Was he upset?… Or did he shrug it off and say, “Oh, my mom’s a writer–” ?

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April September 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm

I’ve made my decision. I’m at peace with it. My kids, my decision. And my consequences to bear.
.-= April´s last blog ..Weekend Wrap-Up (latest obsessions edition) =-.

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Avigail74 September 8, 2009 at 5:07 am

What’s the difference between reading a blog and a memoir? They’re both highly personal and let readers into the life of a writer. However, memoirs tend to include more private information and can at times be dark. I don’t find this is so with blogs…at least the ones I’ve read so far.

I really enjoy reading how other people handle parenting dilemmas—usually, I see them as a “slice of life”—I’ve rarely read a blog when children are put down or degraded.

I had a cousin once write for a magazine sharing her experience dating a man who was not at all accepted by the family—she called said of her experience, “It wasn’t PC—meaning, Pogrebin Correct” and yet her mother is also a writer. That part of the family seem really close and really open because they’re all writers.

Rachel, you’ve never said anything bad about M. And, I’ve always admired how you wrote about her father—honest yet not hurtful. And, hopefully, it’s not new news to M.

That’s all.
.-= Avigail74´s last blog ..Gypsy Family =-.

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Katherine SOLOdotmom September 8, 2009 at 8:09 am

Wow, this is a tough one. I do blog about my kiddos and some experiences they face… I try to do it in a positive way, but also do so to seek advice like crazy computer dad said. I hope it’s nothing detrimental… but their perception might be different someday.

But then when I think, what if my son, a teenager decided to write something about me on his facebook… which he just started to get involved with…

I thought – he better not when I got my speeding ticket this morning (shh – that is a secret btw)… but maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to ask him to hide what he might say about me… since I do on occasion write about him! That’s a tough one!
.-= Katherine SOLOdotmom´s last blog ..Brand New School, Stages, and Cheerleaders, OH My =-.

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Michele September 8, 2009 at 8:17 am

I think everyone, including our children deserve their privacy. I write about my kids, friends and other family members on my personal blog but I never reveal identifying details.
.-= Michele´s last blog ..Zoë’s =-.

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MindyMom/Single Mom Says... September 8, 2009 at 8:53 am

As with anyone I write about in my blog, I don’t use real names and I write about them as it relates to me. This includes my kids. It’s not like I’m writing ABOUT them or giving a detailed narrative of their lives, but of my own which as a mother (and ex wife, ex girlfriend, and active dater) just happens to include other people.
.-= MindyMom/Single Mom Says…´s last blog ..Random Recap =-.

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Single Mom Paying Off Debt September 8, 2009 at 9:44 am

I think as long as you are comfortable with writing about her and okay with her reading it one day when she is older, it is okay. It is your decision. Like MindyMom said- you are writing about her as it relates to you. I personally think it is okay.
.-= Single Mom Paying Off Debt´s last blog ..Extra $1250 to pay towards debt !!! =-.

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McLuvin September 8, 2009 at 11:51 am

Hi Rachel. Hmmmm, well I realized a few short months after my ignorant entrance into the blogosphere that I should have created my blog a lot differently than I did: I should have concealed mine and my son’s identity and not posted any personal pics and just been an anonymous blogger. I have taken my blog down after realizing that I probably wouldn’t want my son reading some of those posts years down the road – not that they were necessarily about him or negative, but stuff I probably just should have blogged anonymously. I really don’t know the answer to your post. I think when writing about our kids (or anyone else) we just have to apply the Golden Rule and ask ourselves how we’d feel if that stuff was written about us! Simple, really.

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singlemomseeking September 8, 2009 at 5:04 pm

@McLuvin: Aha, I wondered where your blog had gone! I miss it, but understand.

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Eathan September 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I’m sure there are boundaries for everyone..I think writing is an extension of the stories that our parents used to tell about us. They floated around forever. I’m sure some things can be hurtful, but those are issues that are private among families.

But our family, including our kids are our life. Hence, we talk about it.. discuss it.. write about it.
.-= Eathan´s last blog ..Reconnecting With DB42 =-.

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