Monday, June 8, 2009

Blogging Like Everyone Is Reading and Judging

We have tons of footage of my daughter in the days after she was born. Husbandrinka videotaped a lot. There are the standard videos, my holding her in the hospital bed, my parents meeting their first grandchild, all sorts of family ensembles, and then there's the one where I am talking to my friend Liz when visited at the hospital. "So was labor a horror?" she asks, sitting on the edge of my bed and holding a staple remover with a satiny bow on it, a gag gift after my C-section.

"Oh my GOD!" I shriek on the video. "I cannot tell you the pain," and then I recount it in graphic detail. Walking is painful, moving is painful and if I have a say in it, I'm never having a bowel movement again. We laugh and I wince because laughing hurts.

"Hey," my husband says off camera and both Liz and I look at him. We'd forgotten that he was there, recording. "She's going to see this tape one day, you know." He pans over to the mobile cubicle crib where my pappoosed daughter is sleeping.

I look at him and then I look at Liz. She's still laughing. "I had a very traumatic C-section," I continue. "But I really love my baby."

I got to address the question of how much of the story was mine and how much of it I had to sanitize for the sake of my daughter while I was still at the hospital on a steady diet of morphine. Would my daughter knowing that labor was unbelievably painful mean that I adored her any less? Should I, as a mother who labored 48 hours earlier, have thought of my infant's feelings because, indeed, the videotape is preserved for eternity or at least until someone tapes American Idol over it?

Recently I've been blog hopping (which hopefully counts as exercise). Auds at Barking Mad brought up the idea of blogging with abandon, as though no one were reading, others warned to watch what we post about our children because a pedophile might be reading and Scary Mommy was told to watch her mouth on her own fucking blog.

When I read Auds' fantastic post I rejected the idea of blogging as though no one were reading because I thought that it would make for a deathly dull blog. And as I confessed in her comments, I'd like to be able to maintain eye contact with my children if they should come across my blog. I do censor myself. And in doing so, I touch my personal boundaries. I don't need anyone else setting them up for me.

I don't write for children. Not even my own children. The fact that I have children doesn't mean that I am no longer a human being, doesn't mean that my need to express myself on my blog is any less important than anyone else's. And lest there be confusion about it-it is very important. If I want to curse, it's my halo that's tarnished. If I want to talk about moments of motherhood that have infuriated me, why would anyone object? And beyond objection, how does that signal any less of an adoration of my children? Because surely we are sophisticated enough to know that love is complicated and we have rejected the notion that mothers are supposed to be in a constant state of rejoicing at their progeny at approximately the same time that doctors stopped prescribing dolls for all that ails us.

If parents are supposed to be blogging with the assumption that our children are reading our blogs over one of our shoulders, while pedophiles are peering over the other, with a nun standing in between them to monitor our language for good measure, why bother to blog?
Are we supposed to be so protective of our children's sensibilities that we are reluctant to share our own stories, in which they appear, because, well, they are our life's work?

As bloggers and as parents, we all have different boundaries. I do not post my children's photos on my blog or use their real names. I don't share stories that they have told me in private, but I do not for a second judge those who do. After all, I do share stories about my children and my husband and my parents. Because those stories belong to me as much as they do to them. I am honest about the frustrations and disappointments that I've experienced as a mother and it does not diminish the joys one bit.

Lindsey at Suburban Turmoil wrote about not blogging about her teenage stepdaughters because their stories are not hers. And it gave me pause, truly, because many of her sentiments resonated with me. I, myself, have not blogged much about my teenage stepson, much for the same reason. Because his story isn't mine. But isn't it? Isn't the intersection of our lives partially mine? Aren't all of our stories each other's?

Of course there is no one answer fits all for this. We all have different boundaries and I firmly believe that one blogger's not posting photo of her children on her site is any more or less valid than another proudly displaying a family album.

My own mother fed me the "once you hold your baby in your arms, you forget about the pain" line which makes me think that she either had much better pain killers than I did or a less acute memory. I'm sure that she meant to spare me, as did the female mafia who chanted "you forget about the pain" but instead they made me feel like maybe my love was defective because Holy Moley, I still remember the pain. And it was ouchy.

And yes, my daughter has seen the video of my complaining about the C-section. And she has laughed at my Bam-Bam styled hair. She is not offended that my labor was painful, nor does she feel responsible for it.

Kids today. The stories that I could tell.


Blogger K.Line said...

It is all about hitting your personal boundaries - I so agree with that. And no one else can, or should, tell you what those limits are. Someone once suggested to me that I give away so much personal info on my blog. By my own standards, I am well within reasonable limits of overshare. The things you don't know about me would utterly shock you :-)

June 8, 2009 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

You bring up some difficult questions, and I don't think it only involves parents and their children. Writing about ANYONE else is a little bit of stealing another life for your own purposes. I even get offended by those tell all books about bad bosses or inside scoops on CEOs. What right does anyone have to talk about anyone? It is a real writing killer to think about it.

June 8, 2009 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Mariah said...

It's all about boundaries. Sometimes I offend my kids when I talk about them or post pics of them, so we have come to an agreement, I don't post any photos of them without their consent--works for us

June 8, 2009 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

In a way it is easier for me to post about my teenage and adult children because I just ask their permission. My girls love being written about, one son doesn't care either way and one son doesn't particularly care for it.

To me a blog is definitely not a journal--and I get a little skeeved out when people are entirely open about every little thing. I'm that way in real life too.

June 8, 2009 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If anything, I think you should post ALL the stories about how difficult your children are clearly able to do it with humor. Bind it with a ribbon and pass it down to them as they become parents themselves as a "Welcome to the club, don't you ever tell ME it's hard." And of course, if you're the type that pines for grandchildren you can dangle all your children's memories as a carrot - telling them you won't give them a copy until the have children of their own because they won't truly appreciate it until they do...

June 8, 2009 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Keyona said...

Very good points you bring up. I do post pictures of my baby and even use her first name but I feel that by keeping my last name out of the picture AND living on a military base me and my family are pretty safe. I believe that your blog is your blog. If someone doesn't like what you say fuck it. They can move on. No one forces them to read your blog. You have the power to delete what you don't like and block who you want. It's your outlet. Continue doing what you doing and like I said, if they don't like it Fuck Em!

June 8, 2009 at 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aw, come on, tell the truth; your true boundaries are somewhere between your vagina and your bra straps.

June 8, 2009 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Sandi said...

I loved this post! I have found blogging is full of so many unwritten rules that I have yet to learn. But we each write our own and expect others to follow them. You seem to be one of the few that don't care if we follow your rules. I love that.

I am a blogger, I blog it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I have hurt a few and I feel badly about it. I use real names, I write like only my best friends are reading and wonder why on earth strangers want to read me, email me and even send me hate mail. Strange people, we bloggers....

I love your blog and though I suck at commenting, I read every post and LOVE the stories you tell.

I am aware I just rambled a bunch of shit that makes no sense, but I love this post!! LOVE IT!

June 8, 2009 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger That Janie Girl said...

I personally love when you can tell it like it is.

However, I can't. My blog is picked up on the webpage of our local paper and I have a professional reputation of decency.

I've been thinking about going private. Or at least more anonymous.

June 8, 2009 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger anymommy said...

Yep, I think it's a live and let live thing - just like so many decisions of parenting. We can set our own boundaries without judging others. We are all going to draw different lines, where we screw up (I think) is when we say that our lines are 'right' and others' are 'wrong.'

Great post - I've thought about this a lot lately too and I certainly blog with half a mind to who might read.

June 9, 2009 at 12:36 AM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

You make some great points here Marinka. I struggle with this all the time. I started my blog as a record of our lives while my kids are young. But I also write about the not so nice moments of motherhood. I post lots of pictures of my kids, but try not to use their real names. As they get older, I will have to reevaluate what I share about them.

I suppose the bottom line is I write it for me... the good and the bad. I also don't believe my kids need to think I enjoyed every single moment of their childhood in order to feel loved. I think it's OK to be honest with them about not liking making their darn lunch boxes every single day. In our real, every day lives they know they are loved.

You've given me some food for thought here though.

June 9, 2009 at 12:39 AM  
Blogger mo.stoneskin said...

Blimey, now I wasn't expecting that when I swung by this morning.

You've touched on quite a lot there so I'll cut to the chase. You are going to post some pictures of the Bam-Bam hair right?

Seriously, boundaries are necessary. I like to write with wild abandon in my first draft, and then edit after.

June 9, 2009 at 1:19 AM  
Blogger bernthis said...

well, I've already been told that my mothering skills bordered on the criminal so at least that's out of the way.

I choose to not use names except my daughter whose last name is not mine. Where exactly I live and my private life and yes, I do have one, are my own I share what I feel like sharing and do not judge others for their choices b/c i am a saint or at the very least remind myself often, "well J. who the fuck are you to judge?" and that helps a lot.

June 9, 2009 at 1:25 AM  
Blogger bernthis said...

well, I've already been told that my mothering skills bordered on the criminal so at least that's out of the way.

I choose to not use names except my daughter whose last name is not mine. Where exactly I live and my private life and yes, I do have one, are my own I share what I feel like sharing and do not judge others for their choices b/c i am a saint or at the very least remind myself often, "well J. who the fuck are you to judge?" and that helps a lot.

June 9, 2009 at 1:25 AM  
Blogger Nanny Goats In Panties said...

I don't blog about my family because it is so juicy, so scandalous, that I'm saving it for my best-selling tell-all memoir. If they're going to get pissed about my writing about them, I want to respond by laughing all the way to the bank about it.

June 9, 2009 at 1:55 AM  
Blogger Grumpy but sweet said...

This post really made me think. I'm fairly cautious about blogging about other people in my life (e.g. I never talk about my partner, since he prefers it that way).

Part of me would love to be so anonymous that I could. But I really love my readers (including the people I know in the real world) so I am loathe to abandon my current blog for a new fully disclosed one.

At the same time, I love the openness that many bloggers have (you included). Their stories touch me with their honesty and non-glossed over lives.

June 9, 2009 at 6:23 AM  
Blogger Scary Mommy said...

It's such a tricky thing isn't it? I like to think that my children will appreciate the words I wrote and time I took to document their early days, but I'm sure they'll end up in therapy for it. I don't blog about my extended family--- my MIL still doesn't speak to me over words I wrote about her last year (which is really a blessing, but not worth alienating the rest of my family who can't take a joke.)

June 9, 2009 at 6:49 AM  
Anonymous Sindhu said...

Loved your post...relate to it, fully. I too blot out the full names of my kids but I am a firm believer that the world is a safe place...I know it is not true but I hang on to my belief but keep the names off the blog too. But I write everything else, their reactions sometimes their secrets and I do worry if and when they read, will they shoot me off this earth for it?!So I exist in fear! Will add you to my blog roll too...

June 9, 2009 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger OHmommy said...

gosh. i have thought so much about this subject.

i love my children, as evident on my blog, and love them so much I try to include a healthy dosage of realism for them to see that I did struggle and am human. much as your video did for your daughter.

there is so much i could blog about. dear gawd my MIL could give me ones months worth. but, is it worth it? for shits and giggles to make fun of her. no. even if we share the same stories. and my youngest, the freaking un-discplined baby of the house gives me so much to write about. but do i want her to grow up and see that everything i wrote about her was that she was such a pain in the ass?

i dont know. sorry for the long winded comment. it too has been on my mind.

somedays, very honestly, i just want to give this all up.

June 9, 2009 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger The Panic Room said...

I just always feel like kids know when they are reading the truth, so if they grow up and start reading stories and thoughts that were stretched or painted different for their "protection" they are going to call shenanigans and say: "that isn't how that happened at all you fucking liar!"

and then of course I will spank them and wash their mouth out with soap at the same time and say "Where'd you learn that nasty word!"

and they will say... "I learned it by watching your blog Dad."

oh the shame.

June 9, 2009 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Estridge said...

Because I proudly share my blog with ANYONE who will read it, I try to be careful what I say, but no more so than if I were talking to one of my sisters who I know will freaking repeat anything I grumble about to the subject of the grumbling. For me, having that limit keeps me, maybe less honest, but more kind.

Interestingly, I didn't start writing fiction seriously until both my parents were gone.

Like you, I believe how open one is on one's blog is a matter of individual preference.

June 9, 2009 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Belle said...

I write exactly what I wish. As you know. I write about my step-daughters because their actions affect me. I write from MY perspective. I am always bemused at how upset some of the BIG bloggers get when they write something that provokes a strong reaction. What the hell do they expect? It's not that I don't care about people's reaction to my thoughts, feelings and actions, it's just that it's THEIR reaction. They have to deal with it. Not me. It's MY blog. If you don't like what I write - don't read me.

June 9, 2009 at 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't care one way or another how people choose to run their own blogs. I can choose to read them or not. My kids are 10 and 12 and love to see themselves on our blog, but that may change (teenagers! who knows what will happen then?) and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. You bring up a great point, however, about the intersection of our lives, but I'll think about that later.

June 9, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's a hard line. I try to just go with those kinds of family moments where our lives intersect and keep it from intruding too much.

I'm pretty sure he'll grow up with no damage from the blog...

June 9, 2009 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Issa said...

I censor myself in some ways. No pictures for one. Certain family stories don't get told. I also watch my language, because of BH ad's. But I do this for me, not for my children. My space is for me to be me, as much as possible.

Some days it's a harder line to walk than I'd like.

June 9, 2009 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

I loved this post Marinka. I started my blog as a photojournal of my daughter for my family - I had no idea what a blog really was...and I had no idea I would eventually write on mine and strangers would see it. So I use a nickname for our daughter and don't use our last name ever. I do worry about it though - and think about opening a second one with just photos for my family, but I hate to feel pressured to do that and live in fear.
Anyway, great post. Oh, and I remember the pain. Do I ever. Though I long for another child, I'm dreading the birth already! ha!

June 9, 2009 at 1:54 PM  
Anonymous peajaye said...

whaaa? your son's real name isn't ladrinka? wtf?

also, i was very offended by the american idol remark. this is 2009 and you live in nyc. you should have a dvr, not a vcr. i mean, really, marinka (or whatever your REAL name is).

June 9, 2009 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Everyday Goddess said...

I think we have all been scared by the over dramatized 24 7 news network, which circles the globe to find any story to inflate.

I liked when the news was a half hour show. I liked when drama TV shows ended with the person living, rather than starting out with the victim lying dead on a morgue table being autopsied.

So I don't watch tv anymore. Honest. Unless it's with my daughter. We love Tru Jackson.

June 9, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Lyndsay said...

So, I want to say something clever, but this is just simply fantastic. How did you get inside my head woman?

June 9, 2009 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

This is such a great post. Everything you said here is so true.

For me, it's interesting that I started blogging a year ago to say whatever I wanted and get everything out without being judged for it....because I couldn't do that with my IRL friends. Now, I seem to edit myself at times because I don't want my bloggy friends to think badly of me.


June 9, 2009 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Meade Gresham said...

I'm so glad you wrote this post! I constantly find myself hitting the delete button while blogging or even keeping some of them in my secret never-to-be-posted archive. I know my mother-in-law is reading and I'm still a "fresh-Gresham" and shudder at the thought of being disapproved of so early in my marriage.

But fuck it. If she knew half the stuff her youngest boy was thinking, saying, doing...she'd send us a case of Irish Spring to wash out his mouth (not to mention the other dirty parts).

I appreciate you keeping it so real.

June 9, 2009 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger EatPlayLove said...

Some of my favorite posts and well received were the ones I was scared to hit publish. I go back and forth about my children, but find I hardly write about them like when I first started blogging.

I enjoy your writing, so thank you!

June 9, 2009 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger EatPlayLove said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 9, 2009 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Swistle said...


June 9, 2009 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

I just love what you wrote about blogging. I haven't figured out exactly what/where the boundaries are, but I have found what work for us, for now. Love your insights on this.

June 9, 2009 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger p-huong said...

You're right, we all have our own boundaries. Some people are more open than others.

On commenting how/what people blog: It's like going into someone's store (I would say home but home is too personal of a setting) and telling them how to run things. If you don't like the place, well just get out. I didn't invite you in, you walked your ass in here.

I'm still discovering my own boundaries. I'll write a post and decide not to publish it. Usually it's not about other people's lives, but more like who would I hurt/offend.

Does any of that make sense? All of a sudden I feel light headed. Stupid final...

June 9, 2009 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Aunt Becky said...

This is precisely why I plan on ramming my tongue down your throat at BlogHer.

June 10, 2009 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Aunt Becky said...

I'm preemptively sorry about that, btw.

June 10, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

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