Off Limits: The Topics That I Refuse to Write About Just for PageviewsJennifer Doyle
I’ve been writing about my children online since they were babies, poop stories and embarrassing moments the perfect fodder for this mommyblogger. The early days when I first began blogging were like the rogue, wild west for me. I knew no boundaries, there were very few topics that were off limits, and I regularly wrote about the private and personal lives of my children and husband with reckless abandon.
It took a few years and many heated arguments with my husband, Tate, but I finally reconsidered my position that I could write anything I felt like writing about other people, especially my loved ones. I realized that discussing certain topics about my children or airing the dirty laundry of our marriage was a violation of trust between myself and the people I love the most.
In an article on The Huffington Post, columnist Lisa Belkin asks, “When do your child’s stories stop being yours?,” bringing again to light the ultimate mommyblogger existential crisis. Belkin mentions a recent article on Salon by writer, Jennifer Coburn, who laments the breakup between her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend via text message and her personal struggle with the end of their relationship. Both the fact that she’s airing her daughter’s private affairs online as well as her own inappropriate, childish response to their breakup are disconcerting. Granted my children are six- and four-years-old, I haven’t had to deal with boyfriends and girlfriends, but I know that my children’s personal lives-especially when they are teenagers-will be off limits as blog fodder.
Though my children are still quite young, the days of blatantly invading their privacy and writing anything I felt like are over. It’s not just about when their stories stop being ours, the line that delineates appropriate from inappropriate material is really the perpetual nature of the Internet. What I once viewed as an online diary where strangers just happened to read, I now see for what it truly is-words etched in figurative stone that can come back to haunt you because strangers will Google you and your children’s names.
But here’s the rub, as parenting writers, writing about our children and our struggles with parenting them is what we do! This issue of when our children’s (or our spouses, for that matter) stories stop being our own isn’t formulaic. There’s a balance between writing about topics that will actually be interesting to readers and those that are so safe and dull, that nobody reads them. The truth is, more controversial topics or those dealing with personal struggles just get more attention (read: pageviews) and therefore these topics are often chosen by writers like Coburn and others.
These things we’re writing, though, are about our children — OUR CHILDREN! — for whom we must tread lightly with the words we write.
I don’t know exactly what topics are off limits for every writer, but for me, I have to use my gut reaction to gauge whether I should hit “publish” or “move to trash” on each post. There are times I get a nagging feeling about the words I’m writing and the impact they could have on my children or husband. No amount of potential pageviews or comments should be a factor in publishing something that is a direct violation of our children who deserve not to have their trust in us destroyed because we chose to share their story with the world.
What do you think? What factors do you consider when sharing your children’s stories? What topics are off limits?
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