I’ve Earned My Right To ‘Parental Overshare’

mommy bloggerI have no problems being called a “mommy blogger.” I’m a mom. I blog. The shoe fits. But often I find people quickly apologizing when they label me as so. It’s almost as if the very title drips of condescension. Mothers writing about their lives has somehow become regarded as a genre full of gratuitous anecdotes, yoga pants and wine. As if that weren’t insulting enough – a recent slew of articles claims that not only is the genre frivolous – it’s unethical.

I’ve been unable to shake how annoyed I am with one article in particular. Last month’s article in The Atlantic, “The Ethical Implications of Parents Writing About Their Kids” was touted for it’s frank criticism of the world of “parental overshare.”  Well, I think It’s actually a very offensive piece of writing – filled with stereotypes, generalizations, and completely outmoded ways of thinking. It also reeks of a gender bias that I am frankly shocked came from the mind of a woman.

The article’s author, Phoebe Maltz Bovy, asserts that it’s not “ethical” to put our children’s names and stories out there. As mothers, we can only share our stories in person.

Parental overshare, as I define it, does not refer to parents discussing their kids with friends and family. Private or anonymous communication doesn’t count, even if in this day and age, everything could theoretically reach a mass audience. Nor does fiction. Two criteria must be present: First, the children need to be identifiable. That does not necessarily mean full names. The author’s full name is plenty, even if the children have a different (i.e. their father’s) last name. Next, there needs to be ambition to reach a mass audience.

What she has just described is the definition of a parenting blog; it’s public, it’s not anonymous,  it speaks of parenting and children, and it has the potential to reach a mass audience. So let’s just be clear. In this woman’s mind, all parenting blogs fall under the category of “parental overshare.”

The inspiration for her article about “parental overshare” is the now infamous blog post that went viral after the tragedy in Newtown. The blog post was titled “Thinking the Unthinkable,” by it’s author, Lisa Long. Two days after its original publication date, the post appeared on under the title “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.”

Whatever ingredients that need to be present for a post to go viral were there. The nation was focused on the tragedy of Newtown and what the press labeled as the “mentally ill” son behind it all. The post struck a nerve. It went from a fairly harmless post on an obscure blog that had less than 50 entries, to something that hundreds of thousands of people read in a matter of days. There is no way Lisa Long could have predicted that kind of catapult to infamy. No way.

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    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I hate to break it to this author, but shooting a baby out of your vagina doesn’t make you any less “creative” than the next person

      I cannot begin to describe how amazing this whole piece is M.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.white.3532507 Paul White

      There is such a thing as parental overshare (pictures of your kids bodily excretions for instance). Simply writing about your kids though, is not overshare. Huge difference.

    • http://twitter.com/marisasaystweet MarisaSays

      I do believe that parental overshare exists and is potentially problematic. But this is a fantastic article that gets at everything wrong with the Atlantic piece. The sweeping generalizations, the assumptions made about gender and parent-related writing, the condescending tone — UGH.

      Love this post, Maria!

    • Litterboxjen

      I’m sorry, but by republishing her article on a site like Gawker, with the headline “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, she had to suspect that her piece was going to draw attention, especially so soon after such a tragedy.

      • Zettai

        Exactly!

    • Eileen

      I don’t know. I do think that the argument that people shouldn’t have intimate details of their lives shared online – especially with identifying details – without their consent is a valid one. Then again, all bloggers share details about other people (academic blogs are a good point) BUT in the event that someone is sharing personal details, I’ve seen a lot of inserts that sound like, “To answer your question, yes, I talked to my ex and he is okay with my sharing this story.” No one knows the private details of your life like your parents. While this article is insultingly sexist, it’s true that parent blogs, at least those belonging to parents of babies or young children, share a lot of information about real people who can be easily identified without those people’s permission.

    • Justme

      My blog is about my own life which of course sometimes includes my child. But I also try to blog with her future self in mind. I don’t want her to read me saying terrible things about her nor do I want her to be mortified by the stories that I post.

      Perhaps it’s because of my love for STFU Parents, but I mostly think of “overshare” as something that happens on Facebook and Twitter and involves poop and placentas.

    • Tenacious E

      I read the first two paragraphs, said out loud “This wan has no freaking clue what parental over share is!” And closed out of the page. She needs to go to STFUParents to learn what over share REALLY is. I’m willing to bet she’d be shocked.

      • Tenacious E

        Woman***

    • chickadee

      The issue with blogs and social media is that the technology is leaping far ahead of privacy and ethical issues and debates. We find that we can do something, and then perhaps do not think of the far-ranging implications of what we’ve done. People have found themselves embarrassing family, friends, co-workers, and themselves on their blogs, entirely by accident. An amusing child-anecdote that (pre-internet) might have been shared in person, over the phone, or in a letter, may now be published on the internet and may identify a child for an indeterminable length of time. This is obviously true no matter what genre of blog we are discussing, but in the case of parenting blogs, your cute story may be the source of teenage or adult resentment. The children did not necessarily sign on to participate in your warts-and-all confessional.

      STFU Parents and those who comment on the posts often wonder how the children in question will feel feel when they get older, knowing what has been posted of and about them. I think the same should be asked of parental blogs, especially those where the parents identify themselves by their true names.

    • WinWin

      “So let’s just be clear. In this woman’s mind, all parenting blogs fall under the category of “parental overshare.”” — Hmm, since you abhor ‘sweeping generalizations’ made by the other author, I am going to assume that you didn’t make a sweeping generalization here. I am sure that it is absolute fact that ALL parenting blogs identify the children, and hence all parenting blogs are in fact in the category of overshare.
      But wait! I can think of a few blogs where the author uses fake names for herself and her kids! Kids are not identifiable, and even though they have a mass audience, they are not ‘oversharing’ going by the definition. So ALL parenting blogs are not oversharing? I am confused!!

    • Scoop007

      You lost me at the second to last paragraph. Where does the right to your story end and the right to privacy of your children begin? Yes, potty training my child is part of my experience as a mother, but it is also part of my child’s experience as a human being. If you’re going to post something that includes personal details about another, shouldn’t you have their permission to do so? And how can a young child have the wisdom and maturity to give you that permission? There is a difference in the vague, sidebar mentions of a child and the in depth articles that link back to public Facebook pages and Instagram accounts that detail the minutia of the child/children. I just couldn’t do it.

    • http://twitter.com/DuchessCadbury The Right Honourable

      Like most of the comments on here, I think “mommy bloggers” should keep their children’s future in mind. As a 27-year-old, I wouldn’t want a potential employer Googling me and finding an article written by my mother about my epic gas or how to deal with toddler masturbation. That’s not to say I have actually done those things, but imagine what some other kid is experiencing.

    • Tea

      I think blogging must be done with the child’s future in mind., Future employers don’t need to know that you stole a candy bar when you were 8, or that you were hard to potty train, or even that you were a violent child. My biggest issue with the ” I am Adam Lanza’s mother.” blog entry is that she just did catastrophic damage to her son’s future for employment or higher education, because guess what, mentally ill children can get better and blend back into society as adults. It’s a huge issue I have with parent bloggers of Queer or transgender teenagers/children as well, because you’ve possibly just ruined their chance to live stealth.

      I don’t think that sharing your kid’s basic information counts as overshare, but if you’re a “tell-all” blogger who’s giving all of the gritty details, even when they’re not just “gross” details, you could be doing unforeseen harm. It may not even just be to their futures, it may be to them. I know I wouldn’t want to read my mother’s personal diary of raising me, from the frustration of diapers, to learning I would possibly be completely blind, to stuttering, to crippling shyness, God forbid I ever saw her private thoughts after I came out as queer, that would have been utterly devastating.

      So blog away, so long as your kids and their future educators/employers can’t find it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.lacey.1 Ellen Lacey

      I am not particularly pro or anti Mommy blogging. Evan as a reader I have yet to decide what I really think about the movement but I have to admit that as a new Mom I have often found the Mommy-blog-o-sphere both judgmental and condescending. It’s like an insular universe with a particular demographic of women (and some men) involved. I have read more than a few blogs that take a harsh tone toward working Mothers (working in other industries besides blogging). And much like this post there seems to be a general “them” and “us” with Mommy-bloggers on one side and their perceived “professional” Mommy adversaries on the other. I think it’s admirable to find a way to be paid for creative work and I know for myself writing is cathartic but there is a reason memoir can be controversial – because other people are involved. Anna Quinlan wrote about her experience as a mother more than once on the Op-Ed column of the NY Times, but there is something distinctly catty and “mean-girl” in many Mommy blogs that differentiates what I’ve read from other forms of professional writing. I wonder if blogs are not the new Live Journals of the 1990s, but this time our children are involved. I disagree that it is acceptable to post about a child who cannot give permission. We wouldn’t write about a colleague or friend without their permission. Why are children any different?

    • Kate

      Apparently you have also earned your right to completely missing the point…

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    • K.

      My reaction to the Atlantic article was “oh get off your high horse.” Really.
      Here’s a short, SHORT list of writers and artists who use their own families as subjects:

      WRITERS
      Jeannette Walls
      Anne Lamott
      Dave Eggers
      Joan Didion
      David Sedaris
      Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman
      Augusten Burroughs

      ARTISTS
      Berthe Morisot
      Sally Mann (and naked, too)
      Mary Kelly
      Gerhardt Richter
      David Hockney
      Tina Barney
      Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun
      Rembrandt van Rijn

      …There are many more of course. And forget Blogspot ephemera–these works are actually in print, disseminated worldwide for profit, and enshrined in museums. I’m not trying to say that just because these examples exist then it should be a no-holds-bar freeforall on children’s lives; I’m am saying that before we get all up in arms about the sanctity of children’s privacy, perhaps we should consider the cultural legacy.

      • chickadee

        On the con side, let me offer A. A. Milne and Christopher Robin. CR was mercilessly teased by his peers when he was growing up and as a result developed a fairly strong resentment towards his father and the Winnie-the-Pooh books. And Sedaris has a great essay where he excoriates himself for his ruthless and unethical plundering of his family’s lives.

      • K.

        True, true…It’s not something to do mindlessly, which I would agree with.

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