I 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.