I was on buzzfeed the other night (spending my time taking useless quizzes) when I stumbled down a rabbit hole and ended up reading several articles about mommy bloggers exploiting their children. This new internet thing we have going on has made all the lines blurry and I’m left wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Being a mom seems to be second-guessing everything you thought you knew, and I’m not about to break tradition.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. Hailey is the light of my life and I absolutely love her. This makes me share about her, a lot. I do monthly updates on the blog and take monthly photos of her (in addition to daily cell phone pics... there are thousands of those already!). I do all this because I love her and I want to have these memories someday. So I can look back at great photos and comment on how tiny she is. I already do this with her newborn photos and 1 month photos, so I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when she’s a teenager.
I recently did a blog post for a brand where I created some really stinking cute magnets. I dressed Hailey up in pink and red outfits and snapped some adorable pics, which I then printed on magnets. These became the basis of my blog post. After I took the final photos, I giggled and proclaimed to friends via text that Hailey was a model. But... do I want my daughter to be a model? I don’t know. I can’t say I do in the traditional sense, but is it different when I’m the one behind the camera, making the decisions? Is she safer that way? There’s no real answer to that question.
I find myself now exploring the line between “loving mother” and “exploitative mommy blogger”. At what point does my desire to share her pictures and stories cross the line into embarrassing TMI? How do I avoid inadvertently exploiting my child, when all I want to do is share her with the world? The answer could be simple- don’t share her in any commercial capacity. Or don’t share her at all. But how can I hide such an important part of my life? Is it ok to have her join me in campaigns for a “mommy and me”, business edition? Is it ok only when my husband agrees? Is it acceptable only if I pay her for her work? I don’t really know.
My job as her mom, first and foremost, is to protect her. In this crazy, fucked up world, do we as parents need to be more careful with our children on social media? We aren’t talking about sharing a story with a friendly old lady at the park, or your mom telling her neighbor the funny thing your kid did. We’re talking full-on photos and video (with commentary) being shared to that guy you went to college with and never speak to anymore. And that former coworker from 2 jobs ago that you barely know. And the chick you befriended at a bar 4 years back that posts funny memes. Are these strangers (let’s call them what they are!) people we really want to know all about our children? Or, more importantly, does it matter that they see it, or is it fine since they just scroll on past your pics because they probably don’t care anyway?
When I think about what I want for my child, some days I feel like it’s the opposite of what I’m doing. That whole “practice what you preach” thing is going out the window. I don’t want her to be obsessed with her looks and yet I dress us both up for photos. I don’t want her to be obsessed with screen time and yet all I do is watch tv. I want her to have face-to-face interaction in a world full of likes and LOLs, and yet I spend most of my time on my phone. I try to create a balance, but it’s hard to know where the line is between laying a good foundation and crazy, neurotic new-age mom.
Those articles didn’t open my eyes to these things, because I was already thinking it. They just forced me to confront my thoughts finally. In reading these scary articles, it caused me to see a tiny sliver of myself in these people. I couldn’t judge them too harshly because I understood what they were saying. What they were actually saying... not what the articles were trying to vilify them for.
Using your child for your social media business is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you’re using your child to gain an income. But on the other hand, in doing so, you’re able to provide them with things they might not be able to have otherwise. I’m not talking about free swag, money for vacations, or even a nice home. I’m talking about quality time with them instead of hiring a nanny or putting them in daycare, showing them how you work hard to run your business, and being available at a moment’s notice for them because your flexible schedule allows it. These are things that most traditional jobs do not provide us.
If it wasn’t for my efforts on my blog, being at home with Hailey would be absolutely out of the question. We cannot afford it, period. She most likely would be in daycare (at least part time) since both my mom and mother-in-law work. She wouldn’t be waking up to my face every after nap, breastfeeding for every meal, and hearing me sing terribly to her just for a smile. Someday I’ll tell her about how I spent all day playing with her with tears in my eyes full of joy, and then after she went to bed spent an hour feeling happy that I had a break, then would immediately miss her and look at her photos. I’ll tell her all about how I had tears in my eyes at night once again, as I worked from 10pm to 2 or 3 am. All the while looking at her photo and telling her I’m doing this for her. Telling her I KNOW I can do this.
So you tell me- where does the line get drawn? How do I know I’m doing right by my child? The area is gray and I don’t want to open myself up to hatred and extreme criticism, but I genuinely want to know what people think about this. How do you share your children on social media? Perhaps through kind discussions, we can find the safe middle ground for all our children that doesn’t scar them for life.