Parenting can be fun, exciting, and so very rewarding. When things are good, I want to share everything: retell their funny jokes, the time they accidentally farted in public, or the sweet words they whisper in their most vulnerable moments. Not only do I want to remember all of it forever, but I want to share that joy with the world.
Conversely, the challenges that come along with parenting can be indescribable. There are shameful moments when we lose our tempers or say hurtful things. There are crushing moments when we can’t believe how different our lives are than how we imagined they’d be. And there are heart-wrenching days when we witness our children struggle and hurt – from illness, from other kids, from themselves.
Children have an uncanny power to give us our greatest highs and our deepest lows, and astonishingly can accomplish both in the same day.
As my kids shift from children to young adults, I find myself struggling with how to share my experiences as their mother while still respecting their privacy.
As parents, we need support. We need to know that we aren’t alone in this and that it’s perfectly normal to feel helpless. We need to know that other people’s kids can be pretty shitty at times (it's not just ours) and that other people’s children suffer from anxiety, or bullying, or depression. More importantly, we need to know that they got through it and how they got through it. We need to know that there’s hope, that we have each other, and that it’s all normal. How can we know all this if we don’t share?
When sharing about our kids, there needs to be a balance and that can be hard to achieve. What you put out there won't go away – our stories may seem cute when our kids are five, embarrassing at ten, and simply horrifying at fifteen.
I'm envious of the young mommy bloggers (minus the diapers) who have endless hours of footage and features of their kids doing all things kid-like: mud puddles, growth milestones, and endless snuggles caught on film. But kids grow to be tweens, teens, and young adults, and their interest in being our comical centerfolds dwindle. They may not be willing to provide material for our likes and shares. We're left to untangle what is theirs and what is ours.
This is an ongoing discussion in our house. As we create social media guidelines for our kids to follow, I find that they are good for me too. Here are three concepts our family strives to remember while navigating social media.
Every person has a different personality and a different place in the social world. One child may be psyched to be in the limelight of your feed but the other might not. We now ask our kids for their permission to post about them or to use their pictures. Sometimes the answer is no. More often than not, however, they say yes, trusting that we care and will respect their privacy. I've noticed they're also more willing to be in pictures when they know that we won't post every photo taken.
Kids are friending parents, friending teachers, and friending everyone. It's all a mess! That being said, your stories will travel. The details you share online about a meltdown or nightmare day your child had will likely reach their teacher, coach, friends' parents, or friends. That could have a negative impact on their playing time, social life, or job opportunities going forward. The picture you're painting can have a lasting impact on how people perceive your child.
Imagine stumbling upon your child's social media feed to read about what an awful parent you are. The minute-by-minute update of how you woke up like a beast and yelled all morning. How they hate your hair and how you dress. OMG that would be horrible! Do unto others, my friend.
Some things are not meant to be shared online. Save it for a private conversation (with your therapist or with a close friend). There's a difference between posting that you're struggling with your child (universal and relatable) and sharing every gory detail for the world to read (and judge, because they will).
We're still learning. I keep more of the photos of my children private even though I'd love to share them. I ask more open-ended questions to the larger online audience. When someone responds with a connection, I invite that friend or soon-to-be friend into a more private conversation.
Overall, I think there are more benefits derived from sharing than from being totally private, but we still have a lot to learn about finding the mix of what’s right for us and what’s right for them.
How do you and your family find balance in the big wide world of social media?
Oh, the irony that I ask you to share!