Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Why I'm not a Cybermummy

I have Radio 4's Woman's Hour on at the moment, and am listening to a piece about the phenomenon of mothers who blog. I am a mother who blogs, but I don't blog about my children; my family or, generally, what's actually going on in my soul. This is partly because what's going on in my soul is generally spectacularly dull: if you want a small window into the thought processes of J Badger, at the moment I am hoping that it will rain in a meaningful way so that OH and I do not have to lug buckets up to the field to water the potatoes; thinking of a friend I know is having a rough time; hoping son will find a job; hoping my income improves; feeling quite pleased that the church youth group I co-run now has 14 members and we had an excellent time yesterday bowling and that is pretty much it.

I just think, that, if it were me, I would absolutely loathe to read, either now or in a few years' time, my mother's descriptions of how ghastly I was to wean; my spats with my sister; or whatever else I happened to write about. Yes, I will, at the drop of a hat, discuss, say, my children's eating habits face to face (and have done so this morning, with running friend) but when these things are out there in a blog they are out there for good. It's like your mother insisting on discussing with your friends how appalling you were to potty train, whilst heaving out those photographs of you, naked at the age of 3 months on a sheepskin that were terribly fashionable in the 1960s - I have to say that fortunately my equivalent was fully clothed - and it is mortifying, but at least when it's within the confines of the family, the mortification is within bounds. Out there on the net it's anything but, and it's prospectively there for ever.

When your children are tiny, I don't expect they care what, or even if, you write, but as they get older, they do. Both mine have asked me suspiciously Do I write about THEM? And I have gone back through the blog and shown them the innocuous few mentions they get, at which they have both sniffed in a well-I-suppose-that's-alright-then way and trotted off. On the other hand, I tell them I reserve the right to say what I like in my emails to friends, as I am perfectly well aware they do in theirs, which they seem to accept.

My children and husband never asked me to blog, and although they are an enormous part of my life, they are not mine, I do not own them, and I do not think I have the right to make their lives some of what I do, in part, to earn money.

Your relationship with your children can be so fragile when they are teenagers: I do wonder how all those blogged about babies will regard the online exposure of their little ways when they are 13, hyper-sensitive, and don't like you very much anyway. Jane Shilling (not averse herself to writing about her child: her son featured regularly in her Times column) wrote in her review of Julie Myerson's The Lost Child, "If writing about the experience of motherhood is monstrous selfishness, what else is off limits?" Which I think rather misses the point: there is a line which can be crossed. The pain and wonder of love is one thing, but hanging your children's failings out to dry is quite another.

Looking at the Cybermummy conference this year I think I'm quite possibly in a minority. Maybe I'm wrong, and the Facebook generation who document everything, photograph it and post the results for the world to see will not mind at all their mothers' perspective on things being out there too. Maybe it's more a reflection on my own intense desire to remain private: perhaps my own preference for keeping the more personal areas of my life firmly under wraps makes me misinterpret how much my children would hate appearing in the blog, warts and all, but I'd rather give that part of me the benefit of the doubt.

Pony books and morning walks it is then. As you were.

6 comments:

Juxtabook said...

I think you get the balance right on here. Your readers can see you're a real person with a family but really your blog is just a delightful mix of books, mud and, er, hens.

Rachael said...

I'm not a Cybermummy either, despite attending the conference (I was given a ticket). I might put the occasional photograph of my children on my blog, but like you I can't bear the thought of anything I write coming back to haunt me, or my children. I am enormously private, like you, so I too will carry on taking photographs of cake, gardens, the allotment, and chickens, and not spilling the horrors of family life for all to see.

Rachael said...

In fact, look - my post following the Cybermummy conference is here http://talesfromthevillage.com/?p=524 - entitled 'I'm not a CyberMummy'. Great minds think alike!

Liz said...

I'm definitely not a fan of the cybermummy blogging - for one thing reading about all that kiddy stuff is pretty boring IMO, and for another, don't these mothers give a thought to the future, when their kids might be teased/bullied about some of the things they've posted about?

Jane Badger said...

Thank you Juxtabook. Alas there has not yet been a Cyberchicken conference; at least not as far as I know.

Rachael, I think you sum it up really well when you say you don't want something you write coming back to haunt you. That's exactly what I think. I'm looking forward to reading your further thoughts on the conference when you've finished mulling.

Liz - quite. Fascinating though I do find my own children's encounters with public exams, I think I'm aware other people might not share it. It's interesting that on Mumsnet there are not that many threads on teenagers. Perhaps by the time they reach that age you have worked out you are playing with fire to write about them!

Juxtabook said...

Cyberchicken conference - really someone should have thought of that. Sure you don't want to host one?