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.