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Mommy and Daddy Bloggers Shoot the Poop: Part Two

In Part One, our panel of parents talked about how their blogs evolve as their kids grow, the support to be found within the blogging community, and how to write about sensitive issues without embarrassing your kids (short answer: you’re going to embarrass them no matter what you do, so get used to it).

Today, they delve into the nitty-gritty of establishing boundaries online. How much detail is appropriate to share? What topics are off-limits? What about posting photos? How is their children’s other parent involved in the blog, if at all? Their advice is great for anyone writing about (or posting photos of) family and friends, whether they’re tall enough for the roller coaster or not.

Please give a big Daily Post welcome to our panel. And no funny business, or they will turn this blog around. They mean it.

How do you decide what level of detail to share?

JENI: I tend to get pretty detailed because that’s where the funny is hiding out.  Sometimes I’ll give a lot of detail because the content itself is instructional.

Your parental gut instinct — the one that says, “this fever is okay, no need to call the doctor” or “I know he seems fine, but that rash has me worried” — will serve you well in blogging.  If you ever feel like maybe you shouldn’t share something, trust that feeling.

JERRY: It’s a tricky area because as a writer — and specifically as someone who considers myself a comedy writer — it’s better to be as specific as possible. It’s more interesting, more relatable and funnier. It hurts sometimes to leave those details out, but it’s best to remain vague rather than trample on someone’s privacy.

I’m careful about changing details just enough — if my oldest happens to stumble on something I wrote, he might find it oddly familiar but won’t be able to pin anything on me.

— Acey, Dadgitated

ACEY: I’m careful about changing details just enough — if my oldest happens to stumble on something I wrote, he might find it oddly familiar but won’t be able to pin anything on me.

EMILY: I try to write in broad strokes; the private details of her development and personality are for her baby book, not Google.

JOHN: This is one reason I use a pseudonym. There’s a digital trail left when you post identifying information. Since the blog is a for-fun creative outlet, writing it pseudonymously keeps our “blog” selves separate from our “real” selves. This allows me to write about whatever I want without it affecting my wife or me professionally, or feeling insecure about any creep with an internet connection knowing our names and faces.

EMILY: If you write under your real name, assume you’re going to go viral. (You probably won’t, but you never know!) If you say something you don’t think your child will appreciate half the world knowing, don’t share it. These kids are people too. Granted, they’re also blog fodder, but they’re people first.

JERRY: I assume that everyone I know is going to discover the blog at some point, and don’t write anything about anyone that I wouldn’t want them to read, or use real names or photos without permission. You may want to explain why your sister-in-law with the different parenting philosophy is a real kook, but that’s probably not a good idea.

JOHN:  I’m aware of my audience — which includes my family and friends — so I always leave out any details I think could potentially upset any of them.

ANN MARIE: The key is to know your readers, what they would be comfortable reading and what you are comfortable sharing, be they strangers, friends or family. If I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing the info with my mom, I won’t post it (so I don’t post about sex because I like to imagine that she thinks we aren’t doing it).

Are there things you’ll never write about?

EMILY: I am uncomfortable attacking other parents’ decisions and methods. I’ve done it before, and when people in the comments gently pointed it out, I tended to agree with them and change my tune. Bedsheets, diapering, breastfeeding, feeding your kid McDonalds: these things are not everything, and they don’t determine whether you’re a fit parent.

The internet is full of people who are ready to dump all over parents for doing something in a different way. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to build parents up when they read my blog.

The internet is full of people who are ready to dump all over parents for doing something in a different way. I don’t want to be one of them. I want to build parents up when they read my blog.

— Emily, The Waiting

JERRY: I try not to attack other parenting philosophies either. I do think some of them are a little nutty, but the fact that someone has a parenting philosophy shows that they’re interested in how they raise their kids.

I’ve also made myself a promise to stay on topic. I may have very strong opinions about something in the news, but I’m not going to rant about it unless it ties in to parenting and/or LGBT issues.

JOHN: While I’ve been known to use innuendos, I’m not into writing about sex. Not only would it feel contrived, it’s also not something I’m interested sharing with all of the internets.

Also, Nickelback. I will not write about Nickelback.

ANN MARIE: I don’t write about sex either. I also won’t talk about poop, at least not in detail beyond “there was a lot.” Same with vomit. No one wants to hear about my dog crapping in the yard or my cat horking up a hairball, so I refrain from sharing that info about the kid.

ACEY: A third for sex. And politics, religion, or in-laws.

There’s increasing concern over posting photos of children online. Can you write a parenting blog without them?

ACEY: I don’t usually post photos of my children on my blog. It’s not because I’m paranoid; I just find that they don’t add much to my particular blogging style.

EMILY: Looking at the search engine terms reinforces that there are people in the world who do not see children as adorable little people who are just there to be admired in all their infantile glory. Several bloggers I highly respect have removed images of their children, and I fully support their decision — you can never do too much to protect your kids.

Part of the reason I blog is because I think it’s important for my family to be visible as a non-traditional family, so I don’t want to give the impression that we have anything to hide.

— Jerry, Mommy Man

JOHN: There’s something disconcerting to me about posting identifiable photos of my kids for public viewing, especially considering some of the creepy, deviant search engine terms that land people on my site.

JERRY: I think it’s hard to write a parenting blog without posting pictures of your kids. I know some people do it, but if I’m reading about someone, I want to see what they look like.

It’s also important for why I blog. Part of the reason I blog is because I think it’s important for my family to be visible as a non-traditional family, so I don’t want to give the impression that we have anything to hide. I won’t post any pictures that might embarrass my kids someday, but then again, I don’t really take those kinds of pictures either. When my kids were having accidents potty training, I didn’t run for my iPhone while they were laying in a puddle of pee so I could illustrate my blog posts.

JOHN: Posting fewer photos is actually a fun constraint. It leaves things up to readers’ imaginations and also challenges me to focus on written descriptions. Since I’m way more interested in the craft of writing than I am in photography, it works out. I think it’s made me a better writer.

For those of you who post photos, do you have guidelines?

EMILY: While I post a lot of pictures of my daughter, I do so with a little voice telling me to proceed with caution. I am ever-mindful of the photos, and I am most comfortable using pictures where her face is obscured or where she’s with me or my husband.

JERRY: I try not to be too paranoid about pictures. I don’t tag them, because I don’t need them coming up in a Google Image Search for “tantrum,” but if someone’s reading about my family, I think they deserve to see what we look like.

ANN MARIE: I do post photos, only because my kid is too cute not to share and I feel like someday he’ll be discovered and Tyra Banks will make him America’s Next Top Toddler Model.

The older he gets, the more I worry; it’s something that sits in the back of my mind. But, I post all willy-nilly on Facebook, so I figure they’re out there anyway — might as well blog ’em. I totally get why some opt to and sometimes I think I may stop as well, but then, well. TYRA BANKS.

JOHN: When I post photos of my kids, they’re either photos where they’re facing away from the camera or where their faces are covered by the hilarious white circles I use in my stick figure drawings.

JENI: The rules I use for blog photos are the same I’d use anywhere on social media: no nudity, nothing that’s dignity-compromising (I’m thinking bath and potty pics, but for our family this extends even to photos of super messy eating).

I do worry about image theft.  I don’t (yet) watermark the photos I use and I’m not kidding when I say that I worry about that with every photo I post.  I’m not sure watermarks really do anything, but it’s one of those things I see done and think I should do, too.

Do you share posts and/or photos on social networking sites?

EMILY: I share all my posts on The Waiting’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. I only occasionally share posts on my personal Facebook account because if my friends and family really want to read my blog, they don’t need a constant reminder.

My blog’s Facebook page isn’t the most hopping place since I don’t do a lot of giveaways or post a ton of memes — both of which are easy “likes” —  but I really like that it’s got a small but devoted following I can interact with.

ACEY: I also share posts on Facebook and Twitter. It gives my friends and family easy access to my blog. On the other hand, it means I have to watch what I say about my friends and family. Not that I would say anything negative about any of them. Because they’re all great. All the time. Every single one of them.

JERRY: I share everything everywhere. Writing a blog post is only half the work — the other half is promoting it. Blogs are public documents; you blog because you want to promote your writing, to connect with people you don’t know and to add to the larger conversation. Not promoting your blog is like renting a theater to stage your one-man show and then refusing to put up flyers because you don’t want anyone to show up. If that’s your attitude, maybe you’ve chosen the wrong medium.

Nothing makes me happier than when a friend writes to say that someone I don’t know shared a post of mine on Twitter. It lets me know that I’ve written something that stands on its own.

Not promoting your blog is like renting a theater to stage your one-man show and then refusing to put up flyers because you don’t want anyone to show up. If that’s your attitude, maybe you’ve chosen the wrong medium.

— Jerry, Mommy Man

JENI: I occasionally share blog content on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m mindful about not wanting to spam friends/followers. About one in 10 posts will get shared on Facebook, fewer on Twitter.  More than anything else, this reflects how I personally use the services — I use them for connection (Facebook) and commentary (Twitter).  That said, nothing goes on the blog that I wouldn’t cross-post.  Online is online.

JOHN: You don’t want to look lame and desperate, but I think it’s important to get the word out a few times a day to get different crowds of people in different times zones. Once I publish a post, I usually share it 2-3 times throughout the day on Facebook, about 4-5 times on Twitter, and once or twice on Pinterest.

ANN MARIE: I use Instagram with my blogging name, as well Facebook and Twitter. The only rules I have are to not post any photos of my husband or of my current location. If I post a location-based image, I generally post it after the fact or as I’m leaving.

JOHN: When I post photos on social media, I follow the same guidelines as on the blog — faces covered. I also make sure that when I’m taking pictures with my phone at home, I have the geotagging turned off so I’m not broadcasting our home address.

If your children’s other parent is in the picture, what do they think about your blog? Do you include them in the process?

EMILY: My husband has a presence in the Tumblr community himself, so he’s really happy that I’ve been able to find so much joy and support blogging on WordPress. He doesn’t read my blog regularly unless I ask him to read a particular post, but he has helped me out in the past with graphics and brainstorming. He trusts my discretion and knows that I’m vigilant about not intruding on our privacy.

JENI: My partner is very much in the picture, sometimes literally.  Bottom line: he trusts me not to do anything too screwy where our family is involved.

ACEY: My wife reads all of my posts and seems to enjoy them. I also tend to use her to bounce ideas off of and as a spell check, as in “hey sweetie? How do you spell…?”

JERRY: I’ve had nothing but support from my partner about the blog, and if he wasn’t supportive, I couldn’t possibly keep doing it. A blog can be a great creative outlet and a great way to connect with other parents, but if it causes friction in your relationship, it’s not worth it.

At the same time, I don’t run my posts past him for his approval. I’ll occasionally show him something and ask, “Is this any good?” But never “Do you mind if I say this?” We’ve been together ten years, so at this point, I know pretty well what he’ll like and what he won’t. And I’d say we have a pretty similar sense of what crosses the line into oversharing.

What  I write about is my decision, though we have internet agreements related to privacy and what I can and cannot post (which explains why he’s pictured as Batman).

— Ann Marie, Dear #$&%! Baby

ANN MARIE: My husband was deployed for most of my pregnancy and is currently deployed, so the blog helps him stay connected. Sometimes (rarely), he gets more involved. My birth story posts from last summer are some of my favorites — my husband agreed to participate and added in his commentary.

What I write about is my decision, though we have internet agreements related to privacy and what I can and cannot post (which explains why he’s pictured as Batman).

JOHN: My wife edits and proofreads almost every post, which is much appreciated because she often finds mistakes I miss while I’m busy concocting genius (Thanks, babe!). I say “almost every post” because every once in a while I’ll surprise her by intentionally skipping her review and posting about something funny she said or did. I’ve often argued that my wife is the real star of the blog. She constantly feeds me with a steady stream of wit, unintentional mixed metaphors, and unique insight.

However, she has become increasingly aware that anything she says or does may be immortalized in (pixel) print.One unfortunate consequence of the blog is that now, whenever she does anything potentially embarrassing, she’ll declare, “By the way, you are NOT allowed to blog about this.” Which is fair. But you have to believe me when I tell you, you’re missing out on some gems.

Look out for the final post in this series next week, featuring our panel’s top tips for new bloggers, and subscribe to The Daily Post’s newsletter for bonus content at the end of the month.

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  1. While I’m no longer a “mommy-blogger”, I remember that part of myself and my blogging endeavors so vividly, and my rule about overshare was this: if it’s something personal my kid is going though (not me, mind you, but her), then it’s not my business, it’s not my story to tell. The same applies to all overshare. Some stories are mine. And some are not. I remember reading a blog a woman wrote about her daughter’s first heartache coinciding with her daughter’s first period, and I felt so disgusted reading that. Those were PERSONAL things happening with her daughter, NOT her. And I think that’s where it’s healthiest to draw the line. We’re not supposed to be mining the privacy of our children for pageviews. If we do that, we’re pimping our children out, and there’s something really worrisome about a community of bloggers who fail to recognize that. And we need to know when it’s happening to us, and when it’s happening to them. While this Mom Blogger may have had to deal with her daughter’s sudden coming-of-age issues, the bigger story was not how she was dealing with it, as a Mom. Rule of thumb: before you hit “Publish”, ask yourself if this is *really* your story to tell.

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    1. “I remember that part of myself and my blogging endeavors so vividly, and my rule about overshare was this: if it’s something personal my kid is going though (not me, mind you, but her), then it’s not my business, it’s not my story to tell. The same applies to all overshare. Some stories are mine. And some are not.”

      Excellent advice. And not pimping our children just to get blog traffic. Excellent.

      I’m not a parent but my partner is and also a grandparent. He hasn’t yet shared any photos of his progeny on his blogs. He is proud of his progeny but doesn’t feel it’s necessary to show the whole world….it is between him and them, their father/grandfather relationship. Besides he doesn’t blog about parenting. The core emphasis is on cycling infrastructure and transportation engineering design.

      His adult children have indicated that there be no photos of their children on our blogs.

      As for my (7) nieces and nephews, plus siblings, whatever few I have, I choose photos that give the backside of them or side view. Much harder to figure out their complete identity.

      I have enough stories to tell on my core topics, I don’t need to drag in photos of siblings and their kids. Just occasionally mentioning them on the side in a blog post is good enough for me and….for them.

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      1. Eventually, it was this that led me away from being a Mommy Blogger. I felt I’d told enough stories that weren’t mine to tell, and it was time to move on.

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      2. I think you make an important distinction when you talk about “core topics,” though. For many folks, parenting and kids and family life *are* their core topics and it wouldn’t make sense not to write about these issues regularly. Of course there are ways to do so without revealing much (or anything) of one’s identity. John (Twinfamy) is one who does this quite effectively.

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      3. It will be core topic for you (assuming you’re a parent) for awhile. Not forever.

        This actually intrigues me now, because my partner really is a dedicated father and grandfather with thoughtful kids. I think he found his stress outlet as a parent…outside of parenting by writing about non-parenting topics. By the time he started blogging, his adult children had their own homes and life destinys.

        He also looked after his mother..very good son-mother relationship until she died. He would never dream of blogging about her. (But she had a incredible life story since she lived in WW II in Germany before immigrating.)

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      4. True. I read a lot of blogs written by parents but the ones I like best aren’t exclusively about their kids (same thing in real life, now that I think about it).

        My partner is also a fairly private person and his own mother’s story (similar circumstances) was amazing. I hope these kinds of family histories do get written down in some format, even if only for our own families to read and know and remember.

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      5. Over 40% of my bookmarked blogs that I read regularily, belong to parents. They blog about their family only part of the time. It’s the other non-parenting stuff that’s quite interesting, their own passions. A parent must remember this: don’t take for granted your cultural context where you live and where your family comes from. Where you live. That’s a lot of blog fodder for a whole audience outside your country.

        Above all, do you think your grown children want to read a lot of blog posts about you just as a parent? They will want to remember you as a whole person, the very best of you includes the non-parent.

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  2. I don’t have kiddos yet and am still fairly new to the blogging world, but I have already found myself struggling with sharing pictures or information about friends and family. I can only imagine the balance it takes with children. I guess I have a little time to work those issues out before it’s reality at least 😉

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  3. I’ve recently started my own “Mommy” blog! This was an interesting read, especially given my newness to the topic!
    fortheloveofaboy.wordpress.com

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  4. It’s so great to hear about other parent bloggers and the boundaries they set. With the search terms, surely the search engines have a responsibility to fix their algorithms so that people looking for illegal content don’t find the parenting blogs in their searches instead?

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  5. While parenting consumes enormous time, energy and patience for at least the first 20 years, blogging is a great opportunity for a parent to release non-parenting facets that have been buried or just bursting to through to the surface for air. Take advantage of that…opportunity to define yourself beyond being only a parent.

    After awhile the kids grow up, sorry, forget about you for awhile: Then what are you?

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    1. From T “Eventually, it was this that led me away from being a Mommy Blogger. I felt I’d told enough stories that weren’t mine to tell, and it was time to move on.” (your reaction when a parent blogged about her daughter’s first period..)

      This is no different when a bunch of people who don’t have children, hear a bunch of parents talk about nothing except their children at a party: I wouldn’t who the parent/adult is outside of their role as a parent.

      Being a parent is important, but it’s only one facet of you in life. I actually don’t read in detail about children’s tantrums and other childrearing stuff….. it gets to be the ….same.

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    2. I agree with you. I’m grateful that my blog is a place where I can pretty much talk about anything. My daughter and parenting issues only make up a fraction of the things that I write about.

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  6. being a dad myself i am cautious about posting photos of kids on FB but later on i realized it is not that really something i should care about unless i post nice and decent ones

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  7. Im starting today, at the beginning is a little be bleeding, but I hope at the of the day to drive this blog perfectly. My discourse will be around my trips around the wordl with to lines: art and gastronomy including wines of course!

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  9. I specifically write stories I think my kids would enjoy, maybe not know but someday when they are bored enough to bother reading it. I like to think I keep it real and I see it as a portrait of my mind spilled on paper. Maybe they will understand why I do the things I do, one day.
    As an aspiring photographer, it’s kinda obvious that I would post photo’s of my kids, which I don’t tag. And as they are the most beautiful kids alive, so why not?

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