I am that mom.
If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a blog, you know the kind of mom I’m talking about. The one whose posts constantly contain some halfway funny anecdote about her children. Whose photo albums are so filled up with pictures of a day-by-day documentation of their little ones that you have to scroll through 100 different images of Junior covered in food to find one of her. Status updates, links to news stories, pictures of messy faces, smiling faces, crying faces, all of it stares out at you from your newsfeed as one giant example of what is annoying and over the top.
Yep. That’s me. Annoying and over the top.
I make the same excuses all the other oversharing moms make. Our children are adorable. Our children are one of the biggest and certainly cutest parts of our lives, and we love them so much we cannot possibly do anything but gush to our families and friends and people we haven’t seen since high school. We don’t think that we’re better or care more than the mothers who don’t overshare, we’re just different. Most of us have made peace with the fact that while some of our stories are funny and some of our pictures are cute, we’re kind of obnoxious about it all.
Until yesterday I was fine laughing off the fact that I had become an oversharer with a shake of my head and the excuse that while I do blog, write, and post pictures of my children regularly, I do it in a responsible way, with privacy settings in place where they need to be and a limit to the content I share.
Then while out for coffee with a friend, she mentioned that she specifically does not write about her children, post pictures of them, or talk about them at all online. Usually I back away from conversations like this as quickly as possible. I’m guilty of everything she’s so careful not to do. But something about what she was saying made me stay quiet and listen. “What happens,” she asked, “when something you write about them that seems cute now, or harmless because they are young, is actually something that their friends will be able to access as teenagers? Or that their future employers will see?”
I of course made the argument that their future employers probably wouldn’t care that they ate crayons or refused to wear clothes when they were toddlers.
“When does it stop, though?” She asked. “Are you going to stop writing about them when they’re teenagers?”
It was her last statement that really made me reevaluate my membership to oversharers-not-so-anonymous. I think of my children as “mine” and don’t often wonder if they’ll be embarrassed about my sharing the details of their temper tantrums. I rarely think about what will happen when they get older, or if it will be appropriate to talk about their high school struggles in blog posts. I have always imagined that at some point I’ll have to write about them less than I do now, but never thought about when that time would be. Middle school? High school? Is it puberty that awards them the right to privacy?
I left my friend and called my mother. “I don’t know,” she said, “you’re the generation of too much technology. Your kids can tell you how far was too far when they’re older.”
Going down the list of friends with kids, I called and put the question to each of them. Is there an imaginary line we shouldn’t cross?
“Any story about poop,” one friend said.
“Anything embarrassing,” my sister insisted.
“Nothing that would speak against their character.”
And as I talked to friend after friend, everyone’s answer seemed to revolve around one common goal: being careful with our children’s hearts. Treating their emotional needs and their complete trust in us as we would anything fragile and breakable.
For some that may mean never involving their children in what they put online. For others, it means being thoughtful about each and every word they release into the unknown and permanent world of the internet.
When I was little my grandmother used to say, “Choose your words carefully, because once they’re gone, no matter how badly you want to, you can never get them back.”
Then, the internet was new, cameras were developed in 24 hours from film, and moms bragged about their children with bumper stickers on the back of their vans, but truer words have never been spoken.