I recently ended a friendship with someone who insisted that my posting images of my child on social media was exploitative and unfair. She came down on me for creating a social media identity for someone who “doesn’t have the autonomy to do it herself.” When I first read her long-winded and judgmental text, I felt like I was being punched in the stomach. As a mum, about the worst thing you can hear is that you’re letting your child down. It took a couple of walks around the block and the kind ear of my husband to get past it and remember that our choices with our daughter are ours and ours alone. I decided not to write her back then, or ever. I figured if that was how she felt about me as a mum, I didn’t need her as a friend.
But, the whole incident got me thinking.
Why should any mum or dad have to apologise for sharing details about their own kids on social media? I don’t know one mum who isn’t proud of her kids. I figure if you “follow” or “friend” me, you do so because you want to know what’s going on in my life. And sure, sometimes what’s going on is a cup of coffee or an awesome date night with my husband or a staggering case of writer’s block. Since I’m home with my young daughter, however, often what’s going on is her: first smiles, words, and foods.
I clothe and teach and comfort my daughter, but I certainly am not creating an identity for her. She’s quite young still, but her own little personality is already emerging. Documenting it brings me so much joy. Right now, she’s 7-months-old. One day, that’ll be 7 years. And then later, 17 years. As she continues to grow and develop her own sense of autonomy in the world, the ways in which (and frequency with which) I post about her will change. One day she might turn away from the camera and tell me to get a life. I’ll have to roll with it, then.
One day my daughter will be a fully formed person with an identity all her own, but for now she’s my baby. Just like eventual sugar allowance, screen time, and curfews, it’s my job as her parent to set the boundaries. Having come of age in the Internet Era, and with an avid social media interest and blog presence, I am well aware of what boundaries are appropriate and safe to set for myself and my family. I don’t share my location unless it’s at a restaurant or other safe public place and I am with my husband or a trusted friend. I don’t ever post pictures of other people’s children without their consent. And of course, we can’t predict the technology of four years from now, but when Willow starts school I will be very careful to keep those details private and the location settings off on my mobile devices at drop-off and pick-up.
Back in the day, parents (and grandparents, too) carried around “brag books.” Social media is the brag book of the current moment, and within reason, I post there. Countless friends do the same. In fact, it’s thanks to Facebook and Instagram that I know which of my old high school and college buddies have kids, and even what their cute faces look like. We might not be in the same cities or even states, but we can be a part of each other’s lives through these communications. And as for my blog, and blog posts that I write for Momtastic? The thoughts I’ve shared about Willow and parenting in general have inspired other people. The posts featuring her little outfits create inspiration for other mums and promote small businesses, all run by fellow mums. It also serves as a living journal for me and a way to connect with long-distance loved ones. I’m not sorry for any of it.
I won’t expect every friend I have to understand or care about why I post photos of my child on social media, but just like breast vs. bottle, private school vs. public, and so on, I reserve the right to choose what and how much I share about our lives on the Internet. I’m not saying you have to like (literally or figuratively) every photo, either. But, if you aren’t friend enough to respect my decisions as Willow’s mum, then I guess you just aren’t a friend.
Photos: Jenny Studenroth