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Speaking your truth: it’s not just for you

Yesterday on Twitter, I had a conversation in which I mentioned that I have always seen my blog as a legacy I am leaving my children. It’s something in the back of my mind pretty much every time I go to hit publish.

Which is also why yesterday I explained that I don’t always hit publish.

My girls will have quite the portrait of their mother, and their own history, when they read my letters to my unborn daughter; my growing to be a better mother; my working mom angst. Certainly they’ll find it in my documentation of the funny things my kids  do or say or draw, but I think they’ll also be able to garner an understanding of the issues I cared about. The people I cared about. The things I laughed about. The things that inspired me. The things I thought were worth talking about, or fighting for, even if not everyone agreed.

I know we all blog for different reasons. But here, with my memoirist hat on (sorry, no coupon codes for you today!) I have to remember that I don’t always blog just for me, nor can I.

In fact, that will be an impossibility, what with how the internets work and all.

This is something that’s been on my mind in particular since this post from Heather Spohr back in January about how we talk about our children, or our experience as parents, on our blogs. That particular mini-drama aside (and oh please, let’s not rehash it here), it made me think so much about how our words online are forever.

I also think about how the immediacy of blogging and social media, plus the emotions of motherhood can be a tricky combo.

Or any emotions, really. Ask Patricia Heaton about that some time.

I think this all goes for comments we leave around the web too, especially as fewer and fewer forums permit anonymity–a good thing, in my opinion. When Susan Niebur passed away, one of the first things I did–and I know I’m not alone–was to go through all my posts on Mom-101 and read every comment she had ever written here.

It’s a small, incredibly treasured piece of her I will always have.

susan niebur being smart

 

I had dinner with Isabel Kallman, Laura Mayes, and Sarah Bryden-Brown a while back and we had this conversation too. (And first, allow me to say that if you ever find yourself fortunate enough to have dinner with all three of these women at once, don’t drink too much because you’ll want to remember every second of it. ) There, Laura had a most brilliant insight that I had never considered: We’re not just blogging for ourselves. We’re actually pioneers, leaving the very first digital documentation of our lives and our family history for many, many generations to come.

In 100 years, my great-great-grandchildren may search my name (telepathically by 2112, I’m sure) and come across this very post.

Holy shite. That’s kind of daunting.

(They will also know I used phrases like “holy shite” and totally make fun of me. I can live with that, knowing how bad their haircuts will probably be. And while we’re at it, I hope that MC Hammer pants will not making their 16th comeback at that time. If they are, you totally deserve it, kids, for making fun of me for saying “holy shite.”)

A lovely article was recently published about Nate’s grandfather, who, I was surprised to learn, was the commanding officer on Air Force 1 through six presidents. (So cool, right?) It took a reporter to uncover this information and publish it. But us, as bloggers? We have to the challenge–and the privilege–of telling our own stories. Even if we’re not always conscious of the story that we’re actually telling or the portrait of ourselves that we’re painting.

That’s why I was so moved by everyone who commented on yesterday’s post about our fears of pregnancy–and please, if you’re pregnant, have been, or might be some day,  I really hope you read the incredible comments there. Dozens of women, unafraid to speak their truths for the benefit of others.

I think if our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren are to find those words one day, they’ll think several things:

Mothering is hard.

Good mothers support other mothers.

My mother loved me so much.

I can live with that.

{ 45 comments… add one }

  • Amanda 3.22.2012, 2:25 pm

    The thing I cherish most as I chronicle different moments in my life, whether focusing more on my role as mom, wife or still-questing-hoping-to-mature-past-the-awkward-stage girl, that my words will spark other reactions.

    When I remember feeling like a linebacker in a dress as I stood at the podium, my daughters will think something completely different, like my youngest remembering what color my bra was and how she always called bras “nipples.”

    There is an enduring element to the reinterpretation and renewed love for a time.

  • KeAnne 3.22.2012, 2:31 pm

    I love the idea of digital documentation. My husband’s grandmother died recently as did both our fathers and I think of the stories not collected, the recipes not preserved and having gaps in my knowledge of their true selves. And I think about how my ancestors seem two-dimensional instead of people who lived and breathed because they are nothing but a name to me. For that, I thank the Internet and blogging for allowing me potentially to be a dynamic instead of flat, knowable instead of forgotten to future generations.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 3:29 pm

      I love this! It’s true…blogging (and the web) has turned ancestry from 2-D photos and anecdotes to fuller dimension beings. This is such an amazing way to look at it.

  • Lauren 3.22.2012, 2:40 pm

    I think it’s great to discuss the ramifications/complications of disclosure in blogging. I’m thinking of those first bloggers who hooked me years ago, like Sara Astruc, who bared their souls online, talked openly and directly about real people and real issues, and sometimes got fired from their jobs for being open. I also think a lot about confessional writers like Anne Sexton, who were lauded for being so honest in their writing, but this was also terrifically controversial. Unshockingly, Anne Sexton’s confessional poetry focused on her ambivalence about motherhood and marriage. I’ve been getting compliments on how “real” my blog is, but I also wonder about what it will read like to my kids. Being “real” means being complicated, and that means exploring shades of gray in our feelings about the roles we play and the people we love. Hopefully, my blog won’t “haunt” me someday down the line.

  • Rachel 3.22.2012, 2:48 pm

    goes without saying – this is really beautiful.
    there are many times, I intentionally hold back a bit in my blogging as though it is TMI, but when I think it about it as a historical record that changes everything.
    I write about many things very openly and honestly, but there are others – that I don’t. Namely, I always want to write about the baby that I lost at 20 weeks, but if that had not happened I would not have the 2nd child that I actually have today. To share grief, happiness and strength all rolled together. This is more than likely why I did not comment on your pregnancy post and/or keep pregnancy stories of my own – it is so mixed, conflicted, and hard to describe.

    Thanks for the impetus to think about things differently.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 3:28 pm

      Thanks Rachel. Feelings are so complex sometimes…I understand completely. You’ll talk about it when you’re ready.

  • Kristin 3.22.2012, 3:21 pm

    Are they really there forever? I have actually printed out posts from blogs that I especially wanted to save. The wonderful emails that my husband and I sent to each other early on are gone now because our computer crashed (really, truly crashed) and we didn’t back them up.

    A lot of books are coming out now from bloggers – and most of them are reprinted or readjusted posts. I think that’s the way to go, whether published “for real” or self-published. But then I’m the most backward luddite I know, constantly suspicious of the tech I also adore.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 3:27 pm

      Look up “wayback machine.” Anything ever published can be pretty much found in its original form.

  • Kristen Chase 3.22.2012, 3:28 pm

    I was just reading from my blog at bedtime to my kids. Stories I’ve written about them. Some funny. Some not. And then it really hit me how glad I am that I have it.

    Like yours, I’ve been careful about the message they’ll get about themselves when they read: Parenting is hard. I’m not perfect. And God I love them with every ounce of my being.

    They’ll also read that marriage can really suck donkey balls. And that mother-in-laws can be real assholes.

    But hey, that’s stuff they’ll need to learn at some point too.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 5:04 pm

      I await a post about the day your kids discover your mother-in-law posts…

      • Kelley 3.23.2012, 8:10 am

        I have got to work the phrase “really suck donkey balls” into my conversation somehow today. Subtly, of course.

  • Beth 3.22.2012, 3:30 pm

    About two weeks ago, my dad emailed me a link to a photograph. It was of a movie theatre in downtown Minneapolis in the 1930s/40s. When I read the caption, I immediately emailed him about it because the math didn’t work. Turns out my dad has the same nickname as his father. I had no idea. I had no idea his father owned a movie theatre for 20 years or so before he died.

    Then he sent me some more pictures from the same digital archive. Apparently, his godfather was in the mafia. Actually, went to jail and everything.

    These are things I would never know if he wasn’t telling me and he’s only telling me because he’s finding images on the internet and thinks I might be interested. I’ve been trying to get him to write things down since I was 12. Thirty years of futility solved by the internet.

    Even though Al Gore hadn’t invented it yet, these folks are here in digital archives, too. And that thought makes me consider every image I’ve posted, every comment I’ve made, etc., etc. Because the digital footprints are there even if you don’t mean to leave them.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 4:15 pm

      I remember when my dad first searched his name on Google…and it was all comments he had left on an industry website.

      Before we thought about such things. Your point is so well taken Beth.

  • Brittany 3.22.2012, 3:33 pm

    This is powerful and put out there again at the right time for so many. I love the idea of being able to read from my blog to my kids and passing on to them something that I can be proud of, something that they can be proud of and some insight into their mother. Sure, I just wrote about how my daughter (2) seems possessed. I wrote with love and revealed my tears. It’s okay to not be all unicorns and sunshine, but for me, I want to never regret what I write or worry about when they will read it.

  • Gait Breen 3.22.2012, 3:41 pm

    I love everything about this post – a gentle reminder that we’re not in a vacuum.

    Authentic, is not the same as hurtful.

    (Thank you for writing this, yes. But also for the way that you did – heartfelt and poignant.)

  • Issa 3.22.2012, 4:04 pm

    This is why I’ve been considering taking mine down. Starting over with something fresh, clean, less depressing. Who knows what I will do. I don’t even know yet.

    What you have done here over the years? I think your kids will be happy to have it one day.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 4:14 pm

      I don’t think depressing is bad. Hopefully there’s an arc…

      To be clear, I would never advocate painting a false portrait of your life on your blog. I think of people like Dooce whose PPD posts have probably saved a lot of women. I would hope our honesty–and sometimes our snark or humor–is what future generations will appreciate most. (Hey! Grandma was funny!) I just am trying to get my head around the idea that everything I write is not only forever, it’s forever connected to me, and therefore, to my offspring. It’s kind of amazing.

  • Laura Mayes 3.22.2012, 4:12 pm

    I love this post. And I loved that dinner. And I agree with everything you (and I) said. (And I’m glad you reminded me that I said it…It’s true, those beverages were full of whimsy…)

    Thank you. And thank you for documenting it.

    I think we just created a vortex. (A vortex of awesome.)

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 5:03 pm

      You are smart! Even when you forget it.

      • Laura Mayes 3.22.2012, 6:07 pm

        Ha! My memory is terrible. That’s one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. This is why I so connect with the idea of recorded history. Thanks again for recording it. And thanks for writing this piece.

  • Julianne Reiser 3.22.2012, 4:30 pm

    I’ve had similar conversations with my husband about this very same subject. He also included things like Facebook and Twitter in addition to my blog has a digital record our children’s children will be able to access. At least we hope so, recently parents of a young person had to sue FB for access to his account after he died. There may come a time when we have to “leave” our digital selves to someone in our Will.

    Oh what interesting times we live in.

    Cheers!
    J.

  • Marinka 3.22.2012, 5:55 pm

    I wonder if my mother had a blog when I was growing up what it would feel like to read it now. It’s a little surreal to think about.

    • Mom101 3.22.2012, 9:03 pm

      Totally. And for our kids…that will be their reality. Weird, right?

  • Audrey @ Mom Drop Box 3.22.2012, 7:48 pm

    Really good point to think about the legacy of our words. It is a record that can be retrieved, even if we hit delete.

  • Vanessa Jubis 3.22.2012, 9:22 pm

    YES! I write my blog for my three daughters because I KNOW that they’ll read me one day and they’ll treasure my honestly, authenticity and fact that I shared every ounce of me with them in life and digitally. I agree 100%.

    Vanessa

  • Fer 3.22.2012, 10:01 pm

    My blog is for me because writing is like running…something i do for myself. But really my blog is for my daughters, which is why I don’t monetize or worry about traffic. I try to be real and plain, so they know I understand, that I’ve been there, someday. Still I worry about their privacy, and a little about my job as a vice principal, when it comes to my content.

  • Kelly 3.22.2012, 10:57 pm

    I have honestly never thought of my blog as a legacy. After reading your post I’m excited about the possibility of generations seeing it. Just the other day I stumbled across my late grandmother’s diary and read an entry (not post ) from the day I was born. It was so moving. I can’t wait for my kids and grandkids to see my writing. Although I have to admit I’m nowhere near as profound as my grandmother.

    • Kelley 3.23.2012, 8:20 am

      Beautiful, Liz. Thanks.
      That last line really did me in! But then the Donkey Balls made me laugh, so I’m back in balance. I always think of your post a while back about one of your girls not wanting a particular story told, and how you honored that. It stuck with me. And reminded me that sometimes the not telling is important, too.

      I had this thought in the middle of the night the other night when I was up with a child-that moms blogging is an amazing phenomenon, a voice to the previously unheard, a testament to struggle and truth and anger and joy and possibility. We’re every day people with every day lives, but this is where we can tell a story that others can hear, that our children will know of some day. Amazingly, a flat screen can make us incredibly round.

      I know that’s not news, but somehow it just seemed really, really big and important.

      Thanks again.

      • Mom101 3.23.2012, 9:22 am

        The way you put it…it totally seems really big and important. Thanks Kelly.

  • Hillary 3.23.2012, 11:50 am

    I think about this a lot. I have journals since I was eight and they are all written with the reader (my great-great-great grand daughter of course) in mind. Not for them per say, but their presence and my hope that they may read them is always in my awareness. Because there is nothing I would have loved more than to find my great-great-great grandmothers blog. It’s also way I don’t share everything, but I do make sure to share some of the raw stuff. I think that’s part of the beauty.

    Though honestly, now that I work in the social space I haven’t blogged much at all. Trying to figure out how this all works and where my lines of comfort live.

  • Isabel 3.23.2012, 11:57 am

    Oh, that was such a wonderful evening. I was so happy we could all come together like that at the last minute and all. I can’t believe it was already two months ago. WHERE HAS ALL THE TIME GONE?!?!?!?!

  • Elaine A. 3.23.2012, 12:38 pm

    Even now, just going back through my archives I wonder what my children and grandchildren will think of my writing and posts in general. I used to scrapbook but now I just blog. I hope they will love looking back either way.

    Also, so wonderful that you have those comments/words from Susan. :)

  • Alyssa S. 3.23.2012, 1:25 pm

    It seems to me that if we really meant for any of this to only be for ourselves that we’d publish private blogs…or write things down on paper where the chance of anyone reading it was minimal.

    So often I really want to say the first (and sometimes completely inappropriate or stupid) thing that comes to mind but feel the perpetual need to self edit. At the end of the day, I tell myself “don’t say anything you wouldn’t want repeated”. I’ve actually had my 6 year old read posts over my shoulder. It’s a very intimidating moment when you know they’ve seen you post their picture and can read for themselves what you are writing is about them. Hopefully years from now nothing I’ve said embarrasses them. I try to keep that in mind too before I hit “publish”.

  • Nancy 3.23.2012, 6:33 pm

    Over at the Blogging Angels, we’ve been talking about interviewing some of the great women bloggers we know about how they got into the digital space, what they did to make it their own. We’ve been wanting to do this because, like you, we feel that in the not too distant future, people will look back at us and think “Wow, they were there when blogging began.” We want to get it all down for the record.
    So those of us blogging right now: it’s not just a legacy for our kids – it’s a legacy of the dawn of a digital age, and of women making a space for themselves in the digital landscape they helped create, and of companies realizing the power of those women – their influence and voice.
    We are pioneers. Really we are.

    • Mom101 3.23.2012, 11:53 pm

      +++1

      Let me know when the podcast is out, Nancy!

  • Rose 3.23.2012, 9:01 pm

    I guess I’m a hypocrite because while I love reading blogs by moms and hearing about their experiences, I would find it really difficult to put stories and photos of my kids on the internet. I know that there can often be a viewpoint where bloggers see the younger years as the time that is the mother’s story to tell. But still. I know if I did something as a child or have baby pictures I can CHOOSE to tell those stories myself now, if I wish, from mementos or remembrances my mom might have. But they’re not online for anyone who wants to see/look up. And I do think some blogs go a bit too far with the discussing of bowel movements or private moments. I don’t think that’s fair on the kids. You can write all these things down anyway, but why make those particular things public?! I think it’s often for the sake of a funny story for the blog rather than documenting important things for the future. I just feel there are limits. Like I said, I do enjoy reading these blogs though. And I can see that it’s a wonderful journal for a mother and her children to look back on too. And also a means to helping other mothers through their own experiences. So I’m just being honest and saying I feel conflicted about the whole thing really.

    • Mom101 3.23.2012, 11:52 pm

      You’re not alone Rosie; I think there are few parent bloggers who don’t think about these things, and where they draw the line. I’d say the vast majority make very thoughtful decisions about it. However I do believe a memoirist has the right to tell her story, and I often feel defensive of mothers who are criticized for sharing online what so many have done for years in other public forums –Erma Bombeck in her columns, David Sedaris in his essays, comedians from Bill Cosby to Jerry Seinfeld to Louis CK.

  • The Mommy Psychologist 3.25.2012, 1:34 pm

    This is a great point. It’s one that I always think of as well. In fact, if I’m publishing something about my husband, I give him the courtesy of reading it first. I actually had my memoir published in 2004 and I learned a TON from that experience. I am doing things very differently this time around.

  • Jadzia@Toddlerisms 3.26.2012, 1:56 pm

    I’ve never thought of my blog as anything *but* a legacy, but this post makes me think of that a little bit differently. So far I have really just chronicled their childhoods (specifically, the funny, ridiculous, and sometimes dadaesque things that they say). But lately I have been thinking that I would like to put more of myself and my own thoughts into it, so that someday they will know me as more than just their mom.

  • Christine 3.29.2012, 12:42 am

    This is a very interesting perspective on blogging… I never thought about the legacy of my blog! Something to think about as I write my next blog post!

  • Stephanie 3.31.2012, 3:55 pm

    My goal is that my blog can be something I am proud of and something my kids can read and be proud of their mom. When I started blogging I really had no goal. No thought process. No drive. It has taken me four years to get a basic idea about how I want my blog to be. I hope it will not take me four more years to refine it. And I hope to have the wisdom and the forethought to my filtres are on before I ever hit publish!

  • Danielle 4.02.2012, 12:22 am

    I write mine because I rather suck at keeping up with a baby book. When I began my blog it was more so to use as an outlet. It still is but it’s also something I hope my children will one day read too.

  • Janet Poole 4.02.2012, 1:55 am

    My kids are teenagers now but oh wow, I would’ve loved the connection with other mom’s through blogging. I used to write heaps into each child’s journal for a few weeks then forget for 6 months – a little annoyed that I’d forgotten. Blogging is so ideal for that but I understand Rose too – the privacy is a challenge, however pros and cons in everything.

    I think our children will love it even more if they choose to have children – then it will be so comforting to know that their own loving devoted mother also felt challenged by parenthood.

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