Cat recently wrote a fascinating piece on Offbeat Home called My door is open: why I’m pretty public online about my home. In it she discusses the transparency with which she blogs about where she lives and what she does. Cat’s digital reach in the home-focused community is pretty far — she runs two websites (the other being Hipster Housewife) about homes, and tweets many, many details about her life every single day. In fact, within another month or so I might have her whole TV schedule worked out. (I KID! Kind of.)
The idea of blogging about your home, or in a more Mama-centric context, about your family is nothing new — millions of people do it every single day, and we’ve talked about it on Offbeat Mama before. Most of us are probably at least familiar with the Big Time Parent Bloggers (Dooce, Girl’s Gone Child, Finslippy, etc.), and I know for a fact many of you have your own family-focused blogs you’re writing. In fact, the abundance of parent bloggers is one reason our submission policy contains a no overly personal information clause — there are some things we feel like readers of this site don’t need to know about you and/or your kids.
I spent nearly three years blogging about my own family before closing the blog this year. My blog started as way to update family across the country about my pregnancy, and quickly grew into something larger than I ever anticipated after the birth of my son, Jasper. Jasper had to contend with a month-long NICU stay and a genetic condition that took eleven months to diagnose, and at the time I thought nothing of talking about all of this — his very personal medical information — on the blog. And… usually in excruciating detail.
One day it hit me: while I was blogging about something that was impacting our ENTIRE family, what I was doing the most was talking about something that was part of Jasper’s life. To me, it’s important that he has the right to reveal this information about himself when he chooses to do so, to whomever he wants, whenever it feels right. It’s not something that’s obvious from seeing him, and if you didn’t know about it you’d (probably) never have a reason to think anything was going on at all.
But then you have something like this:
I want to share SOME of this info, though, because I like the idea of extending my online community into the real world. I’ve been fostering online friends since my first chatroom in 1996. I got to know my husband on ICQ. Most of my friends are online. I have more conversations with my best friend on Google Chat than in real life. And many of the people I know online I will never ever meet but I feel are a very real part of my social cohort. I think of us as living together in a giant small town. IN THE FUTURE.
Stepping across that boundary between “real life community” and “digital community” means putting a lot of trust in strangers in general, even in small ways. I have to assume that when I go to write for the internet I am not going to be met with a wall of hate comments — otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Expecting to get through a day without insult is a pretty basic tenet of trust that gets taken for granted in the real world — and that can happen on the internet, but takes more troll-vigilance.
In fact, I’ve found deeper pools of trust in the digital community than I have IRL. Like so many people my age, we’ve barely met any of our neighbors EVER, for a variety of reasons, so we haven’t gone to neighborhood meetings with them, bought Girl Scout Cookies from them, or helped them with a repair. — My door is open: why I’m pretty public online about my home
… which is TOTALLY valid. And by totally, I mean maxiumum validity.
When you think about it, whether you’re talking about your house or your child, it’s not really that different. Even though on one hand I was blogging about my son and his medical condition, at the time I was also reaching out to the truly beautiful community of people I met through that blog. Many of them were legitimately invested in Jasper’s health — in fact, one person (who is also an incredible woman and friend) emailed me to say that within the first three days of Jasper’s life her husband came home three hours late one night because he went to donate platelets so he could potentially help infants like my son.
We were living in the Pacific Northwest, far from our support network in Alabama, and people who read our experience and sent out love, prayers, and positive thoughts BECAME our family of sorts. If we had a hard day, I knew I could blog about it and someone would find a way to lift us up. Our good days were joyously heralded, and I think our blog readers were second only to Sean and I (and our family) in happiness when Jasper finally came home from the NICU. In short: they, the readers, meant something to us, and we meant something to them.
So here’s what I’m wondering: at what point is blogging about your family too much? When do you decide you’ve let too many details out, and who makes that decision? Basically: what’s your comfort level when it comes to revealing info about your kid?