I get it. Constant posts, pictures and videos on social media from proud parents of their little ones can get a bit annoying. I’m guilty of it, but I get it. Let’s face it, new parents have always been known for talking nonstop about their little ones and now there’s actually an online platform for them to brag to hundreds of their online friends. For those not consumed with baby fever, I completely understand how it could get annoying.
Then you have those Mommy Bloggers, like myself, that take it up a notch by creating an entire persona based on being someone’s Mom. Many critics are screaming exploitation. Others are warning parents of the dangers lurking in the dark recesses of the internet just waiting to take advantage of these proud parent’s oversharing.
As with all things in life there needs to be balance. I agree, sharing naked photos of your children on the internet, no matter how innocent seeming, should remain private. I think most everything else is a matter of personal preference and comfort level. If it makes you uncomfortable then don’t do it.
My intention for writing such personal posts about my children and my marriage is to help people see that they aren’t alone. The last thing I want to do is to hurt those closest to me in the process. It’s important that my husband is comfortable with the information I share so openly about our relationship and our family. After all, it’s not just my skeletons I’m sharing, it’s his too. The trickier part comes when sharing information, pictures and videos about our children. If my children were of an age to consent I would certainly get their approval prior to posting but they aren’t so it’s my responsibility to make that decision on their behalf. I feel comfortable with my level of sharing about my children but there are many others who do not. Hence the controversy.
Google’s been sending me some not-so-subtle reminders in my news feed lately. Several articles accusing Mommy Bloggers of over sharing and exploiting their children on social media. It’s quite a controversial subject, as most things are nowadays, because hiding behind our computer screens to complain, shame and judge others is much easier than doing so in person. For this reason, I purposefully pass over negative posts because I refuse to feed into the negativity and the click bait wording used to gain clicks, comments and shares that only serve to perpetuate the negativity. I vowed when starting my blog that I would keep it clean, respectful, truthful and empowering. My goal is to build people up, not to tear them down.
I didn’t pay much attention to the articles until one post caught my eye. This one was shaming parents, particularly Mommy Bloggers for sharing information about their child with special needs. The article itself wasn’t so bad but the comments following it were atrocious. “These Mom’s need to get a life and stop using their special needs children to get attention.” A couple people made hurtful comments about special needs children that do not need to be repeated. One person tried to defend the special needs parents but urged us to reconsider sharing information about our children because “people could use our comments and photos to repost for unkind purposes.” Others commented that sharing about your child’s disability could increase the likelihood of that child being bullied. Still others commented that special needs people need to have privacy rather than having their disability displayed as “entertainment for the general public.” With each comment I read, I got more and more angry. I fell for the click bait trap, clicked on the article then commented with an angry and therefore not well articulated comment. Live and learn, I guess.
Clearly, I’m a bit sensitive about this topic. I realize that no one was talking directly to me but it ruffled my feathers nonetheless. Despite the critics view that it is my son’s story that I’m sharing, I disagree, it’s our story. I don’t talk about what it’s like to have autism. I share what it’s like raising a child with autism. I share about the struggles, fears, worries and concerns. I also share about the successes and milestones and the unconditional love of being a Mom to a child with autism.
The main reason that I started this blog was to share my story honestly in order to show others that they are not alone with the broad range of emotions and insecurities consistent with raising a child with special needs. Life’s hard and the constant bombardment of shaming articles and posts on social media can bring the most optimistic person down. Being a parent to a child with special needs can make you feel like you are on an island alone. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. You don’t have to share your story if that makes you uncomfortable. You can read mine and know that there are others (many, many others) in this world, this very second, going through the same things you are, feeling the same way you are. There is hope, strength and courage in sharing openly and connecting with others.
I don’t take the choice to share about my son’s struggles and successes living with autism lightly. It’s very important to me that the world meet my son, know that he has autism, and learn other things about him too. I hope that he never feels the need to look down when telling someone he’s autistic. There’s no shame in autism. Just as there’s no shame in being male. It’s just a part of who he is.
Being an open book takes courage and with that courage comes freedom. Honesty, open mindedness and allowing yourself to be vulnerable are rare character assets that few people have today in this land of Photoshop and social media perfection. There is nothing I have done in my colorful past, my present or future that needs to be hidden. By opening my life up to everyone, opening my families lives up to everyone, I’m saying loudly, this is me and my family, like us or hate us but you will not define us.
My wish for the future of social media would be for more people to share honestly about themselves in order to empower and encourage others. The problem with the perfect pictures and carefully worded posts, tweets and pins is that for those that are struggling in life right now they will compare others social media personas with their reality and never feel like they measure up. Let me tell you that with every perfect relationship, well-behaved child, large house, perfect job, new hair style, toned body comes a lot of hard work, frustration and tears. It may appear as though certain people have it all but what we don’t see is the struggle, fears and insecurities (trust me, they’ve got ‘em too) behind all of the work that went into getting them where they are today. Nobody’s journey is without heartache and struggle. Some just hide it better than others.
To all my fellow Mommy Bloggers and proud parents out there sharing every single milestone of your child’s development online: keep posting and keep sharing those adorable photos. Just don’t forget to sprinkle in some reality and truths too. Anyone can post beautiful photos of themselves or their children but it’s the realistic posts and pictures that tell a more interesting story. Be the person that makes people smile rather than evoke undue and undeserved envy. We are all in this parenting thing together. Let’s start acting like it.