The Rogue Librarian is back! And, as it happens, pointed to a New York Times article that just completely set me off. (Yes, it requires registration to read the article, but then, said registration doesn’t necessarily have to be your own.)
I was experiencing a mixture of bemusement and wariness about the sites mentioned and what they chronicle, but then I hit the rationalizations in part 2, and that’s when my fuse got lit. Here’s the first spark:
“A blog like this is narcissism in its most obscene flowering,” [Ayelet Waldman] said. “But it’s necessary. As a parent your days are consumed by other people’s needs. This is payback for driving back and forth to gymnastics all week long.”
You know what? Boo [censored] hoo. Being a parent means, to some extent, suppressing your personal needs, desires, and expression for the good of your children. That’s pretty much A-number-one on the list of job requirements. If you feel like you have to pay back your children for your having to drive them back and forth to gymnastics, then odds are you made a very poor choice in becoming a parent. And your children are the ones who are most likely to end up paying for it.
Blogging about little Johnny’s poopy diapers, or Susie’s apparently sourceless temper tantrums, is in no sense of the word necessary. It isn’t even needed, either by you or by the rest of us. If you absolutely must write down your thoughts and feelings about how hard it is to be a parent, do so in a private journal. Fifteen years from now, you can decide whether or not to give it to your child, and if you do, they can decide what to do with it. But don’t throw it out into the world as if it were a list of your favorite movies. That’s unnecessarily cruel.
As the article’s author observes:
How will the bloggee feel, say, 16 years from now, when her prom date Googles her entire existence?
That’s definitely a point of concern, and one I’ve been conscious of from the beginning. More to the point: how will the bloggee feel to discover that he or she was, without any consent or consultation, made an object of scrutiny, laughter, scorn, wonder, and general comment to anyone who might drop by? How many of us would like to have our lives chronicled and published without our consent, let alone our input?
Which leads us to the next bit that drove me up a wall:
At some point, however, parents may find themselves at a crossroads. Molly Jong-Fast, who has been a frequent subject for her mother, Erica Jong, said, “There comes that inevitable moment when parents who write about their children need to choose between their writing and their children’s privacy and honor.” Ms. Jong based a children’s book on her daughter as well as a pilot for a Fox sitcom. “There’s no compassionate way to do both, so either the parent or the child will end up feeling resentful.”
I can barely believe this was even raised as a potential issue. You choose in the child’s favor. End of story. If you can’t do that, and especially if you can’t do it without feeling resentful about it, then it’s long past time for you to suck it up, get over yourself, and seriously consider therapy.
Your child is not perfect. Parenthood is not a sun-filled meadow of joy. Raising children is not easy, and it isn’t a smooth ride, and you aren’t going to make the best decision every time. There are diapers to change, mouths to feed, tantrums to weather, and sleepless nights to endure. You don’t get to be yourself any more, not completely. Not the way you used to before the baby. That isn’t how it works. Furthermore, you are not uniquely suffering, because this is how it’s been since humanity became sentient, and definitely how it’s been since civilization emerged. So deal with it.
It’s true that many parents have, for all that time, talked with their family and friends about the challenges of being parents. The difference is that those conversations were conducted within a social network of people who could help the parents out, and knew when to be discreet. To blog the every detail of your baby’s life, though, is making a spectacle of your child for your own benefit.
For that stunning degree of selfishness, and for the damage I fear it will cause the children thus forced on display, I weep.
You may wonder where I get off being so hypocritical, since I write about Carolyn here from time to time. Feel free to read what I’ve written, and see if you think I’m putting my writing above her privacy and honor. If indeed I am, then some of my anger needs to be directed inward, and I need to change my behavior. I can accept that, and should I need to, I will do so without resentment.
Because that’s what a parent does.