Thursday, July 12, 2012


This series that involves my calling out egregious examples of parental overshare leaves me a bit conflicted. Basically, I don't like that every time I post on this, I'm inviting further readers to hear about how so-and-so's kid threw a tantrum. I try to only link to things I know are already getting so many readers that whatever I add is a drop in the bucket, which are after all the articles that most concern me, but linking is adding to an audience. It might be justified, in a way that the overshares themselves are not, because the end goal is no one doing this anymore. Which kind of involves explaining what it is that's done, how often, and why it's a problem. But I wish there were another way.

So I'm going to take advantage of the fact that the last one of these I read was in a print publication. One that's online as well, but no link. It's actually a piece about the perils of overshare parenting, but by an author who simply can't resist. So it's one step in the sensible-critique direction, ten giant steps back. The piece conflates online-forum-participation, which offers reasonably anonymous support to stressed new parents, with high-profile, for-pay mommy-blogging and parenting-article-writing. It's illustrated, alas, with a giant photograph of the author's child, albeit as a newborn and so less-than-identifiable. (The online version has a more recent photo.) We do, however, have the author's own real name, and the piece ends with the author explaining that she probably shouldn't tell us that her child enjoys admiring (examining?) its own behind in the mirror, but there you have it.

The problem, in this case, is that it's being presented as somehow unfortunate that it isn't considered acceptable to spill absolutely everything online, that parents must god forbid censor themselves, sacrificing Truth (about their offsprings' "potty") to appease oversensitive brats who'd rather their bowel movements not make the news. Furthermore, the author reserves her real fury not for parental overshare, but for the meanies on the Internet who'd dare to judge the parenting decisions of those who've put their parenting on display. Anything other than adulation, anything other than, 'you're doing great, mom!,' is unacceptable. The world is a scary place not because your parent might relate your most private moments to a major publication, but because not every reader will obey the unwritten rule of only commenting on confessional writing to congratulate the author on being wonderful.


PG said...

What did you think of disclosing that, in the NYT recent "get a man" article on the difference between single and married motherhood, the single mom's named and wholly identifiable kid cried when no one came to his birthday party? Bad choice by the mom or the journalists or both? One gets the impression that there were plenty of things that the mom told the NYT that they decided to elide, like exactly what caused the breakup of two relationships.

Phoebe said...

Yes, read that, cringed.

"Bad choice by the mom or the journalists or both?" Both, but more the journalist. Although still less bad than when the parent is also the reporter. In those cases, the parent is trying to self-promote as a writer and as a parent, which is its own specific mess. Here, though, there's still the issue of a diagnosis being announced, an identifiable kid, etc.