By Kathryn Streeter of KathrynStreeter.com
As bloggers, writers or social media mavens, we want to be remembered. Often apt personal anecdotes are the best way to connect with our followers and drive a post’s popularity. They help the mind wrap around and focus on an idea. But when it comes to sharing about our significant other and children, the line of decency can often feel blurry.
The question is weighty, worth the internal wrestling as moms.
The What, When and Why: My personal habits on sharing family-related content and what motivates these boundaries start with timing. I allow time to pass before I write on an experience that directly involves either my husband or children. Looking back on an experience affords many advantages.
Waiting to share publicly helps me to more completely understand and process what happened in the first place. When I have a family-related story idea, I’ll start a rough outline, revisiting it as my thoughts mature and clarify. Mulling is a very good thing; at the very least it keeps me honest about my culpability in a personal family anecdote I’m considering sharing. For starters, what is my motivation for sharing?
Waiting to release personal content enables me to discover the real message of an experience. As time passes, I’m better able uncover the deeper meaning of a family experience I’d like to write about. Instead of offering my readers a trite personal anecdote that makes them laugh or roll their eyes with me, I’m now able to hand them a meatier story with a coherent message.
I once wrote an essay on potty-training my son. My early discarded drafts amounted to yet another tale of a frustrated parent. Perhaps it was funny, but it wasn’t original. As time passed, I realized the main take-away from this time in life centered on my insecurities and pride, not my son’s poor aim.
Sharing a personal experience before I come to terms with what I’ve learned will rob me of the chance to write the best possible story, one which will offer lasting impact. For me, emotional settlement needs to happen to write from a grounded posture. When I’m simmering with emotion from an argument with my kids or husband, artistically speaking this isn’t the optimal time to write. When I’m hurt or angry, my word choices, phrases and story arc are more likely to be uncreative and cheap, resembling a vanity project. I’m the center of attention, desiring empathy or applause. Because I’m still smarting, I have zero perspective. But if given time, a flippant post can morph into a deeply felt story. Time yields a better product.
Most importantly, waiting provides cover for my marriage and children. No amount of writing success is worth bringing injury to those I love best. My online published writing is forever available to my husband, kids and the public. Even when my kids were young and unplugged, I didn’t write about their maniacal moments not only because of appreciating what I’ve already mentioned—that the passing of time allows for a truer story—but also because I didn’t want to unintentionally cause future shame.
Today my teenagers–and their friends—have access to anything I’ve ever written about them. Had I shared carelessly, there would be no taking things back. Apologies would ring false; relational damage would be tough to repair. Today as ever, writing about humiliating experiences for a cheap laugh is at odds with everything I’m trying to do as a parent. From tot to teen, my kids have always deserved to be treated like I’d like to be treated: with respect.
Building a strong relationship with my husband and kids is like a major construction project—the effort and time is immense. I am unwilling to destabilize this structure with insensitively oversharing.
Finally, my family knows that before I submit work that mentions them, I’ll have them review it. If my writing involves my husband, I’ll have him read it first. If he feels it’s crossed a line and waded into our personal life as a couple, my work is to rewrite in a way that honors him and ultimately, us. We don’t keep secrets. This has only built stronger mutual trust in our relationship.
In the previously mentioned potty-training story published last winter, my now-teenage son read it and laughed. However, he would have felt deeply humiliated had I published the story a few years ago, regardless that the point of the story isn’t his bathroom drama.
The by-product of this practice is that it’s brought my husband and kids into my writing life. Additionally, my conscience is clear.
Like every mom, I’m concerned about protecting those I love best—my family. Anything I put online about them deserves close inspection. They’re counting on me.
A variation of this essay was originally published on The Good Men Project.
About Kathryn Streeter
Kathryn Streeter’s writing has appeared in diverse array of publications including Story|Houston, Mamalode, Club Mid and Scary Mommy. Her writing was recently accepted for inclusion in the forthcoming anthology, Feisty After 45. Find her at www.kathrynstreeter.com, on Instagram, and on Twitter.