If you didn’t catch the beginning of our blog-versation, and you’re just “tuning in” now. Here’s what’s up: Alle (link to her blog) and I are having a “healthy, respectful debate” about the virtue or vice of writing/blogging about one’s children. It started a month ago or so when I saw a post she wrote on this topic.
I have to admit that its kind of weird to see something written about me, my blogging and my parenting! And, I want to immediately express my gratitude to Alle for her kind comments about the latter.
When Alle and I were discussing this idea, I told her that my biggest concern was not about which one of us was right or wrong, and how we could have a “healthy, respectful debate”, but that our opinions, while seemingly divergent, might actually be too close together for it to be considered a debate. That said, I still disagree with her that writing about one’s children is a bad idea – depending on the context of that writing.
First of all, its important to note a relevant difference in parenting context between the two protagonists in this story. Alle’s children are pre-school and elementary ages. Mine are junior high, high school and college. When my kids were the ages of hers, the last thing I would have wanted to write about was my kids. I felt like my life had been consumed with parenting. At that time, people asked me why I didn’t use my background teaching french to teach it to children. I tried, briefly. Basically, I wanted to think about and do something other than be with young children, anything. I wanted to feel like I had a life other than them. Now that they are on their way “out of the nest”, I can think about parenting a little more objectively.
In her most recent post, Alle suggests that writing about my children means that I haven’t thought it through from their perspective. This is both true and not. In that statement lies the peril of writing about one’s children. I TRY to always think things through from their perspective. But, Alle makes a very good point. I haven’t thought it through from their perspective because I can’t! Its one of those fundamental truths. One can never think from another’s perspective. All I can do is try to imagine what their perspective is, and regarding the writing about them, how they would feel if they read what I wrote. That I do.
I write about my children as a part of my experiment to write directly, as closely as possible, from inside the experience of being a parent to my three kids. I decided to do this blog experiment publicly after talking to enough women who struggled, as I did, with the question “What do you do?” I didn’t know how prevalent the angst was among mothers my age until I started talking about it, so I decided to dive right into the question, explore it, wrestle it from the inside, and somehow make peace with it before the experience of being a stay-at-home mom was over. I figured that the daily exercise of photographing and writing about my own experience would yield an appreciation of its vicissitudes.
I couldn’t do this experiment without referencing my children, and writing, to a certain extent, about them. The real topic of this blog, however, is not my children, but my effort to understand the un-ease that often accompanies the role of the stay-at-home mom in light of my own experience.
I think the question that Alle poses is extremely relevant to my thesis. Alle writes: “Parents exist to meet the needs of their children, not the other way around.” I agree, and to the extent that my blog or anything I write makes my children uncomfortable, or in any way impinges on their lives, I am out of line. I am exploiting them for my own purposes.
If the blog itself becomes my answer to the question “What do I do?” Or, in other words, if I use it to make me important because I feel irrelevant as a stay-at-home mom, then I still haven’t wrestled with the demon that lies beneath it. I believe that it is this same demon that lies beneath the question Alle poses. Are we using our children to feel better about feeling irrelevant? If we write about our children, are we appropriating our children’s lives to feel better about the lack of value we perceive in our own? (In other posts, I delve deeply into the question of how we ascribe value in our culture, and how it negatively impacts the self-esteem of many women – particularly stay-at-home moms. You can look them up under the tag “value”)
When I write about my children, I ask myself these questions before I post: Why? To what end? Are you writing to make yourself feel important? If I write about witnessing my son score a goal in his soccer game, am I writing that because it taught me something about being a parent (the joy of watching your child succeed) or because I can parasitically usurp some of that success? Can I be as present to my child in their struggles and see what they teach me about myself and parenting as when they succeed? Can I write about that experience with as much honesty and curiosity as I do about the successes?
If I catch myself feeling “special” due to something one of them has done, I now quickly look over my shoulder to see if anyone has caught me patching up a hole in my own self image with a bit stolen from one of my children instead of doing my own work.
Back to you Alle… or to you, “loyal and faithful” readers…