I started a personal blog in 2002, back when my husband and I were living in a cramped apartment in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood and the idea of children was very nearly the last thing on my mind. I wrote a lot about my cat and the minutiae of my day-to-day life. Fast forward 11 years and the mundanity of my blog entries are much the same -- but my life has changed a great deal.
I wrote a lot when my children were first born. My blog gave me a sense of community and reminded me that I wasn't alone in my new-parent bumblings. Reader advice helped me deal with all sorts of mini-challenges along the way, and often gave me a much-needed sense of perspective when I was most in need.
I don't write as much anymore. Part of the reason is that I write for a living now, and when I've met my deadlines I often feel as though my well of words has run dry. But it's also that my children are older now: more complicated, and more deserving of privacy.
You could argue that babies and toddlers deserve to have the various details about their eating, sleeping, playing, and pooping preferences kept off the Internet, and I wouldn't argue with you. I wouldn't agree with you either, though. My feeling is that every parent who shares memoir-style writing with the world, whether that's Dave Barry, Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, or a mommy blogger (oh, how I hate that term) whose writing lives solely on Blogspot, has their own personal boundaries when it comes to talking about their family life.
For me, I find that many of the things I actually want to write about these days feel too slippery to put out in the world. I don't feel capable of choosing the right words, of being able to paint the picture exactly as I see it. The lines between me and my children, so heavily blurred when they were little and I was consumed with their care, stand out more and more. Their lives are their own, and while I share snippets, the big picture is simply too big.
In many ways, it was so much easier when my biggest problems were nearly universal. After all, what parent hasn't dealt with sleep deprivation, or the shaky early days of potty training? Mothers of very small children naturally have so much in common, despite all the individual choices out there. It's like being hunkered down in a foxhole together, as bullets and artillery shells go whizzing overhead. You may cloth diaper and she may use disposables, but you can still fist bump as battle buddies.
When my children were little, I needed to engage with other parents. I wrote as therapy more than anything else, and I found great relief in the assurance that other people were going through the same things I was.
I miss that. There's an awful lot of isolation in parenting, particularly when you're home all day, and I miss the camaraderie, different perspectives, and shared stories. Maybe most of all, I miss the feeling of being part of that village Hillary Clinton once wrote about, one made up of all sorts of different people with different lifestyles and priorities, but with this great connecting web strewn over us all.
Of course, it's not that we all stand alone once our kids grow up a little. But it seems to me that it's not nearly so easy to swap anecdotes and war stories. Our challenges are more complex, our children are no longer -- despite all our special snowflake circumstances -- virtually interchangeable in their milestones and stumbling blocks. Plus, the Internet simply isn't the same place it was even five years ago. There are some seriously angry anonymous people out there just looking for a target, and they seem to be growing in numbers every day.
When you have children, parenthood doesn't necessarily define you, but it's the biggest, most important thing in your life. So that's what I don't really write about any more: the biggest, most important thing in my life. The end result is that I no longer have much to say, and maybe that's just the natural progression of things ... but it also feels like a loss.
If you're a blogger, do you find that you've changed your approach to writing as your kids grow up?
Image via Linda Sharps