Are Mommy Blogs Exploiting Kids?
I have something to talk about and it's not going to be easy, but here goes nothing: I'm a former participant in the Mommy blogs movement and I'm scared that I made a terrible mistake.
My fear comes on the tailwind of this piece in The Washington Post , titled, “My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here's why I can't do that.” going somewhat viral. In the article, the writer Christie Tate describes how her 4th-grade daughter received a new laptop as a Christmas present, then wound up stumbling into a trove of her mother's online writings about her after Googling her name. And not only writings, but images of herself to accompany them.
The daughter was (understandably) upset, but the mother ended the piece reasserting that she would not give up her life's work of writing and that she planned to move forward in a way that would make her daughter feel comfortable and would let her do her soul's work, a desire I totally understand. “My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that’s who I am,” Tate wrote. “Amputating parts of my experience feels as abusive to our relationship as writing about her without any consideration for her feelings and privacy.”
As you can imagine, the piece got a lot of criticism, with some saying that Tate was actually exploiting her child. “You are writing about your children for your own vanity and for page clicks/freelance money,” wrote one commenter. “Your child is old enough to expect you to stop and she shouldn't have to ask more than once.”
This article really got to me when I read it, because the truth is — I am just like Tate. My kids have not asked me to stop writing about motherhood, but I have a daughter close to her age who has also stumbled upon her image on the Internet (in fact, she pulled a picture of our family from Google in class when her teacher needed one), who knows that her mother published a book that includes her, and who is on the cusp of discovering that I have pretty much made a living writing online about a lot of topics, some of which did include my kids.
Honestly, the older my kids get, the more this whole topic gives me the heebie-jeebies. On one hand, I want to feel proud for what I have accomplished in providing for our family financially and, you know, sitting in the very house we wouldn't have been able to afford without my work. But on the other hand, I just feel icky. Will my kids resent me writing about them someday? Will they Google me and their names and feel like I exploited them? Will we all end up in therapy someday?
I don't know–and I don't know that I will ever have the answers, but truth be told, I'm glad we are asking the hard questions now before any damage is done to us or our kids. I think the mommy blogs and influencing era was born out of a lot of good intentions. Moms just like me, with little kids and babies at home, wanted a way to provide for our families and still take care of our families without resorting to out-of-the-home jobs or daycare and blogging and online content creation provided a way to do that. Plus, it was fun! It allowed us to fulfill our creative sides and our business sides and came with all kinds of fun perks, like toys for the kids to review or trips to go on and write about.
The world of “influencers” has exploded and grown from the original roots of “mommy blogs” that moms like myself started in and when you really think about it, it is pretty strange. There are tons of accounts out there with moms who regularly feature their children as part of their “brand,” who make money off their kids and probably don't pay their kids that money. To be real, we would probably most definitely call that exploitment if, say, that child happened to be acting in a movie and their parent was keeping their movie paychecks. So if a kid poses in an ad for his Mom's blog on yogurt or smiles for a picture in a sponsored trip to Disney World, should that kid be making a paycheck too?
Like I said, I don't have all the answers, but I'll tell you one thing: I am definitely asking a lot more questions these days. And hoping my kids don't totally hate me someday too. Gulp.
What do you think? Are Mommy blogs and influencers and writers exploiting their kids?