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Don't talk about it, mama!

There are a lot of topics that tend to divide parents and get them lined up on two sides of a seemingly uncrossable chasm: take circumcision, vaccination, infant formula. We've found many other topics here that have forged a surprising divide amongst our family, friends or internet community.

But are there some things that just aren't ok to talk about online? I wondered, today, when I came across (first, because Babble emailed it out to parents they knew manage parenting blogs, and then on subsequent discussions among Twitter friends) a post in which a mother reveals that she loves one child more than the other. If you're really interested, I'll let you find it; what I will say is that many, many commenters and my Twitter friends agreed "this isn't something you say on the internet."

I don't know; I believe that, if there's something you feel, even if it's just for a little while, it's ok to say it -- though you will certainly regret it if comments are open and people are sending around links to your post, exclamation points included. And I believe nearly every parent has regrettable thoughts from time to time, as this mama did: do I love my easy baby more than my difficult toddler? Am I a bad parent for thinking coolly of slapping my son? If I had to decide between my spouse or my children, who would I pick? Could I send my eight-year-old to a military school? (I wouldn't EVER think that. No way. Not me. Not even for a second, as I rode home on my bike after he told my sister and only babysitter that he hated her and then... no, not me!)

I may be more liberal than most, as I am after all a nonfiction writer and one that is willing to expose every bloody bit of my inner life, if it serves truth. Even I have some lines, though: I won't write even fiction in which children who are like mine in any way die, and prefer not to cover news items about mothers and fathers who hurt their children. I stear clear of all mentions of my children that are in any way sexualized. I try to never use words about other people like "fat" or "stupid," even poor Sir Topham Hatt's original moniker. I don't believe in calling anyone a "bad mom," even myself, even if I thought for a minute it was true.

What won't you say on the internet? (Be anonymous, or hypothetical, or general, whichever makes you feel safe.) Do you think that it's ok to reveal the sort of thoughts that you feel badly for thinking, afterward? Or do you think there are some confessions that just shouldn't be typed out?


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I struggle with this as my son gets older...more from the perspective of *his* privacy. What should I share? What is a violation of our intimacy? Now that he seems like more of a "real person" (whoa, that'll get me into just the sort of trouble you are writing about!) I find I'm less and less comfortable talking about him, our family, and our relationships online.

Spoke these sorts of feelings/thoughts out loud the other night to my husband. He looked shocked and horrifed (what! like he's perfect and never thought anything similarly sad/awful?!? humph)

While intitially I regretted involving him instead of typing the thoughts/feelings on the (seemingly anon) Internet, given his reaction, I later realized that talking to him at least helped me reframe & consider the possibility that what I was going through was transitory (some of it is, some isn't).

Regardless, there are still some thoughts about those kids hidden safely in my heart; can't imagine what it'd take to pry them out.

I was actually the recipient of someone writing somthing about me and my family on their personal facebook page. It got e-mailed to me. Never write something online that you wouldn't say to a persons face, it really hurt me, since I didn't even really know the person that wrote it, but to broadcast your opinion or lies about a person to 500 plus people in facebook land is just rude. The internet is a weird public, you never really know who is reading what you are writing.... I didn't read the piece that is being referred to here, but I know a lot of mom's that vent online on their personal blogs, I think blogging has given people liberties to write things they are scared to say out loud, in some ways this might be good, but in many ways this is also bad. Maybe this momma needed to feel like in this moment she is not alone in having issues with difficult children, maybe this momma will get the wake up call, and help she needs to make her a momma that can appreciate and love all the difficult things too. Our love as parents is unconditional, sometimes we need to experience the stretching, changing, and expanding that our love for our children can do. When I was a kid, my mom bought a book called "Raising a strong willed child, " It was kind of a family joke when I was kid, but now being a Momma of one mellow, and one strong willed kid, I know why my mom bought the book!

I am very mindful of not writing things that violate someone else's privacy. It's a fine line sometimes, but I just think it is not cool to share someone else's dirty laundry for all to read. As for writing about my own feelings, I do so very carefully because the internet just isn't as private as we like to think it is. I'm much more inclined to speak the things that I don't want staring at me years from now rather than write them.

I won't write a lot of things online. Sometimes I wish I could, but I don't have time to manage the fallout!

Here's a link to the post:

I read this piece yesterday. I understood how the mama got there, and I just wanted to tell her it would likely change. I was so frustrated with all the moms who vilified her because her daughter may read this later on and feel rejected. That's a totally valid concern, and the reason I won't likely write things that raw online, but I think what she's going through is very normal and she needs to be validated. She had a difficult transition into mamahood, she has a strong-willed girl (who is THREE--oh, god, three), and she's pregnant again. That's a hard time. It's very easy to divide the entire world into things that are "hard" and things that are "easy." We like what's easy in times like that.

For me, I won't post anything in my professional social networks that I wouldn't say to a client at a cocktail party. And I won't post anything in my personal social networks that I wouldn't say to that person's face. And if I have to think about it, it usually means an in-person conversation is in order first.

I am thankful and I'm sure my daughter is too, that there was no facebook for Mama when she got her first period. And I had phased out of hipmama.com at that point. From being on those boards that were much less anonymous than uMs, I was shocked by many confessions I saw. And I self-disclose ALOT. So many mamas are isolated and this computer starts to feel like you're having an intimate conversation when you are actually broadcasting to the world. When I was home with a baby that AOL dial-up 14k? was my life. . . . .

Nothng will bring the knives out faster than some mama confessing that the mythology of motherhood is just that . . . a myth. One would have to be superhuman to NOT have those feelings sometime. That why so many moms LIE their asses off about their relationship with their kids. In the teen years we lie about GPAs, sexual activity, drugs, and end up more isolated than when we had little babies. I wish we could be "real" without the I'm a better mom than you competitive bullshit.

I feel that privacy in general isn't valued very much any longer. In my opinion, there are many, many things that are best kept to one's self, or only shared only with a very few, very close people. It makes me sad that we live in a world now that so many people need the internet to share their innermost thoughts, and that people no longer seem to have the intimate relationship with *themselves* where they don't have the need to share truly private things. For me, my innermost private thoughts about my spouse, children, friends and career have no place online.

Very well said, Katherine, I try to abide by the same--"For me, I won't post anything in my professional social networks that I wouldn't say to a client at a cocktail party. And I won't post anything in my personal social networks that I wouldn't say to that person's face. And if I have to think about it, it usually means an in-person conversation is in order first."

B, I agree, our personal relationships with others and ourselves are changing so much as everyone seems so "plugged in" and staring at electronic devices, worried about "missing" messages, posting updates, etc. (take a look around the next time you are at a coffee shop, park, etc.)--while at times it may seem we are more connected with technology (and often, to be fair, we are of course), people also seem more isolated and not as likely to have genuine face-to-face conversations and blossoming of friendships, without the computer/technology "wall" to be able to share things. While technology may permit some to say/share things they wouldn't otherwise, it also reveals the loneliness in our society as a whole.

Just my thoughts...that I, too, am sharing on a computer screen--ha! :)

I subscribe to the same rules as stated above that if I wouldn't say something to a person's face, I wouldn't post it online. I am generally a private person online. I talk in generalities, and basically don't write anything I wouldn't be upset by if confronted with again.

On the topic at hand -- I have some "unequal" feelings about my children, but it has to do with which child I "like" personality wise better than the others. My husband knows which one. No one else in the world knows, and they shouldn't. It's the kind of information I'd never want to reach my kids. I think it kind of goes with all relationships though. Sometimes you don't like the people you love. But love runs deeper than that, and those times generally pass.

I have very strict self-imposed rules about what I write online, which are a bit different than the others here. I never (never, never though sometimes I want to) write anything that negatively judges another parent's choices, feelings, actions, or decisions. Parenting is hard enough, and comes with enough critics, and I don't need to make some other family's life harder with my opinions. There are lots of times I feel that judgment, and when I do, I remind myself of two things:

1. You don't know what you don't know. There are a million factors a parent might say/decide/do something, and the result for them may have been cathartic/successful/challenging/a total disaster.

2. Bullying is a problem for grown-ups, too (and bullies don't usually think they are a bully). I just see more "bully" behavior on boards that are supposed to be supportive to parents than anywhere else in my life. I try to start my lessons about bullying with care about my own behavior.

Important corollary to my rule:
I will challenge a parent's statement online if the statement is something like "I'm feeling like such a bad parent".

I think it may be different if your career or main passion in life is autobiographical writing but I admit to being deeply paranoid and as a result obsessively private about what I share online about myself and my family in any forum that can be tied back to my real identity. In my work, I participate on numerous job search committees and it's just a fact that everyone researches the top candidates thoroughly online. And while I try to not let professionally irrelevant information distract me in my evaluations, I did find myself thinking during one interview, "Man, I really wish I hadn't read all those graphic poems you wrote and posted online about your first sexual experiences."

Kudos the the mama that posted the original blog. All the hateful comments received were not needed. I tried to sift through them, but it just made me angry. She was (is) being honest and her reasoning is valid. As her children grow, her perspectives will likely change and grow and her post isn't a love letter to her kids. They don't ever have to see it. All those that demanded she seek therapy just didn't read it enough. And I am a mama of only one, so maybe can't relate, but know a smart, thoughtful woman when I read one.

To be fair, a lot of the comments posted on that mama's blog were in response to her original post (she edited it after the firestorm of negative comments). I think the portion of the original post that generated so much controversy (basically that if she were to "lose" one of her kids, she would prefer it be her girl) is available on Jezebel.

Mothering is a tough job and it makes sense to me that people talk/write about some of the very challenging aspects of it. What really struck me about the post in question here was the intensity and very real circumstances of her situation that points to more than your tpical struggles. Now, I'm a therapist, so maybe I read more into it than she intends or others do, but I read some pretty honest feelings she was having that could result in some pretty serious consequences for their relationship. I don't think she should be villified for it, but I wonder if that was some of the backlash, that readers heard the potential for this to be more than a momma saying how hard things are.

I think too many women use their children as a means to get attention for themselves...it's like Munchhausen Syndrome by proxy server. If you are going to give yourself permission to divulge something this damaging you should do so anonymously. Just my 2p.

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