Are mommy bloggers selfishly pimping out their children for their own creative fodder ... or, even worse, financial gain? Do our emotional, self-deprecating, angst-ridden, confessional posts that are meant to comfort the sorority of mothers in cyberspace ultimately hurt our own children -- if not now, sometime in the future?
The New York Times' article this week about British author Julie Myerson's book, The Lost Child: A Mother's Story, that chronicles her son's downward spiral into drug addiction has many of us reflecting on our own writing and responsibility to our children. Myerson's book has ignited outrage across the Atlantic with mothers in particular castigating the author for exploiting her son, Jake. Myerson is hopeful that Americans will be less judgmental when the book comes out this week in the United States. After all, we Americans are apparently used to publicly airing out our dirty laundry and collectively relishing in other people's problems -- think Jon and Kate Gosselin.
But when it comes to motherhood there is plenty of judgment stateside too -- so Myerson should brace herself for another round of visceral reaction. Although millions of American women may be guided by Oprah, our de facto, national spiritual leader who embraces brave memoirs, flawed people and honest sharing, we're also quick to attack mothers who seem less than ideal, let alone selfish.
Myerson has reportedly said that Jake, now 20 years old, approved the manuscript before it was published. But as The New York Times reported, Jake has since told the Daily Mail, "What she has done has taken the very worst years of my life and cleverly blended it into a work of art, and that to me is obscene."
I am not judging Myerson for her book or weighing in on whether she violated a parent/child trust. But the issue has gnawed at me. Am I breaching the natural maternal pact with my young children when I use them as the backdrop in writing about my own experience in motherhood?
In our full disclosure era where we are literally atwitter with every aspect of our lives, disclosing intimate details about ourselves and our loved ones on blogs, Facebook photos, Twitter updates and personal websites, where does one draw the line between privacy for our children and honest writing about the now trendy topic of motherhood?
In our hyper-sharing, socially connected, interactive universe, is anything still sacred? I am a mommy blogger and I know that for years my best stuff has come not only from my own observations, frustrations and joys of mothering, but from my children. Does talking about my son dressing in drag as a pre-schooler qualify as humiliating? Will his friends someday uncover my online posts and tease him for once wearing pink boas? Am I fueling a future bully by providing ample content to tease my own preening pre-tween daughter who is obsessed with makeup, mirrors and French kissing?
Many mommy writers have found fame and a fan base by famously disclosing their own issues from alcoholism and abuse to loving their husband more than their own children. But much of what we write about and what resonates with our readers is discussing our own family's foibles, failures and embarrassing situations.
These blogs have clearly struck a nerve with millions of moms who find comfort and humor in reading about the imperfect lives of other moms who openly express that they too can feel bored, annoyed, stressed, rankled, isolated, bitter and disinterested at times.
But what is taboo? Can you discuss your child's issues with ADHD, autism, anxiety or bed wetting even if it's through the prism of your own mothering experience? What if your child is athletically challenged? Physically challenged? Or emotionally challenged? What's appropriate and what's off limits?
The Internet has brilliantly connected mothers in a way that our own mothers would have never imagined possible, making the experience both less lonely and less phony. But what is the ultimate cost of all of this sharing?