Fill Your Paper With The Breathings Of Your Heart

March 18, 2011

I wasn’t going to comment on the little controversy over that mom who wrote that Babble post that put forward that horribly awkward assertion that she loved her son more than her daughter, to the extent that she thought that ‘it wouldn’t be so bad’ if she lost daughter, so long as she didn’t lose her son. For one thing, I just can’t relate at all; the idea of losing either of my children fills me with such terror that I have to go sit down and breath deeply into a paper bag. I don’t even want to think about that fear, never mind poke at it and write about it. It’s too close to home. But, too – and this would be the larger reason why I didn’t want to comment – I refuse to judge another mother for her feelings about her children, because I get – I totally get – that those feelings are complicated and can become even more complicated if depression or anxiety or even just plain old exhaustion are involved. So, I wasn’t going to comment.

But then I was asked by a few people, and then a few more, what I thought about the ethics of that mom stating, publicly and on the permanent record, that she would rather her daughter die than her son? Not the feelings themselves, but the articulation of those feelings, in a space where a vast audience could read and comment and where, one day, her children might find it. And I still wasn’t going to comment, because, ugh, ugh – I worry about this stuff, the ethics and consequences of public revelation (it’s one reason why I maintain the Basement), but that doesn’t mean that I want to talk about it any more than I have to – I get sick of myself, too, you know – but then I remembered that I actually did comment, before the fact, last week, in this Washington Post story about the ethics of sharing our childrens’ lives and baring our parenting souls in the public sphere. And I thought that it was worth revisiting the thoughts that I shared there, which is to say, the thoughts that I prattled, maybe a little defensively, to the writer of the story – who, I must say, bore my self-defensive rambling with grace – because they are thoughts that I am constantly struggling to keep front of mind, to maintain as course-correcting lodestones, keeping me on the path that I want to walk as a writer and a mother.

I said this: that I endeavor to limit what I write about my children to “stories [that] are driven by love and affection” and that there be “nothing mean-spirited or critical or negative in the stories” that I tell. I told Ann Hornaday, the writer of the story, that I aimed to ensure that when the day comes that my children are able to look back upon what I’d written, they’ll do so and laugh and smile and feel pride and love and more pride and, yes, maybe a twinge or two or two hundred of mild embarrassment. But never pain. Never, ever pain.

I also said that it was a struggle, sometimes, many times, to balance my belief – my sincere belief – that telling the truth about motherhood serves an important public and cultural and historical service with some of my reservations about the practice of telling that truth. Because, as I said above, motherhood does involve a lot of complicated feelings and our children do not always walk a perfectly straight line in providing us with charming stories in which they are perfectly adorable and perfectly lovable and, let’s face it, the truth about motherhood – about parenthood – is sometimes painful. William Wordsworth exhorts us to fill our paper with the breathings of our hearts, but sometimes the breath catches, is ragged, hurts upon exhale.

So I endeavor to tell that truth, always, within the frame of this larger truth: that I love my children more than I love any other thing on this earth, with the exception of their father, and that the truth of my motherhood is that I would endure any pain on their behalf, that I would take on any pain to protect them from pain, even that meant biting my tongue, hard, and keeping the darker nuances of truth to myself. Sometimes I might slip – my breath catches and my paper fills with the gasps, the stammerings – we all do this, those of us who put our hearts to the page – but I try to keep whatever pain is captured there my own, hurtful only to me, only ever to me. I fail sometimes, I think; we all of us fail, sometimes. I try to not.

I try to remember that I am a mother before I am a writer. The breathings of my heart that my children inspire must always be exhaled in love. Always.

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    Jenna March 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    As usual, you’ve written a thoughtful, thought-provoking post, wrapped up in beautiful writing.

    Walking the tightrope between self-expression and protecting our children is a precarious thing for us all. I think you are an excellent example of a writer who keeps it real – and respectful. Thanks for making it seem possible – and worth the struggle.

    Lynn @ Walking With Scissors March 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    This was a wonderful, wonderful post. I don’t want to mess around in the comments section of the post that spurred this, because I might lose my temper. I could never, ever, hurt my children the way she did by writing such permanent, hurtful things in a public forum.

    HeirtoBlair March 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Wonderful, thoughtful, & straight from the heart.

    I caught a lot of flack as I blogged through my postpartum depression – what would my son think if he ever read all the times I said that I loved him & wanted him, but he didn’t feel like he was mine? Would it hurt him that it took me a solid year to become enamored with motherhood?

    I don’t know the answer. I hope that when he’s old enough, we’ll talk about what happened to me after his birth & he’ll understand that it wasn’t HIM – it was ME. & I have the therapy & medical bills to prove it.

    I try write more about me as a mother, me as an evolving woman through motherhood, not anecdotes of my child. I’ve found myself wanting to talk less about my son & just keep the focus on me as a way of protecting him. It’s something I’m working on & praying that I will learn quickly.

    Her Bad Mother March 18, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    @HeirtoBlair, I think that with depression a very clear line can be drawn around the personal experience of depression-as-depression, such that it’s clear, when we write, that the feelings that we’re talking about are products of that mental state. When I wrote about post-partum psychosis, and having moments in which I feared the possibility of harming my son, I think that it was clear that I found that experience repugnant, that it caused me pain, that it broke my heart – and that it was a condition of PPD, and not my ‘right mind’.

    I that it’s reasonable, though, and possible, to write about our more ‘rational’ – although no less complicated – feelings about our children – having moments in which we feel more bonded with one than the other, say, or get upset with one more often than the other (or others) – in careful ways, in which the discussion does not become hurtful. But again, it’s just so easy to slip. Keeping the focus as much as possible on ourselves is really the best protection, but even then…

    I always worry about this stuff. Sigh.

    Deb Rox March 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    The cultural and personal impacts of social media will be fascinating to track as they unfold in the coming decades. I often think that some parents like me, who had teenagers or tweens when they entered social media streams, have different experiences, different discussions with their kids and therefore different boundaries, than do parents who came to social publishing with babes in arms. I’m kind of looking forward to a round of blog-to-book deals from grown-up “my mom was a blogger” kids–the future will be crazy meta.

    Bitchin' Amy March 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

    @Deb Rox, Now THAT is something I hadn’t thought of and look forward to. …Uh, as long as none of the books are written by *my* children. Yikes!

    Marinka March 18, 2011 at 10:24 am

    @Deb Rox, Sort of like, eh? WHY AM I SUDDENLY CANADIAN?

    Her Bad Mother March 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

    @Marinka, you can’t help yourself. WE ARE TOO COMPELLING. ALL YOUR IDENTITY IS BELONG TO US.

    Daddy Files March 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    It’s a fine line. You just have to employ some common sense.

    I will write about how my son and/or wife pisses me off. I’ve written that I don’t always enjoy being a parent. I feel admissions like that can be largely positive and resonate with a lot of other parents. Frustration, anger and even a little bitterness are all parts of parenting and I see nothing wrong with including them.

    But that is a far, far cry from admitting you love one kid more than the other and wouldn’t miss one so much if she were gone. Even if it is true, it’s cruel. And although I’m a blogger, I’m a parent first. And that’s a line I refuse to cross because if my son EVER found that he’d be devastated. What she did was was stupid, and unfortunately I can’t see any way where she’s awarded points for honesty. Her honesty is just awful.

    Heather @ The Mother Tongue March 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you so much for articulating this. I’ve been struggling lately to figure out where my boundaries are in writing about my children, and this post says it perfectly.

    Jennifer Hamilton March 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I too have struggled with sharing the personal moments of my mothering. The line in your blog that sums it all up for me is “telling the truth about motherhood serves an important public and cultural and historical service.” Truly, we are shaping the future and many of us don’t even realize it. Thank you for your wise words with us.

    Jaci March 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Telling the truth about motherhood is very important. I’m all for the end of celebrity mom profiles where the only bad thing they admit to is “letting the kids stay up way too late for more cuddle time!” and the rest of Motherhood thinks, “Well, shit.”

    This feels like the blogger got used by Babble. I don’t know her whole story–if she’s got a contract with them or if this was a one time thing–but knowing that Babble sent her post around to bloggers asking “What do you think about THIS?!?” just screams drama whore. They knew exactly what they had in their hands.

    It seems to me that internet sites aren’t going after good writing and honest probing. They want sensationalism. Debates. Moms ripping each other to pieces. And if a little Mommy blogger is dumb enough to spill her deepest, darkest secret and ruin her name and maybe even her future relationship with her daughter–meh. Whatever. There’s plenty more where she came from.

    Elizabeth Esther March 21, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    @Jaci, You absolutely nailed it. I feel sick now b/c it’s SO true.

    Meagan @ The Happiest Mom March 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Love it, Catherine. Your self-imposed “rules” are similar to mine: that what I say about my children will always be said with love, affection, and when possible good humor. Better yet, when I can make a point that is so universal to motherhood and children that my own specific children would have no reason to feel shame or hurt when reading it.

    We can be authentic without hurting the ones closest to us. In fact, we owe it to ourselves as writers to develop that skill, because if the only way we can engage a reader is through hurting other specific people, we still have a lot to learn about the craft.

    Thank you for this post!

    Lisa March 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I love love love how you can address these kinds of incidents and be honest and be respectful and always

    As for the other lady? That was some poor writing. She sorely needed an editor. She didn’t get through her main points – 1) her mom favored her brother and was harder on her, and 2) she sees how she is repeating it and feels awful about it and is making a vow to tackle it – until way at the end of her piece and then it took a second piece.

    Why did she feel the need to go on in such detail about WHY she didn’t like her daughter that much? What on earth did it add to her point? Nothing. It just came off as her trashing her daughter.

    Carla March 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Brilliant. Thank you.

    Katy March 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I’m not sure I thought of it like that before, but yes, I am always keeping aware the fact that my child may read this one day.

    I will say I wrote on my own blog about the difference between having a typical child and one with complex medical needs. I wondered aloud if I would love one more because of the differences. Interestingly enough, the subject wasn’t met with any kind of backlash and I had many wonderful and insightful comments on the idea and many mothers expressed that they’d been concerned about the same thing. Perhaps she is voicing something that scares the pants off so many of us?

    beta dad March 18, 2011 at 2:52 am

    I like your policy about what kinds of stories to tell! I think I’ve been following it without thinking about it too much. Seeing it articulated is a good reminder.

    I also wrote a response to that post, reluctantly, because I found myself thinking about it all day. My argument was not that she was a horrible person or mother, but that no good can come of writing something like that, and that the whole thing stunk of outrage-baiting.

    Emma March 18, 2011 at 8:33 am

    OK, so, I didn’t actually think the article was so bad or had the sole intention of creating some internet drama… and neither did she say she’d rather that her daughter died, I don’t think that’s a fair summary. I felt she qualified quite clearly that she did love her daughter and didn’t really want anything to happen to her, and she acknowledged she needed to do better by her daughter. Maybe she should have worded it to be about her daughter’s behaviour rather than her daughter… but while it’s possible her daughter might be hurt to read it later, the author and her daughter may (and I suspect will, as her daughter gets older and out of the difficult phase) also have developed a strong bond where the author has already told the daughter how difficult she found being her mother.

    I’m actually all for this kind of honesty… I agree with and respect your boundaries, Catherine, but at the same time I so appreciate it when people actually admit the details of their struggles…. it’s these posts that shape my beliefs and actions more than the cute/funny stories, and there’s not so many of them around.

    At the same time though, while I’d rather be honest on my blog than present a picture perfect life, I find it so hard to write gracefully and with reflection about the problems I sometimes have… so mostly I stick to the good stuff, because I absolutely do not want my children reading my posts one day and feeling hurt or betrayed.

    In person though, I do talk about parenting problems… and then feel bad because while I can rabbit on for hours about the currently challenging kid, I don’t have not much to say about the currently unchallenging one other than “yeah, he’s fine.”

    Anyway, interesting discussion.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting March 18, 2011 at 9:40 am


    I’m curious what you think about Babble’s role in this. I think the mom had a lapse of judgment, but as the publishers of this story, I think Babble had a responsibility to consider the implications of such a post on the child.

    Babble editors stated on Katherine Stone’s post that they do not edit/censor their bloggers in any way, but would they allow something that was racist? Or included a death threat? Or had copyrighted material in it? As the publisher, even if they do not “edit” every post, I think they do have an ethical responsibility to consider the impact (legal and human) of the things that go up on their site.

    What do you think?

    Her Bad Mother March 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, I think that Babble has much to answer for here. I don’t know that it was their responsibility to check her at the gate, as it were, and suggest that she not write it, but I DO think that it was at best unseemly and at worst exploitative to pump the controversy and send out emails and tweets exhorting people to GO LOOK! GO LOOK NOW! LOOK WHAT SHE SAID! As Marinka said above, there was an element of obvious traffic-whoring around the controversial quality of the post, and that makes me feel a little sick. It kind of feels as though she got thrown under the controversy bus, in a way.

    I have mixed feelings, obviously, because I’m very confessional, but as I said above, when it’s something that is plainly very potentially hurtful to one’s children, I balk. I’m trying to not be judgy, because it’s a fine line that confessional writers walk, but still, yeah. Babble didn’t take the risk here, and it feels icky that they moved so quickly to hype the controversy.

    Really important questions here, I think.

    john cave osborne March 23, 2011 at 9:03 am

    @Her Bad Mother your writing is next level. but you probably don’t need me to tell you that, now do you?

    @HBM and @Annie@PhD in Parenting: REALLY REALLY important questions. ones i hope (and trust) are being not only asked, but answered.

    kelly March 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    @Annie @ PhD in Parenting, it’s interesting to note the author has changed the most “controversial” part of her original post; though there don’t seem to be any notes referencing that specific (and very obvious) change.

    Jo March 18, 2011 at 10:02 am

    So true, just so true. It is wonderful that there is this honest place where we can go to find other mothers and people struggling through our same daily struggles. It’s nice, helpful and cathartic. But that post is soul destroying for her daughter if she ever saw it. A slightly unequal exchange I’d say. It’s one thing to whisper dark thoughts privately to your husband at night through tears after a horrible day. It’s another thing entirely to post them permanently on a world-wide platform for all eyes to see for the sake of finding one isn’t alone. There comes a time when you are an adult and you realize others probably do share the same awful experiences and thoughts you do, but it is not necessarily worthwhile in some cases to find those people. Instead it is more proactive to work through the feelings, find solutions, help yourself and your family. If that post was more about that, I would have found it much less troubling.

    Marinka March 18, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I did judge that mother, harshly. Not for feeling how she felt, because it’s ridiculous to deny the feelings, and not even for writing about it on the internet. But for doing it for page views. That, to me, is unforgivable.

    I’ve had dark thoughts that I posted in your basement (err… Her Bad Mother’s Basement, I didn’t actually sneak into your basement. Although nice couch!) There is space for that online, I believe.

    And I’ve seen friends of mine post painful things on their blogs, under their real names that I’ve heralded as brave, because they had real introspection, and the pain and struggle was palpable and I knew that their posts were going to save lives of people who similarly struggled and would be able to relate.

    Unfortunately, I thought the Babble post was none of those things.

    anymommy March 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    This discussion is fascinating. I’m replying to Marinka only because I love her and maybe I want to pick on her a little bit.

    As someone that has written very openly about attachment difficulties and dark feelings in the midst of bonding, I have felt torn and scared and a little sad about this controversy.

    The Babble post and the way it was promoted clearly crossed a line. I felt it too. But defining the actual line is harder than we’re making it sound here, I think. I has to do with tone, who is writing, how much finesse they have in their writing, perceived flippancy versus heartbreaking struggle.

    I absolutely agree that we should write about our children from love and that you can do that even when you discuss the darkest times. I agree that this piece didn’t seem to come from that perspective. But I’m not positive that this mother was writing outside of love? Or that we should label this post as WRONG and OUTSIDE OF LOVE. Maybe we should. But I can’t get that harsh.

    I am not saying that either Catherine, Marinka or anyone else specific did this, but I wish the internet could discuss these things and tell a writer that we all reacted a bit badly to her piece without condemning the person – the actual mother, who is undoubtedly doing the best she can day to day to love her children – as the poster child for evil.

    Marinka March 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    @anymommy, I’m worried that you’re not going to like my response and push against it, but.

    Great writers can get away with more than not great writers. Not just because it’s a more fascinating, poignant read, but because they are able to express themselves better, to make us feel a portion of what they were feeling. Like you and Catherine and Alice and Heather and Issa and some others can.

    Yes, honesty is important, but I want to believe that honesty in writing is just the cost of admission, not the whole story. When we tell a painful story, share a painful part of our lives, why are we doing it?

    To help others who will “me too” our experience, to help ourselves by getting our experience out there or for page views?

    I am being a total hypocrite, of course, because I write a humor blog, so I steer clear from the darker moments of parenthood (or I douse it in alcohol). So it is absolutely judgey of me to say “think of the CHILDREN!” And yet I do it.

    Everything in me rebelled when I read that Babble post. I didn’t blame the person for feeling it. But I don’t believe that the presentation was the best for her or her family.

    I can read about postpartum depression, about a disrupted adoption and the darkness accompanying it because as a reader I’m smart enough to s

    Lisa March 18, 2011 at 11:58 am

    two thoughts come to mind when I read her post, 1 OMG I hope her daughter never has to read that. Yes I love my children differently. I have 3 and they are all very different boys with different personalities. They each strike different cords in my heart. But I can’t imagine being away from anyone of them for any extended period of time. I’ve never understood moms who could walk away from their children except for extreme circumstances of mental illness or addiction.
    And 2, the things that make me most crazy about my kids are the ways they are most like me. Obviously I’ve never met the writer of this post but if I had to guess, I would say her daughter is probably exactly like her. And I would suggest she work harder to create a greater bond with her daughter.
    As a mom of a 8 yr old 7 yr old and a 3 yr old, I definitely favor the youngest because he has the most imminent needs but I can’t fathom putting into what will likely be permanent print the thoughts of loving one of my children over the other to the point of saying I could do with out them.

    Christine March 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Beautifully put and, as a blogging novice, important for me to see. Thanks.

    JM March 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    SO beautifully phrased!! :)
    Though I think the other post was needlessly hurtful to the daughter who may someday read the post, the writer doesn’t sound like she was trying to be hurtful/ saying she doesn’t love one child at all (and only loves the other). Seems rather sad that a momentary lapse in guarding her confessions should be all over the place to hurt her and her kids (if they ever see it).

    kelly @kellynaturally March 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve rarely blogged in a confessional way, though I do see the *need* for that style of writing. Or, at least I see the potential for positive outcome from blogging in that style… in that, other mothers can say, “oh, I’ve felt that way too” or “She was able to overcome this issue by doing X,Y,Z, I’m going to seek help too”.

    The problem is some confessions are best kept as pillow talk, or in confidental discussions (i.e. with a therapist) because of the potential for harm to the innocent. And some confessions, while they may release some of the guilt of the confessor, or the receiver(in this case reasers) of the confessions, do nothing to actually tackle the problem that spurred on the NEED for said confession.

    In this particular instance, some issues brought to light can’t simply be resolved with writing them down, putting them out on the internet, and then defending them with self-righteous “stop judging me, you’ve all thought the same way, and no one is perfect” just made matters worse. The issues aren’t resolved, and I’d suggest perhaps more issues have been created (i.e. the possibility of the child coming across hurtful words later in life or readers thinking, this is totally normal to think and feel that way so I don’t really need to address the reasons for feeling that way – all moms feel like that).

    I think public writing confession comes with responsibility to your readers – saying things like: this is hard to convey, but I need to tell you, so I can start on the path of healing. Or. If you are feeling this way, please talk to someone.

    I appreciate your analysis. And, of anything I gained from that article, it is to be continually conscious of the message I’m putting out on the internet, and aware that my eyes are not the only ones who will (or will ever in the future) read it.

    Jana@AnAttitudeAdjustment March 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    What a great post this is. Something every mom blogger should read. And I happen to love the truth, so that helps. I write a mom blog but write much more about my personal experiences and feelings than my children. I just don’t know why anyone would even be interested in hearing minutiae of my kids’ lives, because I’m not interested in hearing about others’. I’m way more interested in hearing what moms have to say.

    And I strongly agree with Marinka!

    jonniker March 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Yes, those are my limits, too. I will write about my child(ren) with love and affection and with the idea that they will ALWAYS know that they are the most important people in the world to me. Period.

    You have always done this gracefully, Catherine. Not just about your kids, but about your marriage. It’s something I really really admire about you as a blogger — no matter how much controversy you court, or how much you are willing to draw attention to yourself and your beliefs, it’s about YOU, not your family. Your family is your priority, and you go out of your way to treat them as though they are sacred.

    And you know me, I don’t bullshit around or say nice things I don’t mean. :-D

    Her Bad Mother March 18, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    @jonniker, your words here were wonderful to read, a truly wonderful compliment to receive, really. thank you, much.

    mom-mom-mom March 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    This is an incredible, enlightening post! Now I feel a little badly writing about finding petrified turds under my son’s bed…

    erin o. March 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    SOO good for me to read this. when i read this woman’s post i was empathetic (having felt SOME of the things she has) but mostly saddened by the lack of compassion that there seemed to be for her little girl. i am new to the blogging world (only a couple months in) and i can be very emotional, dramatic, sensational with my ramblings but NEVER would i want my daughter to hear or feel the “dark” feelings i’ve had about motherhood. THANK YOU for so eloquently reminding me to post with love (for each of my children) in my every breath.

    Melissa March 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    I didn’t read the post nor will I. I get the jist of it. I wonder (since I don’t know her or the blog) if she is married and if her husband reads her blog. I hope so because more thatn anything she needs some help.
    I know what its like to have a child that you can’t attach to. It took me almost losing her for me to stop being selfish and attach. It happened rather quickly as a matter of fact.
    No she shouldn’t have put it out for the world to see but maybe it’s her cry for help.
    (Of course, as I said I didn’t read the blog)

    Tway March 18, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    I think this is one of those times where a blogger has confused the Internet with a confessional.

    Yes, mothers need to share their deep, dark secrets. But a blog isn’t a whisper to a friend in a secluded room. It’s a scream to the world. I just checked, and that post has over 400 comments. Over 400! That’s pretty dang popular. Who the heck would want that many strangers to know you may, oh, you know, prefer one kid over the other?

    I only have 1 baby, so I don’t know how this love division works. I do know my parents always said they loved us equally, and I never, ever, ever, ever want to hear otherwise. If that poor girl ever reads her mom’s blog–at any age–it’s going to hurt. It’s going to change her relationship with her mother, with her brother, with herself. It will change how she views her life, how she looks back at her childhood. It will shake her to the core.

    Is a confession really worth that? Does a mother have the right to ease her guilt by threatening her child’s well-being? Imagine if the blogger’s own mother read the blog, sighed in relief, and said, “Oh, thank goodness, dear, that’s just how I felt about your brother.”

    Holly March 19, 2011 at 12:25 am

    I am so grateful to your post, Catherine, and I know I am new to commenting here but definitely not to reading everything you write. I had conflicted feelings about the post at first because I have been going through a hard time with one of my two children. But I would never write anything like this Babble writer wrote. First of all, my feelings are temporary and at the end of the day, I love that child just as much as the other child and always will. My husband set boundaries with my own blog at the start about writing and publishing pictures of my children. While I do want to be honest, I want to respect him and my family also. I write a lot about culture, and on the odd occasion, I write from the heart. But even when I do that, I don’t reveal the complexities of my own motherhood. It’s my business and I have other things to write about. I think that bloggers should write honestly, too, but with their family and integrity in check.

    Chrissy Johnson March 19, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Your response is beautiful. I think it’s important to tell the truth, but did she have do it so out in the open? Maybe an anonymous post or something. The transparency of the internet is to our children what our parent’s dresser drawers were to us. They’re bound to snoop, and I don’t want to break my own child’s heart – the world will do that in time to some degree!

    PartlySunny March 20, 2011 at 4:13 am

    I have a policy to only write things that I’d say to someone’s face. And that includes my kids. Doesn’t mean I’d necessarily say some of the things to them TODAY. There are certain topics that I’d like them to hear about when they’re older. But I figure if I hold that standard for everyone else, it should definitely apply to the people I care about the most.

    And like you said, you don’t want to be judgmental of someone — who knows what’s really happening in another person’s world. But it definitely amps up the whole “Mom always loved you best” argument. Thanksgiving should be fun around their house in about 20 years. . .

    Her Bad Mother March 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

    The whole ‘mom loved you best’ thing IS a huge thing, even without published evidence. I think that’s one of the reasons that I cringed. It’s a particularly sensitive issue for siblings, one that can cause untold grief even when it’s just imagined.

    Ado March 20, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I loved your post, thank you for it – it kind of calmed me down after my temper flared once I read the Babble post. I am aware that we moms are probably the most judgmental of one another and as I read her original post I tried to hold my judgements at bay. I tried to step outside of my own comfort zone (sorry, but I love both my children, not one more than the other) – and I tried to see it from her perspective. I did think to myself: Bravo to her, at least, for this kind of honesty. Maybe there are more moms out there who think like this (shit but I hope not). Maybe her post helped them (I don’t think so).

    But when I read her “FOLLOW UP” to the post – I totally lost my temper! She said:
    “It probably struck a little too close to home for many of you…you’ve had those same thoughts about one or more children in your darkest, most private times…and found it obscene to see your own worst thoughts out in the light of day.”

    I have never been so insulted reading an article written by a mom. Talk about judgmental – she has the nerve to tell me I HAVE HAD THE SAME THOUGHTS ABOUT MY CHILDREN IN MY DARKEST MOST PRIVATE TIMES?

    Um – no! I haven’t. And I am an honest person who has certainly gone through my fair share of dark times. This one pissed me off so much, I can’t believe it. And now the floodgates in me are open and I feel truly sorry for her daughter – and her poor son for all the guilt he is going to carry around this issue.

    I wonder if she wrote this post in order to gain an audience, after seeing the reaction in the press that Tiger Mom got.

    Anyway – thanks for your post, it helped me. (-:
    - Ado

    thatgirlblogs March 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    she posted a follow up post.

    made me madder than the first post.

    I didn’t comment but I do NOT like her.

    Brianna March 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Christine, I LOVED your post. SO well-said. I too desire to be open and honest about the messiness of motherhood on my blog, yet I have never wanted to write anything that might be hurtful to my child later. You said everything so beautifully, and are so right-on. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and emotions, but we ought to be using discretion and respecting our children.

    Brianna March 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Oh my goodness I accidentally just called you Christine instead of Catherine–SO SORRY! It’s 5 pm, and apparently it’s been a long day. :)

    Cathy March 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

    From my perspective what the original and (especially) the follow-up posts revealed were the potentially manipulative and patently disingenuous uses of the “bad mother” trope. It was so clear — the blogger said as much — that she believes the action of revealing an unflattering side of herself to be inherently heroic, a kind of public service, and that’s a sentiment that gets echoed even in the responses from people who question the wisdom or finesse of her particular revelation. So when readers reacted with horror (almost exclusively to the decision to publish the post accompanied by her own and her daughter’s full names and images, and not to the fact of the feelings themselves), she responded with outrage: either those readers were repressing the truth of their own ambivalence or they were clinging to an oppressive myth of perfect parenting.

    Obviously the bigger issue here is establishing some reasonable and compassionate boundaries for the public outworking of private relationships. But I think it’s also worth flagging the cynicism that can accompany appeals to or bids for maternal solidarity: anyone who exposes herself online — often trying to preempt criticism by adopting falsely self-deprecating poses — and then reacts with self-righteous anger when others provide feedback that strays from the “honesty is always brave and worthy of commendation” line loses credibility in my view. To my mind, the essential difference between this blogger’s account of attachment struggle and Anymommy’s account on her blog has less to do with good writing than it does with humility: I’ve been moved by and grateful for Anymommy’s writing about adoption and attachment struggles precisely because she doesn’t tell her story as if the main take-away point is her own brave honesty, and she doesn’t flinch (at least not publicly) from reactions that express sorrow or anxiety for the child involved. Indeed, she assumes that any caring adult would feel that way about a situation like hers, which is how she explains the wrenching (and humiliating) necessity of adoption disruption. It’s all finally infinitely less glib and self-congratulatory than simply waving the banner of imperfect parenting.

    Elizabeth March 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

    This is a very thought provoking and timely post. My children are young adults now and are both married and starting lives on their own. I am still very careful what I say about my husband and children on my blog and about what pictures I post on my blog. I am careful even with very happy things. After all, it’s my life I’m sharing on my blog — not theirs. I do try to be honest in a generic sense about the realities of life, as I think women can read some blogs and come away with the feeling that other bloggers have perfect lives. And, really, who does? Yet, I think it’s in our in-person friendships that we should be talking about and getting help with some of the deeper emotions of marriage and motherhood. I do have reservations about, as you say, leaving a public record of our struggles that our loved ones can find later — perhaps even after we are no longer around to explain what we meant. Confiding in people who really know us and know our situation and can give wise advice is much better than broadcasting some things to the world at large. Blogging enriches our lives, but is not a substitute for those precious, personal contacts who can really enter into our joys and sorrows with us. I know from my own life that I am happier when I am trustworthy with the lives of others than when I am not. Didn’t mean for this to sound so preachy, but just throwing in my 2 little cents.

    Penbleth March 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    My kids are older and read my blog, sometimes so I do bare that in mind. Also even though I have a blog I am quite private in person so there is no way I would tell something that is their story without their permission. I suppose you could say that is different for my youngest as she is not nor is likely to be able to understand what I write, or that I write. Even there I don’t tell everything about her, she is still entitled to some degree of personal privacy.

    Talking about our lives and our families should, I believe, be treated with respect and some degree of space. Just my thought.

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