I want to get real for a minute. Like, peeing with the door open real.
I make it a point to never intentionally stretch the truth on my blog (unless trying to protect the innocent by changing names or something), but I’ll let you in on a secret: I suck in a lot of ways that I conveniently choose not to broadcast.
For example, I’ve strategically opted on more than one occasion not to photograph Scarlett in her diapers because… well, they’re disposable. I write a lot about educating Matthew because it’s an area that shines a favorable light on the both of us, but I don’t write a lot about our stuggling-to-be-organic diet because most organic things available are a shit-ton too expensive for us to buy. As long as it isn’t expired, our kids drink whatever cancer causing milk the grocery store supplies and moreover, they drink it out of Playtex sippie cups that don’t come in stainless steel or glass. Sometimes (and not that often, but still sometimes) I feed my kids MSG laden soups for lunch just because they’re so much easier than anything else, being both microwavable and literally the only thing besides pizza that they’ll all eat without complaining.
This isn’t going to be a self-righteous post about how it’s okay to do all of this stuff because the truth is, these are things I wish I was better about. These aren’t even things that would be too altogether difficult to change. They’re just things that I haven’t. I almost put “yet,” but the truth is that at this point, I don’t know if I ever will or I won’t. That’s not what this is about.
This is about the wry fact that if I didn’t have a blog, I probably wouldn’t even care. For better and worse alike, blogging has been a pretty big influence on my priorities as a parent.
When I was 21 and pregnant fresh out of college with my son, I remember reading in the What To Expect book that it was wise to decide around the particular month I was in, whether or not disposables or cloth diapers were a better fit for us. I grimaced. Seriously, I thought, how outdated is this book? Do cloth diaper services even exist still?? Didn’t those things die off with the Milkman? Before I started my blog, I thought cloth diapers still fastened together with safety pins and that you had to hire a service to come out to your house and collect the dirty load when they dropped off fresh ones. Obviously it was the “greener” thing to do, but so were a lot of things that nobody does because they’re just absurdly impractical (and/or nefariously unsanitary - like reverting to pinning washable rags into your underwear instead of buying tampons once a month). I knew exactly 0% of nobody who had ever cloth diapered except for my parent’s parent’s generation and that was because they had no other choice.
I started my blog between the time Matthew was potty trained and Scarlett was conceived. Still, cloth diapers were very intimidating to me. Whenever I’d mention even the thought of maybe, possibly wanting to try them out, the idea was generally ill-recieved. I think when it first started resurfacing, cloth diapering was revered as some new-age hippie trend, but around here nowadays it’s something that’s ironically thought of as kind of hoity-toity. Like it’s this big, ambitious thing that only people who think disposable diapering is beneath them partake of.
For more than just that reason (I promise), we went disposable with Scarlett too. I’m not proud of it (and you should go all Fuzzibunz or BumGenius if you’re on the fence yourself: here is a good, down to Earth testament to that) but the funny thing is that it’s not something I’m embarrassed of out in the ‘real’ world. I literally don’t know anyone in the flesh beside a few young moms (each of whom also have blogs) that go cloth. My mom has owned a popular daycare that takes in a lot of traffic for the entirety of my existence and has never once that I’ve seen cared for a child who wore cloth diapers. It’s just not something that’s embraced around here the way that it seems to be in other places. But in the blogging community, mentioning the word disposable (except in a list of reasons NOT to use them) is about as taboo as farting in church on purpose. NOBODY who is ANYBODY does it.
Sometimes I resent my love of blogging for the ways that it makes me feel inadequate. But the truth is that it makes me a better mother, even without successfully converting me from disposable diapers.
In the name of full disclosure, blogging hasn’t effected everything I do by any means. There are some things we suck at by blogging standards simply because it’s the path we’ve chosen deliberately, even after considering the alternatives… even knowing that some choices we’ve made would be blasphemous to admit on blogger.
Even assuming that other people are probably at least a little, teeny, tiny bit selective about some of what they choose to reveal online too, I know that ours will never fit perfectly into the holy mold of any typically blogged-about family. We don’t buy our son’s toy weaponry ourselves, but he does own an orange cap-gun that he uses to protect himself from pretend zombies because we let him watch The Walking Dead with us on AMC once in a while. When he’s of age he’ll join his dad on trips to Canada where he’ll learn to kill and cook a deer himself, with the help of other men in the family because it’s a tradition started by my in-laws that we value. And even though I don’t like my kids being a walking ad for cartoon characters (especially because we do strive to keep them disinterested in the T.V.), Matthew is shamelessly indulgent of anything Lightning McQueen and I’m too much a sucker for that unparalleled thrill on his face to shield him entirely from the occasional Disney spoil. Also, I don’t consider Apple Dippers from McDonalds a gateway drug.
That being said, we aren’t all that bad. Our kids watch less television than any other kid they know and they do more crafting, more thrill-seeking and more hands-on-experiencing (both favored and not-so-much; many have corresponding scars) because of it. We spend less time trying to keep them presentable and within the stringent confines of total safety -- and more time working up a sweat with them out in the backyard, in the kitchen or in the garage. Not one of my kids would eat a homemade chip of spinach and flaxseed if I paid them cold card cash to do it, but they eat fruit and vegetables for snack instead of packaged crackers - some of which they’ve even helped to grow or at least picked themselves. (Plus, I’m actually pretty good at keeping up with housework, which is something the general population of bloggers confess to not doing very well. I secretly give myself bonus mom-points for that.)
If it weren’t for the influence that blogging has had on my life I wouldn’t know that disposable diapers take 500 years to biodegrade in a landfill or that my kids have contributed to over two thousand of those each, or that cloth diapering has come such a long way from what it used to be that toddlers can practically change themselves blindfolded. I’d also have no idea that other mega-easy things like growing your own strawberries or making your own sidewalk chalk paint or throwing together applesauce from scratch weren’t at all “ambitious” by anybody’s definition, took less than five minutes of any real effort at all to pull off and would be responsible for a thousand quality memories I’ve shared with my kids. I strive impractically to have the patience of parents with one, well behaved child as apposed to the three less-than-cooperative ones that I do have because I’m reminded of how to do it everyday that I read what they write. (I would be stretching the truth if I didn’t confess that sometimes I’m a little put off by how effortless some of those women try to convey that it is because they can pull it off, but when push comes to shove, it’s an influence in my life that holds me to a higher standard, and I’m a stronger woman because of it.)
A lot of it is also just that when you sit down to write about what it is that you do, as a matter of course, you’re going to be more aware of it, reflect on it, and filter through what, in hind-sight, you’ve come to realize may not have been the ideal course of action. Whether you ultimately choose to ever post it or not, you're going to do it differently the next time around. Likewise, knowing that I may write about a particular scenario later makes me all the more conscientious of the choices I make within it.
There are a really wide variety of blogs out there, even within specific genres, like parenting. Of course, some blogs are meant to be a place of inspiration - a place like that is naturally going to talk more about success than failure. I'm not referring to those types of blogs when I say this... But the vast majority of parenting blogs out there pride themselves on being “raw” and telling about the life of a parent, the way it “really” is -- you’d expect that at least somewhere in that ever-expanding category of web logs, there would be at least a few tales of the classic swing-and-miss scenario that end up in a truly epic fail, but there rarely are. Even the most fearless writers seldom seem to go into anything that might stretch the shape of that perfect family mold. Their husband’s don’t tell dick and fart jokes; their sons have never picked up a stick and pretended it was a sword; and their school-age kids don’t learn to say curse words in Spanish from other kids on the bus. All mothers breastfeed their kids until the age of two and a half, even if they have to buy donated milk; they all claim to live on a budget, but buy solely organic food at twice the cost of it’s counterpart; they’ve never reprimanded their children without being wrought with guilt for days; and of course, they all cloth-diaper, share a single bed, and perpetually agree with their husbands on how much is too much to coddle their children.
I don’t exactly reside in the slums of my state, and not one family I’ve ever met in my life looks anything like the average one I read about on my blogroll twice a week by authors who claim to tell the good, the bad and the ugly in equal part. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to feel a little swindled. Who could blame them though? Being a mom is competitive biz.
I’m really curious about this one. How has writing about your own life, or reading about others, influenced your style of parenting? Are you selective about what you write (as am I, admittedly), or do you fear nothing and expose it all?