MomTalk: Sharing Family Stories on the Internet - How Much is Too Much?

The Patch Mamas share how their families feel about their writing articles about them each week. How does your family feel about sharing stories to your family or friends online?

Jillian Sallee
When I was first asked to join the Patch Mamas, I was definitely a little nervous about opening myself up and sharing my thoughts and parenting ideas to the general public of Wakefield.  I am born and raised Wakefield, so I know people...lots of people.  All of a sudden, these people who I may just know casually around town are going to know my innermost thoughts, feelings, and secrets!  Ok, it’s not that dramatic, but I am putting myself out there.  

I think I’m an honest person and when I write I tell the whole truth.  To me, there would be no point joining these brave women if all I was going to write about was sunshine and roses.  Choosing how far to put myself out there is a constant challenge as well. Some might say I am a private person, so I feel like I am taking a risk writing this article every week.  While I will always be honest, how deep I dig on a certain issue definitely depends on how confident I am in what we are writing about.      

Ryan is young enough that he doesn’t even know I write this article.  I’m sure he would be interested but unless I have a lightning scar on my forehead or I have legos stuck to my face, he barely listens to me as it is!  I don’t share anything about him that I think would make him uncomfortable, so I feel ok with not including him in my writing decisions.  Any story I might share, he would probably retell in more detail and with better vocabulary so I think we’re all good!

Tom doesn’t usually see my articles until they are published, unless I need a brainstorming session!  Tom has very strong opinions and while I value them and incorporate them into my daily life, when I write I want it to be my thoughts and feelings.  He trusts that I will not say anything inappropriate or violate his privacy or the kids privacy so he is ok with reading my article with everyone else on Wednesday morning!  

The only problem my family has with my being a part of this panel, is my stress level surrounding the deadline!  Writing every week takes away from family time and that doesn’t make anyone happy...When I took this position, not only was I nervous about the content but the commitment it would take to be a part of this group.  I think I’ve struck a good balance though...I have my apple juice and ice, the Men Tell All in the background, and a finished article!  I enjoy having a place to write about my kids and my family life and I hope you enjoy it too!  

Regina Martine
My family likes that I write for the Patch (and on my blog) and the itty bitty bit of celebrity that it has brought me. I am not very shy. I will blab about all my embarrassing antics to pretty much anybody, and I am fine with my stories being out there for all the world to see. However, there comes a point when stories about my kids or my husband are really their stories to tell and not mine. Unfortunately, my kids know that if people know who I am, then people will know that they are the kids in whatever amusing anecdotes I write. This hasn’t caused too much trouble, mostly because my oldest daughter is the only one of my kids who reads my articles, and she is probably the only middle schooler in the world who doesn’t get embarrassed. For a long time, I tried not to use their names (at their request) but that kind of fizzled when we wrote about how we chose our children’s names. Oh well. So much for anonymity.

The stories I tell about my kids have been told and retold to friends and family a thousand times, so they have really lost the power to embarrass anyone anymore. I always forewarn my kids if they are going to be the “star” of an article, but they all have pretty healthy egos and so far, they don’t mind. I do occasionally threaten them with something like “I’m writing about tantrums this week! You don’t want it to be about you!” Nothing like possible public humiliation to turn a kid around!

My kids do think that writing these articles “stresses me out,” but I think that has more to do with me putting it off to the last minute than any actual stress about the writing or the topic any particular week. They ask me what I’m writing about, and I always tell them. More often than not they hear me say things like “crap, I forgot to send in my article …” while we are on our way to the beach or some other kid event, so they may see it as more stressful than I do. Mostly they think it is funny that I tell stories about the silly things they have done.

My husband was very glad I was asked to write these articles because he (and I) was concerned my brain was going to shrivel up and fall out of my head. I like to think that I used to be pretty smart, and maybe even interesting, but I hadn’t been feeling either for some time, and I know he was worried about me. For years, I was mired in motherhood, with lots of thrilling conversations about diapers and laundry and Dora and Diego under my belt. I needed to get back into the adult world, where I got to think and write and express my opinions to people who actually wanted to hear them. The opportunity to write for Patch couldn’t have been more welcome. I still love it and I am glad to have the support of my family, as well as an outlet to vent about them. Thanks!

Laurie Hunt
I am an extremely open person.  My husband and children are very private.  Add to that one of my children is now a middle schooler…

The amazing thing about my family is they support me and allow me to be me – even when they don’t like what I am doing.  They have been very supportive of me for over a year now; however, it is becoming harder to write some of the topics, harder to post the photos that I think are great.  They like their privacy.

This topic is very timely as I have wrestled with the decision of whether or not to continue writing this column.  As much as I enjoy it I think that I am going to step away because, to answer the question this week, while they support me my family does not like me writing for this column.

Tasha Schlake Festel
Other than writing for Patch, there isn't much more I could do to reveal myself and bare my soul to Wakefield. Anything I allude to on Facebook is explored in detail for the world to see in this column, friends and strangers alike. 

Things you should know about me:

1)    I have few secrets.

2)    I wear my heart on my sleeve.

3)    I am terribly naive.

I am pretty sure my poor (intensely private) husband knew these things on some level when he married me, but I think it's still a difficult pill to swallow.

When I first started writing for Patch, I never thought about the "consumption" but only about the "production." I didn't consider that all of my bitching, um, I mean, sharing was no longer for a totally familiar audience. It became available to the public as a whole, so public that it was once picked up by the Huffington Post. I was even recently interviewed for inclusion in an article in a national parents' magazine based on the things I've written for Patch. The realization that all kinds of people read about me and my family was kind of overwhelming, in both good and bad ways.

When I first started writing 18 months ago, my husband used to read and "scrub" my articles for me. I was way too free with personal details and potentially embarrassing and/or damaging stories. While those  readers who know me and my family would get the context, most of the people reading about us would not. He served the role as protector of the family. Thank goodness! Most of my lines of privacy were drawn in the sand. At least someone was there to enforce them!

As time has gone on, my lines have become more rigid. For as much as I share, there is so much more that I don't. I've tried to put up some walls to protect my family. It's one thing if I want to talk about me - I'm the only one that has to pay the price for that honesty. It's quite another when I talk about my kids or my husband. They didn't take on this role. They're just innocent by-standers and deserve some respect and privacy. It's a fine line, and I do my best to walk it.

My nephew once told my sister that he was really happy that she didn't write like I did because it would embarrass him. Prior to hearing that, it honestly never occurred to me that there would be an impact on my kids. Because they're only 6 and 8, their awareness is only so high. If they were tweens, it would be a different story. 

My daughter, my 8-year-old, asked me in a panic not long ago if I ever wrote about anything that would embarrass her. Sadly, most things I do in public now embarrass her, including opening my mouth to speak and that pesky breathing I tend to do. I told her she was welcome to read what I wrote but that I didn't share anything about her that she wouldn't talk about herself. I try to stand by that statement and use that as my guide.

So, how does my family feel about me writing for Patch? I would say it's a decided mix. My husband is happy that I have a creative, emotional and intellectual outlet for my parenting experience and frustrations. But I'm sure he approaches each article's proofreading with a certain amount of angst. My daughter is mostly unaware, given that I stick to my word. My little one doesn't care. For him, any press is good press.

For me, I love the opportunity, and I hope you enjoy my stories. I hope you all understand that our sharing is not without cost. We try our best to be honest in order to help. Our families have their understandable reservations. Wakefield is a small town. Everyone knows everyone. My only hope is that you, our readers, will consume with context and understanding.

Thanks for reading.

Regina Martine July 18, 2012 at 11:22 AM
When were we picked up by the Huffington Post???
Tasha Schlake Festel July 18, 2012 at 11:31 AM
I think it was the religion article? It was a while back. I think Laurie told us.
Sue Triggs-Rhuda July 18, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Regina...Just found the column and I think it's great. THANK YOU for the "brain-shriveling" point. I feel exactly the same way since deciding to leave f/t work and stay home...mommy brain, terrible affliction...Can I come write for you guys to keep my brain flexible? SueTR
Jillian Sallee July 18, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I wasn't a part of the group yet...thankfully The Draw was.
Regina Martine July 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Thanks, Sue!


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