You may or may not have heard that Clemmie Hooper of the ‘Mother of Daughters’ “fame” has deleted her Instagram account, with over 500,000 followers attached. As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t addressed the reasons why she did it and so it’s all just one big speculation as to why. Anyway, I’m not here to comment on Clemmie’s supposed reasons as she can do that perfectly well herself but the whole ensuing ‘Mumsnetters go-mental’ shebang has left me questioning if “influencers” for want of a better word are really thinking through this whole thing they have going on.
I don’t mean in terms of using our children as advertising mediums as Clemmie has been accused of doing but more in terms of all of the over sharing.
To be honest, this post has nothing to do with Clemmie-gate. Her story has just acted as a catalyst for something I’ve been thinking about for absolutely ages – almost as long as I’ve been blogging. But if you are a Mummy Influencer then I do have something to say to you…
But first let me start with a quick story:
When Sophie was just a few months old – I was walking down the street, pushing my pram as you do and some random and creepy AF man stopped, got in my way meaning that I also had to stop and then he peered into the pram silently. Nothing else happened other than I became very angry and very Scouse (lol) but I was enraged as only a new mum can be and fumed, grumbled and cursed at the audacity of this creep daring to stare at my precious newborn for the rest of the day. Actually I’m still riled by it now!
But despite the Scouse rage, as I walked away it started to occur to me to ask myself whether this person staring at my child was in fact any different from me posting images and videos of her online for the world to see.
It goes without saying that when I’ve done it, posted online I mean, it’s always been with love, pride and a whole bucket load of “look at those adorable dimples”. And honestly, in my head the only people who look at them are other like-minded mothers and (her) indulgent grandparents. I am sure if you are a Mummy blogger / YouTuber / Influencer then you are also coming from this place too. I believe as parents we only really have the best of intentions for our children.
But best intentions aside, that’s not the reality of what a lot of us are actually doing. Because like it or not, putting your (non-consenting) children online, no matter how innocent the motives are (and I know they are) is allowing ANY stranger to gawp at them in ANY way they see fit. It just is.
Ok, so I get that life’s not as simple and straight forward as ‘this is the right way to behave and this is the wrong way to behave’ especially in this industry. This influencer world is a whole big shade of grey isn’t it? I mean, firstly it’s a relatively unclaimed territory we are working in and there’s no map or process to follow. Secondly our children are growing up in the age of social media, unlike my generation who still harp on about remembering when there were only four TV channels. Ahem showing my age a bit there…
I suppose I naively thought that sharing funny and cute anecdotes, pictures and video was harmless though. And to some extent I do believe it can be depending on the content but it wasn’t until my eldest went to high school that I realised what kind of impact a life online can have – to his detriment.
And that is why I am writing this post to you.
Consider me to be the hindsight you can’t have experienced yet if you have primary aged children.
I, like you will do, presumed my son’s peers would never find my YouTube channel, blog, Instagram account etc. And why would they even want to?! Kids don’t want to read about mothering, cleaning, grocery hauls etc.
It took two weeks. Two.
And then the comments rolled in (to him not me), the jeering, the taunting, the nasty comments about his family etc. It’s not serious, he has it under control but it was horrible and embarrassing at a formative and excruciatingly self-conscious age for him.
Understandably then, he asked me to remove him from the video’s there on in. Which I did obviously.
That is his right and I would always respect whatever he wanted to do as I’m sure you would too. But this is the point where I really had to stop and think
…why do we think we have the right to carry on sharing things about our younger children just because they don’t have ability to object or understand or contextualise?
If you are a Mummy influencer, then I know why you do what you do because I was you a few years back. You share these highs, lows and funny moments from a good place. I know you share them to show other mothers the reality of parenting. To show solidarity in motherhood. To find humour in the every day and to make sense of your world as a mother. I get it. I’ve been there.
But if you freely share everything about your children and their lives, or worse you don’t really consider before you hit ‘publish’ then please just stop and reconsider for a minute. For your children sake.
Can you fast forward a little to the scenario where your child’s high school bully gets a-hold of video footage of them on the potty / in the bath / having a meltdown or whatever it is you’ve shared years previously? I can assure you that kids will not take it in the good faith you meant it in. They will show everyone. They will send it to the whole school. Everyone will laugh. Everyone will make your child feel awful. Kids are extremely cruel and this is perfect ammunition to feed them with.
Move further on and picture your childs’ first foray into the shy and difficult world of first romances – where first impressions matter and where hearts are so easily broken. Will they want details of their body, personal behaviours, challenges, issues laid out for their first crush to read and watch? Or will they want to the ability to create their own impressions as they rightly should.
How about when they are all grown up (sobs) and go for an interview in a career they’ve worked so hard to have? When employers Google their name (they will, they ALL do it even now) will they want the fact that they once pooped all over your new carpet and painted the walls with it (and the video evidence) advertised to their prospective employer? Or every funny, wild, or challenging (ie brattish) thing they have said documented?
And how about one day when they want to lead a team, to command respect and to go about their own adult life – will they thank you that their junior employees are all playing clips of their mother talking about how they won’t stop touching themselves as a new toddler discovering her body. That private moment that you thought was funny? The one you shared because you thought it was a tricky parenting moment and other mums might benefit from being more open about it? I’m just going to put it out there that I don’t think that’s your moment to share.
It’s time for us as influencers, with no rules or regulations to follow, to start self-imposing some appropriate boundaries around what we share of other peoples’ childhoods and lives. We are their mothers (or fathers if you’re a dad obvs), not their owners. Their childhoods are not ours, we don’t own them – we have only borrowed them for a short time and we need to get over this first initial unknown leap into the world of influence and picture life in ten or twenty years time. We need to allow our children to keep their dignity in tact before we bundle it up into perfect squares and post it out online without ever even meaning to.
If we don’t watch what we share then the vile rhetoric on that Mumsnet thread will have a point – we will be effectively selling the privilege of parenting our babies to the highest bidder. Or the creepy AF person in the street.
And I don’t want to picture that.