Sunday, March 30, 2014

Face the fear and blog anyway

Last week, for the first time since I started my blog, I felt I needed to defend my need to write and publish my story as if my life depended on it - like my blog's existence depended on it.

Someone important in my son's life felt I was compromising Noo's (as my son will now be referred to) anonymity by publishing photos of him here. It was interesting timing for this comment as I'd just written about my fear of such a challenge.

When the words were first uttered I was completely taken aback. Not even my parents had said anything so bluntly even though I know they have their own concerns about this space of mine. I was devastated but I was forced to really think about, and write down, why I risk my own privacy as well as my five year old's.

The two days that followed were surprisingly overwrought with emotion: fear, sadness, exasperation, indignation, anger. The crazy thing is, my passion for blogging has waned this year. I've wondered if I really am comfortable having all this shit on here for anyone to read. And I've been bored by my own voice and have avoided listening to it through this medium.

So why did I react the way I did?

I realise now just how sensitive I still am about my past. How desperately I still feel the need to defend it - to myself and to others. The things that have happened to me still have such an overwhelming amount of control over me. But if I shut the past out, lock it up and ignore it, I feel like I'm giving in to it. Like it will turn into the skeleton in the family closet. A dirty little secret.

I also realised how proud I am of a lot of my writing here. Before I started this blog I had no confidence in my writing ability. I'd only ever written corporate correspondence and emails home while travelling. Through writing here I found something that I love doing. I found an activity that has kept my mind going and my computer skills current while I've been off work for the last six years. There's no way I could just throw it all away based on one person's opinion.

This is my space

So defend my blog I did.

Here is an edited excerpt from the email I wrote:

Why I won't delete photos of my son off my blog (until of course he personally asks me to) 
I’m not ashamed of my past or current struggles.
The aim of my blog is to help kill the stigma of mental illness, addiction in recovery and of being a victim of rape. I will not hide from these facts about my life. Hiding implies guilt which implies blame.
My son will be told what I've blogged about as soon as he asks or is old enough to know. He already knows about and he knows I don’t drink because it makes me go silly. When he gets bigger I will tell him of the alcoholism and depression that has plagued many members of his family.
When you google my son's name no pictures of him are found and no links to my blog are returned in the search results. However, I have completed a ‘find and replace’ to remove all instances of my son's name throughout the blog.
Please don't get overwhelmed by the “From Rock Bottom to Parenthood” story. Yes, it is graphic and confronting. But it is MY past. I own it and will not be shamed by it. And my blog is so much more than that series of posts.

Some of my favourite posts I’d like to draw your attention to:

When is the right time for kids to try alcohol?
In this post I discuss my belief, backed up by research, that children should not be encouraged to drink alcohol before the age of 18, despite many parents in our society thinking that allowing younger kids to drink at home is the way to avoid binge drinkers later in life.
Managing mental illness: Self-care
In this post I talk about my experience with mental illness and tips on how to manage it. You can see from the comments on this post that many people found it extremely helpful. I have had so many people from all different walks of life either email me or comment on my blog thanking me for my raw honesty.
Sole parenting: Mums raising boys without dad around
I discuss my fears of raising Ned without his father. I then go on to say why I believe I made the right decision nearly six years ago to not have any contact with his father, as well as delve into some referenced research as to why parenting is “not anchored in gender” and that it is possible to raise a happy and healthy boy without a dad in the picture.
The BB top 10 benefits to living sober’s most popular blog post is The BB top 10 benefits to living sober. In this post I write a list of reasons why sobriety is awesome. I was sponsored by FebFast to write the post to inspire those taking a break from alcohol. It has been shared widely around the web.
My blog attracts approximately 900 unique views a month. In the grand scheme of things it is a tiny blog. I do however occasionally publish sponsored posts and have advertising on my blog which generate a little bit of spending money for me.
I am proud of my blog. I am proud of how far I have come as a person and as a parent. I am sure as Noo grows up he will be very proud of me as well. Everything I do, I do it for Noo. If he should get to an age where he is ready to learn about where he comes from and is unhappy with the story being online, I will remove it. But how he was conceived has nothing to do with who he is as a person and I will always reassure him of that.
I am raising my son to be a confident, happy child. I will advise him to stand up for who he is and be proud of it. I hope I will arm him with the confidence to deal with bullies should that become a problem in the future...

My email had the effect I wanted it to. Even though the whole experience was emotionally difficult, I faced my fear and won.

Now all I have to do now is get on with it and blog!

What do you think about bloggers using their kids' photos online and telling stories about them before they are old enough to consent?


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mumabulous said...

Its a tough issue isn't it? There are certain things about my past that I'm reluctant to share with the whole of the interwebs. Having said that I greatly admire your courage in bringing your story to the light. In terms of writing - I think you are one of the best in blogland. This blog is compelling reading.

Mystery Case said...

I've just posted a really interesting article on child images and security on my facebook wall. I've also been concerned about the pedophile in jail about to be released (I think) that was caught with images and contact details of children which most certainly were sourced from the web.

I honestly think you can't be too careful and I honestly think you can't second guess what your child may or may not see as appropriate or what they can cope with online later down the track.

We are touching on this topic on Mystery Case as part of conversation corner and would love for you to be involved.

Lady Jewels Diva said...

I worry about the effects on kids with bullying and getting their little faces out onto social media as kidnappings still happen, and yes, we know that some arseholes will use someone's photo for their own benefit/pleasure.

I personally would not put my children, if or when I have any, online and would not allow them online until at least 13 and even then they will be supervised to within an inch of their life until they are 18 or 21, I haven't decided on that and can't really until I have any.

It's bad enough for an adult to be on social media without being bullied and ripped into, let alone a child. So my choice is to not put my children online.

Emma Fahy Davis said...

Good on your for having the bravery to stick up for your convictions. I can't think of a better example to set for your son than to stand for what he believes.

Jackie crowe said...

This has to be your decision.
Do not be ruled by fear of others
The world is not all evil
There are soooooo many good people out there compared to the bad
You can not teach your child that the world is an unsafe place. Or he will not explore it.
You are a respectful mother that is truly assisting other mothers with mental health issues face the world and face their families with the illness. Congratulations !!
We are told so many times that we are not good mothers because of our mental illness
And of course we self blame. If it were up to me I would say keep doing it and be proud because I love how you make it all real for us.
Maybe your son will love to read all this in the future ....knowing a tiny bit about about how you two share things I dare say he will (just not from 14 to 16)
You have a close bond and that shows through ..... He also has a record of his life that not many others get the chance to have ... That's kinda special.
Everyone has an opinion .....let them have it! There's could be based on fear.
Best thing about social media is about hearing others opinion and learning - worst thing ....others not seeing it that way!

Xxxxxx said...

I guess I'll never know if I'm doing the right thing until something goes wrong. Fingers crossed it doesn't! Thank you for the compliment. I think you are one of the best writers around so thank you! V. said...

Thanks Emma. V. said...

Thanks so much Jackie. This is how I feel too. I don't want to hide online. This place is one of my only outlets. Thanks again for your kind words. V. said...

It is a personal choice, isn't it. A lot of bloggers use pseudonyms and don't post pics of their kids' faces and I think that is great too. Each to their own. Thanks, as always, for your comment. V. said...

Hey Mystery. The thing is there's always been photos of kids out there, even before the WWW. Horrible people can get there hands on pics of kids from Kmart catalogues or magazines, where ever. They can stalk kids in parks or shopping centres or out the front of schools. I guess now even more children's photos are exposed on the Internet but I wonder how much more crime there is against children that has been premeditated through finding them online, compared to random attacks in the street?

I've been a victim of crime four times. Twice as a child, twice as an adult. None of those times came from me being on the internet. I'll do everything in my power to protect my son but I don't think keeping his photos from the web is necessarily going to save him.

As he grows older I can't be with him all the time. I won't be able to monitor his every movement online or otherwise. I need to teach him to always have his wits about him, know what's appropriate for the web and what's not, who is a safe person and who is not. I need him to know that he is safe with me and can tell me anything if he needs help. I need him to know he need never feel ashamed of who he is or where he comes from which will hopefully diminish any power some bully might think they can have over him.

As parents I guess we just have to do what we think is best to keep our kids safe, yet still allow them the freedom to express themselves and explore the world around them.

Thanks for commenting.


26 Years & Counting said...

I think it's up to the parent - I've always trusted that the parent is making the decision on the level that they are comfortable with. Everyone's comfort levels are different (for everything in life) so if they think it's ok, then I trust them.

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