In Defense of Oversharing Parents Who Won’t Shut Up

 

I’m an unlikely person to become passionate about defending new parents who talk about their babies and children all the time through social media.

Because if my “pre-baby” self were reading my current Facebook feed a few years ago, I would have “defriended” myself.

Here are five categories of new parenthood experience that I’ve shared with all my Facebook friends during the last two years since my son was born that would have elicited groans, eye rolls, and sighs from my pre-baby self:

  • Details of sleep training:  my thoughts on cry-it-out, number of nights of interrupted sleep, nap refusals
  • The timing and chronology of my son’s birth:  labor, c-section, recovery
  • Descriptions of tantrums:  screaming toddler insanity of all types
  • Developmental milestones: crawling, cruising, walking
  • Illness and health concerns:  teething problems, hand foot and mouth disease, colds, fevers

Am I an “oversharer”?

According to the  insanely popular STFU, Parents blogger Blair Koenig, I just might be.  Maybe not the worst offender, but she would probably say that I’m describing details about my kid WAY too much.  (Take a few guesses about what her blog stands for: she’s telling parents to be quieter in the most direct way possible.)

I guess I must be living under a rock, but I had never read about this blog until the last few days, when I started hearing about her book — based on the blog — being released in a couple weeks.  She’s a 30-year-old, childless woman who got sick and tired of the absurdity and self-relevation of parenting in the social media age.  Her blog is absolutely addictive.

It’s based on reader submissions of the most egregious and self-absorbed instances of parental oversharing.

Just a few examples:

  • Descriptions of baby poop (the “gross out” examples)
  • Moms who complain about other moms’ gifts, behavior, style sense, or parenting (the “sanctimonious” ones)
  • Parents who share about their daughter’s first periods
  • Examples of placenta-related art work

And I get her outrage.  I really do.  I was 36 when I had my son.  I suffered through years and years and years of boring Facebook updates of ultrasound pictures, constant e-mail photo bombing (first steps, first ride on a swing, first airplane ride, first tooth), birth stories, hours of discussions and social media planning about baby showers, staff meetings at work that degenerated into child discipline strategy sessions, online discussions of baby registries, etc.  I was a childless thirtysomething woman too.  And it’s really annoying to listen to all the parental oversharing.  No doubt about it.  I hated it.

But I have one thing to say to the woman behind STFU, Parents:   Check back with me once you have kids.  (She says that she does want them.)

Like it or not, even the most “private” of us in today’s world have a connection to social media (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and lots of other ways of connecting and sharing with the world).

There is also nothing lonelier and more desperate than a parent who is trying to figure out if they’re doing a good job.  Years ago we had close neighborhood networks, we had our parents and siblings in the same town coming in and out of our homes giving tips about sleep and feeding, we had circles of stay-at-home moms gathering on porches while their kids roamed the neighborhood.  Now we have Facebook.

And at the same time the standards for today’s parents are skyrocketing with each year.   You can’t avoid discussions of parenting philosophies.  Especially for a mom, you’re never doing enough.  You’re presented in your daily life with endless items to worry about, from everywhere — social media, television, magazines, your doctor, the playground.  (Is my baby sleeping too much?  Is co-sleeping safe?  Am I a bad mom because I don’t want to breastfeed?  Does all this crying mean that he has an allergy or food sensitivity?  Would my child be better on a special type of diet?   What if my child is only meeting half of the developmental milestones for his age?)  And if you worry too much, ask too many questions, do too many things, you’re also worrying if you’re a “helicopter parent” and that you might be damaging your child with all of your overinvolvement.

There’s nothing good about today’s parenting standards.

And there are many, many legitimate questions to ask about the developmental consequences of parental sharing (and oversharing) about private details on the internet:  When do kids understand that they’re being discussed in a public forum?  What is the parent’s responsibility about respecting child privacy?  What are the developmental consequences of social media?

As a parent, I’ve been there, at 2 a.m., listening to my baby sob for the hundredth time that night and then deciding to post about how awful it is that my baby is crying.  I knew that I could be annoying some people (some of my Facebook friends who truly don’t care).  But I didn’t care either.  I want the connection.  All those theoretical questions about the long-term effects of the digital age go out the window.  I want someone there with me — even in a “virtual” sense — who gets it and may have a suggestion about what to do or tell me that I’m doing a good job.

Time and time again, social media has helped me deal with so many parental issues.  Have I been a bit disgusted by the minute details of family life that some people have shared?  Of course.  Would my “pre-baby” self still have defriended “pre-baby” me — or ignored my updates — on Facebook?  There’s a good chance.

But lay off the new parents, STFU, Parents.  I’m just as grossed out by some of the oversharing as you are, much of the time.  But we’re living in a very tough, tough world of parenting.  The standards are exacting, and the consequences — all of us parents are told again and again — are severe for screwing it up.  Please cut us parents a bit of slack.  We’re looking for support and validation, no matter how bizarre many of our ways of asking for it are.  Maybe someday soon you’ll see what I mean.  And maybe we can learn a little bit from each other.

 

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Comments

  1. I am completely guilty of this and this blogger would most likely hate my blog. But I do get some of her points and honestly Jessica you said it quite perfectly in the end. But I think as a parent of two small children who is at home and the primary caregiver to them I do need some venting time and validation, too and this is where social networks and my blog come into play. Great food for thought, but probably won’t stop me from oversharing either.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…New Baby Shopping Made Simple by Pish Posh BabyMy Profile

  2. lucyball15 says:

    Interesting you should write about this. I am an oversharer in real life, so social media is like me on crack with a bull horn. I have actually lost friends in real life who disliked my posts. But I have gained literally over a thousand internet friends, some of them who have shared comments and private chats with me that they could NEVER share on social media for fear of backlash. But they have thanked me for sharing my insecurities and my battle with anxiety that has concentrated since becoming a parent. They have thanked me for saying out loud, what they cannot. Because they don’t feel alone. They feel validated. I haven’t read STFU so I can’t weigh in on her blog. I like humor and I don’t mind a bit of sarcasm. Let’s face it. People are funny. But my suspicion is that there might be a bit of a sting when she reads those oversharing parents’ posts…because she’s not part of the club yet. The member benefits are awesome! Thanks for the post. Sorry about my lengthy comment. I do that. A lot. ;-)

    http://www.mylifeaslucille.com/2013/04/what-are-you-struggling-with-today-ill.html

    • Thank you! I agree. I too like humorous and sarcasm. I’m so interested to hear what you think of the blog! And it doesn’t surprise me that lots of women seek you out to share their anxieties…

  3. Brilliant post. I too struggle a lot between my aversion to oversharing and the need to find support. You are right, it is especially important when you’re a new parent.
    Katia recently posted…A Letter to a Pregnant Friend – Donate a Post by LaurenMy Profile

  4. I am aware of the over sharing and the slippery slope, but your post really resonated with me. Parenting is so hard in this day and age and the help that I have gotten through my online networks has been invaluable. Thanks for the conversation.
    Surprise Mama recently posted…Grandpa SMy Profile

  5. This. Is. Brilliant. I had to lift the “blog ban” on myself to read this today, and it did not disappoint. This is so well-articulated, Jessica, and such a non-snarky, intelligent rebuttal to the premise of STFU, Parents, which, like you, I totally get. But yes, please check back in 5-10 years, lady! Your points about the evolution of “mom connection” almost made me cry. (Food for thought later! ;) ) You are so right about how social media has replaced that face to face connection, but once again, it’s often better than nothing.
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for real. recently posted…Guest Post- The Mom of the YearMy Profile

  6. This resonated with me, too. I overshare like crazy. It’s just who I am. But, like you, I have found a lot of comfort in connecting with other parents over the internet since becoming a mom, as it has helped me feel a lot less alone with everything. With that said, I am all about humor, so I am sure the STFU, Parents blog would make me laugh. But I am really curious to see if her stance on this whole thing changes when she becomes a mother. :)
    Dani Ryan recently posted…10 ways I’ve become the parent I swore I’d never beMy Profile

  7. Very well said. You make good points about changing times and the tendency towards loneliness and isolation, especially for new parents worried about doing a good job. I’ve tried to put my feelings for this “STFU, Parents” blogger into words several times and can’t really seem to express them, and don’t really see the point anyway — maybe it’s pessimistic, but when someone puts “STFU” in their blog title and dismisses critics as “people who don’t know how to take a joke,” it starts looking like a waste of time trying to reach out to them or reason with them anyway.
    Sarah @ Babytalk Bungalow recently posted…Flooding In ChicagoMy Profile

  8. I have probably overshared. I try to watch myself now. Try. Sometimes I can’t help it.
    Amber recently posted…Things That Annoy Me Thursday: Celebrities Behaving BadlyMy Profile

  9. As someone who doesn’t have kids, and doesn’t want them, I feel like I can chime in on this! (Finally, something I know something about!)

    Honestly, I don’t mind the “overshare” as long as it isn’t ridiculously over the top. Basically, if it’s something that wouldn’t be strange for me to observe in public (something funny a kid says to their parent, pulling their pants down to look at their underwear, etc.), then I don’t think it’s an overshare. If it’s something that makes me uncomfortable, then it probably is.

    However, very few things make me uncomfortable, so maybe that isn’t a good measurement to use.

    I’ve never wanted kids, but I know most people do. I also don’t mind reading about people’s kids and their lives. I would say the majority of blogs I read are mommy blogs. To me, it isn’t that the topic is kids, it’s how the topic is written and addressed.

    I think any parent that is aware of the theory of “oversharing” probably isn’t oversharing. It’s the ones who have no idea who are the dangerous ones.

    And BTW, I read your blog regularly and I don’t think you over share. :-)
    Lisa Newlin recently posted…Help! I’m turning into my mother!My Profile

    • Thank you for the reassurance! That is part of the issue, I think. We all have different standards of what constitutes “oversharing.” (Of course, there are some things — like, perhaps, placenta art — that nearly every person would feel cross the line.) It’s great to hear the perspective of someone who doesn’t have kids but who regularly reads writing from those who do. And it’s good to hear that ALL writing about kids doesn’t bother you!
      Jessica recently posted…In Defense of Oversharing Parents Who Won’t Shut UpMy Profile

  10. Okay I have to go click on this website to see now. You are a brilliant writer. I loved this (even though I had to read fast at the bus stop). I think you are RIGHT on the money.
    Gonna share this to kingdom come.
    Julie Chenell DeNeen recently posted…My Passionate Love of ChapstickMy Profile

  11. Okay I have to go click on this website to see now. You are a brilliant writer. I loved this (even though I had to read fast at the bus stop). I think you are RIGHT on the money.
    Gonna share this to kingdom come.
    Julie Chenell DeNeen recently posted…My Passionate Love of ChapstickMy Profile

  12. Thank you, Julie! Yes, you should definitely check out the site. Although I don’t agree with all of it, it’s brilliant!
    Jessica recently posted…In Defense of Oversharing Parents Who Won’t Shut UpMy Profile

  13. You know what irks me?
    Childless people like Blair Koenig giving sh*t to parents.
    If anyone is allowed to have an opinion about parenting, oversharing of parenting anecdotes etc, it’s another parent.
    Good for her that she has a book coming out, and I totally get how some parents DO overshare (and I’m not a fan of that), but I agree with you, cut the new parents some slack.
    Great post, Jessica!
    Alison recently posted…ScarsMy Profile

  14. My fifteen-year-old daughter has friends who tell her that I love her too much… yes, its true. Why? Because I make her tasty lunches and respond to her when she needs me?

    Do people complain when people discuss work or politics or whatever their primary focus is? I don’t think so!

    I’m glad you posted this. I actually think it is good for my children to see I share about them… it makes them feel loved and honored.

    So glad I found you via SITSSharefest today!
    Julie Jordan Scott recently posted…Curiosity Fills the Spirit: What do each of these images say to you?My Profile

  15. I come at this from a different perspective. I’ve been blogging for almost a year and my blog is focused on writing about writing. I also have three grown daughters and one granddaughter. I don’t blog about them very often and when I do, I rarely use their names. I figure they are adult individuals and have a right to tell their own stories. Two of them have their own blogs. About social media, if someone is annoying you can ignore and not read their posts or block them. Social Media is meant to be social. TMI is a problem in more than social media but it can be lowered by choosing not to buy in. Complain about something else.

    The defining part of your blog was being able to communicate. I was in Australia when our first child was born and there was no one. We didn’t have a phone, all my friends worked, and with a colicky baby, I couldn’t wait for my husband to get back from work. I love the ability to reach out in the world and see what others think.

    Sorry for the long bloggy comment. Have a great Sharefest day.
    Sheila Skillingstead recently posted…The Gathering of the GuildsMy Profile

    • Yes, I was in the same situation. Not as far as Australia! But I had moved to a new city in a new state with a three month old baby with horrific colic. I knew nobody at all, and I was home alone for such long days. Social media was my only connection, and, yes, I posted a thousand things that I never thought that I ever would! And if someone didn’t like, they could have chosen not to read my posts. Exactly!
      Jessica recently posted…In Defense of Oversharing Parents Who Won’t Shut UpMy Profile

  16. Great post. I totally agree. Parents should feel that they can share their lives with their friends and family, though posting about what your babies poop looked like this morning, may be a little over stretching! lol
    Dropping by from #SITSSharefest!
    Lisa M recently posted…Birth of a Mission: Passion for Vital ChangeMy Profile

  17. The irony of this woman using social media to become a blogging sensation AND get a book deal is not lost on us. Isn’t what she doing a version of oversharing? Isn’t the entire Internet one big overshare? ;) Great post. Well said! :)-The Dose Girls
    thedoseofreality recently posted…Pinterest Nightmare #257: It’s Not Garbage, It’s Upcycled!My Profile

  18. I am not really for the crazy overshares (I honestly don’t want to know about the bodily functions of ANYone, including children), but I don’t mind hearing about the milestones and the late nights.
    But we were the ones who knew the solutions to every problem before we had kids. We could look at social media updates and say, “They should do ________.”
    Who am I kidding? We still do that. We just don’t share our opinions/advice with very many people. (Ahem)
    Leah recently posted…Bye, Bye Baby AcneMy Profile

  19. Your post made me think about my feelings on this topic, Jessica. I often think my facebook friends overshare. But I have the option to hide them from my newsfeed if it bothers me. It takes less than a second to scroll past an overshare. My only issue is when an overshare could embarrass the child. I always ask my kids if it’s ok to share something about them on social media before I do it. But your points about new parents are on the money – social media can be a wonderful place for camaraderie and support.
    Dana recently posted…Would You Take a Do-Over?My Profile

  20. It’s a fine line for sure. Having teens, there are definitely clear cut boundaries of what is ok and what is not…our teenagers do not want to see their issues played out in mom’s blog or on Facebook. Certain things are just off limits. And I get it…so there might be things I want to share to hear validation or get advice, but I can’t, out of respect for their privacy. That said, I think its pretty rough that someone without children is calling out someone with…I get that it could get annoying, but she hasn’t walked in our shoes. I’m going to check out her post though! :)
    Michelle recently posted…On the Lighter Side: Ladies Only Blog Share Link PartyMy Profile

  21. Very interesting! I think that her perspective may very well change when she is a parent. I get the loneliness and need for connection that many parents feel in our society. Social media is sometimes the easiest – and only – means to connect with other understanding parties.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted…The CheerleaderMy Profile

  22. As a-sometimes over-sharer, I can relate to so much of this post. Most importantly, I wonder what STFU will do once she is a mom. Also, as somebody who has found amazing friends online and have actually met people based on my blog, I have to say that going online to combat the loneliness can be pretty wonderful.
    Love this post.
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…I’m passionate about equality for special needs, my amazing little boy, and finding the wonder in the world. Oh. And nachos. Also? Sometimes it’s okay to just write a check.My Profile

  23. That’s a lot like someone who’s never had sex giving sex advice. Great post and now I have to check out STFU. :D
    Terrye recently posted…Compulsively PassionateMy Profile

  24. I happen to agree with you on this! Sometimes mom’s do share too many details, but sometimes people – non-mom people – share too many details on FB. Who is going to crack down on those who check in every ten minutes from the gas station to Starbucks to the grocery store? And give you traffic reports and minute by minute weather updates?
    I think oversharing is not exclusively a mom problem. :) And you are right. We need the connections, especially as new moms.
    Amy recently posted…Looking at Life Through Giant Rose Colored SunglassesMy Profile

  25. I have noticed that the ones who said I was an over sharer, are now hypocrites. I think it boils down to that they are jealous…I know I was.

  26. I don’t know why people care so much about oversharing. Just don’t read it. Skim by. Some people want to see photos of their friends’ kids, and Facebook is an easy way to give people the option without sending them more-obligatory emails.

    I don’t read that blog. I find it annoying that she is out there passing judgment on an experience she has yet to have had (or maybe ever will).

    Better post than my snarky response would have been, though!

    I really like your blog a lot.
    Deb @ Urban Moo Cow recently posted…I’m $o Gang$taMy Profile

  27. I have never heard of that blog until one of my blog readers pointed out that I had made the cut. Yup. I appeared there for a tweet that I had sent out.
    Yes, some of the sharing is weird, gross etc. But people without kids are sharing weird, gross etc. comments pictures and so on.
    Parenting is hard and we have the right to say what we need or want to. Just like anyone else.
    I don’t think that she has the right to make fun of parents when she isn’t one.
    Kimberly recently posted…Mammoth Mom Myths And SEABUCKWONDERS Giveaway!My Profile

  28. I think you’ve really hit the perfect balancing point with oversharing parents and parents just being real people who also use social media too.

    I can definitely see why parents put some of the things they do. Maybe social media almost “normalizes” they life or it’s a way for them to try and deal with the weird things about parenthood.

    It’s a little sad to me, though, that so many of my friends who are having children now have completely changed how they use Facebook. Many people’s pages are basically just a profile for their child. Their picture is even of just the baby, not themselves. I feel like I’m friends with their baby, who I don’t even know, instead of them. I understand that children and their world, but I don’t think many of them understand that that child isn’t everyone else’s world.
    Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections recently posted…{ Faith in My Friday } Focus on PrayerMy Profile

  29. I’ve been a reader of hers for a long time – all through my pregnancy and the early baby days. It’s been interesting to watch her reader base develop. I agree with most of her posts – I mean some things just don’t need to be out there. Pausing to take a picture of a kid with their own poop smeared all over them? That’s just cruel. Put the camera down, clean up the child and maybe vent about it later…but it’s not a Kodak moment.

    What I’ve come to have a hard time with is that some of her readers are so so SO adamantly anti-child. I really had to actually refrain from commenting back to one today. At it’s heart the blog is about the overshare, not sharing but OVERsharing. The poop updates, ok fine. Taking a picture of the poop? Not cool. I think the media and some of her readers are taking the war too far.

    I still like her, I just need to stop reading the comments!
    Jenny recently posted…Playground Wars – Is this really what we want to teach?My Profile

  30. So well said, Jessica. One of the (many) things I love about your posts is how balanced they are. You have an enviable ability to situate a clear-headed version of yourself in the reality of the larger parenting context. This is especially impressive as a first-time mom. I have often thought that I am so glad I wasn’t on Facebook when my first child was born: I would be retrospectively mortified for myself!
    Lauren Apfel recently posted…i should have given my kids my last nameMy Profile

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    Roxanne recently posted…RoxanneMy Profile

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