Whose Story Is It Anyway?

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

Becoming a mum is all-consuming. My first baby, Lily, came along after 2 rounds of IVF and changed my life in more ways than I could have imagined.

In a couple of months’ time, she’ll be 11.

Since her birth, I’ve had three more successful pregnancies – twins Joe and Tim were born (very dramatically) in 2012, their sister Evie in 2013 and our surprise bundle Robbie in 2015. Let’s just say, when it comes to pregnancy I’ve pretty much seen it all.

Starting a mum blog

So it’s hardly surprising that I started a mum blog back in the day to record my thoughts: what it was like to parent while coping with a pregnancy that came with all the trimmings (pre and post-natal depression, acute morning sickness to name just three) and the craziness of life with (at one point) five children under six.

Around the time the twins were born, I also began freelance writing for magazines – and a lot of my articles were about parenting. I’d recount anecdotes about nappies, or wax lyrical about sleepless nights. Eventually, I had a monthly column in the (now, sadly defunct) Prima Baby magazine in which I overshared to the masses.

Is it my right to share?

I never once considered that it wasn’t my right to share each funny moment, bath-time antic or humorous faux-pas with others. After all, they are my children! They’re the little beings who took me from woman to mum with all the pelvic floor dysfunction and overwhelming happiness that this transition brings.

Only, recently – watching my eldest girl start secondary school, seeing her first (supervised, private) forays into the world of Instagram to connect with friends, and realising that she has a narrative of her own to share – I’ve felt less comfortable about discussing the ups and downs that come with parenting her. Not only because she might stumble across my musings one day, but because I’ve started to worry who owns the copyright on her story.

Would we be comfortable if the situation was reversed?

Think about it: would you be comfortable if your child started a blog and began to write about funny and embarrassing things that you did today? Or shared pictures of you, covered in chocolate (come on, we’ve all seen them). Probably not.

Social media was born only shortly before my eldest daughter – who popped out in 2009. So I guess Lily is one of the first generation of children who’ve grown up with a mum who overshared her childhood milestones with thousands. It seemed the natural thing to do at the time, because back then she seemed like an extension of me – not a person in her own right.

But man oh man, she is now!

There’s nothing wrong with blogging about kids, or sharing the trials and tribulations of raising children.

We need to talk about parenting – but respectfully

Parenting is something we all need to talk about – because it can be stressful, because it’s difficult and because even if you’ve got a partner, things can feel pretty lonely.  And it’s OK to share those first-tooth moments, or the love you feel when your child tells you they love you for the first time. It’s great to post anecdotes that will make other parents laugh or shake their heads with understanding.

But when it comes to writing about my children, I think I’ve reached an important milestone – I’m stepping back a bit from the oversharing.

Not only has my daughter grown, I’ve also got older (and it goes without saying, wiser).

A shift in my role

Plus, my role has shifted: I’m not with my children all the time – they go to school and (Covid allowing) play with friends. I’ve started to feel ever so slightly human again. 

This isn’t a one-way street – we’ve reached a fork in the road.

I’m beginning to realise this might be the time to hand the reigns of my daughter’s narrative to her – at least when it comes to online sharing.

And time, too, for me to find out where my own story will take me next.

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Gillian Harvey

Gillian Harvey is a freelance writer, author and mum of five living in France. Her most recent novel 'Perfect on Paper' was published by Orion in May 2021. For more info, visit www.gillianharvey.com

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