Am I a ‘sharent’?

A Prize for the Best TitleSo it seems (according to this article) I may have acquired a new label. I think I might be a ‘sharent’. As I read about this phenomena, I felt a hot glow of shame and recognition wash over me as I absorbed what it was saying – as I wondered, is this about me? After all, I, along with many others, do indeed share my thoughts about parenting online “with strangers”.

I’m always at my most fragile when I’m doing something new, be that a job, a blog, or dealing with the latest parenting conundrum the kids have thrown my way.  When (to quote the movie The Social Network, which I just happened to watch last night) “you don’t even know what the thing is yet”. And as I read the article and felt the label attach itself to me, I started feeling small, impotent and powerless. It was uncomfortable and unwelcome – crippling and hard to talk or think about. It made me feel defensive and a bit like hiding away.

Because ‘sharenting’, despite Nione Meakin’s pretty balanced take on it, feels like a pejorative term. Made worse by the psychologist cited in the article who believes that by ‘sharenting’ we are endangering the future development of our children’s identities. And I didn’t have to look far to find online forums featuring outpourings of vitriolic dislike for ‘sharents’ in response to the article, shaming said ‘sharents’ for their actions, guffawing at their need for online validation, apparently confident that their own way of being in the world was somehow more worthy. Once again the “mother shame” (identified by Brene Brown in Daring Greatly) had reared it’s ugly head, the mainstream media had handed me yet another stick to beat myself with and add to my collection.

It reminded me, in the most unwelcome way, of the debates I used to absorb about the relative merits of breast feeding, sleep training and attachment parenting when my kids were tiny. The feelings of fear and uncertainty it aroused in me were undoubtedly the same. The online negativity completely flew in the face of my last post, and my assertion that through our collective online sharing:

 

“We are allowing ourselves to be seen, naming the hard bits, shining a light in the eyes of our struggles and daring them to break us, daring others to judge, to say that they don’t struggle sometimes too. Putting it into words and putting it out there. We are being brave so others can be brave too. It rocks. It’s important. It’s happening everywhere once you start looking.”

I was so sure when I was writing those words, but I started feeling a little bit sheepish, and disappointed. I felt embarrassed for thinking I might be engaged in something worthwhile here, for feeling like it might even matter a little bit in the world. The label of ‘sharent’ shamed and dismissed me. I felt belittled by it, and started to question the worth of what I was doing.

Feeling like you’re on the receiving end of a label brings into sharp focus how crappy it is to be grouped into an amorphous lump with a bunch of other folks you may or may not have anything in common with. It made me realise how limiting labels can be. How labels can fuel anger and defensiveness, shut down connection, encourage disengagement and make the conversation infinitely less colourful, less interesting, with a whole lot less room for growth.

Maybe I am a ‘sharent’. Maybe I’m not. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it isn’t. I choose uncertainty. I choose not to be labeled. I choose to take the risk. To allow myself to be seen. To stay engaged in the conversation, uncomfortable as that may sometimes be.

photo credit: Out Of Chicago via photopin ccA Prize for the Best Title

14 thoughts on “Am I a ‘sharent’?

  1. One if the hardest things is to stand up with an opinion and share it with an unknown audience. I don’t always agree with your opinions but never doubt your courage for creating the debate. Where would we be without the freedom to hold our own beliefs and the space to explore what they stand for? Communication and debate helps define us, steer us and support all our communities – work, social and family.

  2. The article: drivel Your posts: a little bit of light in my day.

    I know exactly how you feel. Blogging is extremely exposing, and can leave one feeling somewhat wobbly, as you realise that your inner most fears are now outed and open for public criticism. I tend to think that diatribe such as in the article you cited tends to be others bouncing their own inner turmoil around by slating the good intentions of others. Whatever the ‘thing’ is, there will be those that make a job out of slating it.

    I just want to say again, that I love your posts, and really value the points they make. I appreciate your sharing, I appreciate your intelligent thoughtful writing, so don’t let the Slaters (new terms to add alongside Sharents perhaps?) drag you to Neg Town.

    Big up yo’self sista!

  3. Interesting article. It’s a tricky one and the more i think about it I wonder if sharing your child’s childhood (some of it) online is a good thing for them. It does make me think. We don’t know the outcome of this ‘sharenting’ (ugly term) is for their adult lives as none of the children have got there yet. However as individuals these children will make their own opinions about their parents’ behaviour and the way they’ve been brought up. Some of it they’ll like, some of it they won’t. Whatever parents do – it’s a risk how are children will perceive it. I think that if your (the blogger) intention is always to protect your children, celebrate them publicly by all means and not use them then there shouldn’t be any harm in that, should there?

    • So agree about sharenting being an ugly term! Yes, we just don’t know yet do we…I try not to write about anything I wouldn’t be willing to discuss with my kids when they’re older. Like you say, the only thing we know for sure is that they’ll take issue with some aspect of their upbringing when they’re older. They’re growing up with online sharing. We’re relatively new to it. Undoubtedly they’ll have a different attitude to ours. I hope my good intentions = good judgement about the whole online thing. If it doesn’t, I imagine my kids’ll be the first to let me know :)

  4. I remember that article and feeling it was judgemental and close minded. Just some puff to fill the paper with. While it did make some good points about over-sharing, it didn’t mention the reasons I blog i.e. to express myself in writing, and to reach out to others. It assumed it was all about a desperate need to boast or for self validation. Myopic.

    • Absolutely. I felt unrepresented by it. Which was frustrating as it would have been so widely read and absorbed what with being in a national newspaper and all. When actually it skims over a whole bunch of online activity that’s far more meaningful than anything mentioned in the article.

  5. I just fail to see how this “sharenting” crap is any different to my mum leaning over the fence and gossiping with her neighbour about the things the kids have been up to, before ringing relatives and sharing the same anecdotes etc. Same ‘overshare’, just a different medium.

  6. As somebody who appeared in the article I know what you mean. People often question “why do people share” but people do it as a number of reasons. I do think before I type, but at the end of the day, it’s no different to the naked sheep skin rug photograph handed about at birthday parties.

    Loved your post and will be having a nosey through your blog now :)

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