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The Oversharing Mom’s Handbook

Hi, I’m Rebecca and I’m an oversharer. I have been since I was a kid, sharing poetry in class, publishing personal essays in for-us-by-us books for teenagers, and oversharing breakup sob stories as a teen speaker at high school assemblies and, for the last 13 years, on the Internet and through social media channels.

My life has been, for the most part, largely public but that doesn’t mean I don’t have restrictions on what I will and will not write about and post. That’s what I wanted to devote today’s column to. Many of you have asked and it is an often tricky subject to navigate because we all have different bodies and brains and hearts and ways of looking at the world—we filter differently, we go with different flows.

I have never known motherhood privately. Since becoming pregnant with my son at 23, I have been writing and publishing daily about life as myself—the parent, woman, wife, music lover, etc. I am, like all of us, many things.

I have gone through phases, coming of age (still working on that one, by the way—it’s a lifelong goal of mine to become a full-fledged adult before I die) alongside my children, my husband and various other people in my life who have been generous enough to let me share pieces of their stories. I have experienced in this space a wealth of support, validation, criticism, hate, love, kindness, cruelty and everything else that exists in every other public space.

I have invited strangers into my home knowing full well the ramifications of doing so. I have written blog posts only to later delete them. I have posted photos only to realize later that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing them. I have posted photos of my body, shared videos of my birth, been overwhelmingly disagreed with, ridiculed, applauded, befriended, trolled and all of the things I assume everyone who has ever shared openly online has experienced.

This is a fairly new concern—the sharing and the oversharing of ourselves, our families. What it means to other people and families and what it means to our children, especially, for those of us who have older kids ...

There is great darkness as well as great light in this space. I post every day knowing that there is no real differentiation between the two—that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that I am here sharing my life because I am entitled to my opinions, too. But I am also entitled to privacy and to keeping parts of my life quiet, out of respect to my family, my husband and myself.

And so, while it may seem like a great deal of my life is public, I have rules that I use to help me navigate when to share, when to overshare, and when to say nothing —a personal “code of content” so to speak—that has come out of my 13 years of blogging and twenty years of “oversharing.”

Of course, I don’t always succeed at following my own code, but having some rules and regs firmly in my head has helped me navigate my place as a storyteller and parent within this space. My hope is that by sharing my code with you, you might want to share yours. And then perhaps we can have a respectful conversation about what it means to share and “overshare” in a world where most everyone, now, does both.

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Because I think we need to have that conversation sometimes. We need to hear from each other and recognize that this is a fairly new concern—the sharing and the oversharing of ourselves, our families. What it means to other people and families and what it means to our children, especially, for those of us who have older kids with, say, Instagram accounts of their own. If we don’t have our own codes of social media conduct, how do we expect our kids to have their own? (We had a long conversation last night about potentially getting Archer his own phone next year when he turns 10. I am very much on the fence about this but am also beginning to realize that technology is a huge part of how kids communicate these days and Archer has become super into shooting mini movies and videos and taking photos and I want him to feel like he CAN share if he wants to. I want him to feel like he can tell his own story now. I also want to protect him from the trolls and the haters and all of the people who I know exist under the bridge he will eventually and undoubtedly want to cross. But that’s just being a mom, I guess.)

Anyway, for those who have asked, here is my personal CODE OF CONTENT that I look to before posting publicly

1. Better Latergram Than Sorry – This goes for Twitter, too. And Facebook. Sometimes I get super excited to share something or am so angry about something that I want to write a 10-page essay on Facebook about it. Or something AWESOME happens and I want to be like, LOOK! Or, I feel the need to respond to a troll because, COME ON, DUDE, REALLY? If I walk away from my phone, close my computer and give myself an hour to sit with all of these feelings, I will 90% of the time come back and see things very differently. There have been photos that, after an hour of NOT posting them, I realized I didn’t want to share. There have been controversies that, after much thought, I didn’t want to weigh in on. In short, I try to THINK before I speak. Or post. Or tweet. Or 'gram. If I didn’t respect this rule, I would quickly lose my mind, regret much, be perpetually angry, have no friends.

2. Get permission – I never post photos of other people unless I have been given permission—and this goes for adults AND kids. (I seldom post photos of other people’s kids and regularly crop them out of photos out of respect to their less-public families.) If I do post a photo of a child OR an adult on my blog or Instagram, Facebook, etc., it is only after I have asked permission to do so. You would never know it’s playdate central up in here at our house judging from my social media channels. I crop them out of photos, stories and experiences to protect their autonomy. My kids’ friendships belong to them.

3. Is this age-appropriate? Age plays a huge role in what I share. A 2-year-old in the bathtub is very different than a 10-year-old. The same goes with stories of my kids. There are a million things I can write about parenting Bo and Revi that I can’t and won’t write about Archer and Fable. Then again, sometimes I feel that a story is important to share because it would benefit others without being detrimental to my family. Blogging, now more than ever, is a go-with-my-gut enterprise for me. And age plays a huge factor in that. So does personality type, a willingness to be photographed, etc. (If my kids don’t want their picture taken, I am not going to take it.)

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4. Is my oversharing becoming someone else’s oversharing? If so, I PUT ON THE BRAKES. There is a fine line separating the oversharer and the people in their lives who might not want to be talked about. Most of my friends are not online at all because they are private. I don’t write a lot about my social interactions with people outside my family for that reason.

5. Be honest – Sometimes my house is clean. Sometimes it’s a mess. Sometimes I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes I do not but think I do. It’s crucial for me to show ALL OF THAT if I’m going to show any of that. The same goes for parenting. And my marriage. And fashion. And food. That said, I must also be honest with the fact that sometimes I break my own rules because humans are humans and, well, we’re all humans. I also think it’s important to note that what feels HONEST to me may not feel HONEST to you, etc. I have a run-through that I do before posting and that is how I am able to do what I do in a way that works for me and my family. I don’t want to project that on to any of you because we are all sharing for different reasons, with different kinds of audiences. I also recognize that monetizing one’s website (which is what I do) can at times be an ethical dilemma for a host of reasons and this factors into my “code of content” as well.

What about you guys? Do you have a “code of content” for posting your private life publicly? Is this something that you think about? I would love to hear from you and PLEASE NO JUDGEMENT HERE! THIS IS A JUDGEMENT FREE SPACE! THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT! WE ARE ALL DOING WHAT WE THINK IS RIGHT FOR US. LET’S HEAR EACH OTHER, SISTERS.

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