My Mama Bear instincts tell me that internet success may be viral, but it’s actually more like a chronic, debilitating disease.
In early 2014, when my daughter Emmeline was only a few months old, the inevitable happened.
I became a “mummy blogger”.
Before I’d even had a child of my own, I was reading and loving “mummy blogs”. I found them strangely comforting. It was also a way for me to subconsciously prepare for my future. “Oh, so that’s how you can be a cool mum”, were my secret thoughts.
I lapped it all up – photos of family outfits, the craft, the blissfully described vacations, the recipes. But most delicious of all was the apparent ease with which these mothers could combine their everyday lives with yummy, yummy dollars.
I never intended to become a “mummy blogger”. I’ll readily admit that I loved reading about parenthood, yet also huffed that they were exhibitionists who exploited their children.
And on a more superficial level, I thought I was “too cool” to post photos of my offspring to social media.
But when I had a baby, all it took was a few social media “likes” to convince me that I could be the Next Big Thing in mummy blogging.
I posted one photo on Facebook to announce Emmy’s birth, and it got more “likes” and positive comments than anything I’d ever put on Facebook before. It was the same on Instagram.
Believe it or not, my friends actually asked for more photos of my baby.
Look, I’m not shallow. But after blogging for 10 years in obscurity (turns out no one gave a shit about my 20-something neurotic ramblings and crushes), I was ready for some online recognition.
I started a blog which featured several portraits of Emmy per post, which I’d shoot myself on my new DSLR camera. I’d also write a few paragraphs about motherhood. I fully intended to make mummy blogging into a career. The attention was instant and completely gratifying.
But at the same time, something unexpected happened. My freelance writing was getting published on other websites. These websites had huge audiences, all of whom could find my mummy blog.
I knew that there was one thing I needed to do with my mummy blog. I had to shut it down – and fast.
Now that I had a larger audience, I was worried about all of the photos and information I’d shared. I was scared that someone would steal my daughter’s photos and turn them into memes. I worried about trolls, transferring their hate from me to my daughter.
I also became concerned about future Emmy. Would she be embarrassed that I’d uploaded her baby photos for the world to see?
I hurriedly deleted my blog, and was surprised to find that I felt relieved. Maintaining that online image of the perfect, loving earth mother was exhausting.
These days, I still get the urge to share photos and videos of Emmy online. She’s my baby girl, and I think she’s gorgeous.
I wish that was the only reason, but also, I want to make a buck.
Every time I see a viral video of a kid doing something cute, I think, “I could do that.” I work on the internet. I know how to make something go viral. But my protective, mummy instincts always win.
These Mama Bear instincts tell me that internet success may be viral, but it’s actually more like a chronic, debilitating disease. I’d hate for Emmy to be bullied, years down the track, for a silly video I’d thoughtlessly uploaded.
I’m going to let my kid be a kid – in private – and when it’s her time to shine, I want her to be old enough to understand that she’s worked hard and earned it herself. She will grow up knowing that any success is hers to claim with power, and not because of a charming, accidental moment.
I know that there’s more to Emmy than one amusing anecdote, an adorable moment or a sugar-coated narrative. Now, funny cat videos, on the other hand…
Are “mummy bloggers” exploiting their kids? Or is it just a bit of fun?