Today’s guest post was written by my talented friend, Audra Rogers, from Real Honest Mom. She tackles a difficult, but very important, and timely topic today with so much grace and application. Don’t miss the five questions she uses as a litmus test before she writes about her family. I’ll be adding those to my own writing process.

Take it away, Audra!

Some of my very favorite writing pieces online come in the form of parenting essays. I have written numerous essays for online publications and found great success with it.

Our families are our greatest passion, so I love to see different perspectives and solutions to the same old issues parents have faced for years, as well as the new ones. I also like to share the things I’ve learned by feeling my way in the dark.

We’ve Got Something in Common

We all need to say “me too” on some level, don’t we? Laura’s post What’s It’s Like to be a Stay at Home Mom on the Verge of Depression published on Scary Mommy hit me right in the feels. Her beautiful words captured so many of the same feelings I was afraid to put into words. It struck a chord with millions of others, as to this day, she still gets heartfelt thank you messages from others that find her post as it’s shared over and over again.

That’s the stuff. The raw, brave and vulnerable thoughts we allow ourselves to have and put down on paper. Some of my own greatest works were those that I felt were a little on edge, but I hit publish because they were the God’s honest truth and writing it out was like a relieving scrub brush to the soul.

Why Filter What You Write About Your Family?

While I’m very comfortable writing about myself and my own life, I use a little more caution when it comes to writing about my family.

In my world, if I embarrass or ridicule someone I love as a way to make a living as a freelance writer, it defeats the purpose of my being able to stay home with them in the first place.

I believe you can write about any subject matter you want to write about, but there are a few filters I run my ideas through when it comes to my family.

The Questions I Ask Myself When I Write About My Family:

  1. Does this deeply embarrass anyone I love?
  2. Does this offer a solution or a lesson learned or something positive?
  3. Will this hurt my loved one if they read what I’ve written about them?
  4. If this were written about me, would I give my blessing to share it?
  5. Will sharing this offer a real benefit by helping others in a similar situation?

“Just have class” is a good rule of thumb. It’s very convicting to think of how my family might feel when they’ve read my thoughts, and what I would want written about me.

Pen Names and Anonymous Posts

Anne Lamott’s famous quote in Bird by Bird about owning your story with the freedom to write about people that should’ve acted better does apply to certain situations, but I apply that rule sparingly. It really depends on the subject matter and how strongly I feel about the message.

It’s possible to write about difficult subjects under a pen name and some publications will allow anonymous posts. I like to keep my writings under my name, but there are occasions I think it’s okay to share a powerful message while protecting your family’s identity.

When Your Family Reads Your Words

There are a lot of subjects to write about and I put a lot of thought into what I write about. I have shared about some subjects at length and I stand by my decisions. I still say what I want to say, I just say it with care.

It’s great to look back on old posts and reminisce about the different stages of life and parenting you’ve lived. We’ve all come a long way, baby.

I look back on the old stuff and hope my kids will interpret them as some of the hard stages that we made it through. Though some felt like bigger mountains at the time compared to now, even the harder times were filled with love and finding a way.

All-out rants have their place and I have written for publications that push those from time to time, but I’ll leave that stuff to others. We all do what works for us. Rants aren’t evil, they just aren’t me.

***Laura here. I’d also add that I ask my husband to read anything particularly sensitive I’ve written about him. As Audra said, I do it VERY sparingly. Sometimes I share my honest frustrations when I feel like he’s not pulling his weight, for example. But you know what? The internet isn’t a marriage counselor. I approach these subjects very carefully and ask myself if I’m honoring him with my words AND if this story will uplift others or simply give me an excuse to tear down my partner. He supports my transparent approach to writing, but I wouldn’t hesitate to change something he found it offensive or too personal. I don’t think you’ll regret making decisions like that, either.

And who knows, maybe the things we write now will eventually help our kids with parenting issues when it’s their turn. Here’s to hoping!

What are your thoughts on parenting essays? Is it possible to go too far?

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