Aside from ‘where are you glasses from?’, ‘what’s your fave Nakd bar flavour?’ and ‘what size did you get that dress in?’, the most commonly asked question that slides into my DMs over on Instagram is, ‘can I just ask why you chose not to show your son’s face on the internet?’.
For the most part, it comes from well-meaning followers. Often parents or soon-to-be-parents who undoubtedly feel pressured to make a decision about their own child and whether their deliciously scrummy baby should be posted to a social media app, or whether he or she should stay firmly offline.
It comes as many other well-known Insta mums – Mother Pukka and This Is Mothership‘s Gemma and Sam – have opted to stop sharing their kids faces online, or at least to dramatically show less of their kids once they start school.
So, why did I do it? And should you do the same?
I had zero plans about sharing Atti online before he was born. I had one thing I was sure on, and that was that I wanted my account, and the person I am online – both on this blog and on Instagram – to feel as close to the person I was pre-baby to the one I was post-baby. Obviously much easier said than done when you’re trying to think of a blog post idea that’s relevant to both parents and non-parents and the only thing going through your head is why your breast pads are already soaked through and why they smell like condensed milk.
I’d always admired my friend Erica’s approach to her account – she had kids, we all knew she had kids, they were mentioned here and there in little titbits through stories and captions, but her account was about her and not them. She posted about her Marks & Spencer hero buys and her renovation and her favourite Bobbi Brown beauty products, and not so much about parenting.
I knew early on I wanted the same approach – I’d built my online brand by writing about myself and my likes, whether that was snacks, fashion, travel destinations or beauty, and I wanted to very much keep that at the forefront of what I was doing. I wanted blogging to be my little escape, the place I could continue to focus on me.
The other thing I’d planned from the start, was to take a full month-long break from the internet once the baby arrived. I wanted to delete my apps and fully immerse myself in the newborn bubble without feeling the pressure to post or to keep up with the rest of the digital world who hadn’t just had abdominal surgery following 30-hours in labour. I also wanted to be able to find my feet over those first few days and weeks without reading well-meaning comments sliding into my DMs about how I was carrying the baby wrong in the carrier or breastfeeding wrong or sleeping wrong or winding wrong or bathing wrong.
In the hours following Atti’s birth, I drank tea and ate jam on toast and between me and my boyfriend we tried to amble together a list of all the people we needed to text to announce our baby’s birth. And once that was done, I realised I also needed to announce to the rest of the world that he’d arrived. I snapped a quick shot in the hospital on my phone, uploaded it with a short caption, watched the first handful of comments roll in and then pressed delete on the app.
And I can’t deny, it was a fairly glorious silence when I needed it most. (I had fellow new mums, both NCT, old friends and work friends ready to contact day and night via Whatsapp and Facebook messenger).
It was only after my month hiatus as I went to resume regular posting that I realised I didn’t want to share my baby. I wanted to keep him for myself, but more than that, I wanted to protect him, to keep him safe, to put him before me.
Of course there’s always the fear of strangers recognising your kid in public and perhaps therefore jeopardising their safety, but for me a lot of the decision came down to the fact I didn’t want him to be judged. The internet can be a heinously cruel place where people jump to judgement when they know 0.5% of the facts and are quick to troll anyone’s appearance – even kids. I don’t want that for him. I’ve felt that wave of shame and anxiety that rains down on you when you read strangers calling you fat and lazy and annoying and undeserving, and I don’t want that for my kid. But also, I don’t want to accidentally stumble on that kind of comment about my child online. I’m fairly strong, but I’m not that strong. I couldn’t handle anyone slating the person I love very most in this world.
People have written about how they’re ‘fucking fed up of seeing the back of his head’, but the reality is that if I showed his face people would only comment about how I use him to make money, and if I didn’t show him at all that they’d say that I didn’t spend any time with him and must hate being a mum. I’ve found that in the online parenting world, it’s very hard to win. You have to just accept that you are losing to other people, but so long as your kids likes you most days, you’re doing a pretty damn wonderful job.
So I guess there really is no right way to show or not show your child’s face online. It’s a completely personal choice, and in reality, one that probably won’t make too much difference to your child’s life – although obviously our kids are the first to grow up as social media babies, so who really knows what their futures hold. I have no judgement to people who choose to openly share their child, if anything, I enjoy feeling included and familiar with their family’s life.
But for now, I’m keeping Atti’s bloody delicious face to myself (promise you he doesn’t look like Lord Voldemort).