So 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.