All I had to do was take pictures of my kids in the shoes and then put the pictures on the site. It should have been easy. But at the time, my children were 3 and 1 years old and nothing was ever easy: not to sleep, not to put on clothes, and especially not to make them sit in front of the camera.
The photos were for a sponsored article for a shoe company that I loved and still love. These articles, in which I have reviewed a product and made it perfect on my site, are the bread and butter of the blogging world. I had been doing them since my daughter was 6 months old and one post went viral. After that, Marks reached out and I, a struggling, often rejected and unemployed writer living in Iowa with two kids and bleeding nipples, took on the job. I had criteria of course – they had to be products I used, believed in, and would buy if I hadn’t handed them over for review. So no $ 50 onesies, my kids would be doing bullshit everywhere. No $ 100 gold moccasins they’d throw at a Target run.
But after a week of chasing my kids to get them ready to take pictures, I gave up. I posted the few images I had, which were blurry and had food stains on my kids’ faces, and let my blog die. The line between work and parenthood had become too blurred. I felt like I was turning their childhood into content.
Historically, children were an economic necessity: they ensured the inheritance of your estate and provided free labor. Now, in our modern not-so-agrarian society, we like to think of kids having it easy, getting iPads, and gorging on organic mac and cheese. We idealize childhood in the nostalgia filtered by Instagram, but the reality of children’s lives is that they have become a product of that nostalgia.
In Magic and loss, Virginia Heffernan writes that the new child labor is being photographed for the family-owned media publishing and social media business. She compares a child’s compliance with parental requests for photos at farm work, saying, “Every aspect of the family business becomes familiar to a child. Very early on, she learns that she can examine a photo in a viewfinder as soon as it is taken; that she should play the silly rather than “pose” … “
While Heffernan talks about all families, the observation is more important for those who make money with their children – writers, vloggers, bloggers, Instagram celebrities and Vine stars. This is not new, parents write about their children since Jean-Jacques Rousseau abandoned his son and wrote Emile. But of Emile, Erma Bombeck and the Skylander family, the tension only increased. Is contentment the new child labor?
“’Child content’ is a sensitive topic to say the least. “Why don’t you go for something less controversial, like vaccines? A woman joked.
According to a 2012 study by Scarborough Research, 14% of American moms are bloggers. At the time, the survey estimated that there were over 3.9 million mom blogs in North America and among those moms, the top 10 percent made up to six figures, writing books. and playing in reality shows with their children.
In a Forbes article, Power moms BSM Media’s author and Maria Bailey said, “There’s the richest 10% who make six figures, who write books and who have deals with the Food Network. Then there are the poorest 20 percent who do it out of love and do nothing. “
The middle 70% is where your bloggers moms reside, not very famous and sometimes viral like me. In my prime, I was making $ 300 per month on my website alone. I was also paid to blog on sites like Babble, Mom.me and the now closed BabyZone. This income was based on the fact that I had children and that I was ready to share them and take pictures of them. Moms who shared more and had a greater social media presence were rewarded with more money and more incentives. Businesses are always looking for creative ways to advertise in the lucrative and competitive Moms market.
Of course, there is a flip side to all this baby product shilling. Criticisms of bloggers, mothers and artists who write about their children often include accusations of child exploitation. But the International Labor Organization makes it clear that not all work children do with their parents is exploitation. Often times, a child’s tasks can be seen as positive if they help him develop skills for his adult life.
And yet, as a blogger, I often felt uncomfortable with the level of involvement required of my children. Whether they’re posing or testing a product, my income depends on their performance. And when they were chubby babies, happy to lay on the floor and smile, that wasn’t a problem. But as stubborn toddlers, I could see the resistance. The day I tried to photograph my kids for the shoe post, my 3 year old daughter put her hands up and said, “No pictures mo.” And there, I knew it was over.
I have spoken to many writers and bloggers about what they think of “children’s content,” and it’s a sensitive topic to say the least. “Why don’t you choose something less divisive, like vaccines? A woman joked.
“I modeled when I was a kid, so letting my kids get a feel for what I do for a living in a relaxed atmosphere with their own mom behind the camera is something I’m at. ‘easy.”
In the New York Times, blogger Elizabeth Bastos said she had given up writing about her children altogether because “maybe, in fact, not everything is copied. Maybe that’s people’s lives, and we should be considerate, loving, and respectful of their privacy. It’s a new perspective for me in our clickbait culture of confessionalism and parade nudity.
For other moms, like Jordan Reid of the Ramshackle Glam lifestyle blog, it’s about keeping firm boundaries on how content and her kids intermingle. “If I decide if I should do a campaign in which they would be explicitly involved (like this one), my attitude is slightly different: I ask them directly if they wish to participate and I explain to them that it is work” a she told the Daily Dot via email. “If they want to do it, I explain exactly what we’re going to do, keep it short and fun, and then deposit the earned money directly into their 529 (college) accounts. I starred in commercials and modeled when I was a kid, and so let my kids get a feel for what I do for a living (and make some money themselves) in a relaxed atmosphere with their own mother behind the camera is something I’m comfortable with. Not everyone would, but we are, and if our feelings change in the future, so will our choices. “
Smokler, whose children are 8, 10 and 12, explained, “I think it comes down to making sure that they understand and are comfortable being subjects in my writing. There are enough of them that they’ll blame me one day, I want to make sure I don’t knowingly add to the list! know “no mo pictures.” It can depend on the family and the personalities involved, says Jill Smokler, the mastermind behind the Scary Mommy blog. Some children love it, while others, like my son, categorically refuse to cooperate. The key, Smokler believes, is finding what works for your family.
I also believe that it is about finding a balance. I love writing by Maggie Nelson, Nicole Chung, and Rivka Galchen, who use parenting stories to explore identity and constructs of femininity and family. And I like to involve my kids in my writing by telling them the things I think about and showing them my signature when they ask me what I do all day while they’re in school. And I hope we can work towards a human understanding of identity, work and boundaries. But it won’t be easy, and we may not do it quite right.
Recently, I took my kindergarten child to a reading of books by non-fiction authors at a local independent bookstore. When the tongue got too salty, I discreetly slipped her headphones on and handed her an iPad. I got a lot of stares when there were graphic descriptions of drug use and oral sex. But my daughter was unconscious, playing her My Little Pony game instead.
Afterwards, a writer and father and author that I admire came to me and said he was happy to see her there. His only regret, he noted, was not involving his children in all of his work.