It’s coming up on the third birthday for one of the most popular and addictive parenting blogs — if you can call it a parenting blog. STFU, Parents is sort of the Onion of the genre.
If you have not yet heard of STFU, Parents, I warn you that it’s the sort of site that will eat up your day. (Though, be careful. Many of the posts are not appropriate for viewing at work.) It’s a compilation of the most self-absorbed and offensive social media postings from parents, sent into the site by outraged friends.
The mother who complains on Facebook about not receiving an “after- home baby gift.”
The too-much-information posts on placentas and potty-training.
The mother responding to a Facebook friend who had just written that he had a tough workout:
“Imagine, if you were a woman, you would have done all that, cooked three meals, did 5 loads of laundry. mow the lawn, wash the dog, weed the garden .... and you still wouldn’t sleep well because one of the kids would be up sick all night!!! Just sayin’!!”
Taken together, the site provides a glimpse of modern parenting at its narcissistic worst. It also provides a guide of what not to post about pregnancies, childbirth experiences and kid’s lives.
The blog founder, who perhaps not surprisingly does not have children (yet, she says), talked with me about why she launched the site and what she’s learned about modern parenting since. She asked I protect her identity since she, so far, has kept private.
Here’s our Q&A:
Why did you launch the blog?
I launched the blog in March 2009 as a response to my own Facebook feed, which was starting to fill up with new-parent friends detailing the minutiae of their baby’s daily developments. Their updates were pretty benign (tracking a baby’s fever, posting dozens of similar photos, that kind of thing), but it was clear that some of my friends were “changing.”
Around the time I started noticing these changes, a former co-worker (and mom of two) began sending me screen captures of her annoying parent friends on Facebook so she could vent about them. I realized that this frustration might be universal, but no one was talking about it because it’s rude to gossip about your friend’s annoying baby updates behind her back.
Has it transformed in the past three years?
Over the past three years, a lot has changed. When I started the site, believe it or not it was still controversial to post a sonogram on Facebook, and most women waited to reveal their pregnancies until the first trimester had passed. There wasn’t a lot of gratuity, especially compared to what you’ll find on the blog now. It was a “simpler” time.
Since 2009, I have truly seen it all as more and more parents use Facebook as a scrapbook for their children’s lives. Parents want to share everything with their friends, so when their toddler poops on the potty for the first time, just telling people isn’t enough. There needs to be a photo and a detailed description of what happened...
I think the line between what’s considered “sharing” and “over-sharing” is getting very blurred .
How many submissions do you get a week/month? Are they all from readers who see something outrageous from a parent on Facebook or a personal blog?
I have a pretty strict policy against linking out to personal blogs or posting anything from a personal blog. I think everyone has a right to carve out their own corner of the Internet. My blog is specifically about content that’s shared via social media (usually Facebook), where there’s a captive audience comprised of a lifetime’s worth of friends, relatives and acquaintances. No one is “forced” to read a personal blog, but you may catch an unforeseen glimpse of your fifth grade lab partner giving birth via your Facebook feed which is something that isn’t always controlled.
I average anywhere from 20-50 submissions per day. I’ve never counted a whole month’s worth of submissions, but suffice to say it’s in the hundreds!
Is your intent to mock parental over-shares or to curb them?
I think both. I mock the over-sharing as a way to say, “C’mon, guys, this is what happens when people stop editing themselves!” But, I’m being serious at the same time. It’s all sort of tongue-in-cheek...
I’m fascinated with the way people share information nowadays. I just think it’s crazy that some people think to themselves, “Well, now that I have the ability to tell the world about losing my mucus plug, I’m going to!” Or rather, I guess those people don’t really think at all. They just type out an update and hit “publish.”
I do think it would be nice if people stopped sharing so much (parenting and otherwise), but I don’t think that’s going to slow down anytime soon. Especially if we’re basing that projection on my inbox.
How do you feel about the current parenting culture — is it generally acceptable with a few outrages or do you think there’s been an overall trend to more self-centered behavior?
I’ve seen so much self-centered behavior in submissions, it’d be impossible for me to say that hasn’t increased in recent years. I really believe it has. Many parents are very possessive and very concerned about shallow things like ensuring their daughter is the only “Envy” or “Nevaeh” (that’s ‘heaven’ spelled backwards) in her kindergarten class. I think social media gives people the tools to do things like argue with their mother-in-law in front of hundreds of “friends” to make a point, or display a series of birth tub photos to promote a natural birthing philosophy.
People have the ability to spread their gospel, and sometimes that gospel is all about parenting. It can come off as arrogant or self-absorbed, for sure. And with strollers getting bigger and bigger and toys getting more expensive (and obnoxious), it’s inevitable we’ve all seen these types of parents “in the wild” as well as online.
That being said, I know plenty of rational parents, and more than that, I e-mail with rational parent readers all the time. Some parents e-mail me to say they stopped sharing so much after they found my blog. Others say they use it as a guide for what not to do. Some even started reading when they got pregnant for that exact reason. I think there are a lot of parents who don’t want to over-share, but they’re just not sure when something is too much. That’s where STFU, Parents comes in!
Do you agree that we are living in an “over-share” parenting culture?