Can parents ever erase the ghosts of their childless past?
Published Saturday, August 4, 2012 11:59AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 4, 2012 12:26PM EDT
Popular writer, editor and blogger Gillian Telling remembers the first time she became acutely aware of her online profile.
It was six months after her son was born and Telling, who served as a former sex columnist for Maxim magazine for several years, got a Google alert for her name.
The author, who recently wrote a book called “Dirty Girls: The Naked Truth About Our Guilty Secrets,” remembers Googling her name and the search results leading her to her website where all her articles are stored.
“I remember thinking ‘Oh my God!’ It’s fine for now he’s a baby and I’m still making a career out of this stuff, but eventually I have to delete this website and hide it all,” said Telling in a phone interview from New York.
Among the writing featured on Telling’s website were articles titled “Your sex dreams, decoded,” and “Lust in translation.”
Telling, who recently wrote about this topic in an article for parenting website Babble.com, admits that in all her years as a writer she never considered what her future kids might think about her work.
“I always knew that I wanted children but it wasn’t in my immediate future, so I never really thought about it,” she said. “It wasn’t until I had my child that I suddenly freaked out.
“Now I have an adorable baby who is going to grow up and be a teenager and who is going to read all the stuff I wrote. He’s going to be mortified -- I’m going to be mortified,” said Telling, whose son is now two years old.
In this age of Facebook, Twitter and popular blogging sites, Telling’s problem is not an uncommon one.
With today’s popular social media there is really no such thing as a private life.
If you have ever opened a Facebook account, tweeted or posed in a group photo at a party, chances are that you live somewhere on the Internet.
And like Telling, while this may not be of concern to you at the moment, it’s hard to say how you’ll feel in the future when kids and family are involved.
Telling said she has since come to grips with her online presence.
“There’s no way to take it down, there’s no way to change my past. I’ve just learned to stop cringing every time I think about it, because honestly I don’t know if there are any other options,” she said.
While there are now companies who offer digital services where they “scrub” your online profile, the author doesn’t believe she’ll ever resort to such measures.
“In theory it sounds like a good idea, but in reality it’s being a little bit dishonest. I’m not going to tell my kids everything, but you also shouldn’t pretend you’re somebody you’re not,” she said.
“I don’t want to feel ashamed of anything I’ve done. I don’t think that’s the right way to feel about your work.”
Telling hopes that one day when her son is old enough to read and understand her work he’ll learn to accept it -- even if at first he is disgusted by it.
It might even make their relationship stronger, she added.
“Maybe if he’s seen some of the stuff I’ve written he’ll feel compelled to actually talk to me about things like that rather than keep it completely hidden,” she said.
While most parents who blog or participate in social media may not face the exact same dilemma as Telling, Catherine Connors believes sticking to one simple rule will keep both parents and their kids from future embarrassment.
“The rule I stick to is if I wouldn’t share that story at their wedding rehearsal dinner then I don’t share it online,” said Connors, who is the director of blogs and social media at the popular parenting website Babble.com.
And as for those pesky photos and stories from your past that linger somewhere out there on the Internet, Connors suggests accepting them and moving on.
After all, she says, parents are people too.
“One of the things parent bloggers leave for their children is a record of their real experiences -- a picture of their parents as three-dimensional human beings. I want my children at a minimum to know as much about me as the rest of the world does and possibly more. Anything I’ve put out there for public consumption I would hope is suitable for my children’s consumption some day,” said Connors, who is also the author of the popular blog Herbadmother.com.
This is something Telling has come to accept as she moves forward in her writing career.
Since having her son more than two years ago, Telling has noticed her work has toned down.
While she still writes about sex and relationships, it’s now mostly from the perspective of her relatively new roles as a wife and mother.
And while she knows her more-explicit articles from her childless days will likely exist forever in digital form, Telling hopes her son will one day look back at her work and be proud of her.
“I hope that he thinks it’s funny and I hope he thinks it’s good,” she said.
She adds moments later: “And I hope that he thinks I was once cool and interesting. My hope is that instead of being disturbed he thinks ‘Hey maybe my mom was cool once. She was young, she had a life.’”