Baby Blogs, the painstakingly detailed and disarmingly frank records of a child's early years delivered to a global audience via the internet on personal websites, have become the latest shrines to parental absorption.
The "diaper diaries" began life in the United States where one site alone, Dooce.com, is regularly read by some 40,000 people. This apparently irresistible urge to record and share a child's developmental milestones, from first bowel movement to first day at school, has now crossed the Atlantic.
Nicola Standen began chronicling her feelings when she became pregnant with her son Jake while living in England with her new husband. But it just kept on growing. "I wanted to keep a journal of my every thought about wanting a baby, about pregnancy, birth and our new baby. I never wanted to forget my fears and worries, or of the huge highs of finding out that I was pregnant. Also I wanted our baby to be able to read about how very much he was wanted. With my family so far away in Canada, an online diary was the way to go."
She began by buying a domain name: www.babythoughts.co.uk, and updating it each day after work. Then she decided to branch out with her own blog - or web log - registering for the 20six.co.uk site.
It is estimated that new blog sites are set up every 4.7 seconds. They record an individual's observations on everything from life to love and, perhaps unsurprisingly, loneliness. They may be shrines to a favourite actor, pop star or child.
On 20six, Mrs Standen "met" two other women at similar stages of their pregnancies. "We commented on each other's blogs, helped each other with worries and concerns, and shared a giggle about the weirder pregnancy symptoms. I learnt a lot from them and I hope that I helped them too."
Mrs Standen says she has been contacted from new or expectant mothers all over the world. "I love it," she says.
But some see it differently. Daniel J Siegel, a psychiatrist at the Centre for Culture, Brain and Development at the University of California, Los Angeles, has observed a darker side. "What we are seeing is the deep, evolutionarily acquired desire to rise above invisibility, something parents experience all the time. You want to be seen not just by the baby whose diaper you are changing, but by the whole world," he said.
Such an anlaysis is shared by some bloggers. Aylet Waldman's badmother.blogspot.com describes her life with her four young children and husband. "A blog like this is narcissism in its most obscene flowering," she told The New York Times. "But it is necessary. As a parent, your days are consumed by other people's needs. This is payback for driving back and forth to gymnastics all week long."
The newspaper's questioning coverage of the phenomenon this week sparked something close to anger in the "mommy blog" community as web links to the story were attached to individual sites. Mimi Smartypants, whose book, a collection of blogs called The World According to Mimi Smartpants which was published in Britain last year, approaches exasperation. "La da dee dee dee, would someone please tell me what I am supposed to write about in my DIARY if not my own personal LIFE? If I had more energy today I could get good and mad about the story."
There are also fears that the blogs will demand a lot of living down when children reach maturity. The New York Times posed the question of how the blogee will feel when their date for the junior prom Googles their entire existence?
That is not an issue, says Mrs Standen. "I've been interviewed concerning the blog about how some expert thinks that it will harm Jake when he's older. He said that parents shouldn't be writing personal things on there about their baby because, when he grows up, his future friends and colleagues could tease him.
"For instance, I wrote about a time when Jake peed on my arm. Ridiculous. What baby boy hasn't peed on his mum?"
A PARENT ON THE NET
Four months ago, when Trixie was 14 months old, I could usually count on her to take a nap by about 10am, but I wasn't real particular. If she acted tired, I would let her take a nap, even if it was 8 o'clock in the morning. As far as I was concerned, it was never too early for a nap.
Not being a morning person, I needed Trixie's first nap to shower, get dressed, and generally wake up. If I was having a good day, I might even get a little work done, but that was usually left for the afternoon nap. She didn't always take an afternoon nap, but it was regular enough for me to believe that it existed.
Things began to change around 15 months. I still let Trixie go to sleep in the morning when she wanted to, but it became increasingly difficult to get her to take a second nap. We had horrible days where she took a short morning nap, and then spent the whole afternoon in a cranky, frustrated stupor, unwilling or unable to take a second one.
We wrestled with this for a month until we decided enough was enough. We decided to push her to stay up until nap time (1.00) and the payoff was immediate.
The following nine days were the most consistent sleep schedule Trixie ever had. Her schedule has fluctuated since then, but the one-nap-a-day rule remains in effect.
So, now our only sleep problem is trying to get Trixie to stay in bed at bedtime. For instance, tonight it took over an hour of her jumping out of bed, running around her room in the dark, pulling out all her toys, banging into things and generally sounding like a raccoon going through the trash before we finally got her to sleep.
Aside from reverting to the Pack'n'Play (which she still can't climb out of) we don't have a solution - unless going in there with a flashlight and banging on the garbage can lids would work.
Other points of interest:
First climbed out of her crib, just five days after we switched over to one nap a day.
After several weeks of successfully sleeping without the crib side, Trixie began rolling out of bed at night.
Trixie was sick. She wouldn't stay in her crib when she was sick, so we switched her back to the Pack'n'Play for about a week and a half until she learned to stay in the crib again.
Thanks to dearsarah for reminding me to do this nap transition story.
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