Personal blogging: cathartic or a step too far?

Blog the blog

I was interested to read (on Twitter, via my friend Laura) that the legendary blogger, Petite Anglaise, was hanging up her keyboard once and for all.  And although our thoughts turned first to the fact that it will leave a space in the #1 slot of the Top 100 British Mummy Bloggers chart (elbows out, girls!…hey, hang on, I’m down 9 places to #15 – the shame!), her reasons for ‘turning the page’ on blogging were very interesting.

It seems that personal blogging, the very thing that earned her the lucrative book deal and led to a career as a writer, had started to leave an unpleasant taste in her mouth.  If you don’t know the story, she famously got fired by her boss, about whom she was distinctly unpleasant, when her anonymous blog came to light  (she did subsequently win damages against him in court, though).  The story made her quite famous, but once the anonymity had been removed, there was the constant worry that somebody would be upset or offended with what she might say, and with that new-found worry came the inevitable dearth of subject matter.  Interesting, also, that it was THIS INTERVIEW with Liz Jones, a weirdly neurotic, no-holds-barred journo who has managed to alienate half her family and her entire village (including my friend and fellow Disney 7er Exmoor Jane) with her bare-all style of writing, that finally tipped her over the edge.  But in short, she just stopped enjoying it.

I sympathise, I really do.  When I started my blog, way back when we first moved to Ireland, I was obsessive about anonymity and never posted pictures of anyone I knew.  Slowly, I’ve relaxed this rule.  I still try not to post full-face photos of the children, or anyone whose permission I haven’t sought (Mad Uncle Alg is fair game, obviously), and don’t mention people’s full names.  But now we’re settled here, it’s natural that more and more people get to know me, start to read the blog, and my cover has been, I suppose, somewhat blown.  In fact, I’ve even been caught out giving my rather frank views by someone that turned out to be a reader.  Yup, that was awkward.  I’d hate to think I’d ever hurt anyone by what I’d written and I’ll always check first with, say, D-next-door before I mention C, or the kids.

With all this in mind, I’ve had a long hard think about this blog and did decide to go back and remove certain pictures and videos, including our wedding vid.  You can still email me for a link, but I wondered if I was going too far towards making my family live a life online, so I took a step back.

Add this to the fact that I now write for other websites, such as the fabulous HaveALovelyTime.com and you’ll probably find my first name dotted about, if you really look hard.  Funnily enough, when I, and my fellow Disney adventurers travelled to Walt Disney World and met up with our American alter-egos, the ‘Mommy Bloggers’, they were completely dumbfounded by our wish to remain anonymous.  Most published their full names, pictures of themselves and their families and couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t wish to do the same:

‘What, you don’t WANT to be famous?’ 

‘Erm, no, actually, I don’t’.

Englishmum.com is a, I suppose, a bit of an eccentric mix.  There’s family stuff, yes, but the foodie/garden stuff tends to take precendence.  And if I’m honest, I suppose that as the children get older, it’s harder to write honestly without risking embarrassing them in front of their school mates (#1’s been known to comment whilst in his IT lesson).  My readership has risen steadily (thank you!) and though I’m sure I’ve lost and gained different readers as my content has meandered, I am lucky to be blessed with friendly and loyal readers and commenters.  I regard my blog as a little piece of me.  It’s stuffed full of things that I love and I’m always happy that people pop in and enjoy reading my waffle.

And this, I suppose, brings me neatly on to the fact that after much soul-searching, we’ve decided to have Bert rehomed.  This is a HUGE decision for us, but basically he’s been showing some signs of aggression for a while and obviously our children have to be our main priority.  There’s a load of history behind this that I won’t bore you with, but my lovely mate Jen  is still in touch with a lot of people in greyhound rescue, and is going to make sure he goes to a good home somewhere with people that know his history and will really love and care for him well.  I’m sad, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

So for now, I’ll crack on (800 posts, 8553 comments and counting…), I’ll continue to be anonymous-ish, and there’ll be the same old stuff – maybe a bit more food and a bit less about the fellas, and obviously no more Bert, but don’t worry, if anyone humiliates themselves in any way, you’ll be the first to know.

Oh and here’s my rather pathetic review on Mmmmmmcake. ‘It was nice’? C minus for effort there.

70 replies
  1. Kate
    Kate says:

    Well, as someone who has had her house trashed in a greyhoundy way and survived I am sure that if Hippie had turned nasty as well – she would have had to be rehomed!

    You had a lovely time with him though and we probably would never have found each other without the hounds, and that would have been dreadful!!!

    My blog is quite public – but it has not affected my family or friends. I try not to post when I’m feeling down though – can’t cope with sympathy I suppose….

    Keep smiling!!!!

    Reply
  2. patty
    patty says:

    i’m so sorry about Bert. I did so much enjoy reading about him, but i understand your decision to rehome him. i do hope you will continue with your blog, yours was one of the first ones i started reading on a daily basis, even though i don’t always leave a comment. i enjoy reading about the foodie stuff because i don’t like to cook or bake but i collect recipes, why i don’t know, maybe waiting for inspiration. i feel you are a friend i haven’t seen for a long time, but still enjoy reading about what is doing on in your life.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hey Patty, aw that’s so nice, thanks. And yes, I love to see the familiar faces pop back – I regard you guys as friends too. Don’t worry, I’ll be sticking around! xx

      Reply
  3. R xx
    R xx says:

    Just think what could have happened to Bert had you not provided a loving home for him when you did?? Obviously nature not nurture, you are doing the right thing xx

    Reply
  4. Dan
    Dan says:

    I use real names and am not at all anon, but I try to keep the blog google proof – so anyone googling my or my families names won’t get it as a result. This is to try an avoid my children’s friends stumbling across the blog in 5 years time.

    I am occasionally hampered for subject matter from being out in the open, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Usually they are posts I should think twice about posting anyway.

    We had to rehome our dog when he began to growl at my son when he was a baby. As you say, kids come first. Makes you feel like a bit of a failure and irresponsible person, but in reality you’re anything but.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hey Dan – wow, I’m feeling all ‘we’re not worthy’ now – getting the blogging big hitters on this one! Actually, that’s a really good way of looking at it – if it’s a worry, then you probably shouldn’t post it anyway!

      And I’m pleased you said that – we’ve definitely felt like we did something wrong somewhere along the line with Bert. Thanks, you’ve made me feel better.

      Reply
  5. Townygirl
    Townygirl says:

    i thought my ears were a little warm lol. and i’ve some pair of ears let me tell you!
    i’m delighted. lovely post and lovely comments. Berticus will be grand and so will you.
    now, we just have to work on making millions of euro mwahahahahaha xx

    Reply
  6. Townygirl
    Townygirl says:

    what a day i finally made it to here. ridiculous to have to actually work at work.

    well done ;) i completely think you’re doing the right thing. xxx

    Reply
  7. Jennifer Eccles
    Jennifer Eccles says:

    Excellent post…and comments too. Am I the only non-blogger that hangs around these here parts??!!

    As hard as it was, I’m sure you’ve made the right decision for you guys and for Bert too.xxxxx ((hugs)).

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Not at all, Jenn – although I’d say that generally non-bloggers are a little less likely to comment. I love you and Towny and people that do comment, though – don’t want us bloggers to hog all the fun!

      And thanks, I hope so x

      Reply
  8. Gillian
    Gillian says:

    You are sooo right. Every now and then its good to step back – It’s your blog to grow which ever way you want.

    My blog is not about my family but they influence what I do so they have to be mentioned. My blog started as a way to capture something to ‘pass it on’ to my little one. Instead of a scribbled cookbook, I thought to pass on a diary. We all start them for different reasons.

    Sorry to hear about Bert. God it must have been so hard to make the decision.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hey Gillian – what a lovely reason to start a blog. I have said that to my two actually: you’re lucky because you’ll be able to look back and see what we were up to (and find all our recipes!).

      It was the hardest decision ever. I just hope we’ve made it right xx

      Reply
  9. Moon
    Moon says:

    Interesting how we ‘bloggers’ take different approaches to our blogs …. I do use other people names instead of real ones, but I am very happy for people to know who I am. I guess mine is mainly a travel blog, giving news of my whereabouts and to post photos for people. It’s not often I am posting about opinions etc …
    I love the openess and honesty of your blog, and although I have known you longer than anyone else on here, your blog is you… and your readers know ‘you’ in the blogging sense. You have to give quite a lot of You to your blog to make it what it is, and to make it different from others …. if that makes sense ???

    Can Bert fly to Slovakia ??… and I will be blogging again soon… just been a tad busy etc …. x

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hey sweetpants – how’s the packing going? I’ll DHL him to you if you like…

      Yeh, I think you’re right in that this blog would be exactly the same if I wasn’t anonymous – so it’s not as though I really change anything except people’s names. And yes, get blogging please, I hope you’ll be chronicling your move?! xx

      Reply
    • Don't Bug Me!
      Don't Bug Me! says:

      Actually, I think you will find that I have known EM for over a year longer than you Moon, – being older and all.

      EM: I am very happy being anonymous and I really don’t want my photo or information plastered all over the internet, thank you very much. Fame – you can keep it, but money, well, I will take that thank you very much! So, if anyone wants to pay me for my blog, pop on over and make me an offer.

      EM, I love reading your blog. It is a great way for me to keep track of you, your family and your exploits and I feel closer to you because of it. It makes me laugh and it makes me cry and I look forward to opening every new post, even if it is all pink or some recipe that I know I will never cook since me and my oven don’t always see eye to eye – well, if it would start cleaning itself, I might get to like it.

      Here is hoping that you can find the lovely Bertster a wonderful new home. I had a friend who had to give up her dog when it bit one of her boys. She cried for two weeks. I shall tell you the same thing that I told her – I would have kept the dog and got rid of the children! Do you think perhaps there is a reason that I can’t have kids!?!

      Reply
      • English Mum
        English Mum says:

        Hey Bugs. Aw what a lovely comment – you made me feel all sniffy and like there was something in my eye *cough*.

        That’s the best thing about blogging – the connection with your friends and family even when we’re all hundreds of miles away from each other. And yes, okay then, you can have my kids….

        xx

        Reply
  10. Sweet Oblivion
    Sweet Oblivion says:

    Sorry to hear about Bert – but you’ve got his and your family’s best interests at heart and really, isn’t that the most important thing? You had some great times with him and no one doubts how much you guys love him.

    Re: blogging and anonymity, it’s a tough one. It’s really a personal thing in that some people welcome the attention that their ‘real’ persona gets – good or bad – whilst others feel uncomfortable about it, especially when families become involved.
    My blog’s not really personal but I am and have been a member of forums (usually music ones) and when I was younger and a lot more naive about the internet I threw caution to the wind and let my real name & some details out there. While it has led to meeting some lovely people – and it’s always strange hearing ‘are you sweetoblivion?!’ while in a pub or at a gig – I’ve really toned down giving out personal details (especially using pictures) in the past year.
    I suppose the key is just doing what you feel comfortable with, and learning from your mistakes (if any). :)

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Sweety – everybody approaches blogging differently. I’m happy to remain anonymous, although I do use my real name with people I’ve met through the blog as we’ve become friends.

      And thanks, yes, we’ll miss him, but you’re right, we have to do the right thing by the kids (and him) xx

      Reply
  11. exmoorjane
    exmoorjane says:

    Hah! Why do you think I blog so rarely nowadays??!! I can’t even whisper a word round here and everybody knows….

    I’ve had problems with my blog in the past – family very hurt, famous people cross, etc….and am now very very cautious. Rightly so I think.

    But Bert, oh Bert. I feel for you and totally understand too. Big hug and a smacker. jxxxxx

    Reply
  12. toria
    toria says:

    awww bless the bertster… I’d do the same in that situation, as you know… kids definitely come first. always.
    (actually to be honest,if it were blueness, I’d probably have had him rehomed after he ate the house! I’d have to just to save him from a murderous husband)give him an ear scritch from me before he goes xxx
    (blue waves paw at bert)

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Actually, Tor, you’re very near the truth. So many people said to me ‘I’d have rehomed the bugger if he’d have trashed my house like that!’ and we certainly had ‘discussions’ about it then. I’ll pass on the scritch, thanks xx

      Reply
  13. Sally, Who's the Mummy
    Sally, Who's the Mummy says:

    For what it’s worth, I think to get benefits from the network or community, or whatever you call it, you do have to give a degree of yourself.

    But I also think it’s important for bloggers to realise that what they’re writing is in a public forum – even if you think you’re anonymous, you’re not necessarily. So don’t ever post anything you wouldn’t want your neighbour, your boss, your ex or your kids’ teachers to know about.

    My personal view is that I don’t post pictures of Flea that would identify her – because she isn’t old enough to make that decision for herself and I feel I don’t have the right to choose for her.

    I also have a “fake” “real” online identity – in that I consistently use the same wrong birthdays, names, places and so on – using consistent substitutes protects our anonymity to an extent, without losing the authenticity of the writing.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hi Sally, and welcome!

      Of course you’re right – a lot of blogging is about links and mutual mentions, etc, and I love that bit about it – the ‘camaraderie’ that exists, as it were.

      I certainly couldn’t keep up a fake identity though – I haven’t got the memory (or the inclination, to be fair!).

      Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Aw you don’t mean that, Lulu! I did go through a similar thing a while ago when a couple of people discovered my blog – had to do a frantic check back to see if I’d mentioned them! Hope to see you very soon (nudge nudge wink wink!) xx

      Reply
  14. Carole
    Carole says:

    I understand about the anonymous business. I, too, am always wondering if sometimes I go too far with personal details and such. It’s a small town where I live, and being a teacher, I don’t know who’s reading my blog. Anyway, I’ll continue to enjoy your writing, and I’m glad I got to see the wedding video. It’s so unique and beautiful.

    Reply
  15. Brighid
    Brighid says:

    Know you are doing right by the Kids and Bert, though a bit sad.
    Keep on keeping on with the blog, your so enjoyable. (That’s saying alot from someone who’s not into Pink.)
    I’m seriously thinking of letting mine go quietly into the great beyond. So much going on at the moment and I’m not sure it’s time well spent or fun any more.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      I often think that though, Brighid, and I know other bloggers that go through the same thing. All I’ll say is that just because people don’t always comment it doesn’t mean they’re not reading!! And don’t give up, I love hearing about your life all those miles away x

      Reply
  16. Helen T
    Helen T says:

    Sorry to hear about Bert, tough decision to think about and make I’m sure.

    Really interesting piece, I often think about what I’m putting up. Now feeling a bit worried/concerned/confused about MGGs pictures. Not sure there. My name has been bandied about for so long with work that I’ve stopped thinking about it, def not driven by a desire for fame though! Can’t imagine anything worse. I’d have to go and fetch in those droopy old pants off the washing line for a start. But only after I’d done my makeup. And combed my hair ;)

    Reply
  17. Thriftcriminal
    Thriftcriminal says:

    Ah, sorry to hear that, bit of a tough decision to make I imagine. I have a slightly runty gooseberry, a similarly tichy thyme and a strawberry ready to be re-homed with you, still waiting on the tayberry to root.

    Reply
  18. Littlemummy
    Littlemummy says:

    Sorry to hear about Bert, it’s for the best I’m sure.

    As for personal blogging, I’m fairly open with names and pics but I’ve been very careful not to write anything particularly personal. Over the three and a half years I’ve been blogging my blog has changed enormously and has become less factual and more personal, but more about me than the parenting side.

    I think it’s natural to evolve, you either do that or you give up I think.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      I think that’s very true, Erica. When I look back at the posts I wrote 3 years ago, they were so far removed from the ones I write now it’s laughable! I’m conscious as they get older that I don’t make them cringe, especially as more people locally read what I write, but as I said to Jen, after a while you really get to know your regular readers and the temptation is to share much more personal stuff. Difficult to draw the line eh? x

      Reply
  19. june in florida
    june in florida says:

    With Bert and the blog you have to think of the kids and family first. He will be missed though.Hope the blog will continue?

    Reply
  20. wee jen
    wee jen says:

    Sorry to hear about Bert – very tough decision but it sounds like it’s the best one for him and the family. Still, not easy.

    Also never sure to where to draw the line on anonymity. I’m a bit more open these days – in terms of my name, a couple of personal details here and there. Nothing incriminating (of which there is obviously plenty ;-)), nothing that would get me sacked. But after that… I dunno. I waver a lot about it but I don’t think I’ll ever share as much as say, either Jones or Petite. *Goes away to have more of a think about it*

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Yeh, it’s tough. Especially when, after this long, you feel like you know a lot of your readers (I mean, I DO know you, but the other ones…) The trouble is, if you want more serious work, obviously the anonymity has to go. Tough one, as you say x

      Reply
  21. Baino
    Baino says:

    Such a shame isn’t it but some blogs become personal journals and offend without meaning to. I don’t give a rats bottom about anonymity but like you, I’m careful not to expose family to any form of ridicule and don’t post pics of friends or family without their permission and I do censor myself in terms of personal or career views. Clare’s on Facebook so she’s highly visible and doesn’t mind, Adam is more introspective nd doesn’t like me blogging about him too much so I rarely do unless it’s positive and flattering.

    Such a shame about Bert, I’d love to know why he’s getting aggressive he looked like such a puss! Maybe as the kids are getting older, he’s asserting himself as the ‘alpha male’.

    And at least we got to see the wedding photos which were lovely by the way and the amazing video. Then there’s always Facebook where you can pick and choose your readers.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Thanks Baino. And yes, I think that’s true. I did toy with the idea of getting an English Mum facebook page, but then I suppose that’s just the same as the blog and I’ll still have to be careful with content x

      Reply
  22. Taffy's Mum
    Taffy's Mum says:

    Gutted….no more Bert, but can understand your reasons for it.

    Happy to sent you houndy stories as Wills is always getting into some pickle or other (we were at the vets again last week for a scratched cornea!) although pics to accompany the stories is another matter!!

    Reply
  23. K8
    K8 says:

    My heart goes out to you missy, I hope you’ll be okay in the consolation that Bert will have some more space to be… Bert.

    Anynomity has always confused me. I know it makes sense in theory but I can’t figure out where the line is most of the time.

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Thanks K8, yup, it’s been a really hard one. I know a lot of people advocate euthanasia with a dog that shows aggression, but I know with the right owner he’ll definitely flourish. Sad it’s not me, but as I said, I have to think about the children first :o(

      And I thought of you when I was typing this – you had the same decision to make with wedding photos recently – it’s so tough isn’t it, because you want to share your life with everybody… xx

      Reply
  24. Hails
    Hails says:

    So sorry to hear about Bert, I know you must be sad. :( Hope you manage to find him a great home.

    And I know what you mean about the personal blogging thing. I regularly regret not making mine anonymous from the start, because my subject matter is limited severely by having to go through everything to make sure I won’t offend anyone. I’m half tempted to start an anonymous one too…

    Then again, not being anonymous means we get to make all these great friends through blogging. I guess that helps to balance it out a bit! x

    Reply
  25. Rachel@fairycakeheaven
    Rachel@fairycakeheaven says:

    Oh lovely, I can totally understand where you are coming from! It’s hard to know how much of “yourself” to give and how much not to! I think you’ve made the right decision in terms of the blog and also in terms of Bert. I wish him the very best rabbit chasing, sleeping on beds with his bits in the air time!!

    hugs mrs……………rx

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Thanks Rach. As with everything I talk about on the blog, he can’t just ‘disappear’, I feel I owe everybody an explanation, although with this one it’s been tough. xx

      Reply
  26. Grandad
    Grandad says:

    WHAT!! No more Bert!!! Aggghhhh….

    Can you make sure that Jen finds him a home with a blogger?

    I’d love to have him, but I’m stuck with a neurotic collie and three guinea pigs [all female] who are making one hell of a racket as they all try and shag each other. My nerves couldn’t take any more. *sigh*

    Reply

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