Have you ever thought about creating an online presence for yourself as a parent or for your children?
A few years ago I started Before and Again, a website and Instagram handle on parenting and photography. It’s not a business yet and I don’t yet make any money from my website but it has lead to some wonderful collaborations with the likes of Lines & Current, Eve Sleep, Watergate Bay and now Namecheap.
Below I offer some helpful tips to get your own project started, including how you might want to ensure your children have a positive online footprint, and tips for staying safe online.
How it Started
My main job is being a mama. I was training to be a primary school teacher when I became pregnant with my first child, Zora. When I was due to return to finish my degree, I found out I was pregnant with Dalia! I wanted to be with them until they started school, so I still haven’t returned to complete my degree (and I’m not sure I will).
I am more than just a mother, but everything I do stems from that role. It doesn’t define me but it is a strong part of my identity. It’s what motivates me in almost everything I do. Motherhood was inadvertently the reason I got into flat lay photography and photo styling on Instagram. I used to style mini-vignettes in between nap times or while a teeny Zora played. It also became a way to document my journey as a mother and Zora’s babyhood.
I started my website as an extension of the Instagram account because I wanted to showcase my photography more. I have posts on everything from Puglia to empowerment. I chose the name ‘Before and Again’ from a song by Akron/Family which just reaches into the very depths of my mama heart.
What It Means to Be a Parent Online
Being a parent online means being accountable in many ways. You have more responsibility because of the vastness of the Internet: Who sees your posts? What do you share? What do you protect?
This subject is intensely complex, and I’d probably be able to discuss and debate for a week. For me, it boils down to trusting what you feel comfortable with sharing—whether that’s your journey of parenthood, pictures of your children (or yourself), or even choosing the brands you work with.
We have to be aware and responsible about the things we share and how we share. We do have a responsibility to be mindful about whether what we share is harming others—for example, perpetuating a perfect “Instagram life” when that won’t be a reality for most people. I have struggles too, but also realise the privileges I have that others don’t. I have to amplify the struggles as well as successes, because it’s imperative to share the good and bad aspects of parenting to ensure a truthful picture is painted. We need to celebrate the joy, but also highlight issues around social justice like diversity and inclusion because it’s an important part of building a fairer society both online and in the “real” world.
My Target Audience
I have a platform and an audience which supports me, and for which I am grateful. I have always been a flitterer! I flitter between communities and try to bring people together. I see connections and common ground—it’s really beautiful to see other connections and bonds being made when you’ve brought different communities together, both in real life and online.
My online community is a mish-mash of faffers, huge bloggers, and IG accounts—mamas, friends, knitters, activists, artists, musicians, creators, comedians, and just about anyone (and anything) educates me, and brings me joy. I feel it’s necessary to have variety in your online community to avoid being sucked into one idealistic and standardized view of life, and to grow in knowledge and connection!
Diversity Among Parents Online
Unfortunately, the online parenting community fail to represent anyone who isn’t slim, white, able-bodied, and cisgendered. This is changing very, very slowly, but generally it isn’t diverse outwardly.
There are of course parents of every persuasion, race, ethnicity, gender etc online. Sadly, though, they aren’t the standard nor mainstream. We rarely, if at all, see transgender or black parents unless it’s in a negative light and as such, black and LGBTQ++ parenting communities are hardly ever shown for their joy! The Muslim community is hardly ever shown in a positive light either, but there is a huge community of a variety of Muslim parents online like me: The Bright Blooms, Nilly Dahlia, Sofia Reading and Dina Tokio to name a few.
Platforms like Make Motherhood Diverse and All Our Mothers are looking to change that and I am super grateful for both. If you want to dig deeper into this topic, read everything on disrupting racism with kids by @theconsciouskid, read The Pants Rule by the NSPCC and share books that celebrate diversity!
Great examples of these include: Queenie, Julian is a Mermaid, Hey Black Child, Separate Is Never Equal, The Day You Begin, My Hair is a Garden, Something Happened In Our Town, The Day War Came—and so many more!
Why I Started
I’ll admit that motherhood was pretty lonely to start with—and for a long time after. It wasn’t until I found friends through online parenting communities that I felt less alone in it all.
So my phone is a lifeline—I keep in touch via Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp (yup the trifecta!) but now Zora is in school, I have met friends in real life through actual conversations and it’s been really wonderful.
I probably speak to different sets of parent friends about different things, but I basically talk or listen to every subject under the sun! I use Instagram a lot. I have friends from all over the world that I have connected with, that I speak to nearly every day are there. My work, and how I earn money is predominantly through there and the partnerships I mentioned above.
How You Can Get Started as a Parent Online
Everyone is different and this is true also in the online parenting community. For example, some parents will share their kids in the bath but others will blank out faces to keep their identities hidden.
If you want to start your own online presence as a parent, first, set yourself clear boundaries:
- What you want to share
- What you shouldn’t share
- What communities you want to grow and connect with
- How to stay in your lane and not be judgmental
The last point is especially important when entering the spaces of marginalized folks. Keep in mind that in parenting communities there is already so much pressure, judgment and expectation. Be true to you, speak your truth and be kind. Always lift others.
How to Help Children with Their Online Presence
If my children wanted to share their life, passions and joy online, I would absolutely support them. As with anything in life, I would teach them the risks, I’d make them aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I would teach them to be safe.
I hope that my children’s photographs and what I share about them online will serve as a diary or photobook of sorts. It can be a way to look back at how I saw them, what I spoke about and cared about, the things we did together—and hopefully they can learn from it. I try to be respectful to them in what I share and whenever we do a photoshoot together, I always let them lead or have them engage in something they can learn from, or take joy in!
For now, they are too young and don’t go onto social media themselves. However, I do show them the outcomes of a photoshoot, how I edit and share some of the kind things that folks say.
I think being mindful of what they share, who they share it with, and knowing what different settings mean when sharing a post, is super important. I feel rather than shame/blame social media, we need to teach children and young people how to be safe, secure, and set boundaries. Knowledge is empowerment and that is key to ensuring they have a positive online footprint.
Learn More on This Subject with Namecheap
Namecheap has created a guide for parents who want to help their children in building a positive online footprint. It starts by registering their first domain name so that schools and employers will easily find information about them when they’re looking online. Check it out!