Parenting in public: Facebook, blogs create nuance and nuisances

If she could turn back time, Sherry Petersik would have done things differently on Facebook.

The 28-year-old new mom, who writes a home decor blog called Young House Love, wanted only friends and family to access her profile on the 6-year-old social networking site. But one blog reader sought permission, followed by others, and at the risk of alienating them, Petersik and husband John lost their privacy.

Keeping family life private at a time when 500 million people are on Facebook is a challenge made tougher for young early adopters used to living life online but now also juggling the responsibilities of marriage and children.

Petersik, who lives in Richmond, Va., wanted only family to know when she was pregnant, and when daughter Clara was born in May. Their joy was tempered by concern that someone in their real-life circle would inadvertently spill the news on Facebook.

Losing privacy “has completely changed the way I use Facebook,” Petersik said. “We now feel like we can’t share a lot of personal things because we feel like we don’t want the world at-large to read them.”

She said they used to share travel plans or personal details because “these were our friends and family, they’re not going to rob us or have an agenda,” but now the couple is hyper-aware of keeping those details offline.

Yakini Etheridge, a 31-year-old clinical psychologist in New York City, has whittled down what she reveals on her profile as more readers of her parenting blog, Prissy Mommy, find her on Facebook. She said that at the time she joined Facebook, she didn’t realize she could be selective about how much personal information to share.

“As I learned about it, I was like ‘Oh, I don’t have to have people see my schools? OK, then they don’t need to,’ ” she said.

Etheridge and her husband, Derek, have a toddler named Chase and a new baby. On top of parenting, they’re dealing with her blog, where she posts personal photos and anecdotes, and baby product reviews. Etheridge didn’t realize Derek, a lawyer, was sensitive about photos until she posted what she thought was a cute family moment: Derek in an undershirt and boxers, reading to Chase on the couch.

“He called me from work and said, ‘I can’t believe you put a picture of me with my underwear online!’ ” Etheridge recalled. “I was like, ‘You’re just wearing shorts and a shirt.’ And he’s like, ‘Those aren’t shorts, those are my boxers.’ ”

She said she didn’t immediately realize that the intimate family moment was available, for example, to one of Derek’s clients. She deleted the photo.

Judy Aldridge, 47, and her 18-year-old daughter are heavy social-media users: Aldridge for her Atlantis Home blog and online accessories shop, and Jane for her popular Sea of Shoes fashion blog.

“I think if you look at our blogs, it seems like we share a lot. But there’s so much stuff that’s off-limits,” said Aldridge, who adds that she always looks over Jane’s posts before they’re published.

For the Dallas, Texas, family, relationships, their home address, day-to-day activities and their whereabouts are never mentioned on the blogs. And taking photos of some friends and family now comes with more care.

“Sometimes we’ll be doing something and snapping a photo, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t want to see myself on your blog. No way,’ ” Aldridge said.