"My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that's who I am," Christie Tate wrote in an essay for The Washington Post

By Jen Juneau
January 07, 2020 11:50 AM
Mom and child using laptop

The debate surrounding sharing photos of one’s children without their consent is a constant one online, but for Christie Tate, it’s just part of her identity.

In an impassioned essay published in The Washington Post last January that has recently resurfaced, the writer shared that one of her children found her photos on the internet, in pieces that had been published on a variety of sites, and asked her mom to take them down.

“Could I take the essays and pictures off the Internet, she wanted to know,” Tate wrote. “I told her that was not possible. There was heavy sighing and a slammed door. When I had pictured our first serious conversation about how the Internet is forever, I always thought we’d be talking about content posted by her, not me.”

The writer promised her daughter she wouldn’t do it without her daughter’s permission anymore, but stood by her decision to keep the current photos live.

“I read through some of my old pieces, and none of them seemed embarrassing to me, though she might not agree,” Tate said in her essay.

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Mom using laptop

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Tate added that while she understands why “many writers” stop writing about their kids after they hit a specific age, “it’s not a promise I can make.”

“Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her,” she explained. “So my plan is to chart a middle course, where together we negotiate the boundaries of the stories I write and the images I include. This will entail hard conversations and compromises.”

“But I prefer the hard work of charting the middle course to giving up altogether — an impulse that comes, in part, from the cultural pressure for mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing on behalf of their children,” Tate continued. “As a mother, I’m not supposed to do anything that upsets my children or that makes them uncomfortable, certainly not for something as culturally devalued as my own creative labor.”

Mom using laptop with family nearby

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“My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that’s who I am,” she wrote. “Amputating parts of my experience feels as abusive to our relationship as writing about her without any consideration for her feelings and privacy.”

Tate and her little girl had come to an agreement at the time: “I will not submit a picture for a publication without her permission and that she has absolute veto rights on any image of herself.”

“As for content, I have agreed to describe to her what I’m writing about, in advance of publication, and to keep the facts that involve her to a minimum,” she went one. “I have not yet promised that she can edit my work, but we acknowledged that is a future possibility.”

“She also requested that instead of using her name, I call her by her self-selected pseudonym, Roshelle, and I’m taking that under advisement,” Tate added.