A regular reader and commenter sent me an email this morning asking whether the story posted with the poll is real, or whether I made it up.
Dear readers, may I just say, you can’t make this s%*# up. I am as surprised as you are at what people are willing to put up with, at what people do with their au pairs or to their au pairs, and at what au pairs do.
The regular commenter wondered whether this crazy story was a ploy to get more traffic to the site… Reflecting on the question, it seems this would be a reasonably good ploy for that (1) if I desperately wanted more traffic and (2) if I was willing to risk my reputation and credibility for a few more readers.
Re: more traffic. Sure, I’d like more traffic, because the more host families and au pairs who come and read AuPairMom ,the more you all and I can make a difference in host family-au pair relationships. But already, AuPairMom is by *far* the most widely-read au pair advice blog.
At the moment, I’m more worried about getting my stuff packed for my business trip tomorrow! AuPairMom.com gets a lot of traffic already, and I’m not that worried about it. I would like more people to sign up for the email list, and I’d like more host families to read and to comment, but as you know so far all I’ve done to drive traffic has been the Au Pair Appreciation Week event and a flurry of posts when I was trying to avoid writing the paper that I’m presenting at my conference on Friday. (Au PairMom is a great procrastination opportunity not only for you, moms and dads, but for me too. So much easier to write about this than to write about Brandividuals! )
Re: Risking my credibility.
Blogs, social networks, wikis and any kind of social media run on trust. Without trust, no one listens. (Read my paper on Brandividuals !) I really don’t have much of a reason to risk losing your trust, readers, because if you don’t trust me you won’t read the blog and we won’t get anywhere with the mission to save the world one host family at a time.
I am also operating on the presumption that I can trust those who write in with their stories and requests. Because I want people to be able to share tough situations, i have made it possible for anyone who wants to to keep her or his identity anonymous. As you know if you’ve commented, you don’t have to register on the blog or put in your email in order to contribute to the conversation. I set it up this way for your convenience, and because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was ‘harvesting’ email addresses to send you solicitations for agencies, handbooks, consulting advice, or "nighttime enhancements" of any kind.
Keep in mind, too, that AuPairMom is the only blog other than TwiceBlessedChinaMom that does not have adverts or any other kind of monetization. Why? Well, if I was out to sell you something, could you feel as comfortable saying what you need to say? Would I?
That said, I have wondered at times whether the stories are real. I look at spelling errors, typing errors, problems with sentence and paragraph construction, narrative flow, etc. … but to me any mistakes in these areas make me think that the stories come from real people who are not professional writers. (I’m pretty sure Calif Mom is a professional writer, though :-) ).
I felt that the only downside of this approach was that the blog would be vulnerable to people being mean and us/me not being able to hold these people accountable. But it never occurred to me that you readers would wonder if I was faking you out. So, it turns out that we (you readers and I) are both vulnerable.
Why did I do a poll on this story ? Truth be told, I was in a hurry. I wanted to get something up while I packed for my conference. Also, as I shared with The Regular Commenter, to be perfectly honest, I was annoyed that the person had (1) put her own story in someone else’s comment thread, and (2) that she hadn’t bothered to read other posts to give her some perspective before asking us for advice that she could have already gotten by looking at the "Can this relationship be saved" category. I figured that if we took a poll, she’d get what she needed (the push to ask for rematch) and we would not all be repeating the advice we just gave to someone else last week. And, I didn’t want to ignore her request for help because- heck – she really seems to need it.
Looks like I need to be more explicit and transparent about my policies on AuPairMom. Although there are some guidelines about what kind of comments are welcome (and what kind are not), I have also run in to problems with commenters getting mean, people advertising their sites and businesses in comments, people taking posts and images from this site and polishing them up so they can post them on their own sites, people adopting categories from this site, putting up widgets that they found here, and so on. The meanness I have to find a strategy for dealing with– more on that in a few weeks. The copying I’m just trying to accept as part of what happens with good ideas. Plus, if the mission is to help people become better host parents, then if other sites occasionally copy AuPairMom, it just spreads the good advice further & faster.
There is some stuff that goes on in the background of this blog, to be sure. Occasionally I delete a mean comment (and tell the person why, if I have their address). Sometimes I just don’t get to really important questions because I have family & job responsibilities that come first and then the time passes. Sometimes, I reach out to a person via email instead of the blog, if their situation is too painful to bear.
But I’m not a fiction writer (I’m a PhD scientist, remember). Even if I wanted to, I could not make this shit up. I am neither clever enough, devious enough or desperate en9gh. And besides, life is just way crazier than my imagination.
That said, I’d love your comments on what would help you feel more confident about what you read and what you share. Tell me if you think I should require registration or emails, or if you have other ideas for building confidence and trust across the AuPairMom conversation.
In the meantime, I’m running to Target. I can’t find my summertime Spanx and can’t get into my best presentation outfit without it.
Note to The Regular Commenter: Thanks for caring enough to share your concern.