In this series, kids (and not-exactly-kids-anymore) review how well their parents balance life and work. To nominate a potential subject, ideally between the ages of 5 and 17, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leta Armstrong is 14 years old, in the eighth grade, and lives in Salt Lake City. Her parents are Heather B. Armstrong, who blogs about motherhood at the site Dooce, and Jon Armstrong, who works at Thomson Reuters.
If you had to explain what your mom does for a living to someone who has no idea what Dooce is, what would you say?
She writes a mommy blog but it’s more satire and humor than actual tips or anything. She just tells stories.
How old were you when you first started to understand what your mom did?
It was a gradual understanding. I think I started to understand what she was doing when I was in third or fourth grade. I found out why all the books were mailed to us or she got to do all these cool things for sponsorships.
I remember an interview your mom did with New York magazine where she was talking about having to dress you guys up in Old Navy clothes or something, for a sponsorship.
Yeah, and there was this one time when we had to demo an app and play it to review it or whatever, so that she could post about it.
How does it feel that your mom has to mine her life with you for content all the time? Does she tell you specifically when something you did is going to turn into a post?
Well, one time we drove up to Park City in the fall and she took pictures of us with the trees. And we were like, eh, we don’t really want to go. But she was like, it is for a post.
Do you get to veto what she writes about?
Yeah. She’s like, “If you don’t want me to post this or you don’t want me to write this about you, then I won’t do that.”
When did those boundaries start? You can’t really ask a 4-year-old if they care, so how old were you when that conversation first happened?
Probably when I was in third or fourth grade. The age that I started realizing what she did. There was one time when she wrote about when I was sick and it kind of embarrassed me and I talked to her about it and she was like, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
Do you remember why that specific post was embarrassing?
Well yeah, it was when I was sick and I threw up, and even though I was a fourth-grader I was still embarrassed about it, I think. I didn’t want the whole internet reading about how I threw up.
Do your friends or teachers or neighbors or anything read the blog?
Well I have actually had a teacher who was like, “I didn’t know that your mom was Heather Armstrong.” I was like, what? It was kind of weird.
When your mom took a break from blogging, how did her day to day change?
I don’t think it changed much in our life because she kind of had the same schedule as she did when she was blogging. It was just different work, you know? It wasn’t really what she wanted to do, I don’t think. Blogging is what she does and it’s her passion.
What does your dad do for work?
He works at Thomson Reuters.
What does he do?
I’m not sure, I think he does … I’m not sure actually.
What does your dad like the most about his job?
I think being on the computer—he’s a really tech-savvy guy—and knowing that he can work from any place, really.
How old were you when your parents let you get on social media? And was there a discussion about what that meant, especially with your mom having a public-facing career?
I was 13. Yeah, we had a long discussion about that.
Do you ever hear any of the criticism that your mom faces for her blog or does she ever talk about that?
Oh yeah, we talk about that together. Like on her Instagram posts there are these trolls who comment comments that are really mean and they’re trying to get our attention. She’ll be like, “This person commented this thing.” And I’ll be like, “Are you going to reply to them?” And she’ll be like, “No, because they want attention and if I give it to them, it’s basically like feeding them.”
What does your mom call her job? I’ve read that she doesn’t really like the term “mommy blogging.”
Yeah, I know because she says, “It’s not really that.” I think she’d like to say that she’s a writer, not a mommy blogger.
Why doesn’t she like the term?
Well, mommy blogging has this stereotype associated with it and she doesn’t fit into that stereotype.
Why does she feel like she doesn’t fit into that stereotype?
She has a sense of humor that’s different from the mommy bloggers.
Do you think your mom’s job is more interesting than your friends’ parents?
Yes, I think it is. It can be really fun because there’s always different things to do. She says that it’s boring but I feel like it’s not as bad as she says it is.
I know you go to school in Utah, so I’m assuming you’re with your mom during the school year?
Yeah, and then during the summer we go to New York a certain amount of weeks. Every year we switch holidays, so Mom will get Christmas one year and then Dad will get Christmas the other year, and if Mom gets Christmas, Dad gets Thanksgiving.
Would you ever consider blogging the way your mom does, when you grow up?
I think that would be pretty cool if I did. I love to write, and I think I take after my mom in that way.
A lot of what your mom writes about is being fairly liberal in a very red state. Is that something she talks about with you guys?
She is OK with whatever religion we want to be and whatever party we want to be in. She wants us to express ourselves. She doesn’t put anything on us—she isn’t like, be this way or choose this person for president. We all agree with her, but she doesn’t put anything on us even though we’re all liberal, and our whole family is Mormon.
Do you get the sense that you’re so close to your mom in part because you get to read her writing every day? It feels like a diary in a way.
Yeah, it’s pretty weird. But I do think we’re closer because of the blog.
The way she writes is very sarcastic and funny and she curses a lot—is she like that at home?
When she’s driving, yeah.