February 7, 2023

Parenting as an online creator: how one mom navigates it all

We checked in with the creator of a kid's food channel about her best practices for sharing about her kids without over-exposing them. 
February 7, 2023

Parenting as an online creator: how one mom navigates it all

We checked in with the creator of a kid's food channel about her best practices for sharing about her kids without over-exposing them. 
February 7, 2023
Zan Romanoff
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Being a person and a brand is, as we‘ve discussed, complicated. But being a parent and a brand? That’s a next-level challenge. 

For some creators, parenthood is besides the point of what they make; your true crime podcast or politics-focused YouTube channel might not benefit from appearances by your toddler. (Unless, of course, you’re this guy.) But the more you talk about yourself in your work, the more relevant other people in your life — like your kids — become. And if you do end up making content that discusses your children, you can bet that your audience will be interested in seeing and hearing from them, too.

Which makes sense. Kids are cute! Who doesn’t want the sight of an adorable toddler or cuddly baby to interrupt their doomscroll every so often? 

But on the creator’s side, deciding what to post presents difficult questions about the ethics of sharing information about someone who probably doesn’t understand what the internet is yet. So we checked in with a mother who has experience navigating these choppy waters about her best practices for sharing about her kids without over-exposing them. 

Amy Palanjian is the woman behind Yummy Toddler Food, the author of a forthcoming cookbook of the same name, and the mother of three. When she first started her website in 2014, she thought of herself as a recipe developer and chef first and foremost. But as social media came on the scene, she’s become a content creator, too, with active accounts on Instagram and TikTok. And since her content is centered around what kids will and won’t eat, it felt natural to include her own as she started posting. 

In fact, Amy says, her most-viewed video is of her and her son having a conversation about whether or not he will eat some vegetables that she’s cooked. “I remember very distinctly when I was going to post it, I was like, I don't know,” she says now. “Is this fair to him? He wasn’t crying — I would never post a picture of my kid having a tantrum — but he was unhappy. And I felt like I was using him in a way that I hadn't before. And then it was seen by like 12 million people.”

“On the one hand, I'm really proud of that concept,” she continues. “‘Cause I do think it basically encapsulates my entire views on feeding children. On the other hand, he didn't consent to that. He has no idea how many people have seen this. It is a very slippery slope.”

She acknowledges the competing imperatives at work here. “As a content creator, you want a lot of people to see your content,” Amy says. But also, her relationships with her kids always comes first. “So I did, I think, two more of those last year. And then I was like, I think we’re done,” she says. 

To that end, Amy advises other creators to:

Set good boundaries 

You don’t want to turn every family activity into an opportunity for content creation, Amy says. It can make your kids feel self-conscious and uncomfortable — plus, it means you’re always on, thinking about how to frame a scene instead of enjoying the moment with your children. 

Since Amy’s work is focused on food, she has rules for herself around letting her kids eat un-surveilled. “I don't show videos of my kids eating,” she says. “I don't film their meals. I don't do a day in a life of what they ate. It’s no one's business what they're eating or how they're eating, and it doesn't mean anything for anyone else.”

Instead, “I try to sort of use them for like context,” she says — so their general presence is felt without exposing too much of the specifics of their lives. Her videos reflect that she’s a parent, but not precisely to whom. “You might see a kid running through a video, but they're not the focus of the video,” she says.

When she does center her kids — as brands sometimes request for sponsored content — Amy makes sure that it’s clear to them that they’re helping her with work, creating a clear boundary between time they spend hanging out with their mom, and time they spend working alongside her. “I basically think of it as if they were models for an ad campaign,” she says. “I tell them what we're doing. Obviously they don't understand the breadth of it, but I try. And we contribute to their college fund every month. We increased the amount last year, ‘cause I was like, I wanna make sure that I'm compensating them.” 

Keep camera time minimal 

When the kids will need to be on, Amy also tries to make sure that she won’t need to wrangle them into compliance for too long. “If there's stuff I can do without them, I will do that first, and then have them come in and help with this specific thing,” she says. “There was a video we did that was using a tool to make sugar cookies. We were actually making cookies for Christmas, so I prepped everything ahead of time. I knew the shots that I needed, and I did the clips I needed, and then we just continued on baking.”

She encourages other creators who are working with their kids to “Be really organized and think about how you wanna use them. Do you need them there the whole time? Is there a way that you could just have like a pop in here and there? Can you just have their hands?”

You might also want to have a backup plan in place in case your kid simply isn’t in the mood on the day, she adds. Amy’s been pretty lucky with her kids, she says, in that no one has ever totally lost it when they were working together. But “If it's not happening, it's not happening,” she says. “There's no forcing the issue.”

Look ahead 

When Amy’s trying to decide whether a particular video feels right to share or not,  “I imagine my kids, say, five years from now,” she says. “If [my oldest daughter] looks at something, how is it gonna make her feel?” She also consults her own sense of “how would I have felt as a kid, if I was used in that situation?”

For her, the idea of her kids as models is especially useful: like her, they do a job where they perform a persona. But they aren’t required to share anything about their personal lives in order to be loved — or in order for mama to do her job. 

You can always change your mind

About six years ago, Amy re-did her website and removed many of the pictures of her kids. In part, that was about what she wanted to project about her work. “I didn’t want it to look like a food diary,” she says. “I didn't want it to be about me. I wanted it to feel like a magazine, which is where my background is.” Now “there’s an occasional older picture of one of my kids, but it's pretty rare,” she says. 

But she’s also moved away from photographing and writing about her kids in real time as they get older. Her oldest’s friends are starting to get phones and smartwatches, she says. She wants her daughter to be able to navigate her own entrance to online spaces, without her mother’s projections preceding her. Which brings us to our last tip…

Be ready for them to move on

Amy’s brand is specifically time-limited: her website, after all, is called Yummy Toddler Foods, and her youngest won’t be a toddler for much longer. So at a certain point, it won’t make sense to use her kids in her content any more. But any kid might get old enough to understand privacy and decide they want more of it. When that happens, you don’t want to guilt them or make them feel like your relationship is changing in any way. And you certainly don’t want them to feel like the family’s financial health or your career is on their shoulders. 

“Last spring I was like, I need to practice making videos with nobody other than me,” Amy says. “I need to be able to do this business without anybody else.” It was a transition, for sure, she adds. “It took me some time to get comfortable with it. So if there's something that makes you feel like you can't do it, make yourself do it, as awful as it feels. As much as possible, make it about you.” 

Zan Romanoff
Zan Romanoff is a full-time freelance journalist, as well as the author of three young adult novels. She lives and writes in LA.
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Parenting as an online creator: how one mom navigates it all

Podcast microphone pushing a stroller

Being a person and a brand is, as we‘ve discussed, complicated. But being a parent and a brand? That’s a next-level challenge. 

For some creators, parenthood is besides the point of what they make; your true crime podcast or politics-focused YouTube channel might not benefit from appearances by your toddler. (Unless, of course, you’re this guy.) But the more you talk about yourself in your work, the more relevant other people in your life — like your kids — become. And if you do end up making content that discusses your children, you can bet that your audience will be interested in seeing and hearing from them, too.

Which makes sense. Kids are cute! Who doesn’t want the sight of an adorable toddler or cuddly baby to interrupt their doomscroll every so often? 

But on the creator’s side, deciding what to post presents difficult questions about the ethics of sharing information about someone who probably doesn’t understand what the internet is yet. So we checked in with a mother who has experience navigating these choppy waters about her best practices for sharing about her kids without over-exposing them. 

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Amy Palanjian is the woman behind Yummy Toddler Food, the author of a forthcoming cookbook of the same name, and the mother of three. When she first started her website in 2014, she thought of herself as a recipe developer and chef first and foremost. But as social media came on the scene, she’s become a content creator, too, with active accounts on Instagram and TikTok. And since her content is centered around what kids will and won’t eat, it felt natural to include her own as she started posting. 

In fact, Amy says, her most-viewed video is of her and her son having a conversation about whether or not he will eat some vegetables that she’s cooked. “I remember very distinctly when I was going to post it, I was like, I don't know,” she says now. “Is this fair to him? He wasn’t crying — I would never post a picture of my kid having a tantrum — but he was unhappy. And I felt like I was using him in a way that I hadn't before. And then it was seen by like 12 million people.”

“On the one hand, I'm really proud of that concept,” she continues. “‘Cause I do think it basically encapsulates my entire views on feeding children. On the other hand, he didn't consent to that. He has no idea how many people have seen this. It is a very slippery slope.”

She acknowledges the competing imperatives at work here. “As a content creator, you want a lot of people to see your content,” Amy says. But also, her relationships with her kids always comes first. “So I did, I think, two more of those last year. And then I was like, I think we’re done,” she says. 

To that end, Amy advises other creators to:

Set good boundaries 

You don’t want to turn every family activity into an opportunity for content creation, Amy says. It can make your kids feel self-conscious and uncomfortable — plus, it means you’re always on, thinking about how to frame a scene instead of enjoying the moment with your children. 

Since Amy’s work is focused on food, she has rules for herself around letting her kids eat un-surveilled. “I don't show videos of my kids eating,” she says. “I don't film their meals. I don't do a day in a life of what they ate. It’s no one's business what they're eating or how they're eating, and it doesn't mean anything for anyone else.”

Instead, “I try to sort of use them for like context,” she says — so their general presence is felt without exposing too much of the specifics of their lives. Her videos reflect that she’s a parent, but not precisely to whom. “You might see a kid running through a video, but they're not the focus of the video,” she says.

When she does center her kids — as brands sometimes request for sponsored content — Amy makes sure that it’s clear to them that they’re helping her with work, creating a clear boundary between time they spend hanging out with their mom, and time they spend working alongside her. “I basically think of it as if they were models for an ad campaign,” she says. “I tell them what we're doing. Obviously they don't understand the breadth of it, but I try. And we contribute to their college fund every month. We increased the amount last year, ‘cause I was like, I wanna make sure that I'm compensating them.” 

Keep camera time minimal 

When the kids will need to be on, Amy also tries to make sure that she won’t need to wrangle them into compliance for too long. “If there's stuff I can do without them, I will do that first, and then have them come in and help with this specific thing,” she says. “There was a video we did that was using a tool to make sugar cookies. We were actually making cookies for Christmas, so I prepped everything ahead of time. I knew the shots that I needed, and I did the clips I needed, and then we just continued on baking.”

She encourages other creators who are working with their kids to “Be really organized and think about how you wanna use them. Do you need them there the whole time? Is there a way that you could just have like a pop in here and there? Can you just have their hands?”

You might also want to have a backup plan in place in case your kid simply isn’t in the mood on the day, she adds. Amy’s been pretty lucky with her kids, she says, in that no one has ever totally lost it when they were working together. But “If it's not happening, it's not happening,” she says. “There's no forcing the issue.”

Look ahead 

When Amy’s trying to decide whether a particular video feels right to share or not,  “I imagine my kids, say, five years from now,” she says. “If [my oldest daughter] looks at something, how is it gonna make her feel?” She also consults her own sense of “how would I have felt as a kid, if I was used in that situation?”

For her, the idea of her kids as models is especially useful: like her, they do a job where they perform a persona. But they aren’t required to share anything about their personal lives in order to be loved — or in order for mama to do her job. 

You can always change your mind

About six years ago, Amy re-did her website and removed many of the pictures of her kids. In part, that was about what she wanted to project about her work. “I didn’t want it to look like a food diary,” she says. “I didn't want it to be about me. I wanted it to feel like a magazine, which is where my background is.” Now “there’s an occasional older picture of one of my kids, but it's pretty rare,” she says. 

But she’s also moved away from photographing and writing about her kids in real time as they get older. Her oldest’s friends are starting to get phones and smartwatches, she says. She wants her daughter to be able to navigate her own entrance to online spaces, without her mother’s projections preceding her. Which brings us to our last tip…

Be ready for them to move on

Amy’s brand is specifically time-limited: her website, after all, is called Yummy Toddler Foods, and her youngest won’t be a toddler for much longer. So at a certain point, it won’t make sense to use her kids in her content any more. But any kid might get old enough to understand privacy and decide they want more of it. When that happens, you don’t want to guilt them or make them feel like your relationship is changing in any way. And you certainly don’t want them to feel like the family’s financial health or your career is on their shoulders. 

“Last spring I was like, I need to practice making videos with nobody other than me,” Amy says. “I need to be able to do this business without anybody else.” It was a transition, for sure, she adds. “It took me some time to get comfortable with it. So if there's something that makes you feel like you can't do it, make yourself do it, as awful as it feels. As much as possible, make it about you.” 

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