After giving birth to her daughter last year, Jess (who asked to not use her real name) was rushed into surgery to address life-threatening complications. When she finally came to, the first-time mom awoke to discover that, while she was in surgery, her own mother had gone ahead and sent photos of the baby to her friends, without getting Jess's permission first. Upset that she hadn't been able to announce her own baby news, Jess asked her mom to stop sharing photos. The new grandmother agreed not to — but ended up doing it again.
Jess is just one of countless parents who have had to wrestle back control of their own private family life from overeager relatives, a challenge that can feel especially daunting in an age in which every proud grandparent has a Facebook account. Cracking open a wallet to pull out photos of the grandkids — or nieces and nephews, or cousins — used to be the norm; these days it's posting footage and sharing family news on social media, or — as an unhappy Kelly Osbourne recently found out — blurting out baby news.
"I am not ready to share him with the world. It is no one's place but mine to share any information on my baby," the new mom said in an Instagram Story earlier this month after her mother, talk show host Sharon Osbourne, publicly revealed her newborn son's name against her wishes.
As parents themselves grapple with how much to share about their kids on their own social media accounts — using private settings, hiding their kids' faces à la Kristin Cavallari, opting for alternate photo-sharing services for family and close friends only or refusing to post anything personal altogether — they're finding out that not every family member has the same boundaries.
"When I was pregnant, my dad would post on Facebook — what else — for every milestone and we had to beg him to wait until we had done it first," says Melissa, a mom of two who, like the other parents interviewed for this piece, asked to not be identified by her real name due to the risk of hurting a family member's feelings. "He threatened to announce my first pregnancy before us if we didn't do it by the end of my first trimester. When I went into labor, he immediately posted, 'It's happening!'"
Things came to a head shortly after the birth of Melissa's second child, a boy. Within moments of receiving photos from the delivery room, her father posted them on Facebook. "These were photos of my naked male child and his male genitals," says Melissa, adding that her dad couldn't understand why she wanted them taken down immediately.
"He's a proud dad and grandpa so we know he means well, but we do need to keep him in check," she says.
Father of two "Dave" has had his own battles with gratuitous Facebook posting. He's made "numerous attempts" to get his parents to stop divulging personal details about his neurodivergent son, "whose diagnosis my parents can't ever seem to not share with the world." They and other family members are also known to blab about other sensitive matters, including a cousin's recent miscarriage, validating Dave and his wife's decision to be discrete about their own private affairs.
"We had to be very strict with them about not posting pictures before our approval," he says. "It was a real struggle. They're big gossips. I have some secrets I'll refuse to tell them because it'll immediately go around."
Though she never went as far as sharing someone else's baby news, Marcy (again, not her real name) admits that she used to be the family member who overshared. Marcy saw the occasional "casual" mention of family news in her Facebook posts as harmless, but many loved ones started to get "uncomfortable" with being featured in her status updates. "Now, I don't want this on Facebook," they'd tell her at family gatherings.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't offended," Marcy says of having her social media posting kept in check. "Of course it's only natural to get defensive when you're being criticized. It did force me to look at what I was posting from another perspective. I thought it was absurd — not to mention frightening and very sad — that something I shared on Facebook could jeopardize my relationships with others, especially close relatives, but to them, my actions spoke volumes: Either I valued them (and their privacy), or my digital friends."
Though the criticism stung, the message was received, loud and clear. So, how can parents who feel like their family's privacy has been violated put their foot down with the Chatty Cathys in their lives?
"It goes without saying that the clearer communication, the better," clinical psychologist and speaker Lauren Cook tells Yahoo Life. "I would actually recommend writing down what your rules are when it comes to social media and other parenting expectations that you have. This makes it so that it's abundantly clear where you stand and if in doubt, grandparents can frequently refer back to these guidelines that you have in place. Furthermore, just as kids often ask 'why' you may be doing something, you can share the 'why' for your family members so that they fully understand the reasoning behind your requests."
And if your boundaries continue to be breached — and your toddler is getting more social media exposure than a D'Amelio sister — action may be required. Maybe that means withholding photos or not keeping them in the loop like you normally would, or restricting access to your own social media accounts.
"Don't be afraid to put consequences in place," Cook says. "Unfortunately, some people are not as willing to change their behavior unless they see that there are actual repercussions to their overstepping. If you need to enact these consequences so that Grandma and Grandpa learn that they can't walk all over you, so be it."
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.