Can you do that to your kids – make a podcast about your family?

“I had no desire to have children,” says Teake Damstra (38) in the podcast Sudden Daddies, an audio documentary in which fathers share what it’s like to have a child unexpectedly. Damstra’s daughter is now eight years old. He’s loved her since day one, “but at the same time I want to be able to say out loud that, to be completely honest, I really didn’t want a child.” Sometimes he longs for the childless life, he explains.

We often hear that raw honesty in podcasts. A personal search is often the start of a good audio story, and uncertain details follow naturally. Intimacy suits the medium: we listen to therapy sessions, a verdict in court, an argument at the kitchen table. Listeners enjoy the personal stories; as a maker you therefore want to give it, but if your children appear in it, you also want to protect your family. How do you find that balance?

“I need stories that play out in our family for the podcast,” says Nynke de Jong, creator of I know someone who, a well-listened-to podcast about parenthood and ‘all the beautiful and ugly things that come with it’. Children who do not want to eat anything, falls, “nursery typhus”, depressions, holiday problems. “They are my stories, so I can claim those anecdotes. But they are also their stories. The line between what is mine and what is the children’s is thin. If they later tell the psychologist that I have shared too much, have I gone too far, but then I know it.’

If they later tell the psychologist that I have shared too much, then I have gone too far.

Nynke de Jong maker I know someone who

Jair Stein (48) makes podcasts and is the editor-in-chief of several audio documentaries on NTR. His wife Jennifer Pettersson is also a radio producer. Together they made hurried, where Pettersson (born in Sweden) compares the Dutch school system with the Swedish model. The listeners follow her personal search for where children get a better education, in the Netherlands or in Sweden, and whether this is a reason to emigrate. “In the podcast, you hear an argument between Jennifer and me. When Jennifer turned on her recording device during that match, I thought, you’re crazy, this is too private. But in the edit, I heard: that argument has to go into it. The listener needs to hear that I panicked about moving to Sweden, or he won’t understand what this search means to us.”

You will definitely encounter dilemmas if your family is the subject. Do you decide in advance what you will and will not tell? The four presenters of I know someone who have not discussed this with each other in advance, says De Jong. “Hanneke [Hendrix] is a writer and radio playmaker. We learned from her: if you want to tell a good story, you have to be vulnerable. Something has to be at stake or it’s not true and people drop out. People don’t find it interesting to show a Punica oasis by itself, that’s not real life.”

Nynke de Jong gifts I know someone who, “a podcast about parenthood and all the beauty and ugliness that comes with it.” There are around 20,000 listeners per section. Photo Lars van den Brink

Stein and Pettersson do not use censorship either, he says. “We are aware that it must be genuine. If you don’t want to tell anything, you have to take another protagonist.’

It is important to De Jong that her children and her husband can live their own lives. “I don’t want people to think: I already know you and your life because I listen to your mother’s podcast. My husband has colleagues who listen. I once told him that he had paid for a bunch of flowers for our anniversary from the joint account. I tease him with that. It’s funny, but if I want to talk about bigger things in our relationship, I’ll bring it up to him.” One topic is never discussed with the microphone on: “Sex. Hanneke’s husband is a general practitioner and my husband is in charge of the class. I want don’t want 19-year-old university students laughing, and Hanneke doesn’t want patients to have that kind of information about their GP. We set that limit ourselves.”

No regrets

Damstra has not set any limits in this regard, and afterwards he has not regretted his words. IN Sudden Daddies he says: “In a group of friends you always have someone who is not paying attention and gets you pregnant. Now I was.” Would his daughter be hurt if she heard this? “My daughter knows she’s not planned. I do not shy away from that subject. I think it is important that we can talk about uncomfortable topics together. I was raised Christian, and so certain topics are simply not discussed. I developed an allergy to it. I prefer openness to things that bubble under the skin.” That was also a reason for him to participate in the podcast. When he unexpectedly became a father himself, he missed the stories of others in a similar situation. “Hearing about this from other fathers gave me a sense of comfort. It helps to know you’re not the only one this has happened to, and it’s valuable to hear how others feel.”

There is a limit to what the listener can handle, says Stein. He notices this when accompanying audio documentaries to DOCS (from NTR/VPRO). “If someone goes too far, if a story is too autobiographical and does not transcend the particular, it becomes exhibitionist. The listener feels like a voyeur. Sometimes something is too painful, so close that it feels uncomfortable. Personally, I had it at the opening scene Tangled up, where presenter Maarten Dallinga tells his parents that he is suicidal. That’s not a conversation I want to engage in.” So that’s a line for decision makers to keep an eye on, he says, especially when it comes to your kids.

Stein has not regretted things he has said about his children or that his daughters have been told. Although there may be parts that his daughters have a hard time listening back to, he says. IN the second, a podcast he made with journalist Lynn Berger about the dynamics of the average family (two parents, two children), Stein and Petterson talk about how jealously their oldest daughter reacted to the arrival of their second child. Stein: “She bit her younger sister’s finger and pulled her off her chest once.” Pettersson in the podcast: “It is very clear that she does not wish her sister anything. We feel that jealousy has created a gap that is difficult to close.” His daughter won’t like to hear this, Stein says now, “because the relationship has changed, the jealousy is much less, they can play with each other for hours. All we can do is hope there’s another podcast that shows how cute and funny they are. It is a snapshot, our image of her is not fixed in time.”

Jair Stein is a podcast maker and editor-in-chief for audio productions at NTR. With his wife Jennifer Pettersson he made hurried, a series about where primary school children are better off: in the Netherlands or Sweden. With journalist Lynn Berger he made the seconda series about the average family consisting of two parents and two children. Photo Lars van den Brink

De Jong isn’t afraid of her children’s reaction either. “I can always explain why I said something. Our podcast is about parents and parenting, that’s the perspective.” De Jong finds the podcast as a medium, without images and without hashtags, safer and less stressful for a child than other media. “If your parents are vloggers or influencers, I think it’s harder for a child. Much more visible. Some parents post embarrassing pictures or videos of their children for likes. And there are momfluencers who use their children to make money. Being Instagrammed in a different sweater every day doesn’t seem like fun to a kid. My podcast does not affect my children’s lives. They must not eat the vegetable yogurt that we get sent to us. I tell a large audience about my family, but it’s about my life and how I handle upbringing. If there comes a point where my kids don’t like it, I stop. They are not my revenue model.”

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Stein and Pettersson gave their daughter an episode of … last summer hurried let them listen. “A pleasant conversation followed. We explained that it was a quest we were doing for her. And also told us that we did not cut the material in order to come out as good as possible ourselves.”

Still, Stein wouldn’t advise other creators to cast their own children in a podcast. If they think later: I want this gone, then it can’t be done, he says. “Perhaps it is too great a responsibility, I have thought too little about it. If I record my kids again, I’ll let them hear it before it goes public. Now they are eight and twelve, old enough to make informed choices themselves.”

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