Writing Like a Mother of How Many?
Posted on June 14, 2013
Have you read the recent back and forth over whether female writers are better off with only one child? Go ahead and check out the articles:
It seems to me that the oversights in the conversation are three-fold:
1) Give credit to writing mothers for applying their vast creativity to managing their full lives, not just their writing schedules. Our culture likes to talk about carting children off to various forms of childcare, as though were perpetual infants, forever tugging the mother’s breast. In fact, children grow up. At some point between the ages of 4 and 8, most of them pick up reading. Of course a writing mother will have to shoo her children off sometimes, but that does not mean they are neglected. Nor does a woman have to have a staff to maintain vibrant offspring and a healthy writing output. What she needs, as I see it, is what Virginia Woolf said women need to write fiction – a little money, and a room of her own. Could having an abundance of children lower the odds of having either of those? Sure, but not necessarily. Besides, creativity loves limits.
2) We don’t talk enough about writing mothers or give enough credit to female writers in our culture, so that women trying to analyze trends think of only a handful of famous writing mothers. Perhaps if we stopped stigmatizing genre fiction, we might notice the large body of creative work done by mothers. As a romance writer in an active chapter of Romance Writers of America, which includes many NY Times best-selling authors, I have a great many more go-to experiences of successful writing mothers than most people. Most of us are not big names on the same scale as Pulitzer winners and J.K. Rowling. What we are is practical.
I’m going to give you a very tiny church history lesson for perspective. You know all those women whom we now call “mystics”? It’s easy to get the impression that they were stuck in their heads all day, praying in a silent seclusion. But in real life, they were the most practical people imaginable. They were cleaning lice and gore off the sick, washing and growing and cooking, and yes, praying together with other women who also served the poor and one another. They were brilliant and had exalted thoughts right in the middle of the laundry. (One of my favorite lines from St. Hildegard of Bingen speaks of the Incarnation as “he bleached the agony out of his clothes.”)So, creativity & living in your head, meet your old friend, daily life. THIS IS WHAT WOMEN WRITERS HAVE ALWAYS DONE!
Whether we have children, run monastery complexes, or not, what makes a creative woman successful is finding a way to make things work. If you think having a passel of children makes women less efficient, you have not seen any of the many women I know with three or more children. In general, the more children, the more streamlined childcare and housework AND the faster and more efficient the writing. (I only have two children [living], and I write 1,200 words/hour. And I don’t type super fast, either. It’s just a steady stream of words that gets the job done.)
3) Stop fantasizing writers as a cloistered, sequestered, negligent, insular group of people. Of course such persons might not make the best parents! But they also don’t make good writers, which is why no one has ever actually met a writer that fits this stereotype.
& The New Domesticity:
As a homeschooler and gardener and attachment parent, I’m one of the many parents who have taken up the mantle of work/home balance known as the New Domesticity. (See my previous blog post here. Emily Matchar’s wonderful book Homeward Bound should be on your to-read list! [Disclaimer: I do not receive any benefit from linking to her book! I just think you should read it.]) This trend is often touted as placing too many demands on women and making standards way too high. But what the movement is really about is priorities and balance. Just like the writing life.
Speaking of which, I have to head out to write on my work in progress! Don’t forget to check out my debut novel, Can’t Buy Me Love!