Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Mother Writers -or- June Cleaver, You Have No Idea. . .
I've started reading A QUESTION OF BALANCE: ARTIST AND WRITERS ON MOTHERHOOD. Even though it was published in 1995, the issues surrounding being a mother while being a writer are artist are pretty much the same. There are issues with guilt, worry, frustration, balance-- so much with balance. These essays and interviews could have been done last week, each woman seems to be coming up against the same challenge--how to mix writing with motherhood or how to be a good mother and a good writer/artist. Twelve years later, same issues, different decade.
In the introduction, Judith Pierce Rosenberg wrote about how she had a career crisis after they moved and she lost her home office. She writes, "We had just moved out a cramped two-bedroom cottage into a ranch house with a fenced yard, and a room for each child--but no office. My husband quickly nixed my idea of converting the dining alcove into a workspace, saying that it would look too messy. And I believed the childrearing experts who insisted that my son and daughter were too old to share a bedroom. . .
Why didn't I insist on taking my old desk to our new home and using the dining alcove as an office? Why were the perceived needs of my children more important than the demands of my work? In retrospect, I think the reason lies in the fact that I was earning very little money as a freelance writer. In fact, my work was a financial drain on the family since I did not make enough money to cover my work-related expenses, especially child care. It was difficult for either my husband or for me to consider my work as important as his."
The end result is that Rosenberg takes on the life as a "traditional mom" and feels frustrated and resentful. She began read articles by artists and writers who were also mothers on how they integrated the maternal and artistic aspects of their lives.
Alicia Ostriker made time for her writing, and had this to say about writing poetry when her children were at home:
"Poetry was always in the interstices of everything else, the nooks and crannies. It was always time stolen from other responsibilities. Everything else in my life was being done for someone or something else: someone needed me to do it or I was being paid to do it. Poetry was the one thing that I did for myself alone with the sense that no one on earth except myself gave a damn whether I did it or not. In my early years, I didn't make other things move over very much for it; it was always on the run."
I still struggle with the mother/writer balance, but as my daughter gets older, it becomes easier. And there is less room for excuses if I don't write. We each have our challenges we face as writers--some are created internally, some are external. We write through them. We have to if we want to continue to keep that part of ourselves. We try and we move forward.
Written by Kelli Russell Agodon