Friday, September 30, 2011

Mother-Writer Does Not Equal "Hobbiest" -

So,  I was cleaning out my desk cabinet when I found this--  a sweet little Mother's Day note from my daughter.



Anyway, I'm in my happy place and then I innocently flip over the note and realize she did her drawing on a page from my notebook where I was taking notes in a class about applying for grants I took when she was only about two years old.  Can I tell you I was *shocked* in what I had written down?

Here is the advice someone gave me early on, before my first book, before my chapbook, before I'd ever received anything really significant in my writing life.  Someone told me, "Do not say you want grant money for childcare even it's true because you'll appear to be a hobbiest even if it's not true."

SERIOUSLY?  Reading this advice makes me so annoyed as a mother and poet, mother and an editor, mother and co-founder of a small press.  That was early 2000's and that's the terrible advice being given to women who choose to have children and write.  Don't tell anyone about your struggles with time and childcare or you will appear to be not serious enough.  Don't mention kids or needing help or time or money for them.  Pretend you are not a mother.  Pretend you're not a mother and you'll do better in your writing life.

I'm guessing I must have asked a question, perhaps saying I needed grant money for childcare so I could have time to write and this was the response.

I don't remember, but it's my handwriting and my notes.  It says: "Project Description, Bio, Artist Statement."  It says, "Do not say you want grant money for childcare even it's true because you'll appear to be a hobbiest ..."  But that word "hobbiest"-- it burns me.

I did apply for that grant and I did ask for money for childcare so I could on a writing residency and have time to write.  And I did receive the grant.  My first one.

So let me say this loud and clear-- You can be a mother AND a serious writer.  You can be a mother AND an academic.  You can be a mother AND a working artist.

Before having a child, I had no idea about this bias.  This whole thing brings me back to one of my very favorite documentary-- Who Does She Think She Is?  (you can watch the trailer for the film at this link...)


I'm inspired to watch the movie again.  If you're a mom and a creative person and you haven't watched this film-- you should.

And thank God for mothers as they are the ones who keep having those artist and writerly babies.

2 comments:

Jeannine said...

You should make this into a poem "Advice Given to Me As a Writer With Children" or something! Make fun of it - I'm sure you're not the only one getting that kind of advice.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I love hearing stuff like this.

It's a relief to hear that honesty works (not just unplanned honesty, but an acknowledgement of how life is).

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