As Ann Eriksson points out in her blog, many women writers believe or are told that having a family means an end to their writing career. Years ago, I did a reading in Toronto with Margaret Atwood and a handful of other women writers. I was just about to turn 40 and was pregnant at the time, a fact I mentioned on stage. Afterwards a woman came up to me and said that she wanted a family but was afraid she would never write again if she did. Then she burst into tears. I said, how far along in your pregnancy are you? She said three months, but I haven’t told my publisher yet.
Carol Shields wrote around the domestic needs of her five kids early in her career. When she was asked if being a mother changed how she wrote she said, “Oh, completely. I couldn’t have been a novelist without being a mother. It gives you a unique witness point of the growth of personality. It was a kind of biological component for me that had to come first. And my children give me this other window on the world.”
That bit of advice helped me out: to think of family obligations, and work obligations, as aids to writing, rather than hindrances. For example, though there has been much talk lately about how multitasking is bad for you, I did learn both patience and multitasking from being a parent. Parenthood has changed how I write, of course. I tend to write in little chunks of time now. I’m also much more flexible as a writer and I find I do quite a lot of writing while doing other tasks. I’m “writing” while I wash dishes, or as I do a load of laundry, or fold laundry, or pick up after the kids. Not always, of course, as kids are definitely a distraction, but a good chunk of the time. My husband has already grown accustomed to that blank look on my face that means that although I’m here in body, my mind is somewhere else.
(Photo: Mitch Krupp)