Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Do motherhood (parenthood) and creativity mix?

It seems physically impossible to me that one can be both a competent mother and a prolific writer. When women who have children write, unless they have household help or a nanny (or their children are enrolled all day in summer camps and activities), something has to give—sleep, supervision of children, and/or household chores and other necessities.

I need 7-8 hours of sleep a night to be healthy and fully functioning, so there’s no give there. And I can’t afford help right now. So, over the summer, with my children not in school and without six potentially free and quiet hours every weekday, my blogs are rarely updated. Other writing projects? Sequestered in a file folder, untouched.

I say “six potentially free hours” during the school year because many days something would come up—a child was sick or had a doctor’s appointment, school was half-day or delayed, or I had necessary errands or paid editing work to do. But even on days when there was no editing, no life or death errands or appointments, there was dirty laundry and dirty dishes, plants that needed to be watered, bills to be paid, school paperwork that needed to addressed.

When I ignored them all and just wrote and enjoyed the pleasure of writing, there were always consequences: mounds of laundry that took twice as long to sort, no clean underwear or socks, not enough clean dishes to eat on, late-paid bills, people pissed off when calls weren’t returned, etc. I am the kind of person who wants to ignore the nit-picky and quotidian, but is forced to set my mind on them—to the point of making lists and checking them off—for fear that my household (my world) will start to fall apart.

In an interview Charles Frazier, who wrote Cold Mountain, said he took a year off to just write non-stop, hours a day, with the support of his wife and child. If he had been a woman, off for a year with nothing to do but write, I wonder if she could have ignored the dirty laundry, if she could let it pile up, guilt-free, and go on writing. Or if she could let her husband come home from work and clean the house without her getting up from her desk, apologetic.

Are women wired this way or is it the way we’re raised?

It is disheartening to me that most of the friends I knew from college who were creative and have continued to be working writers and artists aren’t married and none of them have children.

And yet, I wouldn’t choose to be single or childless and I have no regrets about motherhood. There’s too much joy in it.

The key, of course, is to get paid to write—which would pay for help around the house and help concentrate all efforts on the writing itself. But I’ve never figured out how to do it. (A topic for another posting).

I've only been writing now because my younger child is watching Nickelodeon. It’s been nearly an hour of TV already this morning (while I finished my breakfast and then came back to my computer), thus nearing her limit.

The TV just went off and here she is, wanting my attention. I am hearing a recap of an episode of “The Fairly Odd Parents.” Now what can she do? I suggested she go to her room and read a book. This kept her occupied for two minutes and now she is back. I sent her back to her room to do a Highlights puzzle book, so I know I only have a few more minutes to finish this up. (She has come to my room with the puzzle book and is doing it on my bed).

This is not the essay I would write if I had more than 15 minutes to write it, but it will have to do for now.

1 comment:

Miranda said...

As a writer and mother, I thought you might be interested in participating in a group blog where creative mothers support each other through the journey of making art while being Mom. We frequently grapple with the very issues you raise in this post. Visit us at http://creativeconstruction.wordpress.com. Hope to see you there!

We also have a weekly creativity contest, the point of which is to keep the bar LOW and just create something—keep the creative muscles strong, rather than fretting over creating a masterpiece. Each week’s winner receives a $10 amazon.com gift certificate.

Very best wishes,