Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Triple Bind: Mother, Wife, and Writer, Who Wins?

My life, now, is lived from distraction to distraction. Having a small child and a husband is the antithesis of being a writer.  Even with them gone, for two hours or so, the din in my head is at full roar.  I have to stop being a mother and wife to write. I can’t allow myself to think about laundry (massive piles) or dishes (less massive pile) or making Guinness Beef Stew for supper.  The din of my responsibilities obscures the writer’s voice in my head—the normal noise of my life stifles and suffocates my character, the setting, what’s going on in the book world in my head. What is she [my character] doing while I’m making the beds while I’m writing a grocery list? (Why the fuck am I making the bed? Who cares if the bed is made?) 

Tangent alert:  I make the beds because it’s what I do in the moment when S refuses to put on pants or socks, in that pre-tantrum window, I move over and make the bed and then try to entice S with her socks again. It’s not that the messy beds beckon me, I can leave them, it’s a thing I can do while I’m doing something else, a thing that I can do that overall, makes me feel like a better mom/wife/housekeeper, like when I make my kid wear socks and boots in the snow. I can’t sit in that pre-tantrum moment and write. The window is too short, unpredictable, and unforgiving to thinking and thoughts and writing.

Was it Virginia Wolf or Ann Patchett (or both?) that said that if a woman wants to be a writer, she needs not to be a mother, not to be a wife (in addition to having money and a room of her own?). I would add “good” before “mother” and “wife.” I know there are mothers out there who write… but how can a person be good at doing something creative and quiet and solitary and engrossing and deeply distracting, when she is trying to raise a person to be able to do and be all of those things and much more?  How can I lock myself away and write when I am responsible for S being compassionate and human and warm and fierce and funny and responsible?  I am the example. I have to be present for her. I am her role model (much as Ann Patchett and Virigina Wolf are mine? Maybe I need new role models.)


I’m off to go write. The house is finally quiet. I am steadfast in ignoring the dishes and laundry and beef stew for now.  Today I will write. Tomorrow, I will want to…but who knows?

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