The Motherhood Literature Paradox
What we know about motherhood is written by women with time and resources
I am a writer. I am a mother. I am a writer who has written extensively on motherhood, starting fitfully when my daughter was six months old, for several years, culminating in the publication of a memoir, in July of 2018, when my daughter was four and a half. It wasn’t easy. Writers love to complain about how hard writing is, and it is hard: I sit and stare for days, sometimes, and nothing comes out. I bang the keys writing emails and chatting with friends only to find that it’s now time to pick my daughter up from school, my work day has concluded, and I’ve written… 13 words. The motherhood part is hard, too. My daughter, who is now nearly six, has needs, both physical and emotional. She asks, with no warning, if God is real and poof! twenty minutes are gone. She wants to see me, to be near me, to smell me, and I want to spend all of my time with her. And then I don’t want to. It is complicated, as all things worth doing are. My daughter is and always will be more important than my work, but I wouldn’t be the me she knows, not quite, without the work.
I’m mostly over the days of writing about motherhood. This tends to happen, one can only spend so many years wrestling with that particular demon before you say, “Okay, I’ve done my best, now let’s just LIVE.” I use my work time on other things. I might be happier for it, no longer examining myself or my daughter quite so fiercely. Some days I’m not sure.
But one thing is absolutely true: I don’t miss some of the feedback.
Here’s the thing: many or most of the comments, tweets, and emails I got responding to my hundreds of pieces about motherhood were effusively positive. People wrote to me about themselves, their own lives. They told me that reading my words made them feel better about their own conflicted feelings. They told me that I gave voice to their worries, their sorrows. This was deeply moving and it made me want to continue, in spite of the other, not so great feedback I sometimes got.
When I began writing about motherhood, I’d already been writing online for many years, so, it’s possible that I was uniquely placed to continue in the face of what often seemed to be people simply…