In New York magazine, author Kim Books reflects on the creative challenges of women who, like her, are writers and mothers. After struggling to carve out time away from parenthood for writing, she realizes that parenthood itself can be a worthy subject of creative work. An excerpt:
What was more unusual were women who were willing to talk about ways in which they accepted that their devotion to art made them, at least at times, less of a parent. One of those was writer and mother Zoe Zolbrod. Like me, she has two children. Like me, she is about to publish a book she struggled to write through the early years of motherhood. We talk about the various challenges of writing, parenting, working a day job, stealing time. “The truth,” she says, “is that I think I’m a better mom when I’m not writing. I’m not writing right now and I’m enjoying the kids more. I’m better at home when I’m writing less.” When she’s engrossed in her work, it’s different. “My eyes glaze over or something when I’m going off into that other place, and my daughter notices it and doesn’t like it. Like we’re sitting on the floor coloring together. And I’m getting in my zoned-out space and she’s always watching to see when I do that. ‘Don’t make your face like that,’ she says. She just watches me really closely, and she’s less satisfied with what I can’t give her. She senses that I’m keeping something to myself. It never feels like it’s enough.”
I don’t want to believe it — that parenting itself makes art hard, that you must always sacrifice one for the other, that there is something inherently selfish and greedy and darkly obsessive in the desire to care as much about the thing you are writing or making as you do about the other humans in your life. What parent would want to believe this?
Image: Alice Neel, Portrait of Nancy and the Twins (five months), 1971.