Motherhood need not spell the End of Literature

So argues Sebastian Shakespeare in the London Evening Standard, citing J K Rowling and Toni Morrison, whilst pointing out that Nobel Laureate for Literature Doris Lessing, Dame Muriel Spark, Colette and Virginia Woolf famously didn’t combine motherhood and literature.  All of which suggests Rowling and Morrison are the exceptions.

 Perhaps if he’d turned his attention to poets… Sylvia Plath, for example, did manage to combine motherhood and literature simply because she had an excellent nanny.  Plath was a lark, at her most creative early in the mornings and was able to rely on Susan O’Neill Roe to get Nick and Frieda up and cared for while Plath shut herself in the study and churned out the poems posthumously published as “Ariel”.

That’s generally where the motherhood/literature combination fails.  Literature is a selfish activity.  Motherhood is a selfless activity.  The two can only be combined if the child is asleep, at school or with another carer.  I hope Sebastian Shakespeare is researching good, local nannies since he’s clearly not offering to be a house husband while his wife writes.  Because, as any mother knows, it’s impossible to write while being constantly interrupted, re-writing and re-organising mental to-do lists, remembering when games kit is required, when school friends’ birthdays are, friends’ food allergies, finding creative things to do because it’s raining again or because you really cannot face “High School Musical” for the 21st time.

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One Response to “Motherhood need not spell the End of Literature”

  1. “Mother ” is not a Job Description « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] Actually, she can’t, because being interrupted and either having to book annual leave at very short notice, irritating colleagues in the process, or having to somehow find a way of making up the time taken out of a working day to deal with a minor problem completely screws up the household chores and writing plans. Not all mothers have access to a nearby, supportive network of friends and/or family who can make up the childcare gaps and that impacts on writing time. A sick child will always want to be with a parent (usually mum) but looking after one is never a fun way to spend your annual leave. And if you’d planned on using that annual time to write, it’s your writing that gets sacrificed. How you do combine a selfless activity (mothering) with a selfish one (writing) when everyone wants … […]


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