While writing yesterday’s post, I remembered this quote from A Circle of Quiet, by the thoughtful and sometimes controversial Madeleine L’Engle.
The various pressures of twentieth-century living have made it almost impossible for the young mother with pre-school children to have any solitude. During the long drag of years before our youngest child went to school, my love for my family and my need to write were in acute conflict. The problem was really that I put two things first. My husband and children came first. So did my writing. Bump. (p. 19)
I read it years ago and scribbled it out, feeling Madeleine’s words consoling my own conflicted spirit. She addressed the issue of solitude as well as the love of family and the need to write being in “acute conflict.” In fact, I’ve paraphrased this several times to fellow writer-moms. I love the last three sentences: “My husband and children came first. So did my writing. Bump.”Bump.It’s more than a bump; it’s sparring.Bam. Thwack. Thud.Compromise can be painful. But in the end, after all that bumping around, I know what has to come first.
Karen Hossink says
Ahh, yes. Bam. Thwack. Thud. That happens at my house, too.
Knowing what should come first, and actually choosing first things first isn’t so easy, though. When I choose well, however, I find myself filled with joy. Strange, isn’t it, that saying “No” to your own desires and “Yes” to the desires of others can really bring you joy?
I feel a blog entry coming on!
Julie Q. says
I love this quote. I really want to write more but it’s nearly impossible to compose anything longer than a few paragraphs without constant inter2uptions wqw (oh, now that’s funny! my baby daughter just crawled all over my laptop and mangled my sentence). See what I mean?
Karen: How true. That’ll preach, sister. That’ll preach. So, now I’ve got to go read your blog!
Julie: Okay, that is too funny! And you know what’s so weird I’m worried you won’t believe me when I describe it? When I was writing this very post, the one to which you are responding, my five-year-old son was standing next to me saying, “Come on, Mom, let’s go. Come on. Are you finished? Mom?” and then he started slipping his finger in, tapping a key here and there, inserting an unwanted q or y in the middle of my words. In this *same post* about distraction. The *same post* that you commented to with your daughter doing the *same thing*. Motherhood. Every day is amqaziyng.
While I am, truly, full of sympathy for you young mothers/writers, (especially Annie, of course), I cannot help but wonder if Annie remembers another young mother who needed to write–because it was her job–and had to work it around some young children? I think Annie does remember that she sometimes (often) resented her Mom’s obligation to the job, and that may well be why she freelances….But I just did the best I could in the circumstances, or tried to. She did learn to read upside down! And get to go see a lot of parades! There must have been some upsides to having a newspaper editor mother, even though her brother once asked me (after I was taking photos of a ballgame, I think) if it ever bothered me, making a fool of myself. (I hadn’t thought of it that way until that moment!)
Julie Q. says
That cracks me up. And I do believe you because it sounds so familiar. Kids are funny creatures. They give me lots of things to write about, and then make it nearly impossible for me to write them.
Lynn/Mom: I’m sure that I’m a writer today because you were a writer then (and still are)…some kind of nature-nurture combo at work, I suppose. You were ahead of your time as a pre-bra-burning working mom, who modeled how to juggle writing and motherhood, making career compromises to accommodate the two of us.
You might have won a Pulitzer if you’d worked for AP or the Chicago Trib as a dedicated journalist. Instead, you chose a humbler role that had you covering small-town parades and festivals (do you remember a very cold trip to some tiny country church to take pictures of a live nativity? It made quite an impression.). Working for a county paper a few miles away allowed you to be at my track meets and band concerts, and I do believe I appeared in print a few more times than the average student thanks to that.
More importantly, I grew up knowing my mom.
Julie: I love your line, “They give me lots of things to write about, and then make it nearly impossible for me to write them.” That’s the overall theme of these Writing/Motherhood posts, I think, stated much more succinctly. I should learn such brevity.
Thank you, Annie!
I do indeed remember the “tiny country church” with the cold live Nativity scene, and you might be interested to know it was Fairfield Friends, where Phil Gulley is currently pastor!
Mom (Lynn): Well, what do you know!
p.s. to Mom (Lynn): I meant that in a “well, fancy that!” kind of tone.
I just recognized your book! I hope I requested it for review because it caught my attention! I used to do writing mom interviews on my blog (and really need to get back to that!) but my blog is in transition right now. Though, I’d love to do an interview with you and have you do some guest writing for my group blog if ever I get it up and running again!