I skipped posting the third part of this series on Sunday because with it being the Sabbath and all, I didn’t want to link you to this totally secular article at Salon.com, of all places.
The author of the article, Dayna Macy, is a writer who is exploring whether or not she should have a child. “I have postponed motherhood in order to get my writing life moving,” she explained, “and now that it is, I find myself wondering how these lives might be combined.”
For insight, she interviewed authors–some of them moms, some not–to get their perspective on how being a mom, or a non-mom, has affected their writing. Some resent how motherhood has restricted their writing careers. Some struggle with the Bump that L’Engle described (see previous entry on this topic). A few–how sad that only a few–seem to easily embrace motherhood and merge it with writing.
She interviewed a writer named Sue Halpern, who struck me as quite sensible and lighthearted about the whole thing. She “feels no resentment that her ambitions have been thwarted,” Macy noted. Married with one child, Sophie, age 4 at the time of the interview, Halpern described the “Heisenberg Principle” of having kids:
Sophie is much more interesting to me than any book I could possibly be doing at the moment. I don’t find other people and other people’s issues more compelling. I don’t feel that the learning curve is as great. I don’t feel at all resentful…but if you had asked [me before having Sophie] if by having a child you weren’t able to do the substantive work that you actually could do, would I be resentful? I probably would have said yes. But now there’s substance to the whole hypothetical question — here’s this child, here’s this family, here’s this situation, here’s your life. There’s just no theoretical way of discussing that anymore… It’s the Heisenberg Principle in action. Obviously she changes everything — put Sophie in your life, put a child in your life and every single thing changes. Your entire consciousness has changed.
Macy asked Halpern to elaborate:
A writer told me before I had a child that having a child is better than any byline you’ll ever get. And I thought, yeah, probably, uh-huh. But it didn’t mean anything to me when he said that. But it’s true. It’s not obvious until you blow off the byline to spend time with your kid. I think that this notion of you, yourself, being in process, being created, at the same time that your child is growing, to me, is a lot more compelling than anything else I could do.
Halpern just hit on something that I have thought a lot about: that I myself am in process, being “created,” if you will, at the same time that my children are growing. Halpern claims this is more compelling than anything else she could do.
I, too, find it compelling because the human being I am today–the wife, writer, friend, daughter that I am today–is completely integrated with my role as a mom. God has used motherhood to change me–transform me, mold me–and this has, of course, changed the way I relate to the world. Being a mom has deeply affected who I am as wife, writer, friend, daughter, neighbor, blogger. Other than the day I turned my entire life over to Jesus Christ, which is the root of who I am, no other role in life has so profoundly impacted everything else. Motherhood changes everything.Including my writing. The majority of my articles and blogs, books and e-mails, are spattered with stories from my life as a mom. Now, if I’m writing about Search Engine Optimization or spark plugs, the content is straightforward and focuses on the topic at hand. But the other writing often flows through the mom-filter out to the world, to whomever relates in some way.
Some people commented on earlier posts that parenting provides outstanding material for a writer’s projects: lessons learned and illustrations, humor for those inclined to make us laugh about their kids’ antics, insight from poignant interactions. We’re living story. We’re sharing life with another human being, or two, or three, and each day is a story, or a succession of shorter stories. And stories speak to something deep inside of us. Stories provide connection.Which is why my mother doesn’t prefer posts like these. Story-less, theoretical, philosophical posts aren’t very interesting, she has said.
And she’s probably right.
So for my mom and anyone else who cares, here’s a story to complete this post.
Out of the blue, The Boy (my youngest of four kids, a five-year-old) asked, “I wonder if the nanny and the children were sad when they didn’t get the trophy?”
“What are you talking about?”
“In ‘The Sound of Music,’ the nanny, when she was their mom, after she got married, they won the contest, but they had to escape to Switzerland, so they didn’t get the trophy from the festival. I hope they weren’t too sad.” He even made a droopy face. What compassion.