Any mother I’ve ever met who happens to have work that takes her from the home — whether mentally or otherwise– carries a culturally sustained guilt. In the era of booming momism and the insistence that all ladies who aren’t deliriously in love with their children are defects, experiences like these are hardly rare among modern women. So consider the unique and at times debilitating complex of those ladies who dare to prioritize a field that couldn’t be more incompatible with motherhood: writing.
Solitude, quiet, and shutting the proverbial door were all topics of conversation at “Are You My Author?”, a panel exploring the particular flavor of mom guilt that comes from being a writer. The Strand bookstore in New York City hosted authors Rebecca Land Soodak, Jillian Lauren, Kaylie Jones, Sheri Holman, Martha Southgate and Rachel Zucker as they shared not only their work, but also how they wrestle that raging guilt complex to the floor just in time to meet deadline.
Soodak opened the discussion with a meditation on motherhood below, detailing her own story of discovering her passion for writing after having four children. Although she admittedly had the resources to write — that convenient “room of one’s own” – the mother spoke candidly about what it took for her to ultimately commit to her work.
“Shutting the door requires a sense of entitlement, ” she said, “money, resources aren’t everything.”
Before the publication of her first novel, Henny on the Couch, Soodak battled mantras of “You’re just a wealthy woman with a hobby” when sitting down to her work, unable to shake the distinct sense that her work could not be taken seriously.
Holmon spoke openly about her abandonment of writing for several years while her infant son took ill, having previously taken all three of her children on book tour. Lauren described the chiding she often endures from her son’s special needs therapist who insists on an early bedtime, decreasing their time together after a busy day. Jones read from her 14-year daughter’s essay that railed against the writing life, the kid’s profound distaste and voice ironically exhibiting a budding authoress. Zucker’s final line from her poetry made the resounding statement “I am so interruptible” when musing on the relationship between parenthood and her work.
The apt Mother’s Day discussion about the impacts of writing on children and if the writing life is innately “selfish” proved no ultimate answer. But while these ladies conversed over writing and children, I could think only of how male authors are not made to societally answer for their craft.